What Is Meant By ‘Carbon Neutral’ or ‘Net-zero’? What Are We Doing To Protect Our Environment?

This is a Guest Post by Anup Garg, Founder and Director, World of Circular Economy (WOCE) 

A movement is required to instill changes in people’s lifestyles, which promotes green living. ‘Every corporate should lead by example’ in capturing, calculating, and offsetting carbon footprint.

What Is Meant By ‘Carbon Neutral’ or ‘Net-zero’? What Are We Doing To Protect Our Environment?

Almost everything we do today produces carbon dioxide, from cooking food, and powering home to driving. And this calls for our contribution to carbon footprint continuously, which is detrimental to the environment. Being ‘carbon neutral’ means that as an individual, or a business entity- one feels responsible for emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but upon realisation one offsets by some means. For example, we plant a tree or add solar panels to our home/office, use electric vehicles, etc to reduce/offset our carbon dioxide output.

Is there any difference between the terms ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘net-zero’?

The two are similar terms and are mostly referred to as businesses. In both cases, companies are working to reduce/ balance their carbon footprint. While ‘carbon-neutral’ refers to balancing out the total amount of carbon emissions by capturing carbon footprint, ‘net-zero’ relates to zero carbon emission, along with the removal/reduction of other Green HouseGases (GHG) emissions.

Anup Garg, Founder and Director, World of Circular Economy

So ‘net-zero’, is a target of completely negating the amount of GHG produced by human activity, which could be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

While ‘net-zero carbon’ means making changes to reduce carbon emissions to the lowest amount – and offsetting as a last resort. The offsetting is used to counteract the essential emissions that remain after all available reduction initiatives have been implemented. In both cases, carbon offsetting removes carbon dioxide from the environment. 

It is great and inspiring to note that business giants like Amazon and GM have taken a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040, while Apple is aiming for it by 2030.

Pledge to reach net-zero 

Several countries have pledged to reach net-zero by 2050. However, India has set a goal to be a net-zero nation by 2070. While achieving Net Zero by 2070 is definitely within India’s reach, it may be difficult to do so sooner or flatten the emissions curve without modifying the Net Zero target date.

Among the companies that have declared net-zero targets are Reliance Industries (RIL), Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HDFC Bank, Wipro, Infosys, Mahindra & Mahindra, JSW Energy, ITC, Adani, Dalmia Cement, and Indian Railways. In addition, 64 Indian corporations have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the Science-Based Target Initiative, a global partnership that enables companies to establish their climate commitments. Additionally, the Net Zero aims of 28 of these businesses have been confirmed.

To generate zero-carbon emissions for a country is a big dream. So, offsetting carbon footprint by capturing it, is a viable approach toward becoming a carbon-neutral nation.

Carbon capture and utilization Vs creating mass awareness

Emphasis on carbon capture at the project and plant levels may be necessary to address the dominance of coal in the production of electric power and industrial operations. At the same time, it is necessary to bring in a behavioural change amongst individuals, corporate, and communities vis a vis carbon accounting to achieve net-zero. As capturing carbon and utilising it, is both an extensive (in terms of time and processes) and expensive affair (because economy of scale will take its own time), we should look at other alternatives too.

And one of them is to create mass awareness. ‘We, the people, should know about the damage that we are incessantly extending to the environment, consciously or unconsciously. A movement must be created by corporates. While opting for a carbon management system, they can enable their workforce to capture, calculate and earn rewards towards offsetting carbon footprint. 

‘What cannot be measured, cannot be managed’

The philosophy- ‘What cannot be measured, cannot be managed’ is pertinent to understanding if we aim to be net-zero by 2070, if not earlier. According to a 2020 study by three of the University of British Columbia researchers, consumers struggle to understand what actions the greatest impact has on reducing their carbon footprint.

Thus, the first objective towards building a sustainable ecosystem should be to instill changes in people’s lifestyles, which promotes green living. Corporates have a bigger role to play to accelerate the journey towards net-zero and each of them should inspire another, towards building a sustainable ecosystem. We need a robust system that integrates corporates, employees, carbon offset green projects, and sustainable marketplace vendors on one single platform.

What corporates should do?

To achieve carbon neutrality, experts urge businesses to create a progressive plan rather than rushing to implement greener technologies. Installing clean energy locally is one piece of advice that can be helpful. Using electric vehicles and installing solar panels are two sure-fire ways to go in the direction of environmental sustainability.

Capture, calculate, and offset

First, the leaders and business visionaries must understand the subject of carbon neutrality well. They should be able to capture the company’s carbon footprint, followed by its calculation and rewarding employees in the process, and eventually offset the emissions.

Once the total carbon footprint is captured and calculated, a company can counteract. This will help analyse the least and worst carbon indicators for reducing carbon emissions. 

Additionally, carbon offsets can be purchased to make up for any shortfall in case the business is unable to reduce its carbon footprint to the same extent as it contributes. A facilitator can come in handy here.

To conclude, it’s a process to change the mindset and bring consciousness that sustainability is not an option, but will be a way of life we all lead!

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