Home/Understanding the language around net-zero, carbon neutrality and climate justice
April 7, 2021

As we work towards a more eco-friendly future, there are various terms and phrases we collectively need to learn in order to fully understand what we are doing.

Some of these are straightforward, like ‘sustainable’ – which effectively means we are not relying on finite resources that will eventually run out, leaving us with nothing. Another word we are pretty familiar with is ‘renewable’, which means once the power source has been used up, it can be replenished – i.e. solar and wind power.

But what about other important terms, like ‘net-zero’, ‘carbon neutrality’ and ‘climate justice’? Let us break these down for you to help give you a greater understanding of how the world is trying to achieve a sustainable future.

What does carbon net-zero mean?

The goal is to achieve a net-zero future by 2050, as adopted by over 200 nations in the Paris Agreement. This does not literally mean to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to zero, as that would be impossible.

What this term means is to reduce the number of greenhouse emissions to a level where there is a balance between the volume of emissions created, and the volume of emissions removed from the atmosphere by plants and trees. Achieving this does not only focus on reducing emissions but also on environmental projects like planting more trees.

What does it mean to achieve carbon neutrality?

When we talk about a net-zero future, we are talking about the big picture – the overall goal we want to achieve as a human race. This means the action being taken by governments, businesses and individuals to achieve a collective goal.

When we talk about carbon neutrality, though, we are talking more about individual people and businesses, and their responsibility towards the bigger picture of combatting climate change.

You may have heard the term ‘carbon footprint’ before. This is a measure of how much emissions you are producing in your day-to-day activities or corporate operations.

Understanding this footprint means you can work towards making it net-zero as well, through changes in your actions like switching to LED lighting, adopting solar power and planting more trees – through to offsetting your actions by investing in projects that are planting trees or undertaking other environmental actions.

What is climate justice?

Environmentalism has been around for a long time, and it has developed a stigma. For many people, the environment is something only ‘hippies’ or ‘greenies’ care about, and it’s not their responsibility.

The term ‘climate justice’ aims to arrest that stigma by framing climate change and global emissions as political and ethical issues, rather than environmental ones.

These issues impact every single person on the planet, and if there is not a united front in doing something about it, then everybody will suffer. It is about changing the language so that the everyday person can realise that climate change and emissions are a global emergency, inspiring them to take action.