Environmental Jargon Buster





























Reductions in the degree or intensity of greenhouse-gas emissions.


The physiological adaptation to changes in the environment. It involves adaptations to a variety of factors, including temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.


The ways in which humans respond to the impacts of climate change – this may involve building bigger sea defences, or diversifying crops, for example. This is a means of coping with, rather than reducing emissions.


If a project is additional, it means that it would not have gone ahead in the absence of carbon finance. There are a number of criteria that are used to assess additionality, including
Is the project financially viable without carbon funding?
Is the project required by legislation in the country?
Is the project common practice?


The planting of new forests on lands that have never before contained forests. See also Deforestation and Reforestation.

Aggregate Impacts

This represents total impacts across sectors and regions. It includes measures such as the total number of people affected, and the total economic costs.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

This refers to the partnership of Small Island and low-lying coastal countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse affects of global climate change and therefore face similar development challenges. AOSIS has a membership of 43 States and observers.

Alternative Energy Sources

When energy is derived from sources that can be replenished, such as the wind, sun, and biomass, it is known as an alternative energy source. In the case where alternative energy sources are used, traditional fossil-fuel sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas are supplemented or replaced.

Anaerobic Decomposition / Digestion

This decomposition refers to the breaking down of organic materials in the absence of air (oxygen). In this scenario, Methane (CH4) is a by-product, and either escapes into the atmosphere or is used as an energy source.

Annex I Countries

These are the industrialised countries that have targets to reach under the Kyoto Protocol.

Anthropogenic Climate Impacts

These are impacts caused by humans, not by nature.

Assigned Amount Unit (AAU)

Equals 1 metric ton of CO2-equivalent as defined under the Kyoto Protocol. Units may be exchanged through emissions trading.






The transfer of unused or excess emissions allowances into the next budget period. This applies to Annex I Countries, as defined in the Kyoto Protocol.

Base Year

The year against which commitments to reduce emissions are measured. In the Kyoto Protocol, 1990 is the base year for most countries for the major greenhouse gases; 1995 is used as the base year for industrial gases.

Biofuel or Biomass Fuel [defined as “Biomass Energy”]

Fuels produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants. In the case where the plants producing them is maintained or replanted, these fuels are considered renewable. Examples would include soybean oil, or alcohol fermented from sugar.

Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW)

The fraction of public waste that will degrade within a landfill, thereby increasing landfill gas emissions, primarily methane.  The breakdown occurs due to a lack of oxygen (anaerobic conditions). Examples include: food waste, green waste, paper, and cardboard.

Biomass Energy

As trees and plants grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere; in many places around the world this biomass is burnt to provide energy. If the biomass is cut and cannot or does not re-grow, then it is being harvested unsustainably and may be described as non-renewable. If this is the case the CO2 released in combustion makes a net addition to concentrations in the atmosphere. However, if the plants grown for energy are replanted, then the process is renewable - the plants absorb CO2 one year, it is released again when it is burnt, absorbed again the following year and so on.


A system whereby several countries meet a reduction target together while having different individual targets, for example, the ‘EU bubble’.

Bunker Fuel

Fuels supplied to ships and aircraft which, when burned, releases many air-borne pollutants.

Byrd-Hagel Resolution

This refers to the decision by the United States (US) Senate that the US would not sign the Kyoto Protocol unless it involved "meaningful" participation by developing countries. Their resistance was based on the belief that they shouldn’t have to slow their development by curbing their emissions when they didn't cause the problem in the first place.





Cap and Trade

An approach to reducing pollution in which the government set an overall cap on emissions and creates allowances, or limited authorisations to emit, up to the level of the cap. Sources are free to buy or sell allowances or “bank” them to use in future years (EPA).

Sources comply with the program by holding enough allowances to cover their emissions. Sources have the option to:

  • Lower their emissions to free up allowances to trade, sell, or bank.
  • Continue emitting at levels higher than their allowance holdings and purchase allowances to cover the excess.

Government sets the goal that industries must meet and monitors whether they comply. Industries have flexibility in determining how they meet that goal. Cap and trade programmes include several key elements including:

  • An emissions cap – establishing a fixed quantity of allowable emissions for each compliance period.
  • Coverage – determining sources and/or sectors included.
  • Rigorous emission monitoring, reporting, and verification.

Capacity Building

The process of developing technical skills and institutional capability to allow developing countries and economies in transition to be able to address the causes and results of climate change.

