Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, and Climate Positive: what are the differences?

Sushree Behera

Recently, the world has witnessed an avalanche of businesses pledging their solidarity and support to improve the planet’s health. However, a recent study has showcased growing concerns and confusion regarding ecological-based claims. The interchangeable use of numerous terms, such as carbon neutral vs net zero vs climate positivity, is one of the main problems.

It is important to understand that their terminology differs hugely and to make a positive change, a firm and in-depth understanding of the matter is a must. Business owners often bump into these terms in their conferences and discussions. Before, it was and conveniently termed corporate social responsibility and employer branding, but today, the matter is entirely different. 

What is carbon neutrality?

In its simplest terms, Carbon neutrality is a state where businesses can balance their respective carbon emissions with an equal amount of carbon eradication and offsetting. The world burns, and humans seem to thrive only when they ignite it, but this constant burning creates an ecological disaster that can’t be contained if we act too late. Industries and agriculture are the main culprits whose contributions seem instrumental in burning fossil fuels. 

Carbon emissions take place when oil, coal, and gas are burned extensively. On the other hand, carbon removal involves mindfully disengaging carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees, reinstating wetlands, and trapping emissions from industries. 

It takes two steps to accomplish carbon neutrality. An organization or a person can measure the carbon footprint they leave behind using numerous tools involving the greenhouse gas protocol. The second step is to plan strategies to minimize the carbon footprint as much as possible.

To achieve this, you can implement measures such as energy efficiency, sustainable business practices, and mindful use of renewable energy. However, some carbon emissions can go unnoticed because of their indirect nature. These missed carbon emissions are also generated inside the business’s supply chain, like suppliers, transport packaging, etc. 

Read more: All about carbon-neutral architecture: how it is becoming trending and necessary

What is Net Zero?

What is net zero? Net zero is the balanced amount of greenhouse gas released and removed from the atmosphere. When a company achieves this state, it signifies that its contribution to a sustainable environment is going well. The science-based target initiative has set net zero as the point at which it minimizes 95% of a company’s value chain discharge for private businesses. 

That said, achieving net zero is challenging; it requires setting up a long-term strategy to decarbonize with the efficient use of renewable energy. Operational areas from infrastructure need a lot of improvement in disposing of the waste and contributing towards sustainability. In addition to that, net zero demands the utilization of advanced carbon elimination technologies, like carbon mineralization and direct air capture.

What is Climate Positivity?

The concept of climate positivity involves actively eliminating excessive carbon from the atmosphere rather than just minimizing carbon emissions. Climate positivity takes the concept of net zero one step further. Sometimes, climate positivity also goes by the name of “carbon negative.” 

To accomplish climate positivity, a business entity or an individual must make their footprint net-negative and actively take part in overturning climate change. To increase climate positivity, one can take measures such as investing in carbon removal technologies, encouraging reforestation, etc. One common thing with a company that is carbon neutral vs. net zero is that they are both thriving for environmental sustainability. 

Differences between Carbon Neutral, Net Zero and Climate Positive

Criteria Carbon Neutral Net ZeroClimate Positive
MeaningThe offset and emission of carbon are in balanceA balanced state of emission of all greenhouse gasesEliminating carbon emissions by taking sustainable measures
How does it work?Minimization of emission+ nullifying through projectsDecreasing emissions+ removing emissions by undertaking various meansReducing emissions+taking active part in investing in projects that can reduce carbon footprint
ScopeNormally emphasized carbon dioxide emissionsVarious greenhouse gases containment like methane, CO2 etcExtensive approach to eliminating greenhouse gases and improving overall climate change
Ambition The goal is to achieve a balance between reduction and emission The goal is to incorporate creative technologies that battle emissions The goal is to influence climate positively
TimeframeNo particular timeframe requiredCompulsory to set a date and plan accordinglyThis goes beyond the timeframe, it is an ongoing process
Emphasis on removalsHere the focus is limited to the reduction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphereHere it is given enough importance on the removals Here, extremely strong emphasis is given to the removal of emissions
Examples Contributing to projects that utilise renewable energy wiselyInvesting in projects that can help reduce emissions by a considerable percentageInitiatives that companies take up to completely eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere not just achieve net zero

In totality, carbon neutrality, net zero, and climate positivity all play a vital role in shaping the sustainability factor of the earth. Adopting these concepts can help humans live a better, safer life. While they share certain similarities, they also possess unique meanings and objectives. Everyone can make an effort to imbibe these concepts, from huge business entities to small individuals. 

Achieving this task is not easy on a short-term basis. We must implement it as an ongoing process that sustains the earth and its beings, including us. Humans possess enough resilience, passion, and a duty-bound quality to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Let this be one of them.

Read more: Bhutan is the first carbon-negative country in the world

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