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Carbon Jargon Buster

Updated: May 7, 2021


Terms surrounding net-zero topics can be confusing, embodied with a vast number of scientific terms, these subjects can cause your brain into overdrive. We have devised this article to simplify some important terms that you may have seen flying about the internet, news and maybe on your social media. To help you understand the importance of the issues surrounding carbon dioxide and climate change. Encouraging you to consider how to implement environmentally friendly policies and practices into your business or lifestyle, in a joint effort to become net-zero by 2050.


Net-zero


Net-zero essentially is the balance between carbon emissions produced and the emissions removed from the atmosphere. The UK have set a target to reach zero-carbon by 2050. Meaning that the UK government hope that practices and lifestyles will produce equal amounts of emissions to the emissions removed from the atmosphere. In order to achieve this, a radical change across the economy is essential. Which means abandoning the use of fossil fuels and other sources of emissions wherever possible. Every ton of CO2 emitted must be matched by a ton that is removed by the atmosphere.


The importance of becoming net-zero


It is not uncommon knowledge that climate change is negatively impacting the world that we live in. With changes in extreme weather conditions from heatwaves to floods and landslides. In addition to this, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity is becoming ever more prevalent.


In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius before irreparable damage is created the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that carbon neutrality by mid-21st century is essential. This target is also laid out in the Paris Agreement signed by 195 countries including the UK. The European Green Deal aims to make the European Union climate carbon neutral by 2050 to combat the damage, life-threatening effects of climate change.


The Paris Climate Agreement


The Paris Climate Agreement was adopted by nearly every nation in 2015 to address the negative and destructive effects of the climate crisis. All major greenhouse gas emitting countries committed to cutting their emissions and vowed to strengthen these commitments over time, by 2050. A major principle of this agreement is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


Carbon offsetting


Carbon neutrality is achieved when emissions produced are offset by carbon credits or natural carbon sinks. This means offsetting emissions made in one sector by reducing them somewhere else. This can be done through investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency or other clean, low-carbon technologies. This term also refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with the removal of the gas or simply by eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether.


Carbon credits


Carbon credits are permits which enforce a limit on companies that pollute the environment in terms of the emissions that they release into the atmosphere. Any unused credits can be sold to companies that are exceeding their limits in terms of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. The main aim of this concept is for companies that pollute to reduce their emissions. This concept is also known as a form of carbon offsetting. Carbon credits are bought and sold through a variety of international brokers, online retailers and trading platforms. This benefits businesses that find it difficult to comply with emission caps as these businesses can purchase credits to offset their emissions.

Trading in carbon credits, if applied fairly can permit private investors to generate profits from their purchases and apply these profits towards the creation of environmentally-sustainable businesses that emit either low or no carbon emissions.

Natural carbon sinks


Carbon sinks are natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and absorb more carbon than they release. These sinks cover about 30% of the Earth’s land surface and as much as 45% of carbon stored on land is stored in these sinks. Natural ecosystems such as the ocean are regarded as the main natural carbon sinks. Oceans alone absorb approximately 50% of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Followed by forests, where trees absorb and store carbon dioxide.


Sequestered carbon (carbon capture)


Carbon sequestration is the long-term removal or capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process secures carbon dioxide to prevent it from entering the earth’s atmosphere. The notion behind the concept is to stabilise carbon in solid and dissolved forms so that it doesn’t cause the atmosphere to warm. In general, 45% of carbon dioxide in stays in the atmosphere, the rest is sequestered naturally by the environment. There are three main types of carbon sequestration.