Carbon Neutral: what does it mean?

  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    • 2022-05-19
    • Reading time: 5 minutes
solar panels showcasing renewable energy

Nowadays, talking about climate action has brought with it a whole new vocabulary to explain and promote sustainable activities, targets, and goals. The subject is a hot topic (no pun intended), as there is an urgent need to fight against global warming.

‘Carbon Neutral’, ‘Offsetting’, ‘Sequestration’ and ‘Carbon sinks’, have become significant terms when discussing climate action, but what do they actually mean and how do they relate to climate impact?

The choices we make on a daily basis are impacting the environment, however small our actions may seem. This can be overwhelming at times, which makes it even harder to know what the right decision is.

This article will cover the definition of these terms, which will hopefully also help you along your journey towards living a more sustainable life. Next to that, we will dive deeper into the climate targets of the EU and what this can mean for businesses.

What does Carbon Neutral mean?

To be carbon neutral is to have a balance between producing and absorbing carbon from our atmosphere and store it into what we call carbon sinks. Examples of main (natural) carbon sinks that are used are: Forests, oceans, and soil.

When carbon dioxide is absorbed and stored in these sinks, then carbon has been sequestered. Artificial, man-made carbon sinks also exist, which are mainly: Landfills, carbon capture, and storage processes.

Any system that absorbs more carbon than it produces can be called a carbon sink. Unfortunately, there are no carbon sinks that are able to remove carbon on the required scale to fight global warming. According to research, we have produced over 36.4 Gt CO2 in 2019. Natural sinks only remove between 9.5 – 11 Gt of CO2 per year. 1 Gt (Gigatonne) = 1 billion tonnes.

Colorful coral under water that functions as a carbon sink

According to Frankiqnoulle & Gattuso’s (1993) work, it is estimated that coral reefs represent a carbon sink of almost 70 to 90 Megatons of carbon annually.

Carbon neutral, Carbon free & Carbon offset

Keep in mind: Carbon neutral and carbon-free are not the same thing. When a product, service or company is free of carbon, there are no carbon emissions produced whatsoever. This must apply to the entire supply chain.

There are factually no examples of carbon-free products (yet). However, it is possible for any product, company or service to become carbon neutral: Current practices allow companies to be able to calculate their emissions, which they can then reduce or offset with certified carbon offset projects.

Carbon offsetting is when you pay others to sequester carbon on your behalf. It is possible to offset your produced carbon emissions somewhere else. This method allows companies to compensate for their carbon footprint.

Nevertheless, compensating your carbon emissions alone isn’t enough to fight our climate crisis. It is as equally as important -presumably even better- to reduce your carbon emissions as well.

Business & Carbon neutral

Companies that are working towards carbon neutrality, and therefore becoming a sustainable company are bringing a set of advantages to the table.

To name a few, your business can reduce costs on energy and business travel, mitigate risks of possible future regulation on carbon consumption, increase revenue and engage stakeholders by differentiating yourself from the market.

It is important to stay transparent in order to achieve the highest degree of credibility amongst consumers. Select your project partners carefully, make sure they are verified.

To this end, Regreener has already collected a set of verified carbon offset projects in order for companies to fight climate change effectively.

EU goals

The European Union is committed to an ambitious climate policy. Here are some of the most important goals: The 20-20-20 climate targets, a 55% net emissions reduction target by 2030, and the European Green Deal; striving to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050.

Climate neutrality is similar to carbon neutrality, but it broadens to zero net greenhouse gas emissions. The current increase in greenhouse gases is mainly explained by human activities and contributes to climate change by trapping heat. In order to be climate neutral, we would have to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by reducing our emissions through climate action.

Striving to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050 also means striving to improve the well-being and health of citizen and future generations. Some benefits of the European Green Deal are:

  • Healthy and affordable food
  • Future-proof jobs
  • Longer lasting products that can be repaired, recycled and re-used
  • Clean energy, fresh air, clean water, healthy soil & biodiversity
  • More public transport & renovated, energy efficient buildings
  • Globally competitive and resilient industry

Get involved

Looking at climate targets that are assembled by different continents, countries and cities, it is not surprising to see where confusion has arisen. It’s vital for us individuals to understand what these (sustainable) terms actually mean to be able to actively participate in the fight against climate change.

You can make a difference today by supporting certified & verified climate-solution-project’s. We make sure our projects have a proven track record in CO2-sequestration, make a positive impact on biodiversity, and provide jobs to local communities. Our approach is to partner with the most reliable and sustainable organizations and projects out there, so we can make a lasting impact on our planet and communities.

It's time to make a real difference, together. Are you ready to make the change with us? Check our personal or business pages to find more info!

Take action today with Regreener

Boris Bekkering

Boris Bekkering Head of Climate Impact