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Source: European Union External Action

When we talk about fighting climate change, we always refer to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s not just about that. 

Becoming ‘climate neutral’ means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, but it also means compensating for any remaining emissions. This is how a net-zero emissions balance can be achieved.

A net-zero emissions balance is achieved when the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere is neutralised. This can be done by carbon sequestration, i.e. by removing carbon from the atmosphere, or through offsetting measures, which typically involve supporting climate-oriented projects.  

Emitting less

All economic sectors can and must contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, industry needs to continue to modernise and pollute less. The aviation and maritime sectors, which are among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions, should become more energy efficient and shift towards alternative, greener fuels.    

To reduce emissions from energy-intensive industries, the EU has set up an emissions trading system. The EU ETS is a market for carbon permits establishing the amount of emissions which power stations, industrial plants and airlines can release into the atmosphere. Permit levels are gradually reduced to cut the emissions of the participating industries.

We, as consumers, can also reduce our environmental footprint through our behaviour and choices. 

Absorbing more

Despite reductions, some emissions will be unavoidable. So how can the remaining emissions be neutralised?

The oceans and soil both absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but forests represent the most effective way to make a difference. 

Natural ecosystems which have the ability to absorb more carbon than they emit are called ‘carbon sinks’. Actions to protect oceans, soil and forests are vital for absorbing emissions. 

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