Climate action and carbon neutrality - properly understood and implemented

May 26, 2021

How the concept of carbon neutrality works

Climate action is finally picking up speed. The USA's re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement, the EU's climate action law, the historic ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court followed by the swift adaptation of the German climate law or the groundbreaking decision of the District Court in The Hague / Netherlands are just the most recent examples.

ClimatePartner has been supporting companies in climate action for more than 15 years. We are currently observing a very strong increase in interest in the concept of climate neutrality, which we would therefore like to briefly introduce and explain once again.

Carbon neutrality based on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol

The principle of climate neutrality is based on the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted back in 1997. This is an additional protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the aim of global climate action. The agreement, which came into force in 2005, for the first time set binding target values under international law for greenhouse gas emissions - the main cause of global warming. The offsetting of emissions caused in one place and saved in another, as well as the trading of corresponding emission rights, is one of the essential instruments of the Kyoto Protocol. In 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement succeeded the Kyoto Protocol as an agreement of 195 Parties. The principle of climate neutrality based on the UN definition remains essentially unchanged to this day. This November, details are to be further developed and negotiated at COP26 in Glasgow.

Measure, reduce, offset: The triad for effective climate action

There are three relevant points for active climate action:

1. measuring and balancing: Measuring and balancing all greenhouse gas emissions within the framework of the GHG Protocol is the basis of every successful climate action strategy.

2. reduce and avoid: Reduction and avoidance must be the focus of a climate action strategy. All avoidable GHG emissions must be avoided as far as possible, and all reasonable reduction options must be exhausted.

3. Offsetting: Remaining emissions that cannot be further avoided or reduced are offset according to the rules for certified project-based emission reductions initially defined in the Kyoto Protocol. This results in climate neutrality.

This triad is not a one-time process, rather it should be understood as a cycle. Through its regular repetition, companies can draw impulses for a transformation towards net zero.

Carbon neutrality and holistic climate action strategies

We support and accompany many companies in their climate action strategies. When balancing corporate emissions, we create a "Corporate Carbon Footprint" (CCF), for product emissions the "Product Carbon Footprint" (PCF). The PCF or "carbon footprint" of products is of particular importance, as it makes transparent all emissions associated with a product and thus forms the basis for effective savings and reduction measures.

When it comes to offsetting, we work with high-quality, certified carbon offset projects. These projects not only ensure climate neutrality. Rather, the certifications with international standards (e.g. Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard) ensure that the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are promoted in parallel through the projects. This benefits, among other things, animal welfare, biodiversity and, above all, improves the lives of local people. At ClimatePartner, the registry management for decommissioning certificates is certified by TÜV Austria.

Furthermore, we support our clients in further climate action issues such as "Net Zero", "Science Based Targets" or the development of exclusive carbon offset projects.

Climate action communication: a high responsibility

Transparent communication rounds off a climate action strategy. In this context, companies bear a high responsibility in the credible and correct communication of their climate action and respective marketing measures.

We support our clients with detailed documentation and information for their marketing and communication measures. In addition, the ClimatePartner Academy offers training courses on the current status of climate action, the relevant technologies, procedures and also practical examples.

Credible climate action always requires reduction and avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions in the first place. Offsetting without intensive reduction and avoidance is to be avoided; such "buying your way out" would actually be classified as "greenwashing".

Transparency is the key to credibility

The best means for credibility is transparency. This is why we developed the “climate neutral” labout about 15 years ago. The integrated ID tracking provides all the necessary information in a transparent way. It provides insight into which emissions were collected and how they were offset, and which climate action measures the company has also implemented. The label is recommended as trustworthy by the German government's portal and is used in more than 30 countries.

We actively support our customers as a partner in climate action. Because we have to act. Here and now, also through carbon neutral products and services.