UBC Undergraduate Research

Carbon neutrality: relevant tool or flawed concept? Spence, Andrew M.


Climate change has become the defining issue of the twenty-first century. Institutions and organisations are starting to take proactive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to growing local concern and inaction at higher levels of government (Willson & Brown 2008). A concept that is gaining significant publicity is that of ‘carbon neutrality’, a process of calculating emissions (or ‘carbon footprint’), reducing those emissions and offsetting residual emissions so that net carbon emissions equal zero. The evolving concept of carbon offset trading has given rise to a whole new industry and associated infrastructure. Proponents of carbon neutrality champion the concept as a valid tool in the alleviation of climate change. Equally there are fierce critics of the concept who believe it to be fatally flawed. By drawing on a thorough review of relevant literature in this report I seek to: present a clear understanding of the concepts of ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ and their purpose in mitigating climate change; describe the recommended process and best practice for achieving carbon neutrality; and consider the arguments for and against carbon neutrality as a valid tool in mitigating climate change.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International