“Companies can now display carbon neutrality devoid of any physical reality”

Tribune. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines carbon neutrality as the balance, on a global scale, between CO2 emissions and removals2 anthropogenic over a given period.

In line with the definition of the IPCC, the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe) recalls that the concept of carbon neutrality has “Really meaningful only on the scale of the planet” and “Cannot be applied to another scale subnational territory, organization [entreprises, associations, collectivités, etc.], product or service, etc.. Individually or at their level, the economic actors, communities and citizens who are committed to carbon neutrality are not, and cannot become, or claim to be, carbon neutral, the achievement of arithmetic carbon neutrality having no meaning on their scale. “

Great leeway

Despite the definition given by the IPCC, and ignoring the position of Ademe, some companies nevertheless claim, in their advertisements, the carbon neutrality of their products. Even assuming that the concept has a meaning on their scale, the operating mode used by these companies to display the carbon neutrality of their goods or services is based on the triptych “measure, reduce, compensate”, which is eminently open to criticism.

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“Measure”: the standards and protocols existing on the market leave companies a great deal of leeway concerning the scope of emissions to be included in their assessment, and do not systematically include the most significant emissions in their value chain. The neutrality thus claimed therefore never concerns all of the company’s emissions.

“Reduce”: the announced emission reductions are self-declared, estimated on the basis of actions that are often not very ambitious and difficult to verify.

“Offset”: the process consists of financing, by purchasing “carbon credits”, the development of carbon sinks intended to absorb emissions that the company has been unable to avoid or reduce. Currently lacking efficient technologies to absorb significant amounts of CO2, these credits mainly finance the development of biological sinks (forestry or reforestation projects).

Aiming for carbon neutrality by offsetting, by resorting to the development of (re) forestry projects, therefore amounts to postulating a perfect equivalence between an immediate and certain emission from the company – leading to direct physical consequences on climate change -, and a future absorption – due to the duration of tree growth, over several decades – and uncertain – these projects are subject to many hazards: their cancellation, fires, drought, etc.

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“Companies can now display carbon neutrality devoid of any physical reality”

The Inside News Hyderabad