The changes in our world’s climate have now become alarming. It is evidenced by extreme weather conditions, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and biodiversity loss. As years pass by, it gets worse, and what does the world lack? Awareness.
How do we put a stop to this? Mother nature is injured, and guess what, we all contribute to her pain, but we can help in her healing. Now is the right time to know about carbon neutrality and how every good human can save our planet.
What Does Carbon Neutrality Mean?
Carbon neutrality is also known as a net-zero carbon dioxide footprint. The goal of carbon neutrality is to emit zero carbon dioxide emissions. This is done by carbon dioxide removal in the atmosphere or to avoid instances where carbon dioxide is emitted in the air.
With carbon neutrality, carbon emissions must be ‘neutral’, which every time there is carbon emission in the air, there must be an act to absorb carbon to regain that balance. If carbon dioxide stays in there, there will be harmful consequences that the world will suffer.
Here are some terms you should understand if you want to learn more about carbon neutrality:
- Carbon Sequestration: Carbon sequestration is the process where carbon dioxide is removed from the air, and it is stored somewhere else. All greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are counterbalanced by the process of carbon sequestration.
- Carbon Sink: A carbon sink is a system designed to absorb more carbon dioxide, and lesser carbon dioxide emits—the example of carbon sink from natural forests, oceans, and soil.
- Carbon Credit: A carbon credit is defined as a permit allowing private companies to emit a controlled amount of greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide in the air. One carbon credit purchased is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide permitted to be emitted in the atmosphere.
These natural sinks can remove a 9.55 to 11 GT (gigatons) a year. There are no artificial carbon sinks to fight global warming as of the moment, so the maintenance of our biodiversity is essential. Unfortunately, the carbon dioxide being stored in natural sinks like forests is released in the atmosphere by forest fires.
That is why we cannot depend solely on natural carbon sinks to reach carbon neutrality because our forests and their living habitats sacrifice their lives. Do you remember the Australia wildfire in 2019? Or the California wildfire in 2020? Do we want more of this? Or do we do something to prevent this?
What’s the Difference Between Carbon Neutrality and Net Zero Emissions?
Carbon neutrality and net-zero emissions have the same bottom-line: this is to have an ecological balance between processes that help reduce the pollution and activities that emit pollution in the climate. Both terms aim to achieve energy efficiency, renewable energy, reduce emissions in the agricultural and forestry sector, and phase out fossil fuel consumption.
Carbon neutrality and net-zero emission are used interchangeably, they have the same mission, but they have different meanings.
With net zero emissions, there is carbon dioxide released in the air, but it is counterbalanced by activity at the domestic level to help remove it in the atmosphere. While carbon neutrality offsets or removes carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by buying carbon credits.
Why Is Carbon Neutrality Important?
The most significant contribution of carbon neutrality is to solve the problems in climate change around the world. If carbon continues to be released in the atmosphere, and nobody does anything about it, imagine how many wildfires worldwide could affect millions of lives.
How many floods and natural disasters do we have to encounter? How many lives need to be sacrificed for every human to be aware of the importance of carbon neutrality?
Each individual and private companies must take into account their carbon emissions and make efforts to reduce them. Nowadays, there are carbon-neutral services and products available. As individuals making their everyday choice, it can make a lot of difference. There are even countries like Singapore, which offers its residents a carbon-neutral option of electricity.
We all know it’s not easy to go carbon neutral, but you can always purchase carbon credits so you can help in your own way. If you think you can’t sacrifice your gas-fueled car for an electric bike, or you find it hard to recycle, purchasing a carbon credit could be the best option for you.
What Are Carbon Neutral Examples?
Thankfully, many organizations, private companies, and people around the world are going carbon neutral. Here are the carbon-neutral examples in the present:
- World sporting events like the World Cup Soccer athletes and participants are going carbon neutral.
- Travel agencies and airline companies offer passengers for carbon offset flights.
- Some hotels offer carbon-neutral accommodations.
- Movie productions, TV studios, and entertainment productions help in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions with their broadcasting.
- Major world conferences like the United Nations practice carbon offset.
- Organizations like Whole Foods or Wells Fargo purchased large amounts of renewable energy carbon certificates to offset their fossil fuel electricity use.
- World Bank, Google, HSBC, Nike, Dell, and Vancity committed their operations to go carbon neutral.
- Carpeting companies, coffee manufacturing, and cargo companies offer carbon-neutral services and products.
- Different utility companies offer carbon offsetting and emissions, so customers have the option to purchase carbon credits.
- Countries like New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, and Costa Rica develop laws and policies to become carbon neutral in the next decades entirely.
- Rock Bands like Coldplay and Rolling Stones help in the carbon offsetting through their albums and concerts.
- Schools, universities, churches voluntarily help in reducing their emissions.
- Celebrities, best-selling books, grocery store chains help raise awareness about carbon neutrality.
The list goes on and on. The big corporations around the world and significant organizations have committed to do their part with carbon neutrality. This doesn’t stop here, and we need to continue to raise awareness of this issue. As you go along reading this post, there are everyday things that you can do to help in your own little way.
