Carbon neutral, net zero emissions, low carbon – what's the difference?

    A community, place or activity is carbon neutral if, on balance, it does not contribute to climate change. Achieving carbon neutrality involves reducing carbon emissions as much as possible, then balancing any remaining emissions with activity that “offsets” these emissions. These offsets can include activities that remove emissions from the atmosphere, such as tree planting and direct air capture technologies (essentially big fans that draw carbon dioxide out of the air). They can also include activities that prevent emissions being generated in the first place, such as clean energy projects which displace fossil fuels.


    Net zero emissions is often used interchangeably with carbon neutral but is more narrowly defined. Net zero emissions refers specifically to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced (which includes gases other than just carbon dioxide) and greenhouse gas emissions removed from the atmosphere. It cannot be achieved through offsets that prevent greenhouse gas emissions from being generated.


    Low carbon is the end goal in achieving carbon neutrality. A low carbon city is one where everyone is working together to reduce emissions as much possible to limit the offsets needed to create a carbon neutral or net zero emissions profile.

    How can my input influence the new climate action plan?

    Your input will be used to refine the draft climate action plan and climate policy.

    Who is the new action plan for and what is its role?

    The new action plan is for anyone who can contribute to achieving a low carbon city.

    The City of Adelaide has already been highly successful in reducing its own operational emissions to carbon neutral.  This means that Council has taken action to reduce emissions across the services and facilities it provides for the city such as transport, lighting, waste management and building performance and offset the remaining emissions. 

    The next phase of action for the city is focused on how Council can continue to reduce its emissions and how it can support others in the community to take action. The plan will outline how we collectively as a Council, community, businesses and institutions can continue to reduce our impact on the climate.

    The new action plan will support the ongoing delivery of the Carbon Neutral Strategy 2016-2025.  

    Our city can only become carbon neutral if we all work together!