Net Zero or Zero Carbon?

Land reformer, Andy Wightman, raised the issue of net zero or zero carbon whilst highlighting the number of large companies buying land in Scotland to offset their carbon emissions.

Companies, who are investing in thousands of acres of land, often peatland, with the intention of planting trees to achieve net zero have been called ‘green lairds’.

Opinion appears to be split between:

  • Those who see it as a risk leading to increased land prices, resulting in the local communities finding it difficult to purchase land
  • Those who feel the process should be celebrated, as spend on locally resourced contractors and services will increase


Net zero or zero carbon?

The issues around ‘green laird’ raise legitimate questions regarding the motives and morals of large companies. However, Mr Wightmans comment “We should really be heading for zero, not net zero. Offsetting allows people to continue to emit.” is thought-provoking at the very least.

Will the potential ‘gold-rush’ for land give larger businesses an easy ‘out’ by claiming to be net zero and in effect, ticking a box rather than aiming for long-term zero carbon?   


Net Zero – is the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor) produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

To explain simply, the National Grid uses a bath analogy – turn on the taps and you add more water, pull out the plug and water flows out. The amount of water in the bath depends on both the input from the taps and the output via the plughole. To keep the amount of water in the bath at the same level, you need to make sure that the input and output are balanced.


Zero Carbon – Stop increasing carbon emissions, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. At the same time, reduce carbon emissions by increasing renewable energy sources (solar, wind or hydro) and providing energy-efficient building insulation.


Money talks

Ultimately, the bottom line is….the bottom line! Can businesses that do not have deep pockets realistically achieve long-term zero carbon?

Is net zero a more realistic proposition, financially, for most businesses? Some of the largest companies in the UK are zero carbon, but companies of all sizes should be able to take small steps such as:

  • Choose a renewable energy source
  • Reduce waste
  • Drive electric
  • Reduce travel
  • Involve their supply chain
  • Involve colleagues – spread the word


Let’s hope SME’s follow suit, but the cost-of-living is mounting and a big rise in energy bills in April is expected. With 4 million UK households facing fuel poverty, the ‘knock-on’ effect on businesses may take decisions out of business owners’ hands.

Net zero and most definitely zero carbon, may take a back seat….and that would be disastrous.


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Any housing associations and social landlords serious about reducing their energy and administration costs should access our void energy management team.

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