Carbon Jargon: 6 words you didn’t know you needed to know


Climate change is a big enough challenge without having to decipher the lingo! And no doubt by now you’ve heard many words and phrases like net-zero, carbon footprint and offsetting. So, what on earth do all these mean?

We’ve put together a simple jargon-buster to get you clued up on the most frequently used words you’ll hear in the carbon conversation, so you can be informed, empowered and work towards a sustainable future, both during your time in education and in future employment.

1. Net Zero carbon

This term refers to having an overall balance between carbon released into the atmosphere and carbon taken out.

The first step to net zero is always to reduce emissions as much as physically possible. Any residual emissions left can then be offset so that total carbon put in and total carbon taken out, balance at zero.

The UK has a target to become a net zero country by 2050.

2. Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting takes carbon out of the atmosphere to compensate for carbon put in elsewhere. Carbon offset schemes allow businesses to invest in projects around the world to balance out their own emissions. These projects can include traditional reforestation initiatives, or new technology-based solutions such as investments in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency (e.g. insulation and home device technologies) and carbon capture and storage.

Reforestation Scheme

3. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

CCS is basically a technology that captures CO2 from industrial facilities such as power stations and buries it to avoid emissions entering the atmosphere. CCS is seen as an important tool that will allow manufacturing industries to continue to operate with reduced emissions.

4. Carbon Neutral

This term is used to describe the state of a company, service, product or event, where the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world (ie. Offsetting!)

It is very similar to and sometimes used interchangeably with carbon net zero, but is less commonly used for business targets and sometimes places less of an emphasis on reduction, and more of an emphasis on offsetting.

5. Carbon Negative

It might sound like a bad thing, but being carbon negative is actually something to celebrate! This is where a company, sector or country reduces its emissions to less than neutral, so that it has an overall effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than adding it. Simply, it requires them to remove more emissions from the atmosphere than they emit.

6. Carbon Positive

This term refers to buildings that produce more energy than they need, which they then feed back to the grid. This means they go beyond being carbon neutral by making additional ‘positive’ or ‘net export’ contributions. This extra energy once fed back to the grid can be used to help offset the places where carbon-neutral homes or buildings aren’t possible.

So there we have it! 6 key carbon terms that are definitely worth knowing!

With governments, companies and institutions talking about carbon and becoming net-zero, you can now weigh in on the conversations too and have your say in building a sustainable future!

Of course that’s the main carbon jargon, but if you’re interested, you can also learn the definitions for these other carbon terms, simply click to find out!

Until next time!

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