As with many issues, one of the major problems of climate change is the difficulty in understanding technical terms that come with the whole conversation and as COP26 begins, PREMIUM TIMES has compiled a list of terms that will dominate global news for the next 12 days of the conference and beyond. Did you miss the previous article on what COP26 is all about? You can read it here. Also, here is an analysis of what is expected of the Nigerian government as far as climate change is concerned as we head to COP26.
The world is currently not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The targets announced in Paris would result in warming well above 3 degrees by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels.
If we continue as we are, temperatures will carry on rising, bringing even more catastrophic flooding, bush fires, extreme weather and destruction of species.
Here is a glossary of technical jargons that you will come across in the coming days.
The 1.5C scenarios require radical reductions in unabated fossil fuel use, the rapid expansion of non-fossil energy sources and planetary-scale carbon dioxide removal. To reach a 1.5-degree pathway, new cultivation approaches would need to prevail, leading to a 53 per cent reduction in the intensity of methane emissions from rice cultivation by 2050.
Assigned amount unit. A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. Each Annex I Party issues AAUs up to the level of its assigned amount, established pursuant to Article 3, paragraphs 7 and 8, of the Kyoto Protocol. Assigned amount units may be exchanged through emissions trading.
Adaptation Committee. The Adaptation Committee was established by the Conference of the Parties as part of the Cancun Agreements to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner under the Convention, inter alia, through various functions.
Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The ADP is a subsidiary body established at COP 17 in Durban in 2011 to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. The ADP is to complete its work by 2015 in order to adopt this protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session of the COP and for it to come into effect from 2020.
Alliance of Small Island States. An ad hoc coalition of low-lying and island countries. These nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and share common positions on climate change. The 43 members and observers are American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guam, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu.
An article of the Convention stipulating general commitments assumed by all Parties, developing or developed.
Biomass fuels or biofuels
A fuel produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants.
These fuels are considered renewable as long as the vegetation producing them is maintained or replanted, such as firewood, alcohol fermented from sugar, and combustible oils extracted from soybeans. Their use in place of fossil fuels cuts greenhouse gas emissions because the plants that are the fuel sources capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
A popular (but misleading) term for a trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to meet their national limits on emissions, either under the Kyoto Protocol or under other agreements, such as that among member states of the European Union. The term comes from the fact that carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas, and other gases are measured in units called “carbon-dioxide equivalents.”
A collection of around 40 countries working towards an ambitious legally binding agreement under the UNFCCC, and who are committed to becoming or remaining low carbon domestically. Participants include Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, European Union, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, México, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Samoa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, UAE, and the United Kingdom.
Chair (or Chairman, Chairperson, etc.)
National delegates elected by participating governments to lead the deliberations of the Convention’s subsidiary bodies. Different chairs may be elected for other informal groups. The Chair is responsible for facilitating progress towards an agreement and serves during the inter-sessional period until the next COP.
A service that facilitates and simplifies transactions among multiple parties.
Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. All States that are Parties to the Paris Agreement are represented at the CMA, while States that are not Parties participate as observers. The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation. More information here.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. It is also known as the Bonn Convention and is an environmental treaty of the United Nations that provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory animals and their habitats.
Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention’s supreme body is the COP, which serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The sessions of the COP and the CMP are held during the same period to reduce costs and improve coordination between the Convention and the Protocol. More information here.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas: a heat-absorbing and radiating gas. Unlike oxygen or nitrogen, which make up the majority of our atmosphere, greenhouse gases retain heat and slowly release it, much like bricks in a fireplace after the fire has gone out. Without this natural greenhouse effect, the average annual temperature on Earth would be below freezing, rather than near 60°F. Increases in greenhouse gases, on the other hand, have thrown the Earth’s energy budget off kilter, trapping more heat and rising the planet’s average temperature.
Committee of the Whole
Often created by a COP to aid in negotiating text. It consists of the same membership as the COP. When the Committee has finished its work, it turns the text over to the COP, which finalizes and then adopts the text during a plenary session.
A committee that helps facilitate, promote and enforce compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. It has 20 members with representation spread among various regions, small-island developing states, Annex I parties and non-Annex I parties, and functions through a plenary, a bureau, a facilitative branch and an enforcement branch.
Fulfilment by countries/businesses/individuals of emission reduction and reporting commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.
Conference of the Parties. The supreme body of the Convention. It currently meets once a year to review the Convention’s progress. The word “conference” is not used here in the sense of “meeting” but rather of “association”. The “Conference” meets in sessional periods, for example, the “fourth session of the Conference of the Parties.” More information here.
Countries with Economies in Transition. Central and East European countries and former republics of the Soviet Union in transition from state-controlled to market economies.
Emission reduction unit (ERU)
A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. ERUs are generated for emission reductions or emission removals from joint implementation projects.
One of the three Kyoto mechanisms, by which an Annex I Party may transfer Kyoto Protocol units to, or acquire units from, another Annex I Party. An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in emissions trading.
To facilitate the provision of climate finance, the Convention established a financial mechanism to provide funds to developing country Parties. The financial mechanism also serves the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention states that the operation of the financial mechanism can be entrusted to one or more existing international entities. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has served as an operating entity of the financial mechanism for many years and at COP 17 in 2011, Parties also decided to designate the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an operating entity of the financial mechanism. The financial mechanism is accountable to the COP, which decides on its policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria for funding.
