What is the Difference Between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero

Carbon neutral and net zero are two concepts discussed in environmental chemistry. While they have some common features, there is a significant difference between carbon neutral and net zero. This article aims to explain the two concepts in detail, how they make an impact on the environment, and their comparison.

What is the difference between carbon neutral and net zero? Carbon neutral means balancing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted with an equivalent amount removed or offset, whereas net zero refers to the concept of balancing the overall greenhouse gas emissions, not just carbon dioxide.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Carbon Neutral  
      – Definition, Features
2. What is Net Zero
      – Definition, Features 
3. Similarities Between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Carbon Neutral and Net Zero
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Carbon Neutral, Net Zero

Difference Between  Carbon Neutral and Net Zero - Comparison Summary

What is Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutrality is the state in which an entity, such as a company, individual, or even a nation, balances its carbon emissions with an equivalent amount of carbon removal or offsetting measures. The goal is to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint, where the total greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere are counteracted by actions that either capture or reduce an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. This concept has gained significant traction in response to the urgent need to combat climate change.

Carbon Neutral

To attain carbon neutrality, organizations often adopt a multifaceted approach. This includes implementing energy-efficient practices, investing in renewable energy sources, and supporting projects that sequester or reduce carbon emissions. Offsetting measures may involve initiatives like afforestation, reforestation, or investing in technologies that capture and store atmospheric carbon.

Many companies have recognized the importance of carbon neutrality as a key component of corporate sustainability. By committing to carbon neutrality, businesses not only contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change but also demonstrate environmental responsibility to customers and stakeholders. Governments around the world are also setting ambitious targets for achieving carbon neutrality within specific timelines as part of their climate action plans.

What is Net Zero

Net zero refers to the concept of achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed or offset. The goal is to reduce overall emissions to as close to zero as possible, effectively mitigating the impact of human activities on climate change. This ambitious target has gained prominence in global discussions as a crucial strategy to combat the escalating climate crisis.

Net Zero

To attain net zero, countries, businesses, and individuals must implement a combination of emission reduction measures and initiatives that capture or offset the remaining emissions. This involves transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and adopting sustainable practices across various sectors. Additionally, the development and deployment of carbon capture technologies play a significant role in achieving net zero by capturing emissions at their source.

The transition to a net-zero economy is not only an environmental imperative but also presents economic opportunities. Investing in clean technologies, renewable energy infrastructure, and sustainable practices can spur innovation, create jobs, and foster economic growth.

Similarities Between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero

  1. Both carbon neutral and net zero refer to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and removed from the atmosphere.
  2. Both concepts involve reducing emissions as much as possible and offsetting any remaining emissions through activities such as carbon offsetting or carbon capture and storage.
  3. They aim to mitigate climate change by reducing the overall impact of human activities on the environment.

Difference Between Carbon Neutral and Net Zero


  • Carbon neutral generally refers to balancing the emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, through activities like offsetting or carbon sequestration. However, net zero extends beyond balancing emissions to aim for no net emissions overall, often including strategies to reduce, offset, or capture emissions.


  • Carbon neutral implies a state achieved at a specific point in time, indicating a balance between emissions released and those removed or offset. Net zero encompasses a more comprehensive and long-term commitment to eliminate or offset emissions over an extended period, often striving for a balance over the course of years or decades.


  • Carbon neutral primarily focuses on offsetting or balancing carbon dioxide emissions, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, whereas net zero broadens the scope to include all significant greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, recognizing the diverse contributors to global warming.


Understanding the differences between carbon neutral and net zero is crucial for addressing climate change challenges. While both aim to balance greenhouse gas emissions, carbon neutrality focuses on offsetting carbon dioxide emissions at a specific time, whereas net zero extends the commitment to achieving no net emissions overall, covering a wider range of gases over a longer period. The push towards carbon neutrality and net zero reflects global recognition of the urgent need for environmental sustainability.

FAQ: Carbon Neutral and Net Zero

1. Is carbon neutral the same as net zero?

No. Carbon neutrality means that you can compensate for your emissions, while net zero requires abatement of your emissions—you have to actually get rid of them through efficiency, electrification, renewables, and other means.

2. Is carbon neutral better than carbon negative?

Being carbon-negative is an enormous environmental benefit because, rather than being neutral, the process or activity locks up more CO2e than it emits, removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and countering greenhouse emissions.

3. What is an example of carbon neutral?

To make a home carbon neutral, people can do things like using solar panels, improving insulation, and using energy-saving appliances. Even after doing these things, some carbon emissions from driving or heating may still exist. To make up for this, homeowners can support projects that take carbon dioxide out of the air, like planting trees or using renewable energy. This helps make sure the home doesn’t add any extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

4. Why is it called carbon neutral?

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks.

5. Which country is carbon negative?

Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world, meaning it removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits. This achievement is due to Bhutan’s extensive forest coverage, which acts as a carbon sink, absorbing more carbon dioxide than the country produces.


1. “Net Zero Emissions.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. 
2. “Carbon Neutrality – An Overview.” Science Direct. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Nature Earth Sustainability” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “Status of net-zero carbon emissions targets map” By Our World in Data(CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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