Carbon-Neutral, Carbon-Negative. Confused by All the Carbon Jargon? Read This.

Did you know that by 2030, Microsoft is planning to become a carbon-negative company? Microsoft and other renowned companies like Apple, IKEA, and H&M have started controlling their carbon emissions and traces caused due to their production plants in the atmosphere. It is one of the significant commitments from the companies to tackle the adverse effects of climate change. It draws attention to follow the best practices to reduce and remove harmful emissions of carbon dioxide to meet the international climate goals.

Suppose fossil fuels such as natural gases, oil, or coal are burned. They emit harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other gases into the atmosphere. These gases, primarily carbon dioxide, cause adverse effects on the atmosphere and environment and initiate smog and acid rain. The gases play a significant role in drastic climate change that is already affecting the entire world. Many countries are experiencing extreme weather conditions such as drought, heatwaves, hot weather, heavy rain, floods, and landslides. Other consequences of the briskly changing climate include sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss.

The primary sources of the emission of these harmful gases are more extensive industrial operations and modes of transport such as cars, ships, trucks, aeroplanes, and coal-fired power plants. The power plants and industries adopt carbon-neutral and carbon-negative best practices to control the indeterminate and uncontrollable carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere. You might have come across the carbon-negative and carbon-neutral terms, but do you know how they differ? So, look at what these carbon jargons – carbon negative and carbon-neutral mean in practice and how they differ.



Carbon neutrality is a process to maintain a significant balance between carbon emission and carbon absorption in the surroundings in carbon sinks. Any system with a higher carbon absorption rate than the emission rate is termed a carbon sink. The leading sources of natural carbon sinks are natural resources. The recent study and survey on these natural sinks state that they eliminate 9.5 and 11 Gt of carbon dioxide annually. As per the study and research carried out in 2019, the global CO2 emissions have reached 38.0 Gt annually.

Until now, artificial carbon sinks cannot take away carbon and its related traces from the surroundings on the essential scale to battle against global warming. The carbon and the related traces stored in the natural sinks, such as oceans, soil, or forests, are released into the atmosphere through logging changes, land usage, or forest fires. Thus, it is vital to decrease carbon emissions from the atmosphere to attain climate neutrality.

The industries and plants follow the carbon-neutral method via the carbon sequestration process. Removing carbon oxide gases and related traces from the atmosphere and storing the carbon oxide is called carbon sequestration. The carbon sequestration process should counterbalance all worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve net-zero emissions. The net-zero emission refers to all greenhouse gas emissions instead of carbon dioxide alone. The net-zero term is often used interchangeably with carbon-neutral.

Carbon Neutral Protocol

The industries and coal-based plants also follow CarbonNeutral Protocol to reduce carbon emissions and become carbon-neutral companies. A carbon-neutrality methodology is a tool that simplifies sustainable development. It offers a framework to aid enterprises of different sectors in pulling off carbon neutrality while producing, distributing, or examining their made products. At this time, these industries practice the two carbon-neutral operational procedures to calculate the carbon footprint. These two approaches are centred on the organisation and the end product or services.

The CarbonNeutral Protocol is a standard method to officially state that a particular enterprise or industry is fully carbon-neutral compliant or  ISO 14067 and ISO 14064 compliant. ISO 14067 focuses on expressing and computing the carbon impression of a produced product and includes climate action, which is number 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. There is a total of 17 SDGs. Whereas ISO 14064 goes far-off and provides number 9 (i.e. industry, infrastructure, and innovation) to state and compute a company’s GHG collection. Both ISO 14067 and ISO 14064 standards are principally pillar-centric on the environment and, to a certain extent, on the decisive carbon factor. The GHG Protocol (2015) can be used up as a directive to figure carbon emissions.

Transportation and tourism, urban, and energy are the primary sectors wherever carbon-neutrality has been calculated. The numerous approaches of computing carbon emissions either carrying out an energy approach centred on the number of litres of fuel used or a transport method centred on the tons of CO2 transported per kilometre.



Carbon-negative is a process to reduce an entity’s carbon footprint to below neutral. Companies adopt it to ensure that they have a net effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding up. The term carbon-negative takes the notion of carbon-neutrality a step ahead by saving more greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions than generating them. It can be achievable in two ways:

  1. By offsetting more than the carbon footprint.

It has the benefit of being swift and easy to practice, and it is an excellent short-term, carbon-negative approach. Despite this, the amount of outcomes achieved with this approach is limited. The main aim is to be able to reduce carbon emissions to net zero.

