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Carbon Explained

Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, and Carbon Negative Explained

There is a lot of jargon flying about in the sustainability world, which makes things confusing and overwhelming, so it’s no surprise that 47% of small business leaders want to do something about sustainability but struggle to find the expertise to support them .

Let's try and break it down for you to make things simple.

What is Carbon Neutral?

You're Carbon Neutral if the amount of CO₂ you emit into the atmosphere is the same amount of CO₂ you removed from the atmosphere.

  • Firstly, a Carbon Neutral company will have made a commitment to understand and measure the carbon emissions created by running their business.
  • Next a Carbon Neutral company will compensate the equivalent of the emissions they create focusing on reducing emissions within their business generally within Scope 1 and Sope 2 by some of the following:
    • Investing in renewable energy as part of wider green building practices
    • Using sustainable materials
    • Reviewing business practices within their control
    • Investing in offsetting projects
    • Employee engagement to bring about culture change

This Carbon Neutrality is related to CO₂ emissions and does not cover the spectrum of other Green House Gases such as Methane or Nitrous Oxide. Given estimated 75% of all human generated Green House Gas emissions is carbon - it’s good to focus is on CO₂.

Entire governments and individuals can be Carbon Neutral, companies such as Sky became carbon neutral in 2006, Google and M&S since 2007. It is a valuable step, but it will not keep us from adhering to the 1.5°C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC . According to YouGov, only 46% of businesses have plans to be carbon neutral in line with the Government target of 2050.

What's all this talk about Carbon Negative?

Carbon Negative in a nutshell means you remove more CO₂ from the atmosphere than you emit.

It's the north star of carbon removal and the most ambitious, companies such as Microsoft have set aggressive targets to be Carbon Negative by 2030 (even taking it a step further, making their ‘moonshot announcement’ to remove all historical emissions since inception in 1975 by 2050), Apple quickly followed suit and declared they would be Carbon Neutral for supply chain and products by 2030.

How I hear you cry?!

Generally companies need to implement robust sustainable practices across all of their assets, invest in renewable energy projects, consider low carbon vehicles and sustainable transport, purchase carbon credits and often have to invest in or adopt Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Negative pledges require adopting a holistic approach to going green, incorporating environmental factors such as water, waste and limiting negative business impact on environmental ecosystems.

What's all this talk about Net Zero?

There was a lot of focus on Net Zero during COP26 committing 90% of world economies to a Net-Zero target, the UK have a 100% Net Zero Target by 2050. COP26 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Net Zero is aiming for a state of existence where no new greenhouse gases are emitted by human activity. The aim here is to prevent a net increase in emissions, to avoid the worst impacts of our warming planet. It included ALL the GHGs but in majority of sectors Carbon is the biggest contributor to emissions.

It’s hard for companies to achieve this right now, as technologies such as carbon capture and synthetic fuels are in their infancy of development and not a cost-effective option currently. Don't let this put you off, we encourage you to start thinking about setting a net-zero target that integrates into your medium-long term plan.

Achieving Carbon Neutrality is a great initial step, it typically aligns to your Scope 1 & 2 emissions so what you emit directly and indirectly from your operations.

Net Zero includes your value/supply chain, so Scope 3 emissions which is a more complex and a time-consuming undertaking.

Whether you want to start or further develop your Net Zero, Carbon Neutral or even Carbon Negative strategy, Pathway to Carbon Zero have a programme to meet your needs. Fill in your details and book a session with one of our experts.

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