What Is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is another process of reducing carbon emissions, where you ‘offset’ the carbon by reducing the production in another sector. The carbon offsetting is done through investing in clean, renewable energies and low-carbon technology.
These carbon offsets schemes measure the greenhouse gas emission and what are the activities that can offset this. Some of the most prominent and accredited carbon offsetting programs in the world as of date are:
- The EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS)
- United Nations (commercial, sectoral, provincial, and country-level)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
- Publicly Available Specifications (PAS)
- Non-Government Organizations (NGO)
That is why there are certificates even in energy-efficient stoves, mangrove conservations, methane use on oil plants, or on-site electricity.
In most parts of the world, the source of electricity is natural gases like fossil fuel because of the lack of renewable energy sources. But countries are taking a step forward by turning into the wind and solar energy and getting rid of coal plants for the years to come.
What Are the Pros of Carbon off Setting?
There are a lot of carbon offsetting programs that reap a lot of benefits. It can be as simple as cleaning rivers in the community, planting a tree project, using bikes instead of a car, investing in clean energy, using solar energy for street lights, and more. You can even request which cause you want to place your money in, and specify the program you would like to support.
The short-term and long-term benefits of carbon offsetting are as follows:
- For the environment: It can help slow down the harmful effects of global warming, help save biodiversity, and keep the animals from extinction.
- For organizations and companies: This will inspire other companies to be carbon neutral; this can also improve the marketing and public image of a company, incentives, and tax break for participating companies.
- For the long-term benefit: It can help sustain many livelihoods, and it will help speed up the technological advancements
What Are the Cons of Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting involves purchasing carbon credits to help “save mother earth” while continuing on your everyday habits of destroying mother earth. While this may sound funny, these are one of the disadvantages of carbon offsetting.
It does not promote awareness for people to change their ways; it just gives them the option to pay for what they have done wrong towards the environment. This does not apply to everyone, but we know some people fall into this category.
Another disadvantage of the carbon offsetting programs is companies claiming to do it but only for marketing and profit purposes. Some companies develop programs like tree planting but continue to emit uncalculated gas emissions in the atmosphere.
They do not even consider that the saps they planted cannot absorb much carbon dioxide and be helpful maybe twenty years later.
What Is the Best Carbon Offset as of the Moment?
The best carbon offset program as of the moment are those of the aviation industry. Why? One commercial 90 kilograms of carbon dioxide per hour, and there are 100,000 plane trips in the whole world in one day.
Airplanes are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emission in the industry, so it’s only fair to say that they are one of the earliest and have one of the best carbon offset programs.
Airlines companies started by allowing customers to donate to their ticket to offset their individual carbon emission during that flight. Nowadays, carbon neutrality is in the process of formalization in the international aviation industry.
The aviation industry is taking part in this movement, and technology giants like Amazon and Google. It is also notable that the transportation and electricity industry made several attempts to contribute to carbon offsetting. That is why there is a rapid rise in the popularity of electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars, windmills, and solar-powered cities.
All of these efforts towards carbon neutrality contribute a big role in saving our environment. Fortune 500 companies and world organizations are taking the lead, and this is truly inspirational.
Do Big Private Companies Help With Carbon Neutrality?
Yes, big private companies are taking big steps in promoting carbon neutrality. Gradual steps are done to reduce it to avoid carbon emissions. This is done by putting an end to activities that cause pollution or at least switch to alternatives with less carbon emission.
These big private companies help by installing energy-efficient machines, recycle, and resort to renewable energy. Some private companies come up with programs for tree planting, preservation of forests, and promoting saving biodiversity.
How Can Big Companies Help With Carbon Neutrality?
Other than programs, these big companies help with carbon neutrality by purchasing carbon certificates. Some big companies support through projects that sequester and soak up carbon.
There are big private companies that promote the idea of directly capturing and storing carbon.
What Is the Role of the UN in Carbon Neutrality?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) introduced the idea of balancing carbons. Article 2, under UNFCCC, states, “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
By 2010, it is agreed upon that temperatures exceeding 2 degrees celsius is not allowed in pre-industrial levels. This will ensure global emissions will peak soon, and the goal is net-zero carbon by 2050.
The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that some countries want carbon neutrality to be part of a global agreement, to reach the goal by 2050.
How Can Carbon Neutrality Be Achieved?
To achieve carbon neutrality, there are two ways;
1. Renewable Energy – This is by promoting energy efficiency to reduce energy demand. This will also simultaneously promote decarbonizing and decentralizing transmission and power generation so that renewable energy can make a contribution.
2. Negative Emissions – This is through the use of technologies that will result in negative emissions. This concept uses Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). This will produce negative carbon emissions to combine biomass with geologic carbon dioxide storage and capture. In short, as the plants grow, they absorb more carbon dioxide.
Remember that when something burns, it results in the emission of carbon dioxide. It is then captured and buried in mines, wells, geologic formations, under the sea, or underground. The BECCS is the net absorber of carbon dioxide.
Achieving carbon neutrality is easier if it is scaled up and used cost-effectively. But in reality, the amount of water and land needed to plant crops to burn can also worsen the water and food supply worldwide. This is a sad reality for the world’s poor, and it is adding to climate injustice.
