Marianna Rusche walks us through some of the most often used terms — carbon neutral, carbon negative, Net Zero, and Net Zero Carbon — and which commitments will help or hinder our ability to stay within the 1.5°C temperature rise that nations targeted in the Paris Agreement —
Carbon Neutral is the term used most often by organisations, to signify that they offset carbon emissions instead of reducing them in order to balance carbon emissions to zero.
Example: A company takes 100 flights per year and offsets carbon emissions equivalently to 100 flights.
Net Zero Carbon is focused on reducing carbon emissions as much as possible and investing in carbon removal projects to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so that the emissions produced and the emission removed are balanced to zero. Offsets can still be used, but only as a last resort.
Example: A company reduces its 100 annual flights to a minimum and invests in carbon removal projects for the remaining CO2 emissions.
Carbon Negative is the most ambitious goal, where organisations reduce carbon emissions as much as possible and then invest in carbon removal projects to remove even more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce.
Example: A company reduces its 100 annual flights to a minimum and invests in carbon removal projects to remove more than the remaining CO2 emissions.
Thus, Carbon Negative can be thought of as Net Negative.
Net Zero is like Net Zero Carbon, but is focused on all greenhouse gases instead of just carbon dioxide.
Example: A company reduces its 100 annual flights to a minimum and invests in GHG emissions removal projects for remaining GHG emissions.
Climate scientists point out that offsetting leads to a dangerous “burn now, pay later” approach that actually leads to a rise of carbon emissions. This means that in the long term, focusing on offsets pushes the emissions problem into the future, instead of progressing it now.
Reducing carbon emissions is a very difficult challenge, but only true decarbonisation will enable us to stay within the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In addition, we should not forget that while we focus a lot on carbon dioxide, Net Zero includes all greenhouse gases!
Only if we follow the Net Zero path together, we can create a better world for future generations.
Expect nothing less than net zero!