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Carbon Neutral & Net Zero Carbon
A lesson on what these terms actually mean
Being Carbon Neutral means that you, or the operations of you, your business or your country, emit the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as you offset. This should be considered an intermediate step and not a valid end-state target.
The key thing to realise about Carbon Neutrality, is that there is no incentive to reduce emissions - you just need to offset whatever is emitted. So it might be sufficient for you to make some nice claims in the media about being ‘fully offset’ or indeed Carbon Neutral, but crucially it does not consider the wider impact of your activities (i.e. your emissions into the national or global calculation).
Being Carbon Neutral is unlikely to be helping reach the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, where the aim is to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Net Zero Carbon
Think about Net Zero Carbon as a further step on top of being Carbon Neutral.
Not only should your activities be fully offset (Carbon Neutral), but you emissions should be tightly controlled and reduced over time to align with the Paris Agreement targets. Think of the route to reduction as a Pathway.
How do I work out how much I need to to do in my Pathway? Good question.
Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has translated the scenarios and pathways underlying the overall 1.5 degree ambition to help model your emissions (and reductions) and map out a Pathway to reach the target by 2050, or earlier if possible.
Put another way, you need to do your bit on emission reduction to ensure that collectively we hit the global target by 2050. If you can show you have a Pathway to reduce your emissions in line with the global target, and you are offsetting the residual emissions, then you will be able to say you are Net Zero Carbon when you complete the Pathway.
A word on my employer, Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, and the recently published Going for Zero Pathway. Within a publicly available document is a really useful diagram to illustrate what I’ve explained above, and I have added some extra notes in red.
I should also add how ambitious Grosvenor are, they are aiming for Net Zero Carbon by 2023, not 2050!
If this has left you with more questions on other terms, I’d suggest you take a look at this website which defines a whole raft of other climate related terms.