Which is better Carbon Neutral or Net Zero?

Carbon Neutral or Net Zero: What's the Difference?

Environmental jargon can be a tricky area to navigate. As we all increasingly focus our attention on climate change, we’ve come to hear terms like ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net zero’ being thrown around. But what do they really mean? And importantly, what’s the difference between the two? In this post, we’ll delve into the distinctions between these buzzwords and why those differences matter.

Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutrality, often termed ‘climate neutrality,’ involves individuals, companies, or countries balancing emitted greenhouse gases with an equal amount offset or absorbed. Achieving this entails reducing emissions through energy efficiency and supporting projects that remove or diminish greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Key Points:

  1. Offsetting: Carbon neutral often involves the purchase of carbon credits or investing in projects (like reforestation) that capture or prevent the emission of the equivalent amount of CO2.
  2. Scope: Carbon neutral typically concerns itself with carbon dioxide emissions but can sometimes include other greenhouse gases.
  3. Short-Term Perspective: Carbon neutrality can be seen as an immediate action. You emit one tonne of CO2, you offset one tonne.

Net Zero

Achieving net zero means that a country, company, or individual emits no more greenhouse gases than are removed from the atmosphere. This can be seen as a more comprehensive approach, as it aims to reduce emissions to as close to zero as possible, offsetting the remainder with carbon removals.

Key Points:

  1. Reduction First: The emphasis for net zero is on drastically reducing emissions first and foremost. Only once emissions have been slashed to their bare minimum, is the focus shifted to offsetting the remaining emissions.
  2. Broader Range of Gases: Net zero concerns itself with all greenhouse gases, not just CO2. This includes methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.
  3. Long-Term Perspective: The net zero journey focuses on the ultimate goal of eliminating or balancing out all emissions by a set date, often mid-century (e.g., 2050).

So, What's the Key Difference?

The key difference is in the focus: ‘carbon neutral’ offsets current emissions, while ‘net zero’ takes a holistic, forward-thinking approach. Net zero prioritises significant emission reduction before considering offsets. Additionally, net zero typically covers a broader range of greenhouse gases, whereas carbon neutral often focuses solely on carbon dioxide.

Why does it matter?

Understanding the difference is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Setting Clear Goals: Governments, corporations, and individuals can set clear, actionable goals that are aligned with global efforts to curb climate change.
  2. Informed Choices: For consumers, understanding these terms helps in making informed choices, be it supporting a company’s initiative or choosing to offset one’s own carbon footprint.

  3. Policymaking: Clear distinctions ensure that policymakers draft effective and meaningful regulations that drive genuine change.

How does EMMA AI help?

Using the EMMA AI platform is a great way to move towards your carbon net zero targets as it significantly reduces your energy consumption across the whole business. This means that rather than having to offset the amount of carbon you use, you are instead reducing it in the first place, which is great for your balance sheet and the environment!

Want to see exactly how much you could save?

If you would like to see exactly how much your business could save across all your sites, then drop us your details below and a member of the team will be in touch to arrange a demo or a free evaluation of your site energy data. Or, why not try our ROI Calculator, which will give you an indication of the savings available.

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