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Beyond Net Zero: Becoming Carbon Negative

In the aftermath of COP26, we can expect to see some countries set increasingly ambitious climate targets and many businesses are now looking beyond their net zero targets and asking: what’s next?

For many, the next step will be achieving ‘carbon negative’ emissions – removing more carbon from the environment than they emit – resulting in ‘net negative’ emissions. Some also refer to this goal as becoming ‘climate positive’.

Why do we need to achieve ‘net negative’ emissions?

Carbon removal – the process of extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it – will be essential to ensuring that global temperatures do not exceed 1.5°C-2°C above pre-industrial times.

While every business has a responsibility to reduce its emissions, some sectors, such as agriculture or mining and metal forming, will be unable to stop creating carbon emissions entirely, no matter how many decarbonisation measures they put in place. In order to achieve ‘net zero’, we will therefore need to remove emissions from the environment in order to ‘balance out’ any residual emissions that these industries cannot avoid creating.

What can businesses do today to become climate positive?

It’s currently estimated that we will need to remove 10 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere a year by 2050, and double that amount by 2100. Many existing carbon offsetting projects focus on afforestation and deforestation, and by supporting these projects, your business can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere. These types of carbon ‘removal’ projects actually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, whereas many other ‘preventative’ carbon offset projects merely prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Every tonne of carbon dioxide that these projects remove or prevent creates one carbon offset or ‘carbon credit’. Your company can buy as many of these carbon credits as you need to achieve your goals – so if you’re looking to achieve:

  • Carbon neutrality, then you will need to buy carbon credits (can be carbon removal projects or ‘preventative’ carbon offset projects) equivalent to your current emissions, which will enable you to ‘neutralise’ your emissions
  • Net zero, then you will need to buy carbon credits (only from carbon removal projects) equivalent to your current emissions, but only once you have minimised your emissions as much as possible through carbon reduction measures
  • Carbon negative, then you will need to purchase more carbon removal offsets than you require to simply cover your current emissions, so you’re removing more carbon from the atmosphere than you are creating.

Key considerations before you invest in carbon offsetting

  1. Have you already reduced your carbon emissions as much as you can?

Investing in offsetting projects can help you to reach sustainability goals like net zero and climate positive, but unless you have done as much as you can to minimise greenhouse gas emissions from your operations, you could be seen as greenwashing or simply paying others to remove emissions you can’t be bothered to tackle within your own business.

  • How many carbon credits will you need to purchase?

Before you choose a carbon offsetting project, you need to have a clear understanding of your current carbon footprint- scopes 1, 2 and 3 – as this will enable you to work out how many carbon credits you will need to buy.

  • How beneficial will this project really be?

It’s also important to thoroughly understand the impact a carbon offsetting project will have before you decide to invest. There are varying levels of quality of carbon offsets, ranging from low cost ‘bronze’ projects to expensive carbon removal projects.

Inspired Energy PLC is a proud recipient of the London Stock Exchange’s Green Economy Mark in recognition of its environmental and strategic advice, service, and support to customers. To find out how Inspired Energy can help your business, speak to Wayne Brown on 01772 689250 or email wayne.brown@inspiredenergy.co.uk

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