What's the definition of carbon neutral?

We hear a lot about the importance of reducing our impact on the environment, but how does carbon neutrality fit in? And what’s the definition of carbon neutral? Here’s your crash course:

The scale of the climate crisis can often feel overwhelming. But while meaningful, unified global action lags behind, minimizing our own carbon footprint remains a great way to make an immediate impact. That’s where carbon neutrality comes in.

How is carbon neutrality defined?

Carbon neutrality is defined as preventing or reducing the same amount of CO2 emissions as you emit. This doesn’t mean that you’re producing zero emissions (a near impossible feat). Instead, it means that the same amount of CO2 that you produce is captured or prevented by projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere. 

Humans have doubled CO2 in the atmosphere in just 25 years

Is carbon neutral the same as ‘net zero’?

You may have heard these terms used interchangeably, however they’re slightly different. Carbon neutrality refers specifically to cancelling out carbon dioxide emissions, while ‘net zero’ typically refers to all greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide makes up the majority of greenhouse gasses we emit, but others, like methane, are also a huge part of the problem. Net zero refers to negating all of those emissions.  

How can we capture or avoid carbon dioxide emissions?

An incredibly effective natural way to capture carbon is to plant and protect trees. Meanwhile, future emissions can be greatly reduced by switching to green energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal, while also phasing out petrol vehicles. 

As science scrambles to develop effective carbon capture technology, trees remain the MVP.

The issue is one of time as much as volume. The longer it takes to reach net zero, the further we slump into carbon debt, and the larger emission reduction initiatives must be. As we aim for net zero globally, we can all aid the transition by becoming carbon neutral as individuals in the meantime.

So, how do you become carbon neutral?

There are two parts to achieving a sustainable, carbon neutral life. If you want to go neutral right now, you can offset your footprint by supporting effective and verified climate projects via Klima (that’s us!). From there, you can make incremental adjustments to your lifestyle to reduce the emissions you produce in the first place, lowering the cost of your offsets over time and building a climate-healthy lifestyle.

It’s scary to think that nearly everything we depend on contributes to our carbon footprint — food, transport, clothing (shopping in general for that matter), as well as every device and appliance in our homes. The list is endless. The upside being that there are just as many ways to start reducing your emissions. And you don’t even need to go cold turkey. You could cycle to work one or two days a week, for example. Even going vegan for two-thirds of your meals can cut your food-related footprint by 60%. Read our simple guide to cutting your carbon footprint for more emission reduction tips.

How are we tracking on global emissions currently?

Well, there are certainly wheels in motion. The Biden presidency signalled America’s welcome return to the Paris Agreement. And that’s not nothing, considering the US is the world’s second biggest polluter after China. 

Elsewhere, many countries, such as the UK, Sweden, New Zealand, and Hungary have enacted legislation committing to net zero between 2030 and 2050. Denmark has committed to reaching 70% less than its 1990 emissions levels by 2030, as well as allocating climate finance to developing countries. Encouragingly, some smaller countries like Bhutan and Suriname have even achieved net zero already.

Suriname is at the head of the net zero emissions race

Although a quick look at Climate Action Tracker shows we’re still a long way from where we need to be. China has announced its intention to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. However, its ongoing reliance on coal — and those who export the majority of it like Australia, Indonesia, Russia, and Mongolia — remains a cause for concern. Governments still need to step up their short-term climate efforts in order to reach their zero emissions targets further down the line. That's why individual climate action is so important.

Want to know how your carbon emissions stack up? With Klima, you can calculate your emissions and see how you compare to global and national averages. Then erase your carbon footprint by supporting verified carbon offsetting projects, making you 100% carbon neutral. All in less than three minutes! Download Klima today.

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