What does climate positive mean?

When one remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than one emit, that’s being climate positive. Climate positive is a nicer sounding phrase than carbon negative, but it means the same. To keep things clear we have to separate the concept of “climate” from the concept of “carbon”. Both can be positive, negative or neutral.

It’s very easy, but it can be a little bit confusing first. When you remove more CO2 than you emit it’s good for the climate, and therefore it’s a positive thing for the climate.

Carbon negative refer to the result we get when we subtract CO2 removals from emissions. When we do the CO2 mathematics and get a positive result it is bad because it leaves CO2 in the air. If we end up with a negative figure it’s good because it removes CO2 from the air. When you remove as much as you emit you’re net zero.

So carbon positive is bad and carbon negative is good. What is “carbon”? The Americans say “carbon” which is (C), but what they mean is the gas CO2.

Example:

  • If you emit 5 and remove 5, you’re net-zero. (5-5=0)
  • If you emit 5 and remove 2, you’re carbon positive, which is bad for the climate. You’ve left 3 in the atmosphere (5-2=+3)
  • If you emit 5 and remove 7, you’re carbon negative, which is good for the climate, hence climate positive. (5-7=-2)