What does zero carbon mean?

The dictionary definition of zero carbon is “causing or resulting in no release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere”. While this definition is easy to grasp, determining what is zero carbon in practice can be complex and rests on how carbon emissions are measured and quantified. The term ‘carbon neutral’ is also widely used to describe a process where there are actual carbon emissions from a process, but these are only returning to the atmosphere carbon that was only recently removed (e.g. biomass combustion). Similarly, ‘net zero’ is an often used term to describe a process which might be carbon positive at some periods of the year and negative at others, and over the whole year, the positive equals or outweighs the negative.

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