Beyond Carbon Neutral

Peter Martin

In recent years, the climate challenge has appeared in ever sharper relief. Some scientists now advise that to stabilise the climate we need to aim for an atmospheric CO2 concentration much below the current level. Some studies even suggest it will be necessary to stop emissions altogether.

In 2005, CarbonSense coined the term ‘carbon positive’ and suggested businesses should count carbon; manage decarbonisation; update their business models; engage all stakeholders; and aim for low carbon leadership. Now, there are growing calls not only for ‘low carbon’ but also for a ‘carbon removal’ economy.

Offsetting may appear to provide one way forward. However, the associated carbon accounting is based on a host of assumptions that do not stand up to scrutiny. Companies’ claims to be ‘carbon neutral’ often amount to little more than greenwash and this kind of conscience-salving distraction is not a sufficient aim for any responsible business.

While banks, traders and offset vendors continue to jump on the carbon neutral bandwagon, some other companies are starting to frame their objectives in terms of zero carbon. It is essential that we recognise and learn from false ‘solutions’ and develop the kinds of leadership that the climate challenge demands.