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According to the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, there are only 29 years remaining to reach global net-zero emissions. So let’s understand better what the lingo around carbon neutrality is. To verify if a company is willing to reduce or even erase their carbon footprint when they are claiming carbon-neutrality, it is vital to comprehend these terms. The climate movement demands zero carbon emission by the first stage in 2030 and the last stage in 2050.

Since the Earth already reacts strongly to small changes in the amount of CO₂, methane, and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emissions of these gases must be reduced until the whole system is back in balance again. Net zero-emission means that all manufactured greenhouse gas emissions must be removed from the atmosphere through reduction measures, thus reducing the Earth’s net climate balance after removal via natural and artificial sink to zero. This way, humankind would be carbon neutral, and global temperature would stabilize. The later this goal is reached, the higher the negative emissions need to be followed.

Carbon Emission related terminology

  • Carbon neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is balanced by removing an equivalent amount. Neutral refers to reducing all GHG to the point of zero while eliminating all other negative environmental impacts that an organization may cause.
  • Climate positive means that activity goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It’s mainly a marketing term and understandably confusing–we generally avoid it.
  • Carbon negative means the same thing as “climate positive.”
  • Net-Zero carbon emissions mean that an activity releases net-zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
  • Net-Zero emissions balance the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) released and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

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