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Can we really talk about carbon neutrality?

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The concept of carbon neutrality has taken on major importance in speeches and initiatives linked to the fight against climate change. It is often mentioned in international commitments, national policies and corporate strategies. Carbon neutrality, also known as "net zero emissions", aims to balance greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with their absorption by carbon sinks, whether natural or technological. This objective has become central to many countries and companies seeking to minimize their environmental impact and contribute to stabilizing the global climate. However, the reality of carbon neutrality is complex and raises many questions. Can we really achieve this balance on a company or individual scale? Are current strategies sufficient to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming? This article explores these questions by introducing the concept of carbon neutrality, discussing its importance, and examining the challenges and criticisms associated with its implementation. We will also analyze how companies can effectively contribute to this global objective, by going beyond mere declarations and implementing concrete, measurable initiatives. 1. Introducing the concept of carbon neutrality

1.1 Definition of carbon neutrality

1.2 the importance of carbon neutrality

1.3 As a company, why move towards carbon neutrality?

2. But how do you know if a company is truly 'carbon neutral'?

2.1 It simply can't be

2.2 It's better to talk about contributing to neutrality than being carbon neutral

3 How can we contribute to carbon neutrality?

3.1 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

3.2 Sequestering emissions

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Introducing the concept of carbon neutrality

🌍 D efinition of carbon neutrality

Carbon neutrality, also known as "net zero emissions", is a concept defined by the European Parliament as a state of equilibrium between carbon emissions (from a company, a country, an individual, etc.) and the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere by carbon sinks.

This means that residual emissions are balanced by carbon sinks, which can be natural or man-made, such as forests, oceans or carbon capture and storage technologies.

Achieving carbon neutrality therefore means reducing GHG emissions as much as possible, i.e. sequestering carbon in a sustainable way and, if necessary, offsetting the remaining emissions through carbon offset projects. The aim is to re-establish a balance between the emissions we emit and what the planet can really take in terms of emissions.

Carbon neutrality has thus become a decisive objective for many countries and companies in the fight against climate change.

⚠️ The importance of carbon neutrality

Carbon neutrality is a far-reaching strategy to combat global warming. Considered a key solution, it aims first to reduce our environmental impact, then to balance carbon emissions with their absorption by carbon sinks.
The aim is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, (a threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers safe). Exceeding 2 degrees of warming could have serious consequences, including rising sea levels, extreme heat waves, food and water shortages, and the loss of many plant and animal species. To avoid these catastrophic climate impacts, it is essential to take care of our ecological footprint in order to meet this target.

The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries, including the European Union, sets targets for achieving carbon neutrality by the second half of the century and rallies the international community around this cause. The agreement underscores the urgent need for action to stabilize global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prevent the devastating impacts of climate change. The commitments made under the Paris Agreement represent a first step towards coordinated climate action on a global scale.

🚀 As a company, why move towards carbon neutrality?

Adopting a carbon-neutral strategy enables companies to combat climate change and aim for a better future for generations to come.

For a company, acting in favor of carbon neutrality first and foremost improves its brand image with consumers who are increasingly sensitive to ecological issues. Today's consumers are much more attentive to what companies have to say, and aware of the carbon footprint of their purchases, making it an important purchasing criterion. This gives companies the opportunity to adopt sustainable practices to attract loyal and committed customers.

Secondly, this approach offers long-term financial benefits. Companies that invest in a carbon footprint can draw up an action plan to reduce their emissions by identifying the most polluting activities. By using clean technologies, they can make significant savings on energy costs. In addition, a number of financial incentives, such as the Diag Decarbonation, are available for companies wishing to reduce and measure their emissions.

Finally, investors and entrepreneurs are also more sensitive to a commitment to carbon neutrality, which favors companies working towards a sustainable future. Compliance with legal obligations (carbon footprint, energy renovation), the integration of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the commitment of employees to this energy transition are valuable assets in attracting business partners and financing.

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But how do you know if a company is truly 'carbon neutral'?

It simply can't be

Many companies claim to be carbon neutral, but the reality is often more complex. In truth, a company cannot really be "carbon neutral". As ADEME points out: "Economic players who make a commitment cannot claim to be 'carbon neutral'; achieving arithmetical carbon neutrality makes no sense on their scale." On the other hand, companies can promote their "commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050", thereby contributing to this global objective.

