We all tend to love a good TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) or those ‘simple’ labels such as ‘Carbon Positive’. Especially when they are fundamentally designed to help understand the technologies we are working with (and to mark us out as being ‘in the know”’). My favourite TLA is a circular one – GNU (GNU’s Not Unix)!
Carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reduction is no different. Labels such as Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, Zero Carbon are indeed helpful but it is also easy for similar sounding terms to cause confusion. I think the best example of this is Carbon Positive.
This term sounds like something we all aspire to – being positive about carbon (reduction). Unfortunately, the positive part of the phrase is not about attitude or commitment but just numerically ‘above zero’. Essentially, it means your business emissions are (like most businesses) above zero and thus contribute to global heating. This is not something to beat yourself up about, by the way – it is currently incredibly difficult to remove more carbon than you produce.
Carbon Positive is thus the position we want to move from – not a place we want to go!
The label that can help engage in reducing carbon emissions and push a ‘positive’ mindset is Climate Positive. This means your total Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and equivalent Carbon Dioxide (CO2e) emissions are less than the CO2e released into the atmosphere.
Carbon Positive is thus the position we want to move from, not a place we want to go!
How can you be Climate Positive?
This phrase can also be termed Carbon Negative, but this is not simply just being in a position where your carbon emissions in isolation fall below zero. Practically moving from Carbon Positive means:
The amount of CO2 emitted is balanced by reductions through carbon removals, often via carbon offsetting and carbon credits.
Net Zero Carbon
A commitment to reduce your carbon emissions as much as possible and then balance these emissions through offsetting.
Climate Neutral / Net Zero: takes other greenhouses gasses into account in achieving this balance.
Carbon Positive is probably the most likely term to confuse or mislead but more widely labels like Carbon Neutral and Net Zero can have a galvanising effect on your efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint.
Your emissions reduction journey is going to need engagement both within your business and in your supply chains and so these labels can at least be useful signposts on the way. You can learn more about the Road to Net Zero and how you can take steps towards it in one of our latest Insight articles.
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