Climate change is a serious concern, caused primarily by the CO2 (carbon dioxide) emitted by burning fuels, such as gas, coal, and oil. However, there are so many things that we can do to improve this condition, such as cutting demand for fuel-burning central heating and choosing to go carbon neutral.
Going carbon neutral is an excellent way to take responsibility for greenhouse gases that we produce every time we turn on our computers, drive a car, or ride a motorbike. Since climate change has become a global issue, emission reduction in any part of the world positively impacts the overall environment.
Before discussing how to achieve carbon neutrality, we will start with its basic introduction for detailed information. So, let’s get started.
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What Does Carbon Neutral Mean?
You must have heard the term “carbon neutrality,” but do you know what it is? Everything we do that emits carbon dioxide, like powering your home and driving a car, makes up your carbon footprint.
Carbon neutrality means maintaining a balance between carbon dioxide sources and sinking. That means the amount of carbon dioxide entering the air must be equal to the amount removed. But in reality, it is considered a divisive and confusing concept.
Regardless of the confusion, more and more corporations from different industries, including banks, IT companies, the livestock industry, and others, are announcing plans to go carbon neutral. To achieve net-zero release of carbon, everyone should focus on counterbalancing greenhouse gas emissions by carbon sequestration.
What is Carbon Neutral Shipping?
As discussed, carbon-neutral focuses on practices that put a zero amount of GHG (greenhouse gases, like CO2 and methane) into the air. These harmful gases are significant reasons for climate change, so it’s essential to eliminate carbon emissions to the maximum. This is where carbon-neutral shipping comes into play.
Carbon-neutral shipping is an important strategy to be carbon neutral as the transportation industry is the main reason for increasing carbon levels.
Currently, there’s no clear solution to eliminate carbon release from shipping as the transportation sector still relies on fuels.
However, there are various methods that show how to achieve carbon neutrality and people can follow them to see results.
Why Go Carbon Neutral?
Climate change is affecting the whole world in some way or other. For example, weather conditions like drought, heavy rain, heat waves, landslides, and floods are becoming more frequent than ever.
Other consequences include ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and loss of biodiversity.
To limit global warming, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) suggests that ensuring carbon neutrality by the mid 21st century is critical.
Around 195 countries across the globe have signed the Paris agreement to achieve this target.
Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero Emissions
While in practice, carbon-neutral and net-zero are often used interchangeably. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change gives a clear definition for both terms.
So, let’s define carbon neutral and net-zero emissions to compare them.
As mentioned above, carbon-neutral means reducing carbon emissions to the best possible level and then balancing the remaining by removing it from the atmosphere.
Net Zero Emission
Net-zero emission means achieving a balance between production and removal of greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, net-zero states the point where people stop increasing the burden of climate-heating gases in the environment.
Though carbon neutrality is a synonym for net-zero emissions, one primary difference between both is that one can achieve carbon neutrality at the domestic level with carbon offsets from other jurisdictions. In contrast, net-zero carbon emissions do not have the same connotation.
What Steps Can We Follow to Achieve Carbon Neutrality?
Now that you know what carbon neutral is, the next thing should be to find practical solutions to this issue.
Be it on a personal level, corporate level, or community level; usually, there are three basic steps to become carbon neutral, and they are as follows:
- Calculate: Evaluate emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases from different activities.
- Reduce: Focus on reducing emissions through increased efficiencies.
- Balance: Maintain the remainder by investing in carbon offsets.
These are three basic yet critical steps that everyone needs to take into consideration to achieve carbon neutrality.
Whereas, if we talk about the above three levels in detail, people in these sectors can take different steps to ensure minimal carbon emission.
When it comes to the personal level, individuals can lower carbon emissions by switching towards advanced technologies that don’t require gasoline. They can also consider using public transportation, biking, walking, and carpooling, leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Communities can invest in renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass, to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and lower air pollution. Also, establishing a well-planned bike trail system or public transit system can make a significant difference in a community’s carbon footprint.
To get carbon-neutral certifications, organizations should find ways to reduce their emissions, no matter the business type and size. They can do so by shifting to renewable energy. The last and most effective step to reduce carbon footprint is to buy certified, premium-quality offsets.
What Has Already Been Done to Work towards Carbon Neutrality?
Looking at climate change, “how to be carbon neutral” has become a concern for everyone across the globe. To avoid climate impacts, the IPCC states that we need to maintain global temperature under 2°C, requiring carbon emissions to be reduced to zero.
No matter the background or experience, people or companies from different sectors are constantly working to find out how to achieve carbon neutrality effortlessly.
Today’s businesses do not just focus on the present; they also secure their future. As climate change has become a global issue, many organizations across the globe have already taken initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint for a better world or business growth. Their small actions are making a considerable positive impact on the environment.
For instance, let’s talk about the incredible journey of Infosys to carbon neutrality. Infosys is one of the largest IT companies and the first one to commit to ensuring carbon neutrality. Back in 2011, the company took a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2020.