These statements show that the scale of companies is far too small to fully offset emissions. Carbon neutrality is a concept that applies on a planetary scale. To achieve carbon neutrality for a company, offsetting would be the solution.
Indeed, carbon offsetting involves calculating greenhouse gas emissions, reducing them as far as possible, and then offsetting the remaining emissions by purchasing carbon credits. In theory, this process would make it possible to achieve carbon neutrality every year. However, this approach has many limitations. Here are three points to illustrate these limitations:

 

📉 C alculation imprecision: The scope of emissions taken into account by companies can be incomplete. Often, indirect emissions, such as those linked to the supply chain or the use of products sold, are neglected. This can significantly underestimate a company's actual carbon footprint.

 

⚖️ A questionable principle: The concept of emissions offsetting is based on questionable principles. The idea of equivalence between a reduction at source and the purchase of carbon credits is often physically questionable. What's more, comparing an immediate and certain emission with a presumed future avoidance or absorption is problematic. This approach can create a false impression of neutrality and delay the action needed to reduce emissions at source.

 

📏 Sc ale too small: On a corporate scale, it's difficult to fully offset emissions. It's a concept that needs to be applied on a global scale to be truly effective. Companies need to focus on real, tangible reductions in their emissions rather than relying solely on carbon offsetting.

 

In conclusion, while companies' commitment to carbon neutrality is essential, the risk lies in their focusing more on offsetting their carbon emissions than on reducing and measuring them. This is where the main issue lies, and the nerve of the war. So it's important to recognize the limits of this approach and focus on concrete, measurable actions to reduce emissions more significantly.

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It's better to talk about contributing to neutrality than being carbon neutral

Rather than aiming for so-called absolute carbon neutrality, companies should focus on their active contribution to the global effort to reduce emissions. In reality, no company is truly carbon neutral; they play a part in a collective global effort to achieve this goal.

It is preferable to focus on constant, incremental improvements in their practices to maximize their positive impact on the climate, rather than aiming for immediate, one-off neutrality. Such a simplistic approach can be misleading and downplay the importance of the long-term actions needed to really reduce emissions.

The carbon contributionencourages companies to adopt a long-term perspective, focusing on continuous reductions and progressive improvements. This dynamic allows for a much more impactful response to achieving global objectives.
This means reducing one's own emissions as much as possible, mobilizing employees and stimulating their creativity to find sustainable solutions.

In short, it's crucial for companies to pay attention to their approach and focus on their active contribution to global carbon neutrality. By adopting a dynamic, collective and scientifically rigorous perspective, they can play a significant role in combating climate change and promoting a more sustainable future.

How can we contribute to carbon neutrality?

📉 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The first step for any company seeking to contribute to carbon neutrality is to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To achieve this, it is crucial to implement concrete actions within companies.

Here are some effective ways to decarbonize your business:

🟢 Turning to renewable energies: Adoptingrenewable energiesis a fundamental step in reducing carbon emissions. Installing solar panels, wind turbines or biomass systems on company sites helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels. In addition to reducing carbon footprints, this transition to sustainable energy sources can offer long-term economic benefits, such as lower energy costs.

 

📊 Meeting carbon market quotas: Meeting carbon market quotas can be achieved by optimizing manufacturing processes, eco-designing products and reducing waste. A sobriety strategy can include the use of sensors and energy management systems to monitor and optimize energy consumption.

 

🏭 Im plementan energy sobriety strategy: This can be achieved by optimizing manufacturing processes, eco-designing products and reducing waste. A sobriety strategy can include the use of sensors and energy management systems to monitor and optimize energy consumption. By reducing energy demand, companies can not only cut their carbon emissions but also make significant savings.

 

🏢 Renovating business buildings: By improving insulation, installing more efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, and integrating sustainable construction technologies, businesses can significantly reduce their energy consumption. These renovations have a major impact, as evidenced by the reduction of 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent thanks to renovations in the residential sector in 2019.

 

⚙️ Use energy-efficient equipment: More efficient machines and systems use less energy for the same output, reducing operating costs and emissions. It's important to regularly assess the energy efficiency of equipment and invest in modern technologies that offer better energy performance. This includes everything from office equipment to large industrial machines.

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🌳 S equestering emissions

Carbon sequestration is an essential component in the fight against climate change. Carbon sequestration should be considered as a complement to the reduction mechanism, and only for emissions that cannot be replaced.

The top priority remains to develop the "clean" technologies needed to reduce emissions. Sequestration involves capturing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, thus preventing its accumulation and harmful effects on the climate.

To sequester carbon, we need to develop natural carbon sinks such as forests, coastal marshes, hedgerows and phytoplankton. This can be achieved through projects such as ocean protection, forest reforestation, agricultural soil regeneration...

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