Oxford University’s Net Zero Climate group provides the following definitions:
- Net zero: greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere
- Zero emissions and Absolute Zero: no greenhouse gases are released
- Negative emissions: removal of more emissions than are released
- ‘Carbon neutral’ is an internationally recognised standard (PAS 2060) covering the methodology for greenhouse gas accounting, coverage, and offsetting. Under this standard, carbon neutral is defined as a period of time in which there has been no net increase in the global emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the subject during the same period’. Carbon neutral is generally speaking a less ambitious standard than net zero. Under this standard, carbon neutral can be differentiated from net zero in terms of its scope, boundary, ambition, and offsetting. Carbon neutral here refers to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, but does not necessarily cover Scope 3 emissions, and can be confined to just a single product or service, rather than a whole company’s emissions. Additionally, under this standard, there is no requirement for the carbon neutrality to be compliant with a 1.5 degree Paris-aligned goal, nor does it require the same stringent treatment of offsets as net zero.