It depends! We're seening Climate Positive used more and more at the minute. It's not officially or formally defined at present. We've seen it used by folks doing great work decarbonizing (aka reducing) or removing carbon and equivalents* emissions, and also by some who are using it for less clear plans. The small print matters when figuring out what action people mean by what terminology.
What's Climate Positive mean?
Glad you asked. A good place to start to to talk about other terms that float about (and are often misued), to think about how Climate Positive compares to other terms and claims.
Generally Climate Positive is used to say something has gone beyond Carbon Neutral*. Carbon neutrality is when the emissions* created during the making, transport or use of a product or service have been offset* in some way. This doesn't mean that the emissions have been removed, more that they've been counterbalanced by another activity.
Carbon neutrality doesn't inherently mean that something is having a neutral impact on the climate or natural ecosystems. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.
Also, unfortunately the quality and effectiveness of many of the offsets available now, it is still likely to mean that additional carbon has still been pumped out into the atmosphere, where it can cause additonal warming of the planet. Meaning it doesn't automatically mean carbon has been reduced or removed to prevent more heating.
At present, something with Climate Positive claims suffers from the same unclear definition.
It can mean genuinely that all efforts have been made to reduce the emissions caused by an activity and also taking into account protecting and supporting the wider natural world, on which we all depend.
Climate Positive can sometimes also mean the same as Carbon Negative* and Carbon Positive*. (Confusingly these terms often mean the same). This is where the company has offset more emissions than have been released to make the thing, though not necessarily reduce them in reality or improved something relating to nature.
Climate Positive can have higher ambition
We think Climate Positive as a term has the right kind of aspiration that we'd love to see more of.
If we choose to, it could mean fully decarbonized* or offset with high quality carbon removal* solutions. The higher ambition comes also by including biodiversity* and nature regeneration elements in it. Climate Positive's definition has room to be further refined in line with what the science says will limit climate change and help tackle The Climate Crisis*, while also protecting and regenerating the crucial biodiversity of our planet.
While Climate Positive doesn't automatically mean that something is truly beneficial for the climate and wider environment at present, we think it could be used in such a way.
We’re thinking about how it could mean something like Net Zero+*, or Planet Positive or - we're not sure right now!
We’d like to see more companies taking the science backed and reduction focus of net zero (where 90 to 95% is decarbonized and the last 5 to 10% removed) and then combining that with a range of environmentally positive activities that they support in addition to their roadmap to reduce emissions. These may include things like biodiversity, ecosystem preservation and regeneration, as well as the circular economy*.
Tackling The Climate Crisis doesn't automatically mean the same as being environmentally positive, though we think defining it as such - with terms like Climate Positive or others like it - would be a big leap forward from where we presently are.
What's next? Take a look at the difference between net zero, climate positive and carbon negative here.
Have hope, make progress! 💚
Climate Buzzword Dictionary
Carbon and equivalents - bundle of main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane & nitrous oxide. Abbreviated to CO2e
Greenhouse Gases - Abbreviated to GHG. 98% made up of Carbon Dioxide, Methane or Nitrous Oxide. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. See Carbon and Equivalents
Carbon Neutral - making or resulting in no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, likely using offsetting rather than fully decarbonized for Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Probably doesn't include emissions from Scope 3 sources
Emissions - the creation and release of Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by human activities
Offset/offsetting - buying parts of carbon avoiding, reducing or removing projects that avoid or remove emissions to reduce your own footprint
Carbon Negative / Carbon Positive - not only being carbon free, but also removing historical emissions + more as well
Net Zero - a target to stop producing Greenhouse Gases from human activity by 2050. It combines reducing, removing as well as offsetting hard to eliminate emissions. Also called Net-zero 2050
Decarbonize - disconnect all the things humanity does from creating carbon emissions. The process to stop emitting Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Sometimes refered to as Carbon Reduction
Biodiversity - the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable to maintain balanced ecosystems
The Climate Crisis - the accelerating heating of our planet due to human activity
Circular Economy - a system where all waste is minimised by recycling most end-of-life products for their materials to be reused again and again. Meaning we'd need less primary materials to be extracted or created. Sometimes referring to a "closed loop" or "zero waste" process
Carbon Removal - using nature or technology to take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it somewhere for a period of time (so it isn't in the atmosphere to causing heating)
Learn more climate science and related terminology