Jargon buster and acronym decoder

Adaptation Fund.
A fund set up under the Kyoto Protocol to provide money for poor countries to adapt to climate change. Currently receives 2% of transactions under the Clean Development Mechanism.

Annex 1 countries.
OECD and other industrialized countries including Russia given emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Bioenergy, biomass.

Include biofuels which are crops that are converted into liquid fuel. For instance corn is turned into ethanol to replace petrol, and vegetable oils like palm and soy are turned into a substitute for diesel. Biomass is solid, mostly wood-based material used for heating (woodchips), cooking (fuelwood in developing nations) and increasingly for power generation to replace coal.

Carbon budget.
A set amount of carbon that can be emitted in a given amount of time by a country, a set of activities or the whole planet. Part of a strategy to limit climate change by capping greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Carbon intensity.
A measure of how much carbon economies emit for every dollar of GDP they produce, or for every unit of product, for example CO2 per unit of steel.

Carbon trading (cap and trade).
Any system where countries, companies or others trade in rights to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. An approach already adopted in Europe and now planned in the USA and elsewhere is “cap and trade”, in which major emitters are given or sold a certain allocation of a limited (capped) number of permits and then allowed to trade the permits among themselves.

Carbon sink.
Any natural store of carbon that can absorb CO2 from the air, such as forests, grasslands and oceans.

Carbon source.
Any natural store of carbon that releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Note that soils, forests and oceans can be both sinks and sources at different times.

Common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.
Principle adopted in the Rio Declaration from the 1992 Earth Summit. It describes the different responsibilities of countries for a given situation, and takes into account their relative capacities to act – wealth, education, health, etc. Under this principle, the Kyoto Protocol indicates that all countries have responsibilities to control greenhouse gas emissions, but only some have specific targets.

CO2 equivalent.
A term used to describe the global warming potential of greenhouse gases in terms of the equivalent amount of CO2. For instance, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are now approaching 390 parts per million (ppm). If other greenhouse gases added by human activity are included the figure rises to above 460 ppm of CO2 equivalent.

CDM – Clean Development Mechanism.
A system under the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrialists or others to obtain “carbon credits” for investing in projects in developing countries that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The credits can be used to offset emissions in countries where they are limited under the protocol. They can also be traded.

Dangerous climate change.
A term embedded in the UNFCCC. It is not defined, but the world’s governments have agreed to prevent it.

Fossil fuel.

Any fuel made of fossilized carbon – the remains of ancient vegetation and animals. Coal, oil, natural gas and the bitumen in tar sands are all examples.

Grandfathering.
Allocating emissions permits (e.g. to a country) on the basis of past emissions.

Greenhouse Development Rights.
A framework for achieving urgent reductions in global CO2 emissions by allocating emissions rights according to national historic responsibility for the climate problem and economic capacity to dedicate resources to the problem.

Greenhouse effect.
The term used to describe the warming of the atmosphere due to an increase in heat-trapping gases. Most of the energy from the Sun that hits the Earth penetrates the atmosphere and heats the surface. The warmed surface radiates heat. Some of this escapes into space, but a proportion is trapped by greenhouse gases. These gases are naturally present in the atmosphere, but the more there are, the less heat can escape. Mankind is adding these gases to the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove them.

Greenhouse gas.
Any gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol covers human-induced emissions of six gases: carbon dioxide (CO2, the most important), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Set up by the UN in 1988 to produce consensus reports on the science, impacts and mitigation of climate change, it has now produced four major assessments, the latest in 2007. All go through extremely detailed reviews by both experts and governments before publication.

Kyoto Protocol.
Agreed in 1997, and subsequently ratified by most nations except the USA, it gives industrialized nations legally binding emissions reduction targets for six main greenhouse gases, covering the period 2008- 2012. They can do this partly by investing in emissions-cutting projects in other countries, through protocol instruments like the Clean Development Mechanism.

NAPAs – National Adaptation Programmes for Action.
Plans being developed by the least developed countries to help protect their citizens, ecosystems and economies against climate change.

Leakage.
Failure of a scheme like REDD or the Clean Development Mechanism to deliver what is intended because the rules are not water-tight. For instance, leakage would occur if a country was compensated for ending deforestation in one forest, when the destroyers simply moved somewhere else.

LULUCF
"Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)" is defined by the UN Climate Change Secretariat as "A greenhouse gas inventory sector that covers emissions and removals of greenhouse gases resulting from direct human-induced land use, land-use change and forestry activities."

MRV – Monitorable, reportable and verifiable.
A checklist for accountability on measures for emission reductions, adopted at the UN Conference in Bali in 2007.

Per capita emissions.
Emissions (usually of a country) divided by the number of inhabitants. Often seen as a measure of fairness or emissions entitlements. (The CO2 emissions of China and the USA are about the same, but because China has four times as many people, its per capita emissions are only a quarter of those of the USA.)

Photovoltaics.
Method of converting solar energy directly into electricity using solar panels.

REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries.
A proposed system for compensating developing countries that reduce emissions linked to cutting down forests, and protect forests as planetary “carbon sinks”. Proposal supported at the Bali Climate Conference for awarding carbon credits or other incentives, and looks set to form part of the climate agreement in Copenhagen.

Renewables.
Any form of energy generated from natural forces like wind and solar energy that are not used up.

Tipping point.
Any point of no return, after which change is sudden and irreversible. In climate change, this might be runaway global warming, the collapse of an ice sheet or the shutting down of an ocean current which won’t switch back on even if you go back to the old climate conditions.

UNFCCC – UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Signed in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit and ratified by 192 nations. It commits them to stabilizing climate-changing emissions and to preventing “dangerous human interference with the climate”. Its parties meet every year. The next meeting is in Copenhagen in December this year.

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