Net Zero Jargon Buster

Net Zero Jargon Buster and their definitions

There are a lot of terms relating to the climate crisis and net zero that people use but do understand the correct meaning of. Here are some key definitions and explanations of key terms:

Why is the world trying to achieve net-zero?

It was agreed at the Paris COP in 2015 that we need to keep global warming below 1.5c this century in order to avoid catastrophic climate events. In order to do this, we need to achieve net zero by 2050.

Net Zero?

Net zero is the status at which the amount greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are the same as the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere.

How do we achieve net zero?

The first stage is to radically reduce the greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, and only after that has been carried out, look at neutralising the remaining emissions. Once these are neutralised, then net zero has been achieved.

What is Carbon Net zero? Is it the same as net zero?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the main greenhouse gas, but there are others (CH4, N2O etc). Carbon net zero refers to achieving net zero for this carbon dioxide component of greenhouse gas.

Can I say I am net zero without reducing my emissions? i.e., just by offsetting my emissions?

No. If you are not radically reducing your emissions, you are not doing net zero correctly – you are ‘greenwashing’. We must reduce our emissions as a first stage. The final stage is neutralising or offsetting the remaining small amount of emissions.

So what does carbon neutral mean? Is it the same as net zero?

Carbon neutral is the practice of ensuring there is no net increase of emissions into the atmosphere, usually by offsetting (e.g. tree planting). This is not the same as net zero, as carbon neutral does not necessarily include radically reducing your existing emissions before offsetting the remaining emissions.

So what is offsetting?

Offsetting is the action of compensating for carbon emissions. There are very often time issues with carbon offsetting. For example, trees may take 25 years to mature to achieve their full carbon reducing potential. Offsetting has its place, but radical emissions reductions should always be the first priority.

By Dan Smith

Dan Smith, Director of Energy Services, is responsible for a wide ranging energy management portfolio, helping Northern Gas and Power’s customers improve their energy efficiency and reduce their energy bills.

He is a successful Head of Energy and Chartered Energy Engineer with a wide range of experience working for and with a variety of clients, including major blue-chip corporations such as IKEA, Rolls Royce Aerospace and Siemens. He has operated internationally (Europe, Africa and Asia) in FMCG and manufacturing sectors, and has a proven track-record of delivering and managing projects, developing and delivering operational strategies, and managing energy and influencing large corporates with respect to energy and sustainability. He is responsible for annual energy budgets up to £20m, and single value projects up to £3m.

His depth of experience brings to Northern Gas and Power an extensive specialist knowledge gained from nearly 30 years energy engineering, energy services and energy management experience in many different sectors all over the world, from China to Zambia.