Why Carbon Neutral Isn’t Enough
We should all be aiming for climate positivity.
Carbon neutral? Carbon positive? Climate positive?
These are all vaguely samey sounding terms that have received lots of airtime over the last few months, including here on our blog as we chase national climate positivity!
As corporations (and people!) reckon with their climate stance, these sustainability terms have found new relevance. But what do they all mean, and which is best?
What Does Carbon Neutral Mean?
Carbon neutrality, or net neutrality, or carbon zero, mean that all of the emissions created by a company’s activities are offset by an equivalent amount of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere.
CO2, carbon dioxide, is a huge part of greenhouse gas emissions. These are the big bad polluters driving huge portions of climate change. Sucking CO2 out of the air by purchasing carbon offsets and directly funding carbon sequestering tech is how companies can achieve carbon neutrality.
For a long time, carbon neutrality was the gold standard for corporate climate responsibility. The idea is to leave the climate the same way you found it, no worse, and no better off.
The important distinction is the “net” classification. Carbon neutrality doesn’t mean a company’s activities release zero emissions. It means they’re able to purchase offsets to cancel out their environmental impacts.
That said, it can be difficult to perfectly estimate the material impact of these offsets, which makes net carbon neutrality not the world-saving designation it was cracked up to be.
What Does Carbon Positive or Carbon Negative Mean?
Get this: both of these classifications are basically just marketing terms that are construed to somehow mean the same thing, even though they sound like opposite things.
Carbon negative apparently kind of means that a company removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than its activities produce.
Carbon positive apparently means the same, depending on who you ask. But if we follow the logic of the “carbon neutral” designation, we’d see that being “carbon positive” would actually imply CO2 emissions that outpace any offsetting. That’s bad news!
If you see a company using the term “carbon positive”, just keep an eye on ‘em.
What Does Climate Positive Mean?
Climate positivity, on the other hand? No faff, just a straightforward and easy to quantify commitment to the climate.
Naturally, this one’s our favourite.
To be climate positive, the emissions created by a company’s activities must be clearly offset by the amount of CO2 that company removes from the atmosphere. In this scenario, the goal is to leave the climate better than you found it.
Today, in light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent “code red” report, we think being climate positive is the only truly responsible stance to take.
Corporations, governments, nations, and people can all be climate positive. This one is easier to quantify because the goal is simply to outdo a given rate of emissions. To be climate positive, just aim really high.
Which is what we’re doing! And we’re challenging you to join us.
Help Achieve Climate Positivity With MogoCard, For Free
Our commitment to fighting climate change isn't new. Our old carbon offset program let Mogo Visa* Platinum Prepaid Card users offset 1 lb of CO2 per dollar they spent, and as a result we've already offset 35+ million lbs of CO2.
But now, we want to do more. We’re aiming high. Really high.
What does this mean for you? Given the emissions created by the average person in Canada every year, planting just 10 trees per month could make you climate positive.2
And if 1 in 5 Canadians used the MogoCard for their spending, we could make the entire nation climate positive.3
See? Aiming high. But it’s a no brainer—our future is worth fighting for.
Help control your spending and give back to the climate for free with the MogoCard. Let’s help make massive change, together.
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This blog is provided for informational purposes only.
*Trademark of Visa International Service Association and used under licence by Peoples Trust Company. Mogo Visa Platinum Prepaid Card is issued by Peoples Trust Company pursuant to licence by Visa Int. and is subject to Terms and Conditions, visit mogo.ca for full details. Your MogoCard balance is not insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). MogoCard means the Mogo Visa Platinum Prepaid Card.
1-According to research conducted by Veritree Technology Inc. 500 lbs. is an approximate amount based on Above-Ground-Carbon (AGC) and Below Ground Carbon (BGC) sequestration estimates contained in several scientific research papers regarding the carbon sequestration of Mangrove trees (the “Research”). The Research contains various ranges for the rate of carbon sequestration per hectare of land. In order to arrive at the approximate amount of 500 lbs., Veritree triangulated data points from the Research regarding AGC and BGC sequestration estimates, and then converted those results into the approximate amount of lbs. per tree.
2-An average Canadian emits approximately 42,000 lbs of CO2 in one year. Each tree will absorb approximately 500lbs of CO2 over its lifetime (approximately 25 years). For every purchase made with the MogoCard, a tree will be planted. If you used your MogoCard for 10 purchases each month, 10 trees would be planted. If 10 trees were planted every month for a year, that would be 120 trees, and those 120 trees would absorb a combined total of 60,000 lbs of CO2 over their lifetimes (25 years), making the average Canadian climate positive. Learn more: Blog.
3-Based on the most recently available data from 2019 and assuming future data follows a similar trajectory, there were approximately 17.79 billion transactions performed by Canadians on credit cards, debit cards, cash, prepaid cards and ATMs. 17.79 billion transactions divided by approx. 30.7 million Canadians aged 18 or older in 2019, results in an average of approximately 578 transactions per Canadian aged 18 or older in 2019. If 1 out of 5 Canadians aged 18 or older used the MogoCard, that would be 6.1 million Canadians aged 18 or older using the MogoCard (20% of 30.7 million). If each of those 6.1 million Canadians made 578 transactions, that would mean 578 trees would be planted for each of those 6.1 million Canadians, resulting in a total of approximately 3.5 billion trees being planted. 3.5 billion trees multiplied by 500 lbs. of CO2 equals 1.779 trillion lbs. of CO2 offset over the lifetime of the trees (approximately 25 years), which exceeds the approximately 1.609 trillion lbs. of carbon that Canada emitted in 2019, thereby making Canada’s 2019 carbon footprint climate positive. For more information on these statistics, see: Blog.