Understanding the difference between net zero carbon and carbon neutral is essential

As understanding of the climate crisis grows and we learn more about the damage to ourselves, the environment, businesses, industry and the economy that will ensue, the desire not only to reduce carbon, but also to be seen reducing carbon is increasing.

Two seemingly interchangeable terms that are often seen are “carbon neutral” and “net zero carbon”. However, the two are not the same.

Torill Bigg is Chief Carbon Reduction Engineer at Tunley Engineering

Carbon neutrality refers to a policy of not increasing carbon emissions and reducing carbon emissions through offsets. While net zero carbon means making changes to minimize carbon emissions – and offset as a last resort. Offsetting is used to counter the essential emissions that remain after the implementation of all available reduction initiatives.

In both cases, carbon offsetting eliminates CO2 of the environment. For this to count, this withdrawal must be permanent and accredited or authorized. Projects can offer a range of benefits. In addition to reducing carbon in the atmosphere, offset projects can be selected to also provide social and community benefits. Projects can range from planting trees locally to financing projects that allow families in developing countries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Examples include afforestation, reforestation and conservation. Alternative investments can also be made in initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as livestock feed which reduces methane production from cows.

Other compensation projects reinforce biodiversity, improve soil quality, food production or the absorption of rainwater. Projects that benefit soil quality are particularly relevant to global warming and climate change, because soil is a significant store of carbon, containing three times as much carbon as the atmosphere – and the importance of soil quality. soil has often been overlooked. The benefits of food production are also relevant given that poor harvests are a significant negative impact of climate change, devastating communities and forcing migration.

There are proposed carbon offset programs that are sold on the basis of an arbitrary average carbon footprint, as opposed to a quantified footprint. The risk with these is that they offer the temptation of an easy-to-buy option, which not only does not include any emission reductions, but also may not achieve enough offsetting to solve the climate change problem. . These are sold on the basis that true quantification of your carbon footprint can be expensive, time consuming and complicated, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Net zero carbon commitments always imply emission reductions. This requires a first measurement of the carbon footprint. This is followed by strategic initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the implementation of renewable energy solutions and then carbon offsetting.

The right carbon reduction service can give you all of this. In addition, they can support you in your net zero commitment by continuously monitoring both the success of initiatives but also emerging technologies for new emission reduction opportunities. These can take the form of technologies, alternative energy availability, internal opportunities resulting from process changes or opportunities to collaborate with your supply chain. Potential opportunities could arise with local business partners such as neighboring manufacturing facilities with which you may be able to exchange reused treated heat or reuse or reuse materials. For example, could your carbon cardboard waste be shredded into their packaging material or could the waste heat from your processes be used for their hot water or offices?

This type of methodical, structured and quantified approach leads to a more optimized use of resources, reduces energy bills, reduces waste, reduces dependence on the national grid, offers real reductions in emissions and therefore real damage to energy. the environment.

  • Torill Bigg is Chief Carbon Reduction Engineer at Tunley Engineering

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About Perry Perrie

Perry Perrie

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