The term carbon neutral has been around for a while, but what does it really mean? In simple terms, true carbon neutrality is achieved when the world balances out the greenhouse gases we produce with the gases we remove from the atmosphere. This removal mainly happens through things like forests, oceans, and special technologies like capturing carbon from the air.
Here’s the problem: we’ve been releasing way more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than nature or technology can handle. This is causing our planet to heat up significantly, far from any balance.
Now, carbon neutrality isn’t just about the whole planet; it’s used for countries, companies, and even products or events. The idea is that when these entities claim to be carbon neutral, they’re essentially saying they’ve offset their emissions. It’s like a trade-off – they emit carbon in one place and invest in ways to remove it somewhere else. Sounds simple, but there are issues.
- First, offsets aren’t always based on solid science.
- Second, the offset industry isn’t well-regulated, which lets companies continue polluting without making real efforts to cut emissions.
How to Achieve Carbon Neutrality
To be carbon neutral, a company should consider emissions from its supply chain, like when a plane maker has to account for the fuel burned by the planes they produce. Until all these emissions are offset or removed, it’s more like an accounting trick than a real solution.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) experts, attaining carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5°C is possible. However, they emphasize that achieving this goal demands unprecedented social and political changes. In a recent communication, the UN outlined key steps for the short term:
- Establish a carbon pricing mechanism that encourages investment in carbon removal and low-emission alternatives, such as renewable energy.
- Halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants, a significant source of emissions.
- Shift the burden of carbon taxation from taxpayers to the polluting entities.
- Require the disclosure of economic risks linked to climate change.
- Integrate carbon neutrality objectives into countries’ financial and fiscal decision-making.
At a personal level, individuals can also play a crucial role in reducing their carbon footprint.
What are the Advantages of Achieving Carbon Neutrality?
Reaching carbon neutrality isn’t just about averting the worst effects of climate change; it also yields numerous advantages for communities and society at large:
- Reduced Environmental Pollution and Better Health: Carbon neutrality leads to decreased pollution, resulting in improved public health.
- Stimulated Sustainable Economic Growth and Green Jobs: It fosters sustainable economic expansion and the creation of environmentally friendly employment opportunities.
- Enhanced Food Security: Carbon neutrality mitigates the adverse effects of climate change, contributing to greater food security.
- Preservation of Biodiversity and Ocean Health: Carbon neutrality efforts help curtail biodiversity loss and enhance the health of our oceans.
Moreover, organizations can also directly benefit from pursuing carbon neutrality in the following ways:
- Demonstrates Commitment to Decarbonization: It showcases a company’s dedication to reducing its carbon footprint and compensating for residual impacts.
- Improves Environmental Credentials: Companies gain recognition as environmentally responsible brands, setting them apart from others.
- Alignment with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): By supporting carbon neutrality, businesses align with SDGs, reducing both general and private risks associated with climate change.
In essence, the journey toward carbon neutrality offers a wide array of societal, environmental, and corporate benefits.
Recommended: What is Carbon Offsetting?