Carbon neutral, net-zero emissions, carbon positive: what's next?
The constant increase of CO2 emissions in our atmosphere is an evident fact and now understandable to all, in fact more and more often we find ourselves having to deal with the dramatic and catastrophic effects of a lack of action towards climate change at a global level .
We have all well understood that the goal of the net-zero emissions transition is more than ever necessary today, but we are in a crucial and decisive moment for the protection and future of our Planet, where it is essential to be able to drastically reduce emissions starting from now - 2020 is considered the turning point in the fight against climate change - and so up to 2050, to achieve climate neutrality.
But in fact there remains an immense gap between where we should be and where we are, despite the fact that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to act now, adopting initiatives and tools to reduce their environmental impact, they must be able to look at a broader picture and long-term and commit to the containment and reduction of overall emissions: energy efficiency actions, the transition to renewable energy, the containment of corporate travel and all those virtuous actions / behaviors to reduce their carbon footprint are welcome, but the leaders of the private sector they must be able to shift their attention to removing the amount of carbon already present in the atmosphere.
To date, the concept of carbon neutrality in the business sector has been addressed in different and sometimes divergent ways, unfortunately there are not few cases of greenwashing when it comes to this issue. It is important that companies, and not only companies, understand that without the achievement of the net-zero emissions target, the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere will continue to rise, making it impossible to combat global warming and keep global temperatures below 1. , 5 ° C.
The goal of this article is to try to clarify the terms that gravitate around the concept of "decarbonization", what steps are needed to achieve it and what can be done next.
Is there a difference between carbon neutral and net-zero? And between climate positive and carbon negative? Too often they are still used synonymously today, but the differences are there and are substantial, and if a company is unable to use them correctly, it risks not being able to transform its ambition into action, and thus reverse climate change.
Achieving “net zero emissions” means that any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by a company's activities is balanced by an equivalent amount removed. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels requires global net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reach net zero around 2050 , which means no further emissions are added to the atmosphere.
Defining something "carbon neutral" means that the CO2 emissions, or the carbon emitted by a certain activity, are effectively "canceled". This is achieved by balancing carbon emissions with techniques such as offsetting: offsetting CO2 emissions means using carbon credits generated by positive impact projects to reduce or neutralize the impact generated by your activities. Each credit, certified following the most important and recognized international standards (Gold Standard, VCS) certifies the reduction (or removal) of one ton of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere.
Climate positive / Carbon negative
Being climate positive (or negative carbon) is a step further, meaning that an initiative is not only capable of neutralizing associated carbon emissions, but will also take steps to ensure that the project removes additional carbon dioxide from the 'atmosphere. And that's the ultimate goal that Microsoft said, because as the press release reads, “while the world has to hit net zero, those of us who can afford to move faster and go further should definitely do so. That is why today we announce an ambitious goal and a new plan to reduce and ultimately remove Microsoft's carbon footprint ”. By 2050, Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon that the company has emitted directly or indirectly since it was founded in 1975.
The first step for a company that wants to achieve a leadership role in global climate action is certainly to define a "carbon neutral" objective, we can define it as the starting point of an ambitious climate strategy, which aims to achieve "net zero emissions. ”During its journey, but if we think about the 2050 target we necessarily need to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than we emit.
These concepts, although different from each other as already mentioned, all share the same final goal: substantially counteract climate change with targeted and concrete actions capable of supporting the transition necessary to comply with the climate objectives established starting from the Paris Agreement.
It is fair to point out that there is no common and valid solution for everyone, every company will certainly find itself in a different phase of its path: contacting sustainability experts and consultants allows the company to implement the best climate strategy in line with the objectives. and the corporate mission and thus guide it towards a net-zero emissions business model.
Carbonsink can support companies in adopting an emissions reduction strategy, certain that the private sector can assert a predominant role in achieving Carbon Neutrality by contributing to an increase in the level of awareness on climate change globally.