OPINION: The company is carbon-neutral. Net-zero. Positive for the environment, negative for carbon, positive for carbon.
You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard at least one of these phrases, which are being promised by a slew of major corporations in the not-too-distant future. Several major corporations, including Shell, Unilever, and H&M, have made commitments to become net-zero firms in recent weeks.
They aren’t the only ones, either. According to the Financial Times, at least a quarter of the world’s 2000 biggest public firms has committed to operating at net zero emissions.
However, for many of us, the question remains: what does any of this truly mean in practice? And, more importantly, is it sufficient to address the climate crisis?
Here’s the quick and dirty solution. They’re all preferable to doing nothing at all. When done correctly, any of these may be just as beneficial. None of them will be able to avert additional global warming on their own.
The fuller response requires your understanding of the implications of each of these policies. Because most of these names are similar in pronunciation, it might be difficult to distinguish between them. So, here’s how it all works out.
The commitment of a fully carbon-neutral firm is that they will not increase their carbon emissions and that they will offset whatever carbon they create throughout their supply chain from sourcing to shipping their goods throughout the world – typically by planting trees.
The money is sent to firms such as Ecologi or Ekos, which then invests in tree planting or renewable energy technology, respectively.
Offsetting may be a valuable tool when done correctly via reliable suppliers, and it is preferable to do nothing at all in certain situations.
However, by itself, it will not make a significant difference in the effort to limit global temperature rise since it does not compel businesses to cut the quantity of carbon they emit in the first place — which is vital.
So, is becoming net-zero a better option? In principle, this should be the case. Companies committed to net-zero carbon emissions seek for methods to decrease their carbon emissions in the first place, and then offset any carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated.
Even while it sounds ideal, many corporations and governments use the phrase “net-zero” to allude to a far-off future of carbon reduction without a detailed strategy for how they intend to achieve it in reality.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently discovered that the majority of net-zero pledges were unclear and inconsistent with national promises to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030. You will not be able to control your carbon emissions until you have a strategy in place. Without a plan, you will not know how you will minimise your carbon emissions.
What about firms that are either carbon positive, carbon negative, or climate positive? It’s a little confusing since they’re all pretty much the same thing.
All three phrases are used to signify that a company offsets more carbon than it emits – often 120 percent or more – as a result of its operations. However, and this is key, the corporation has committed to continuously reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in the future.