‘Net zero by 2050’ has served a powerful political and narrative purpose for climate mitigation, providing a clear unifying objective and direction for decarbonisation efforts. In this paper, we unpack what ‘net zero by 2050’ means from a scientific perspective. We discuss the significance of associating the ‘net-zero’ date with an emissions constraint and trajectory, the role of different carbon capture and storage / removal technologies in reaching ‘net-zero’, and the complexities of carbon offsetting.