EGU24-17980, updated on 11 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Let’s be SMART about climate goals

Nadine Mengis
Nadine Mengis
  • GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, FOOTPRINTS Project, Germany (

Although largely scientifically robust, there are elements within the politically-negotiated Paris Agreement where defined methods deviate from the best available assessment of what is physically required to achieve its set goals. Fundamentally, one such deviation is about the net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goal: current interpretations and applications thereof in nationally determined contributions deviate from what is actually required to halt human-induced global warming.

Here I show that, while attempting to be comprehensive, most of the nationally declared climate goals are unspecific if not misleading, do not actually deliver on temperature stabilisation and have a problematic treatment of future carbon removal (CDR) expectations. On the one hand, the net zero CO2-eq goals overemphasise the need for CDR deployment to reach climate targets, since net-negative CO2 emissions are required to compensate for non-CO2 GHGs. On the other hand, accounting for natural sinks as CDR within national net-zero goals overestimates current and future CDR potentials and mitigation actions, and will not actually deliver anthropogenic net zero CO2.

I accordingly propose to re-orient national climate action towards Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) goals, such as a net zero fossil fuel CO2 emissions target by mid-century.

How to cite: Mengis, N.: Let’s be SMART about climate goals, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-17980,, 2024.

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