THE CLIMATE NEUTRALITY CONCEPT IN THE CLUE PROJECT
Climate Neutrality means generally to develop strategies and actions to avoid global
climate changes by elimination of the carbon emissions from products and services.
Cities, companies and other today use the concept of Climate Neutrality in different
ways and different meanings worldwide. The practical use of the concept today is
dependent on how the cities by them self raise and define system borders concerning
time, activity/sectors and geographical areas.
There are neither standards nor scientific consensus on a definition for what climate
neutrality should be or not be, neither on products nor cities. In the literature you find
different categorizations of concepts like “strictly zero carbon”, “net zero carbon”,
“carbon neutral “ and “low carbon” based on emission categorization scope 1, 2, or 3,.
Scope 1 relate to internal emissions, which means greenhouse gases directly emitted
inside the geographical border of the city, (e.g. transportation, electricity, production);
Scope 2 relate to core external emissions, which means, greenhouse gases indirectly
emitted external, outside the geographical border (e.g. life cycle perspective of
electricity, fuels etc.) and scope 3 relate to non – core emissions., which means emissions
e.g. from citizens consumption of food, goods, services, or international flights. “Strict
carbon zero” category means that no carbon is emitted within scope 1 or 2, which means
that no balancing or offsets are allowed inside the system border, which practically is
impossible. The other concepts use offset trade in a gradient from little- to unlimited.
(Kennedy & Squourdis 2011).
The gradient and restrictions on offsets trade is therefore crucial for the discussion of
climate neutrality in practice. In the definition used by the UK Sustainable Development
Commission (SDC) (SDC 2006) the limitation on offsets are discussed in the definition of
a carbon neutral organization, as follows:
“one that causes no net accumulation of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Therefore
carbon neutrality allows emissions to be netted off in some other location, a process which
is called ‘offsetting’. However the SDC would caution against a carbon neutrality policy
which is focused solely on carbon offsetting. As the aim should be to reduce overall
emissions over time, simply offsetting emissions without a carbon management strategy in
place is at best misconceived, and at worst counter-productive.” (SDC 2006)
One global based definition that could be useful in the CLUE project is the suggestion
from UNECE 2011 in the report Climate Neutral Cities, How to make cities less energy and
carbon intensive and more resilient to climatic challenges (UNECE 2011). In this report
UNECE suggest strategies for cities to reach climate neutrality.
“Mitigation and adaptation are two sides of an urban strategy for climate neutrality. Such
a strategy suggests that:
a. Cities aim to achieve net zero emissions of GHG by reducing such emissions as much
as possible and developing trade-off mechanisms to offset the remaining
b. and cities aim to become climate-proof, or resilient to the negative impacts of the
changing climate, by improving their adaptive capacities.” (UNECE 2011, Page 14)
Since CLUE is focusing on mitigation strategies and actions for urban districts, the
UNECE suggestion for mitigation (a) could be a concept the project CLUE would use to
describe climate neutrality efforts for urban districts in cities.
It is a very open and in the same time vague concept, with both benefits and weaknesses.
An open concept has the benefit to invite new ideas and actors in a broad perspective to
support innovation and development for climate neutrality. At the same time the UNECE
concept puts a lot of responsibility at the cities to be transparent with system borders,
so it is clear for different stakeholders which activities/sectors and geographical areas
that are included in different actions and strategies for climate neutral urban districts. It
is also a big responsibility for the cities to discuss and be transparent concerning rules
for trade of offsets, to avoid “green washing” where offsets not give global emissions
reductions. Offset trade could have the risk to buy yourself out of the problem, instead of
focusing on possibilities and innovations.
The UNECE report also relates climate neutrality to a more holistic view of development.
“While climate neutrality is a strategy to be “climate-smart”, it is also a means to address
other environmental, economic and social challenges.” (UNECE 2011 page 14)
This is an important aspect, climate neutrality in urban districts should be connected to
the issues of urban sustainable development, also in order to secure participation from
all different stakeholders and avoid sub optimisation.
Finally we have in this text tried to define how the CLUE project could handle the
definition of climate neutrality in the project, not saying what is universal right or
wrong, more reflecting some aspects to the on going process for city climate neutrality
Kennedy,S. & Sqouridis,S. (2011) Rigorous classification and carbon accounting for low
and Zero Carbon cities, Energy Policy 2011
SDC (2006) Sustainable Development in Government: Annual Report 2006, London:
Sustainable Development Commission. 2006
UNECE (2011) Climate Neutral Cities: