Why Neutrality is Getting Us Nowhere - Handprint

Why Neutrality is Getting Us Nowhere

Mike Erskine Hvwjwoaqwum Unsplash

Imagine you have a big personal challenge that you want to achieve. You’ve decided it’s about time you climbed that mountain, or wrote that book, or started that business. How would you do it? Perhaps you write a list of all of the things you can do to help you achieve your goal. You let your friends know what you’re up to so they can help motivate you on your journey. You focus on the positive steps you’re taking to make your dream happen. 

You certainly wouldn’t fixate on what’s holding you back. But that’s exactly what we’re doing with the climate catastrophe. If we’re going to save the planet, we need a mindset shift that’s a tad more inspirational than attaining ‘carbon neutrality’ and reaching ‘net zero’.

 

From ‘do less bad’ to ‘have a positive impact’

The way we think about our challenge is all wrong. We’ve been talking about sustainability and the need to change for the past 30 years but we still haven’t bucked the trend. Without wanting to depress you too much, the situation’s getting pretty intense. We’re currently not on track to stay below the desired 1.5 °C warming and we’re chomping through our resources with an environmental footprint of 1.7 Earths. Let’s stop navel-gazing and look at what’s not working: 

  • Carbon neutrality is not motivating us in the right direction. The focus on carbon offsetting, carbon compensation and carbon footprints leads us to believe it’s a zero-sum game. Guilt-based approaches don’t tend to inspire the right behaviour in individuals or companies. We need to flip our thinking so that we’re finding more aspirational ways of building a positive handprint instead of a negative footprint.
  • It shirks responsibility. This is especially apparent when you look at large corporations who hone in on carbon offsetting and their individual race to zero. Once they tick that box, they can sail off into the sunset with a clear conscience. But often all they’re doing is passing the buck. One trick is to sell off polluting assets to balance their carbon books, meaning the problem belongs to a smaller entity, often with far less public scrutiny.
  • It’s not creating immediate change. Carbon offsetting is based on questionable principles – often companies are betting on future reductions or removals of CO2, meaning that the ‘neutrality’ they’re boasting about hasn’t actually been achieved yet.
  • It’s not ambitious enough. We need to be reducing our global emissions by 3% to 7% per year to comply with the Paris Agreement. Negating emissions through carbon offsetting is not actually helping the situation. If all companies and individuals do is undo harm, the planet is never going to thrive.
  • Finally, it stops us thinking big. There are hundreds of ways to save the planet beyond carbon offsetting. Limiting our conversations to carbon-focused approaches stops us imagining all of the ways we as individuals and businesses can make a real impact. Looking beyond carbon, we can regenerate forests and rebuild ecosystems. We can clean up the seas and protect life in them. We can think about the health of our soils and promote sustainable farming. There are so many different and exciting approaches to take.

 

From Carbon Neutral to Planet Positive  

The planet can’t be run like a business with a P&L spreadsheet. We need to focus on all of the ways we can support it – it can’t take any more losses. Yes, measuring and limiting the carbon entering the atmosphere is very important, but we can do better than that. There are so many additional ways we can regenerate our planet if we broaden our approach. 

That’s where a Planet Positive mindset comes in. It’s more than just a language shift. It switches our thinking from doing just enough to break even, to doing as much as possible for good. Planet Positive focuses on all of the different ways we can restore our natural world so that it can heal itself. It’s the collective sum of all of our individual actions. From protecting our natural habitats to regenerating ecosystems, reforestation initiatives to circular economies, rewilding our land to reserving our seas, Planet Positive is a more inclusive, empowering and inspirational mantra that will help us achieve our goal.

 

To find out more about how Handprint is enabling individuals and businesses to start their Planet Positive journey, click here