October 2, 2022

Introduction

The latest thing every company associates themselves with would be the term Carbon-Neutral. With an increasing number of companies pledging to be carbon-neutral, net-zero and climate positive, there is no reason for other companies to say otherwise. Global giants such as Google even claimed to be the first company to eliminate their carbon legacy, leading to the public wonder how that is possible. 

Now some may be wondering what these terms mean, what does it mean to have energy efficiency and be carbon-neutral? From small startups to global brands integrating it into their branding, especially since it can cater towards being used for mainstream marketing purposes. However, with so many different phrases being put into use, combined with the lack of clarity, it may lead to the consumer being misled. 

With only 29 years left to reach the global target of net-zero emissions that was set by the Paris Climate Agreement, it is crucial to better understand the lingo around the term ‘carbon neutral.

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Terms and Its Meaning

Some things to know about carbon-neutrality refers to the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from a company and its activities, it is then balanced with the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that is being removed. 

Activities that are beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions are known as climate positive. It creates an environment that benefits from the removal of additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Another term is carbon negative, although it is spelt differently when compared to the aforementioned climate positive, it still has the same concept. Its counterpart, carbon positive is a descriptive term that organisations use when mentioning climate positive and carbon negative. Known as a marketing term, it is easily a term that may confuse readers, therefore most tend to avoid using it. 

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Many times countries declare that they are working towards reducing greenhouse gases to zero while concurrently eliminating any negative environmental impacts, the term to describe it will be Climate Neutral.

Net-Zero carbon emissions are often used to describe activities that release net-zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Net-Zero emissions refer to balancing the total amount of greenhouse gases that have been released as well as the amount that has been removed from the atmosphere.

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What is Carbon-Neutral?

Known as the word of the year back in 2006, carbon neutral has since then been thrown into the mainstream world, causing an increase in the use of the word. When defined, carbon neutral refers to the balance between emitting and absorption of carbon emission from the carbon sinks. To put it simply, it refers to eliminating all carbon emissions. Carbon sinks is a term to describe any systems that absorb carbon more than they emit. Some examples include forests, soils and oceans. 

Based on research that has been done by the European Union Commission, natural carbon sinks remove up to 11 Gt of carbon dioxide per year. However, even with the advanced technology that we have, there have been no cases of artificial carbon sinks removing carbon from the atmosphere. As such, for companies to be deemed as carbon-neutral they would only have two choices to choose from. That is to either reduce their carbon emission drastically until it hits net-zero or balance the emission levels through offsetting and purchasing carbon credits. 

Steps To Being Carbon Neutral

Being carbon neutral is what most companies hope to achieve, however, how can one make that happen? Plan A, an expert in the industry advises companies to include applying the carbon accounting framework to the initiative that is being addressed. Before doing so, it is good to calculate and find out the current carbon footprint of the company. 

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Upon finding the number, it will then allow the company to have a better sense of how much offsetting and planning is required. The first step is to analyse the worst carbon indicators to find out the most emission to tackle and reduce the carbon emission. After which, the remainder will then have to be offset through other means. 

As there is no way anyone can generate zero-carbon emissions, offsetting is an option is the most viable option to become carbon-neutral. Upon offsetting carbon emissions, it sends a message that the company is committed to achieving sustainability while continuing with its operations. Therefore, it is important to keep offsetting projects transparent for the public to see and recognise the relevant parties that are involved. 

Carbon Neutral vs Net-Zero

As mentioned before, both carbon-neutral and net-zero are similar terms. Companies working towards reducing and balancing their carbon footprint to be able to link their brands with those terms. Carbon-neutral, is the act of balancing the total amount of carbon emissions. On the other hand, net-zero carbon refers to having no carbon emitted, thus there is no need for any carbon to be captured or offset. An example would be having a company building that runs on solar energy while using no fossil fuels would label the energy as zero carbon. 

However, when net-zero is mentioned, it is important to be clear on whether it is net-zero carbon or emission. Net-zero emissions are the overall balance of greenhouse gas emissions produced as well as the greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere. Net-zero refers to the time when humans do not pile onto the burden of climate heat via the addition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

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Conclusion

With so many terms being introduced, it is easy to get them mixed up. However, companies need to read into it to get a better understanding of what each individual terms mean and how they can integrate them into the business model. 

For companies to be climate positive, they need to know what their carbon footprint is and how they can go about reducing it or even offsetting the carbon emissions. With the advancement in technology, although there is no way to remove greenhouse gases with artificial carbon sinks, it is still possible to use technology to help come up with plans on how to reduce greenhouse gas output. Therefore, companies do not have to worry about not being able to turn climate positive, there are applications and plans available out there to help assist the companies in reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.