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Department of Energy and Climate Change: Consultation on the term ‘carbon neutral’

ACE have submitted a written response to the Department for Energy and Climate Change consultation on the term ‘carbon neutral: its definition and recommendations for good practice.

ACE response to the consultation:

1. Even if the Government does not intend to promote use of the term it should begin communicating that ‘carbon zero’ is vastly superior to ‘carbon neutral’ in light of the fact that to the un-sceptical lay-person, the two appear to be mathematically equivalent.

2. Fundamentally, ACE strongly recommend that the definition and guidelines be as stringent as possible. Being unregulated and voluntary, compliance with the guidelines should skip straight to best – not ‘good’ or ‘better’ – practice. Setting a very challenging standard for carbon neutrality would:

  • ◦Lend it much-needed prestige, incentivising businesses and the public sector to ‘go the extra mile’
  • ◦Give consumers the ability to make genuine low-carbon consumption choices
  • ◦Lower the risk of a market flooded with questionable carbon neutral claims
  • ◦Act as a trailblazer for regulation / enforced minimum standards in this area later on

3. Ultimately, the objective of the exercise should be that carbon neutrality does not come cheap, and does not end up being seen (as some stakeholders already do) as confusing or as ‘green-wash’. It should come to be perceived and understood as a genuinely hard-earned achievement and a ‘badge of honour’ signifying a serious effort, already undertaken, to cut emissions in ‘your own premises first’. We propose this should mean that only organisations which can demonstrate actual emissions reductions – across their entire organisation and in accordance with the full GHG Protocol – which are in excess of their sector-specific target for the carbon budget period in question can then be allowed to consider their remaining emissions ‘residual’ (in accordance with the definition put forward), hence giving them the choice to offset them and subsequently declare themselves ‘carbon neutral’ according to Government guidelines.

Click here for the full response


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