Can Carbon Neutrality Be Achieved by 2050?
The goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is ambitious, but it is technically possible. The world needs to limit climate emissions through strong political will and cooperation of the countries worldwide.
How Can Good Humans Help in Reducing Carbon Footprint?
Good humans can reduce their carbon footprint with simple everyday choices. The enemy is too much carbon dioxide in the air. The carbon dioxide is released when we use energy to power our cars, electricity in our homes, and even our smartphones.
This may be uncomfortable for some by using less of what’s listed above can positively contribute to climate change.
Advice for Individuals Who Want to Help
For individuals who want to go carbon neutral, go for it. There are even mobile apps and online calculators to identify the carbon footprints that we leave. This is as simple as the food we eat, when you drive your car, events you attend, or even when you hit the gym.
These tools will make you realize the carbon footprints you can leave, so the next time, you can be more cautious about your actions. This will make you set limits on what you can do and contribute as an individual.
Your initiative may not be that big as the national and international levels, but little actions of all individuals worldwide are a long way to go. But one thing you can do is nudge your leaders to lean towards making policies to carbon-neutral actions.
The 5R’s of Carbon Footprint
To be a good human to reduce your carbon footprint, you should know the 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, and Recycle. Zero waste is one of the most extraordinary steps in combating climate change.
REFUSE: You can refuse the practice of using plastics and disposable paper products. There are metal or bamboo straws, use eco-bags in the grocery, or avoid using plastic spoons and forks in fast foods. With your simple act of refusing plastic straws, there will be less plastic trash. Remember that the trash in the sea mostly consists of plastic and you’re seeing news of turtles dying because of the trash they ate.
REDUCE: Zero waste means reducing to what you need or your basic necessities. Downsize on what you buy, just buy what you need, not what you desire. Do not buy that lollipop if you don’t need it or do not buy that pack of cigarettes because it’s not just bad for you but also for the environment.
REUSE: Make it a habit to buy and use household items that you can recycle and upcycle. For example, a plastic bottle can be cut in half, put some paint on it, and be used as a plant pot. Or a broken chair can be repaired or upcycled into a plant stand; your creativity knows no limits.
ROT: For your food waste, first, do not waste food as much as possible. Second, if this cannot be avoided, find a food scrap center or have a compost system so you can dispose of your food to rot. You can drop it off a farmer’s market or a community garden where they can actually use it.
RECYCLE: We’ve been taught a hundred times that recycling will help save mother nature. Yes, this is true, and recycling goes a long way. We must recycle paper, plastic, metal, or glass. Separate bottles and plastics, follow garbage disposal rules, and live a zero-waste life.
Other Ways Good Humans Can Help With Carbon Neutrality
Other than the 5R’s, there are other ways good humans can help with carbon neutrality. Here are some ways we can help with carbon neutrality at home:
1. Use Electric Powered Vehicles
There are electric bicycles, cars, and scooters available in the market now. But you would say that these need charging, and electricity can emit carbon dioxide too. As compared to charging and using gas, using electric-powered vehicles emits less carbon dioxide.
Regular cars emit a lot of exhaust; in fact, cars contribute to one-third of the air pollution in the U.S. The vehicles emit a lot of dangerous toxins that are harmful to human health. You must remember that the toxic gases emitted by cars are on the street level, where humans can directly breathe it.
If possible, it’s much better to use bikes. Plus, it’s a good form of cardio exercise. You get to work out while you’re helping the environment. Plus, this is your way to ‘refuse’ because manufacturing a car emits more carbon dioxide than the bike.
You’ll get a workout, all while helping the environment. Plus, it requires much less energy to produce a bike than it does to manufacture a car.
2. Conserve Water and Save Our Seas
An essential step in contributing to carbon neutrality is reducing water usage. Remember that there’s not much water in the world, and this can’t be made. So you must save water when washing your car, or help make our oceans clean. Limit your bubble baths, long showers, lessen filling up your pool and conserve water even when brushing your teeth or washing your hands.
96.5% of earth’s water is too salty to be consumed by humans; the remaining two-thirds are freshwater found in permanent snow, polar ice, and glaciers. This melting ice won’t help as it will only end up as saltwater.
3. Switch to Clean and Sustainable Energy
The fuels that heat our homes provide electricity and run cars, but they cause air pollution. When these fuels burn, carbon dioxide is emitted in the air and thus causing climate change. You can use solar and wind energy, and avoid using natural gas, oil, and coal.
You can install solar panels or consider switching to geothermal power. You can install solar panels on your roof, join a community solar farm, and even start buying solar-powered lights. While you’re at it, cut down on your electricity cost altogether as well.
We know it’s not easy to be carbon neutral because it entails changes and sacrifice. No one has the power to save our planet, but the humans who destroy it as well. If you can’t change your actions, there are always carbon credits that can help with carbon neutrality.
Do we wait for extreme natural disasters or climate change to affect our future lives? Or do we do something about it as early as now? Be a good human and raise awareness about carbon neutrality; there is no better time to start but now.