Is it the same? What’s the difference? Why does it matter?

24 May 2021

Net Zero, Zero Carbon, Zero emissions, we add buzzwords that make it sound difficult or confusing, but it shouldn’t be the case if we want to make a change. 

While the two terms are often used as synonyms they might differ in goals and reach.

What’s the main difference? 

Carbon neutrality grew in prominence after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (2005), which established flexible market mechanisms to encourage countries and companies to reduce emissions.

These mechanisms ideally encourage GHG abatement to start where it is most cost-effective, for example, in the developing world. It does not matter where emissions are reduced, as long as they are removed from the atmosphere. This has the parallel benefits of stimulating green investment in developing countries and including the private sector in this endeavour to cut and hold steady GHG emissions at a safe level.

Net-zero carbon, is linked to the Paris Agreement (2015), which aims to limit the rise in global temperatures below 1.5°C targeting net zero global carbon emissions by 2050, which means no further emissions are added to the atmosphere. This requires the effective reduction of emissions by having a consistent climate strategy.

Companies can become net-zero for example by following the implementation of the science based targets initiative. A net-zero ambition represents a radical change in business-as-usual practices and relies on the Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Costs (BATNECC) approach.

Why does it matter?

Carbon neutrality is an important first step in counteract climate change, which should not be underestimated, there is a way to go before reaching 2050 goal and in order to achieve it, all possible actions today are important. 

It is clear that we need to remove greenhouse gases today, while simultaneously establishing strategies for the future that will require a tailored net-zero carbon strategy that includes a carbon reduction roadmap designed to lead companies to reduce its emissions year after year, engaging all stakeholders.