What is the difference between ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘carbon negative’?

In a world focused on reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, it is common to hear many different terms and phrases. Often, these are scientific terms that have entered daily life, which is why it is important to understand what they really mean.

Two examples of these ‘buzzwords’ are ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘carbon negative’. Of course, both are very similar, but it is critical we draw a distinction between the two as we begin to take significant steps towards decarbonizing the global economy.

What Does ‘Carbon Neutral’ Mean?

A company is considered ‘carbon neutral’ when the CO2 they release into the atmosphere is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.

However, this can be a challenging journey as carbon can be emitted through any activity that consumes energy powered by fossil fuels. This includes driving, ventilating your building, or operating machinery using electricity. To become ‘carbon neutral, you first need to count and analyze the amount of carbon you currently release into the environment.

An organization can use this data to work towards neutrality by reducing its overall carbon footprint through a variety of strategies. Some of these include changing your modes of transportation, switching to clean energy sources like wind, solar or electrical, and using clean fuel sources such as hydrogen.

Companies can further reduce their carbon footprint by investing in carbon offset projects, which aim to reduce the impact of the pollutant through activities like planting trees or restoring wetlands.

Ultimately, the goal is you will be able to show the steps you have taken to decrease carbon emissions and the amount you introduce through carbon-limiting activities.

What Does ‘Carbon Negative’ Mean?

To become ‘carbon negative’, companies need to follow a similar process to reaching ‘carbon neutrality. The key difference is that you take your approach one step further and remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than you introduce.

The concept is based on the idea that we can have a long-term positive impact on our climate, leaving the environment in better shape than what we found it.

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