With more than 3 lakh staff members and clients across the globe, they started a carbon-neutral journey by addressing their carbon footprint regarding their business operations. The company’s approach on how to achieve carbon neutrality was based on three critical pillars:
- Lowering energy consumption through energy efficiency
- Shifting to renewable energy sources
- Offsetting uncontrollable emissions
To achieve their carbon neutrality target, Infosys has built new energy-efficient premises and upgraded the existing ones. They have started using 100% renewable energy sources. Also, they run a carbon offset campaign that works with communities to turn down their overall emission rate and contribute to sustainable development.
Moreover, the company has introduced a software application to track carbon emissions which are then audited by a third-party verifier. By reducing carbon emissions and moving towards renewable energy sources, Infosys is trying everything possible to ensure a low-carbon future while addressing its carbon footprint.
The approach of Infosys to carbon neutrality is notable because of its primary focus on renewable energy, creative energy efficiency measures, and offsetting. The company’s proven high-end performance standards for renewable energy projects, data centers, and office buildings are excellent initiatives that other organizations can follow.
Also, Infosys has been actively interacting with universities, government agencies, corporates, and nonprofit organizations to share their best practices and learnings.
Top Innovations to Lower Carbon Emissions
Innovations that cut down carbon emissions by companies or other organizations have made it easier for private, public, and civil societies to tackle their challenges. Here are some of the top ones:
This project was introduced by ZSW and has gained the highest photovoltaic conversion efficiency in a thin-film solar cell. Apart from the benefit of low-cost thin films, this project has significantly reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Long-Lasting Flow Batteries
It is an Energy Storage project launched by an expert team of researchers at Harvard University. These flow batteries are non-corrosive and non-toxic, with a low production cost and a durable lifetime. They also have a high potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reuse of CO2 produced by the Manufacturing Industry
The manufacturing of daily-use products puts a significant strain on the environment – the manufacturing industry solely emits around 30% of carbon dioxide. Carbon Engineering (a Canadian company) has started working on this issue to take these excessive emissions directly out of the atmosphere. They have found a way to take CO2 from the air and then use it to produce fuel.
The company states that direct air capture can eliminate far more carbon dioxide than plants and trees. They have already installed a demo plant in British Columbia and Squamish. The data shows that this project is removing around one ton of carbon from the atmosphere each day.
- Advanced Battery-Charging Technology
The demand for public and private transport is increasing, and it will continue to grow. Studies show that transportation is responsible for around 23% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Though electric vehicles make perfect alternatives to reduce carbon emissions, advanced battery-charging stations are needed to make the most out of them.
Fortunately, researchers at the University of Surrey have discovered new materials – proven to be up to 10,000 times more potent than existing power batteries. This new technology can increase the potential of electric cars like gas-powered cars.
With this new battery-charging system, people do not have to wait for 6 to 8 hours to recharge their vehicles. Instead, you can charge any car fully at the same time it takes to refill it with gas.
- Cooling Data Centers
In the US alone, over 3 million data centers bring the internet to the people. To run round the clock, these computer servers need lots of electricity. The heat produced through machines could melt essential electronics. To keep the temperature down, data centers install server fans, air conditioners, or other equipment, which require more electricity.
It ultimately increases the rate of carbon emissions. As per studies, data hubs across the globe are predicted to consume around 1,200 TW hours of electricity, generate 1.9 GT of carbon emissions, or use 3.2% of the total electricity of the planet by 2025.
Fortunately, Forced Physics (a company in Scottsdale, AZ) has invented a low-power and passive technology, i.e., a JouleForce conductor. According to the company, they could minimize the electricity consumption of a data center by 90%.
This device also eliminates the need for coolants, like water that data centers use to keep their systems cool. Overall, this JouleForce conductor is helping data centers lower their carbon footprint.
As people from public and private sectors have realized the importance of removing carbon from the atmosphere, they introduce innovations every day to deal with this environmental issue. The innovations mentioned above are really helping the community to follow the path of carbon neutrality.
Benefits of Going Carbon Neutral for Everyone
Be it a government firm, a private company, or the general public, finding out how to achieve carbon neutrality has a significant advantage for everyone. Whether this year or after a few ones, going carbon neutral should be a part of your plan.
- Slows down global warming
- It helps in saving a lot of species from extinction
- Essential for sustainable development
- Carbon neutral companies will receive carbon neutral certifications
- Going carbon neutral helps businesses improve their image and attract more people
- Companies can experience a sudden increase in their revenue
- Carbon offsets will boost technological progress
Overall, carbon neutrality has several benefits and is one step toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating global warming.
Though several organizations and communities have already engaged in “how to achieve carbon neutrality programs,” they also need additional measures to ensure carbon neutral development.
Besides, we all need to reduce GHG emissions whenever possible in our everyday life to ensure a livable and healthy future for upcoming generations.