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Carbon neutral vs carbon positive: What's the difference, and which is better?

The need to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere has become a paramount concern for individuals and organisations worldwide. As a result, many companies and even individuals are exploring ways to minimise their carbon footprint by aiming to become carbon neutral or carbon positive. But what do these terms mean, and which approach is more effective in addressing the environmental challenges of today? Let's dive deeper.

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What is carbon neutrality?

Carbon neutrality is a state of balance between carbon emitted and carbon removed or captured, where the net amount of carbon emissions is zero. 

Carbon neutrality can be achieved by reducing the carbon footprint of an entity—whether an individual, a business, or even a city or country—to as low as possible through various measures. These include increasing energy efficiency, transitioning to renewable energy sources, using low-carbon transportation, and promoting sustainable practices. These measures aim to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, thus limiting the negative environmental impact.

However, it’s not always possible to eliminate all carbon emissions, especially for entities with significant operations that require the use of fossil fuels or that produce emissions from their activities. In these cases, the remaining carbon emissions can be offset through various measures, such as purchasing carbon credits, investing in carbon-capture and storage technologies, or supporting reforestation projects. Carbon credits are essentially a way of financing projects that reduce or remove carbon emissions elsewhere, such as funding renewable energy projects or preserving forests.

Carbon neutrality is therefore, in most cases, achieved through reducing and offsetting emissions. 

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What is carbon positivity?

Carbon positivity is a concept that goes beyond carbon neutrality by aiming to create a positive impact on the environment. Rather than simply striving for net-zero emissions, carbon-positive entities seek to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit. Achieving carbon positivity requires a combination of reducing emissions and investing in carbon removal solutions that capture and store carbon or promote natural carbon sequestration.

One way to reduce emissions is by transitioning to renewable energy sources or implementing energy efficiency measures. This can significantly reduce an entity's carbon footprint, but it may not be enough to achieve carbon positivity. To remove more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted, carbon-positive entities often invest in carbon removal methods such as direct air capture or ocean fertilisation.

Direct air capture involves using machines to extract carbon dioxide directly from the air and store it underground or use it in industrial processes. Ocean fertilisation, on the other hand, involves adding nutrients to the ocean to encourage algae growth, which absorbs carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Additionally, natural carbon sequestration techniques, like reforestation and soil carbon sequestration, can also be employed to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Which is better: carbon neutrality or carbon positivity?

While both carbon neutrality and carbon positivity are steps in the right direction towards a more sustainable future, carbon positivity is generally seen as more ambitious and impactful. By actively removing more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted, carbon-positive entities can help reverse the environmental damage already done and create a more sustainable future.

That said, carbon positivity may not be feasible or practical for all entities, particularly for smaller businesses or individuals who may not have the resources to invest in carbon removal mechanisms. In these cases, striving for carbon neutrality is still a significant and commendable effort towards reducing carbon emissions and positively impacting the planet.

Ultimately, the best approach depends on the specific circumstances and goals of each case. The most important thing is that we continue to prioritise reducing carbon emissions and investing in sustainable practices to create a more livable planet for generations to come.

Find out how you can become net zero too

Final thoughts

Carbon neutrality and carbon positivity are both significant steps towards positively impacting the environment and all our lives. While carbon positivity can be more impactful, striving for carbon neutrality can still have an incredibly significant impact on reducing carbon emissions. No matter which goal is pursued, it's clear that we all have a responsibility to create a more sustainable future for our planet. 

At DGB Group, making a real, positive impact is our top priority. Helping you get one step further in your carbon offsetting journey is one of the main ways we get to make our mission—of helping nature prosper and flourish—a vibrant reality. Be it carbon neutrality, or carbon positivity, we are here to help you start your journey and reach your sustainability goals. 

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