  1. To help other companies and individuals to reduce their footprint with the help of following best practices:
  • The creation and supply of low-carbon products can help every one of the company’s customers to lower their carbon footprint
  • Ensure that the produced products, as well as the waste, follow 2Rs – Reuse and Recycle. It reduces the enormous emissions associated with landfills.
  • Operating directly with your suppliers to reduce their emissions will help lower their carbon footprint as well.

The second approach is preferable as it massively multiplies the efforts to reduce the carbon footprint. It will also help to drive the overall reductions needed to achieve net-zero by 2050. These outcomes are commonly called avoided emissions, and going carbon-negative means avoiding more emissions than the production.

The climate-positive term is often used interchangeably with carbon-negative. Climate-positive is when an activity goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to promote and initiate an environmental benefit by removing the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Climate-positive proposals are beneficial for the other people, companies, or localities who lack the means or initiative to drive down their carbon footprints. Soon, carbon-neutrality will become the standard across the board; climate-positive schemes will, in the time being, help to pick up some of the slowdowns.

Climate Positive Development Program

This program is an integral part of the C40’s or Carbon 40’s Urban Planning and Development Initiative. It is an initiative that consists of the globally most determined low-carbon projects. This program promotes creating and implementing large-scale city-based communities that lower GHGs and serve as standards for urban areas to develop environmentally sustainable and economically feasible ways.

The program assists in developing projects focused on achieving It is related to energy, waste, and transportation. The climate-positive result is attained by lowering on-site and off-set emissions by decreasing carbon and associated traces in the connected neighbourhoods.

Currently, the Climate Positive Development Program is working with 18 projects across the six continents. Once accomplished, it will affect approximately a million individuals who stay and work in climate-positive societies. The program aims to create replicable models for large-scale urban communities through real-life projects as city-based laboratories. It reduces greenhouse gases to the maximum possible value, demonstrates the highest sustainability standards, and evolve highly effective climate-resilient resolutions. In both sectors (public and private), these projects help bring about significant alliances between them. So, it can create a case for all-inclusive provision and development that build up the local environment, gives rise to job opportunities, and enhances the regional characteristic of life.

Climate Positive Projects

Every climate-positive project has a distinctive profile, given its discrete economic, political, and climatic challenges. Still, each project strives for the determined goal of reducing their operations’ GHG emissions below zero. The Climate Positive Program expedites knowledge-sharing across the cities and projects to acknowledge successful strategies to imitate and avoid drawbacks.

It takes significant time to develop projects for this site as it is a long process. The Climate Positive Framework lays out reporting requirements and phases to surge opportunities for the best practice in sharing and recognising accomplishments. It begins with planning and capping with the project being finished and verified that they are now net-carbon negative.


Traditional fossil fuel-based energy technologies can achieve efficiency in energy conversion. Still, they are usually entirely inefficient in carbon conversion because they produce significant CO2 emissions per unit of energy converted. In contrast, some renewable energy technologies are characterized by a carbon-negative intensity, which will simultaneously accomplish efficiency in energy conversion and, therefore, the conversion of carbon.


These carbon-negative renewable energy technologies can generate helpful energy and remove CO2 from the atmosphere in two ways. These two ways are: directly capturing and recycling atmospheric CO2 and indirectly involving biofuels. Intriguingly, the deployment of carbon-negative renewable energy technologies can offset carbon emissions from traditional fossil fuel-based energy technologies. This eventually will lead to a reduction in the overall carbon intensity of energy systems.

Carbon-neutral vs Carbon-negative

Carbon-neutral refers to the best practices in which the CO2 is released into the atmosphere from a company’s or industrial plant’s activities. It is balanced by the equivalent amount of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere. On the contrary, carbon-negative refers to those best practices that acquire net-zero carbon and related trace emissions. It is practised to create an environmental benefit via eliminating the excessive and unnecessary carbon and corresponding traces from the atmosphere.

Wrapping Things Up

Indeed the carbon jargon such as carbon-neutral and carbon-negative can be confusing at times. As the number of companies augments, governments and other associated authoritative entities and governing bodies launch plans to decrease their carbon footprints. So, you might expect to come across even more carbon jargon in the news and other sources.

After going through the detailed article, you might have got insights into the meaning and differences of the two carbon jargons – carbon-neutral and carbon-negative. Carbon-neutral maintains the equilibrium between the carbon dioxide emitted by the various sources such as industries, vehicles, and coal-operated plants into the atmosphere along with the carbon dioxide removal rate of the environment. Carbon-negative intends to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than emitted into the atmosphere.