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What’s the difference between carbon neutral and Net Zero?

Parisa Pouramn

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Young people in Greece

At Contiki, we want you to enjoy the life-changing experience of exploring the world. We want you to spot the big five on safari. To sip Aperol on a sun-bleached terrace. To wander spotless sands or hear the full-blooded roar of a rainforest, teeming with plants and wildlife. Basically, we want to share the gift of travel with you and generations to come, just as we have done for 60+ years. But the impacts of climate change are universal. And ignoring them ain’t gonna make them go away. 

That’s why, in January 2022 we made the steps to become a carbon neutral organisation. This took heaps of work, and hey – we were pretty proud of it. But no one ever changed the world by staying neutral. The science has spoken, and it’s clear that carbon offsetting isn’t enough.  So we’re shifting from neutral into gear,  and we’re going for net zero. 

But what’s the difference between the two? Has our Climate Action Plan changed? And how are we investing even more in a low-carbon future? Read on to find out! 


So, what’s the difference anyway?

Carbon neutral means balancing the carbon you’re emitting by reducing the same amount of carbon from being emitted somewhere else. So, when we went carbon neutral, we did it by offsetting and purchasing verified carbon credits from our partner, South Pole. (Basically, for each tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emitted into the air, we paid to prevent one tonne of GHG emissions from entering the atmosphere). Sounds ideal, right? Well…unfortunately not. The climate crisis demands we stop producing carbon: period. And that’s where net zero comes in. 

Because net zero isn’t just about offsetting. It’s about first and foremost reducing carbon emissions that result from our actions in the first place by addressing things like energy and water consumption, food waste reduction, and transportation emissions to name a few. Then for any leftover, unavoidable emissions, it’s about investing in carbon removal projects (nature-based solutions that actually pull carbon out of our atmosphere and safely store it), rather than just offsetting. Hence: reaching net zero emissions. Ok, ok, it doesn’t sound quite as snappy as “we’re carbon neutral.” And it’s a bit more complicated to explain. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.

And with our move from neutrality to net zero, we also needed to accelerate our Climate Action Plan. So here are three huge new targets we’re ready to smash. (They’re validated by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi), so we didn’t just pull them out of a hat).

Costa Rica

Image source:Contiki

Short Term Targets (2030) 

Long Term Target (2050)   

Net Zero Target (2050)

The next step in Contiki’s Climate Action Plan

The next step in Contiki’s Climate Action Plan

Dominic Oliver
by Dominic Oliver Apr 20, 2022

Get in, we’re going for zero

Our plan isn’t about one quick fix, because…there isn’t one. It’s about our commitment to learn and adapt as human behaviour, technology and innovations provide new and exciting ways to decarbonise. That’s why we’ve reset our Climate Action Plan, to 4 points:

This is just the beginning, and we’re excited to step up our game as we continue towards a future for travel that has coral reefs blushed pink instead of bleached white. That has skies filled with the sounds of parakeets, rather than heavy clouds of smog. In another 60+ years we want to still be showing Contiki travellers the spine-tingling beauty of this wonderful world. So, let’s keep it that way, eh? 

Norway mountain fjord woman standing by lake

Image source:Contiki

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