Net zero, carbon negative – What’s the difference?


Do you know your way around the multitude of terms used to describe sustainable practices?

Ariel view of a vehicle driving along a forest-lined road.
Let’s clear up some sustainability terms. Image credit: Michael Olsen/Unsplash

There’s a lot of buzzwords going around at the moment related to sustainability, but what do they actually mean?

We’ve put together a list of the most important terms to know in mobility for you to use as a reference point moving forward. We also have a post on breaking through the green jargon in the tourism industry to help you make sustainable travel choices when travel resumes globally.

Net zero

Net zero emissions refers to establishing a balance between the man-made greenhouse gas emissions being produced, and those being taken out of the atmosphere.

In a practical sense, net zero emissions means continuing to produce emissions, as long as they’re offset by processes that reduce greenhouse gases by the same amount.

Carbon neutral

Carbon neutral is a term used to describe an entity – business, service, product etc. – where the carbon emissions created during operations are balanced through funding carbon-reduction projects somewhere else in the world. The term carbon neutral is often used interchangeably with net-zero.

The climate-focused projects that receive funding are often called “offsets” because they’re used to offset the emissions from the companies that are funding them. You can find out more about our green initiatives here.

Blacklane is proudly a certified carbon neutral company. Image credit: Jon Flobrant/Upslash
Blacklane is proudly a certified carbon neutral company. Image credit: Jon Flobrant/Upslash

Carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is an effort to counteract the carbon dioxide pollution emitted on a business or individual level. Companies like Carbon Footprint Ltd attach a value to the amount of CO2 emitted by your travel, energy consumption, etc. and then invest that money into eco-friendly projects on your behalf.

We work with Carbon Footprint Ltd to offset all of our emissions, including all Blacklane rides and all company operations. Our investment focuses on renewable energy and funds a wind-power project in India.

While our current operations are already offset, we recently announced that we aim to offset our emissions dating back to our founding in 2011 by the end of this year.

A wind farm is an example of a carbon-offset company. Image credit: Tim Foster/Unsplash
A wind farm is an example of a carbon-offset company. Image credit: Tim Foster/Unsplash

Carbon negative

The term Carbon negative describes an entity’s reduction of their carbon emissions below that of neutrality.

An entity becomes carbon negative when their actions remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit.

This term means actively creating an environmental benefit by removing additional CO2 from the atmosphere. Companies considered carbon negative include private jet charter Victor and multinational brewery BrewDog.

All-electric vehicles (EVs)

All-electric vehicles (EVs), also called battery-electric vehicles, have an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine.

EVs have a large traction battery pack to power the electric motor and are rechargeable. EVs don’t emit exhaust from a tailpipe and have no fuel elements. We’re dedicated to electrifying our global fleet and this year, we announced our investment in Havn, London’s all-electric chauffeur service.

Hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) 

A hybrid electric vehicle is powered by both an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor(s) that use stored energy from batteries.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)

A PHEV is a hybrid electric vehicle that can be plugged into an external electric power source to recharge the battery.