The gathering of world leaders and concerned citizens at the Global Climate Action Summit in September of 2018 marked an important moment with respect to climate action, celebrating our current achievements and launching new commitments to lowering global emissions that contribute to climate change. One such commitment, launched by the World Green Building Council, was its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (the Commitment), whereby signatories—made up of businesses, cities, and states and regions—have committed themselves toward a decarbonized built environment by enacting regulations and policy that will require all new buildings to operate at net zero carbon from 2030, and all new and existing buildings to operate at net zero carbon by 2050.
Zero Carbon is an installation artwork composed of pieces of coal to represent cities that have signed the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. The greatest source of electricity worldwide is the combustion of coal, which produces carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that in elevated levels causes climate change. In this art installation, coal—a fossil fuel composed entirely of carbon—is used in juxtaposition to the signatories’ commitment to zero carbon. In its unused state, coal is a carbon ‘sink’, having compressed decomposing organic matter for millions of years thereby storing carbon within the earth rather than emitting it. Zero Carbon is a representation of a carbon ‘sink’, metaphorically storing away carbon as unused coal. As more and more signatories commit to net zero carbon emissions, one imagines this collection of coal getting bigger and bigger, thus eventually bringing our emissions to net zero carbon.