What is “carbon neutral”?
What does it mean to be carbon neutral or net-zero? The language around carbon neutrality can be confusing as there are often several ways of saying the same thing.
Telcos and IT companies are responsible for a lot of carbon emissions in absolute terms, with the industry’s contribution to global emissions projected to overtake aviation in the next year.
This got us very focused on carbon emissions, offsets and the meaning of net-zero and carbon neutrality.
According to the Australian Government Initiative, , being carbon neutral means reducing emissions where possible and compensating for the remainder by investing in carbon offset projects to achieve net-zero overall emissions.
These offsets are generated from an activity that prevents, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere.
Offsets are measured in metrics tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The creation of one tonne of carbon offset ensures that there will be one less tonne of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than otherwise would have been the case.
Each tonne of carbon that is offset by an eligible project results in the creation of a certificate (representing the realisation of the offset) in respect of that tonne. The sale of these certificates is a source of funds to finance these offset projects.
Through certificates, businesses that purchase these offsets can fund the projects that remove an amount of carbon from the atmosphere to compensate for the emissions that they cause.
If offsets purchased by a business in a given year are equal to or greater than emissions caused by the business in that year, the business becomes “carbon neutral” or achieves a “net-zero” emissions position for that year.
How do you know if a business claiming to be “carbon neutral” is legit?
The Climate Active stamp helps the community take action by making it easier to identify and choose brands that are making a real difference.
A critical issue in determining whether a business has achieved a carbon neutral position is the calculation of “emissions caused” by the business. For a business to become carbon neutral or net-zero, they need to cover all direct and indirect emissions they cause.
This calculation extends to emissions associated with suppliers, employees, product usage by customers, and product waste/life cycle management. The method used means that businesses who are looking to become carbon neutral are motivated to encourage their suppliers and customers to do the same.
Credibility is also critical when it comes to carbon offsets, which are created under various Australian and global regulatory market mechanisms. The Australian Government regularly reviews the credibility of publicly available offset units. Simply put, not all offsets that are traded today are eligible for Climate Active abatement recognition. To be eligible, offset units must meet integrity requirements under the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard to ensure they represent genuine abatement.
Why is carbon neutral such a big deal right now?
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 400ppm (parts per million), a level last seen in the mid-Pliocene era (3 million years ago).
Australia became a signatory to the in 2015, with a goal to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less. Signatory countries have committed to Nationally Determined Contributions to emissions reductions.
Australia’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce its emissions by 26–28% compared to 2005 levels.
However, time has marched on since Paris and so has the climate. Late last year, the UN Environment Programme published its Gap Report. Written and overseen by the world’s leading climate scientists, this report concluded that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.
To meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C or less — the level of ambition noted in the Paris Agreement — would require a five-fold increase in commitments beyond those listed in the Paris Agreement.
What is Belong doing to help?
To do our bit and “clean up after ourselves”, Belong became Australia’s first carbon neutral Telco (certified by Climate Active) last December. We’re doing this without passing on any cost to our customers