Green Climate Fund (GCF)
At COP16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing Parties. The Fund will be governed by the GCF Board. More information here.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs)
The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). Less prevalent –but very powerful — greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
Group of 77 (G-77) and China
A large negotiating alliance of developing countries that focuses on numerous international topics, including climate change. The G-77 was founded in 1967 under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It seeks to harmonise the negotiating positions of its 131 member states.
Refers to the concern that some governments will be able to meet their targets for greenhouse-gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol with minimal effort and could then flood the market with emissions credits, reducing the incentive for other countries to cut their own domestic emissions.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
This body was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC surveys world-wide scientific and technical literature and publishes assessment reports that are widely recognized as the most credible existing sources of information on climate change. The IPCC also works on methodologies and responds to specific requests from the Convention’s subsidiary bodies. The IPCC is independent of the Convention.
It is an international agreement standing on its own, and requiring separate ratification by governments, but linked to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol, among other things, sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by industrialized countries.
Three procedures established under the Kyoto Protocol to increase the flexibility and reduce the cost of making greenhouse-gas emissions cuts. They are the Clean Development Mechanism, Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation.
Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
The world’s poorest countries. The criteria currently used by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for designation as an LDC include low income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability. Currently 48 countries have been designated by the UN General Assembly as LDCs.
Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG)
A panel of 13 experts which provides advice to LDCs on the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) — plans for addressing the urgent and immediate needs of those countries to adapt to climate change.
Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF)
The LDCF is a fund established to support a work programme to assist Least Developed Country Parties to carry out, inter alia, the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs). The Global Environment Facility, as the entity that operates the financial mechanism of the Convention, has been entrusted to operate this fund. More information here.
Loss and damage
At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a work programme in order to consider approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework.
These are agreements reached at COP-7, which set various rules for “operating” the more complex provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Among other things, the accords include details for establishing a greenhouse-gas emissions trading system; implementing and monitoring the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism; and setting up and operating three funds to support efforts to adapt to climate change.
A formal gathering that occurs during a “session.” Each session of the COP, for example, is divided into a number of meetings. A meeting is generally scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Denotes a Miscellaneous document. These documents are not translated and are issued on plain paper with no United Nations masthead. In the UNFCCC process, submissions by Parties are normally issued as miscellaneous documents. They generally contain views or comments published as received from a delegation without formal editing.
In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other “sinks” to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
NDC – Nationally Determined Contributions
As part of the Paris Agreement, every country agreed to communicate or update their emissions reduction targets – their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – every five years to reflect their highest possible ambition and a progression over time.
These targets set out how far countries plan to reduce emissions across their entire economy and/or in specific sectors. The year 2020 marked the end of the first of these five-year cycles. This means that countries were expected to update their 2030 targets before the meeting in Glasgow.
According to Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement, each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.
Agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Governments not Parties to the Convention which are permitted to attend, but not vote, at meetings of the COP, the CMP and the subsidiary bodies. Observers may include the United Nations and its specialised agencies; other intergovernmental organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
An international agreement linked to an existing convention, but as a separate and additional agreement which must be signed and ratified by the Parties to the Convention concerned. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments.
Formal approval, often by a Parliament or other national legislature, of a convention, protocol, or treaty, enabling a country to become a Party. Ratification is a separate process that occurs after a country has signed an agreement. The instrument of ratification must be deposited with a “depositary” (in the case of the Climate Change Convention, the UN Secretary-General) to start the countdown to becoming a Party (in the case of the Convention, the countdown is 90 days).
Three environmental conventions, two of which were adopted at the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). The third, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), was adopted in 1994. The issues addressed by the three treaties are related — in particular, climate change can have adverse effects on desertification and biodiversity — and through a Joint Liaison Group, the secretariats of the three conventions take steps to coordinate activities to achieve common progress.
Rules of procedure
The parliamentary rules that govern the procedures of the COP, the CMP and the subsidiary bodies, covering such matters as decision-making and participation. The COP has not yet formally adopted rules of procedure, but all except one (on voting) are currently being “applied.” As such, they are commonly referred to as the “draft rules of procedure being applied”.
The office staffed by international civil servants responsible for “servicing” the UNFCCC Convention and ensuring its smooth operation. The secretariat makes arrangements for meetings, compiles and prepares reports, and coordinates with other relevant international bodies. The Climate Change Secretariat, which is based in Bonn, Germany, is institutionally linked to the United Nations.
“Spill-over effects” (also referred to as “rebound effects” or “take-back effects”)
Reverberations in developing countries caused by actions taken by developed countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. For example, emissions reductions in developed countries could lower demand for oil and thus international oil prices, leading to more use of oil and greater emissions in developing nations, partially off-setting the original cuts. Current estimates are that full-scale implementation of the Kyoto Protocol may cause 5 to 20 per cent of emissions reductions in industrialised countries to “leak” into developing countries.
The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.
Youth non-governmental organisation. YOUNGO is the official youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). YOUNGO is made up of organisations and individuals who identify as youth. It is not an organisation, but, rather, a collection of groups and/or individuals.
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