Climate Action

Deciphering COP21: A glossary of climate change terms

Nina Chestney
Reporter, Reuters
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This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation

Representatives and leaders from almost 200 governments will meet in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to agree a global accord to slow climate change. Decades of climate talks have spawned dozens of acronyms and jargon. Here is a guide to some of the main terms:

UNFCCC – The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty agreed in 1992. Its aim is to prevent dangerous human interference with the world’s climate system. The 195 countries which have ratified the convention are called Parties to the Convention.

COP21 – The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the UNFCCC and its first meeting was in Berlin in 1995. The COP’s 21st annual meeting will be held in Paris. This year’s meeting aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.

ADP – The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Advanced Action is a subsidiary body, created in 2011. It is tasked with developing a new climate agreement to be adopted in 2015 and enter into force from 2020.

LOSS AND DAMAGE – Governments have agreed to address loss and damage caused by climate change in developing countries. The subject has often been linked to liability and compensation, which causes heated debate between developing and developed countries.

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MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION – Mitigation refers to human activities to reduce the sources of emissions or to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Adaptation refers to measures taken to adapt to the effects of climate change.

INDCs – In preparation for COP21, countries have to publicly outline what climate actions they intend to take after 2020 under a new global deal. These plans are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.

ANNEX 1, ANNEX 2, NON-ANNEX 1 – Annex 1 parties are countries which were considered to be wealthy industrialised nations in 1992 and therefore more responsible for greenhouse gas emissions historically. Annex 2 countries are OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) members of Annex 1; Non-Annex 1 parties are mostly developing countries.

LULUCF – Stands for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry and refers to the impact of land use, deforestation and creating new forests on emissions.

NGOs – Non-governmental organisations. Includes environmental groups, research groups, business groups and local government associations. Many attend climate talks as observers. To be accredited to attend meetings, NGOs must be non-profit.

AOSIS, LDC, UMBRELLA – These are just some of the acronyms for coalitions of countries which have similar goals in the talks, including the Alliance of Small Island States. Here is a breakdown:

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Author: Nina Chestney is a reporter at Thomson Reuters Foundation

Image: Cracked earth marks a dried-up area near a wind turbine used to generate electricity at a wind farm. REUTERS/Carlos Barria. 

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