Social Impact Investment & Sustainability Forum (SIIS)

Knowledge Base > Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.

Carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits. The main natural carbon sinks are soil, forests and oceans. According to estimates, natural sinks remove between 9.5 and 11 Gt of CO2 per year whereas annual global CO2 emissions reached 38.0 Gt in 2019.

To date, no artificial carbon sinks are able to remove carbon from the atmosphere on the necessary scale to fight global warming. The carbon stored in natural sinks such as forests is released into the atmosphere through forest fires, changes in land use or logging. This is why it is essential to reduce carbon emissions in order to reach climate neutrality.

UN Goals on Carbon Neutrality

In 2007, at a meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Executive Heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes committed to move their respective organizations towards climate neutrality, and developed the UN Climate Neutral Strategy

Specifically, they committed to:
Estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of UN system organizations consistent with accepted international standards;
Undertake efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
Analyze the cost implications and explore budgetary modalities of purchasing carbon offsets to eventually reach climate neutrality

A significant effort has been underway in the UN since 2007, when organizations approved the UN Climate Neutral Strategy, which commits all UN organizations to measure, reduce and then offset any greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be avoided. The UN has been measuring its greenhouse gas emissions from facilities and travel since 2009 and in 2013 emitted at least 1,7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

A total of nine UN-system organizations achieved climate neutrality for 2013 by measuring, reducing and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions. An additional two organizations offset emissions from their headquarters for the same period.

For Details of Carbon Neutrality, please refer to the website of UN and Sustainability (

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