Making Sense of Net Zero: Glossary of terms

This article was first published by Marsh here.


Higher levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere are causing temperature rises and corresponding changes in our climate. As such, reducing it is critical to tackling increasing climate risk.

In 2015, approximately 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to reduce their GHG emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As national governments and organizations set their climate ambitions, their commitment to reduce GHG emissions has increased momentum toward net zero.

Net zero refers to balancing the amount of GHG put into the atmosphere with that removed from it. Achieving real or absolute zero emissions, where no GHGs are released into the atmosphere, is often prohibitively expensive or disruptive for certain sectors. That is why achieving net zero, by reducing GHG emissions and removing any residual emissions, is considered more technologically and economically feasible.

A number of frameworks and standards exist to help organizations set out their net zero commitments, and allow stakeholders to assess these commitments.

Use this glossary as a guide to help your understanding of net zero-related terminology.