What’s the Difference Between Net-Zero and Carbon Neutral? Maersk Shipping and EDF Combine to Save the Planet, Evangelical Christians Fight Climate Change

by | Mar 23, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

What’s the difference between net-zero and carbon neutral? Plus Maersk Shipping and EDF combine to save the planet. Evangelical christians fighting climate change.



According to PRRI’s 2017 American Values Survey, 84 percent of Democrats agree that the severity of recent natural disasters points to global climate change, while 71 percent of Republicans believe that the severity of natural disasters is not evidence of climate change. This sharp disagreement on climate science, drawn on partisan lines is also seen in climate action culture. A lot of folks just don’t believe Christians, evangelicals and conservatives get it. Well despite popular belief, I’m here to tell you they do—well are at least beginning to get it. The Climate Daily took a deep, deep dive into the internet and our intrepid researchers discovered a handful of climate action groups from the other side of the aisle. They’re wonderful and they all have three things in common: They care about the climate precisely because they are Christians. They believe that all of us have responsibility to everybody else on the planet. And they believe all of us as Jesus stated must care about the least of us. In other words, a belief in environmental justice.

Here is a quick list:

  1. Evangelical Environmental Network
  2. Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
  3. Love Your Place
  4. Tearfund
  5. Worldvision
  6. Plant with a Purpose
  7. A Rocha

The Climate Daily is going to profile all of these organizations in the coming weeks, so stay tuned, or if you just can’t wait for us, check out links to their websites in our “Deeper Dive” section at the end of the transcript for this episode at TheClimate.org/episodes.

DEEPER DIVE: Evangelical Environmental Network, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, Love Your Place, Tearfund, Worldvision, Plant with a Purpose, A Rocha




In the lead up to 2021 Earth Month activities, the, Environmental Defense Fund and MARSK Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping recently entered into a Partnership Agreement. With the Agreement, Environmental Defense Fund becomes an official partner to the Center, committing to a long-term strategic collaboration focusing on reduction of emissions from shipping. Why this news matters is because there are more than 70,000 merchant and cruise ships that annually emit over 930 million metric tonnes of GHG per year. Global shipping accounts for around 3% of global carbon emissions, a share that is likely to increase as other industries tackle climate emissions in the coming decades. 

The collaboration will evolve around the development of an industry transition strategy, mapping the strategic pathway to zero carbon shipping in 2050, and the comprehensive policy framework necessary for shipping to meet and exceed that long-term target. In addition, the collaboration will include activities on the sustainability assessment and life cycle analyses of future fuels and technologies as well as their impact potential and potential constraints. 

DEEPER DIVE: Zero Carbon Shipping, EDF



 Zenia Schnellenberger from Leipzig, Germany asked us, “What’s the difference between carbon-neutral and net-zero?” It’s a fair question. They sound similar, but they are significantly different. To understand why both of these terms is not like the other, we have to go back to where each originated. First came carbon neutral. It’s a concept that came into existence around 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was established. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty which extended the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol was supposed to commit individual countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and that human-made CO₂ emissions are driving it. 

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “Carbon-neutral (or carbon neutrality) is the balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon emissions from carbon sinks.” The idea behind carbon neutral was to establish market-based mechanisms to encourage nations and private industry to reduce their CO2 emissions. IOW, the goal was to move CO2 from the abstract realm of an atmospheric gas that nobody could see or smell into the real world as commodity—like pork, or oil or stocks—that could be bought or sold or traded. Say a cement maker wants to do the right thing, but she can’t get rid of the CO2 emissions produced when she makes cement because that’s endemic to the process. So she finds a company that plants trees and/or invests in renewable energy projects. She explains her problem. The two companies work out an arrangement where they negotiate a market-based price for the company to plant enough trees, etc. on behalf of the cement company to offset its carbon emissions. Such an arrangement would make the cement company carbon-neutral. Planet happy. Everybody happy, right? Not quite….

DEEPER DIVE: Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero,Kyoto Protocol,What is Carbon Neutral Mean?,UNFCCC




So we just learned what carbon neutral means and why it came to be. Now let’s talk about net-zero. Net-zero carbon means no carbon was emitted from the get-go, so no carbon needs to be captured or offset. For example, a company’s building running entirely on solar, and using zero fossil fuels can label its energy as “zero carbon,” therefore it is a net-zero property. However, that only indicates the building is a net-zero emissions property. If the building were undergoing renovation, for instance, and the tools used in that renovation ran from electricity provided by an onsite, diesel generator, or if the bricks and wood used came in on a diesel truck, or the landscape plants fresh from the nursery were grown using petroleum-based fertilizers, then the property is not net-zero carbon, is it? And there’s the rub. 

Net-zero emissions is as simple as isolating oneself, organization, city, state or country from fossil fuel/extractive energy sources. Iceland is a good example of that. About 90% of all heat provided to buildings in Iceland comes from geothermal energy. So, in the heating sector, Iceland is all but net-zero emissions. You’d think it’d be net-zero carbon in heating too. Not quite. Equipment and personnel to maintain the geothermal system Iceland built still use fossil fuels. This difference matters because it highlights the importance of the total team effort required to achieve net-zero carbon.  Carbon neutral doesn’t get the planet to net-zero carbon. Instead it allows people, companies, countries to continue to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 emissions and buy off the offense through the market. It allows people, organizations and nations to remain fossil fuel dependent as long as they have the money to pay for carbon offsets.

DEEPER DIVE: Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero, Kyoto Protocol, What is Carbon Neutral Mean?, UNFCCC