February 13, 2022

Essentials

Climate Change Terms Explained

Climate Change Terms Explained
Contents

Trying to understand complicated, scientific terms and apply them to companies' protocols can be easier defined when you know the proper climate change words. We're here to help you navigate all of your carbon reduction needs so we've created a glossary of climate change words for you to be aware of. Now you will have more knowledge about getting down to net-zero and feel comfortable strategizing. 

If you are looking for a more conceptual reference to climate change terms and not just another glossary, clearing up some of the confusion between differences, then this is for you. We'll explain climate change words and the differences between similar concepts.

What's the difference between net zero, carbon neutral, and climate neutral?

Sometimes net zero, carbon neutral, and climate-neutral are used interchangeably, but what is the difference?

Carbon neutrality is achieved when an entity's carbon dioxide emissions are globally balanced, normally over a year's time.

Net zero emissions are achieved when all of a company's greenhouse gases (CO2-e which is the carbon dioxide equivalent or the unit commonly used to express GHGs) are balanced over a year's time.

Climate neutrality is achieved when an organization stops activities that affect climate change. Just like zero carbon means no carbon being released into the atmosphere.

What's the deal with 1.5C?

According to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and The Paris Agreement, the net zero standard asks the world to keep global warming from rising over 1.5C by 2050 (compared to pre-industrial levels), and in doing so, companies have to start now to achieve it. If humans don't stop their current fossil fuel usage and halt carbon emissions now, we are going to pass that mark between 2030 and 2050. The 1.5C trajectory refers to the path we should take to get to net zero by 2050 with regards to the SBTi. 

What's the difference between net negative and climate positive?

When an entity's carbon emissions are less than zero. For example, the country of Bhutan absorbs more CO2 emissions than it produces, making it a carbon sink meaning that it's a place that absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Net zero and climate positive are used for the same idea. Negative GHG emissions also follow the same theme. It captures more emissions than it emits.

What is carbon capturing and sequestering?

Carbon capture and sequestration or storage happen when atmospheric CO2 is captured and stored in a place that absorbs carbon. Some examples of this could be but aren't limited to reforestation, carbon farming which uses longer-rooted crops to keep CO2 in the soil, and direct air capture and storage which stores CO2 in somewhere like an underground geological formation. They also call oceans, forests and soil natural carbon sinks. Just because something is a carbon sink does not mean we should be storing CO2 there.

It should also be noted according to the World Economic Forum, "While the ability of the ocean to capture and store carbon has helped to slow the accumulation of atmospheric CO2 – and, hence, the pace of global warming – it has come at a cost. Increasing CO2 in the ocean alters the chemistry of seawater – an effect known as ocean acidification – which has negative impacts on marine life." We cannot rely on oceans to take the human consequences of CO2 emissions.

What is a carbon footprint?

The amount of carbon dioxide that an entity emits into the atmosphere. You can calculate your carbon footprint by adding data into Net0's system. You can upload bills and invoices and let our automated system fill in the data for you or enter it manually if you want to.

What are greenhouse gases? 

GHGs are gases that absorb rays from the sun and redistribute them as radiation in the earth's atmosphere. That process is called the greenhouse effect. CO2 emissions make up about 76% of GHGs. There are 40 identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but the most common ones are listed in the Kyoto Protocol as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorinated hydrocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride. 

Many companies use the GHG Protocol or ISO 14064 that contributes to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the international standards with which to calculate emissions. However, Net0 calculates and measures them automatically with the data you provide.

What are residual GHG emissions?

After reductions have been made, these are the emissions that couldn't be avoided when emitted. They can be offset with carbon credits that purchase offsetting projects which can be done in Net0's platform. The goal is to reduce emissions as much as possible and residual GHG emissions are the ones leftover until they can be diminished to nothing. 

What are scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?

Here are the basics about scope 1,2, and 3 emissions but for a more detailed understanding with categories, please check out our scope emissions article.

scope 123 emissions value chain emissions flow chart

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions, (definition below), that are made during a production process with items that are owned and controlled by a company. Examples of scope 1 emissions include boilers, furnaces, emissions from machinery and equipment, and vehicles which use fuel.

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions that come from the generation of purchased electric, heating, cooling, gas, steam, and electric vehicles.

The reporting company is always responsible for reporting scope 1 and 2 emissions in many regions. 

Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions that come from purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commutes, and franchises. In many regions, it is compulsory to report burning fuel due to business travel. It's also important to know:

  • Upstream emissions are made during pre-production before arriving at the reporting company's facility such as materials and pre-processing emissions.
  • Downstream emissions are made after a product leaves the reporting company's facility such as distribution, product use, and product lifestyle.
  • Logistics responsibility depends on the shipping agreements between the pre-production, reporting company, and the final distribution center.

What is the difference between direct and indirect emissions?

Direct GHG emissions come from sources that are owned and controlled by the company or entity reporting the emissions. 

Indirect GHG emissions come from the reporting entity/company's activities but come from sources owned or controlled by another entity. 

What's a carbon budget?

A carbon budget is your allotted GHG emissions maximum your company can emit in a certain period of time, while globally keeping temperatures under 1.5C by 2050. The objective is to get the company on a plan to steadily reduce emissions until they are gone. Every year the carbon budget should be lower than the last. 

What is a voluntary carbon market, carbon credits, and carbon offsets?

A voluntary carbon market allows businesses to buy a carbon credit, which is a certificate or permit, that permits one ton of carbon emissions, and when accumulated, can purchase a carbon offset. The carbon offset is a project worth a certain amount of carbon credits that can go towards removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some say this is an excuse to emit carbon but the idea is that until your strategy gets your company to net zero, you must offset what is being emitted today. Say you have solar panels being installed on the building. Until they are installed you must rely on your current energy plan and that has to be offset. Furthermore, carbon offsets are necessary for canceling out the emissions that are already in the atmosphere. 

Always make sure your carbon credits and offsetting projects are verified. Net0's are all certified through trusted partners so you can buy carbon credits and offset them in the same place you do your carbon accounting so you never lose track between using different platforms and tools.

Related content

Learn more about how to take action against climate change by reading our suggested articles:

• Article: Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
• Article: Simple Ways Your Business Can Become More Eco-Friendly

What's carbon leakage?

Carbon leakage happens when one country increases GHG emissions because another country with a firm climate policy reduces theirs.

What are nature based solutions to climate change?

This approach takes care of ecosystems naturally. There are even some offsetting projects geared towards this solution. Conserving and restoring ecosystems in any area that can be affected by CO2 emissions or even ecosystems that remove the emissions. Regenerative agriculture, reforestation, supporting biodiversity, and more are all nature based solutions.

What is blue carbon?

Blue carbon is the term used for oceans, saltbeds, marshes, and mangroves being carbon sinks. Although we cannot sequester all GHG emissions into oceans because the natural balance would be off and damaging, they are a natural solution for capturing much of the CO2 emissions. As long as ocean conservation isn't mismanaged and wetlands are cared for properly, blue carbon is another natural solution. 

what is blue carbon? - sea turtle swimming over coral
Image source: Mipuri Foundation


What is the difference between biomass, biofuel and biogenic?

Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably although they are different. Biomass refers to organic matter that comes from plants and animals, this matter being a renewable energy source. Biofuel is any fuel derived from biomass, such as algae and plants, that can be regenerated; unlike fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable. Examples of biofuels are ethanol, methanol and biodiesel.

Biogenic emissions sources come from natural sources as biogenic emissions come from living things. 

Biological productivity refers to the measure of the amount of plant and animal growth in a specific region and time.

What's the difference between coal and fossil fuels?

Coal is a type of fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are organic materials that were formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, and natural gas by being exposed to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years. Burning fossil fuels is only one of the many ways humans produce carbon emissions through their actions. 

What does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) do?

Since 1988 the IPCC has been drawing upon scientists to advance knowledge to policymakers and the public on climate change. It is the UN body of assessing the science related to human-caused climate change. 

What does the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) do? 

They set the overall framework for governments to combat climate change. They were established in 1994 and have 197 member countries (Parties to the Convention) at the moment. 

To conclude

By now you can feel confident that you know the basic climate change words and speaking about them to your team when you do your carbon accounting so you can create strategies to decrease and eventually eliminate your company's emissions.

Sign up for a demo with Net0 today and connect the dots between your new carbon knowledge and how your company can start reducing emissions today.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

Request a demo

Talk to us to learn more about making your business carbon neutral.
Request a demo

FAQ

What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.
How soon can we start?

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.
Do you help with setting up the processes?

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.
What type of clients have you successfully helped?

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.
What sets Net0 apart from others on the market?

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.
Why do companies choose to work with Net0?

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

Start using Net0

Make your business carbon neutral and start reaping the benefits of a green economy.

Schedule a demo
Net0 Interface