Carbon Funding or Finance

Is where an investor pays a project developer in return for ownership of the emissions reductions achieved by that project over a certain time period. Funding may be provided as capital at the start of a project, as income over its life or as a mixture of the two.

Carbon Market

To adhere to the Kyoto Protocol (or other such agreements), countries can buy or sell units of greenhouse-gas emissions in order to meet their national limits on emissions. This was termed as the ‘carbon market’ because of the fact that carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas.

Carbon Offsetting

This is where businesses or individuals seek to offset their own CO2 emissions by funding projects like renewable energy, energy efficiency or reforestation that are claimed to reduce or absorb emissions elsewhere.

Carbon Sequestration

Removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and storing it elsewhere. This could be by planting trees to soak it up, or possibly by pumping it into underground reservoirs.

Carbon Taxes

Puts a tax on the carbon content of fuels. This means putting a tax on the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Thus, carbon tax is shorthand for carbon dioxide tax or CO2 tax.

Carbon will not be taxed in the case where carbon is included in a manufactured product such as plastic, but is not burned. Also, in cases where the carbon used to produce energy is permanently sequestered (stored) rather than released into the atmosphere, that carbon will not be taxed or a tax credit will be provided.

Introducing carbon taxes is seen as the central mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)

CERs are issued by the CDM Executive Board once a project has been validated and the emission reductions themselves have been verified. They can then be used by governments towards their Kyoto targets or by companies to trade in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The purchasing company surrenders the CERs to government as part of the company's emissions target.

Certified Emission Reductions (CER) Unit

Defined under the Kyoto Protocol, this is equal to 1 tonne of CO2-equivalent emissions which have been reduced through Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

The CDM allows Annex 1 countries that have targets under the Kyoto Protocol to make emission reductions overseas in non-Kyoto countries and count those reductions towards their own legal commitments. A CDM project is issued with Certified Emission Reductions, which may then be traded.

Clear Skies

This was a scheme offered by the UK government to give grants to householders and non-profit organisations towards the cost of installing small-scale renewable energy devices. The scheme has now closed and been replace by the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

Climate Change

The global climate system is subject to natural variation. However, the UNFCCC distinguishes the influence of human activities and thus defines climate change as that change in climate attributable to human activity arising from the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is additional to natural climate variability.

Climate Change Levy

This is a business tax on the use of energy which was introduced in 2001. It applies to electricity, gas, coal and LPG but not to fuels such as oil, diesel and petrol, which are already taxed under the Hydrocarbon Fuels Act. Large users of energy are given an 80% reduction in their Climate Change Levy bill (see Climate Change Levy Agreements).

Climate Change Levy Agreements

Users of large amounts of energy are given an 80% reduction in their Climate Change Levy bill in return for achieving improvements in energy efficiency. These are negotiated at sector level (i.e. paper, steel, glass-making) and the representative trade association for each sector decides the level of energy efficiency each of its members must achieve.

Climate Variability

Variances in the climate beyond those associated with the weather. Variability can be due to either internal processes (occurring within the climate system), or because of external forces (occurring as part of anthropogenic means).

CO2-equivalent (CO2e)

The conversion of gasses other than CO2 to their equivalence in global warming terms for comparison purposes. Sequestration rates of carbon are quantified in terms of CO2 removed from the atmosphere.

CO2 Fertilization

The enhanced growth of plants resulting from increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) / Co- Generation

This refers to using the waste heat from electricity generation for another useful purpose, for example, domestic or industrial heating purposes.

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Started its operation in 1962 with the then European Community intervening to buy farm output when the market price fell below an agreed target level. The aim was to encourage better agricultural productivity so that customers had a stable supply of affordable food and ensure that the EU had a viable agriculture sector.

The latest reforms, covering the period 2009-2013, will make farmers spend 10% of their EU subsidies on projects to improve the countryside – which is double the current amount. The rules apply to farms that receive at least €5,000 in annual EU subsidies.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

The governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which advances the implementation of the Convention through the decisions it takes at its periodic meetings. The Kyoto Protocol was signed at the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP 4).

The last meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention was held in Bonn, Germany (19 - 30 May 2008). The next meeting of the Conference of the Parties will take place in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.

Copenhagen Convention

This is the 15th annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) under the United National Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) and takes place from 7-18 December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It follows the Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012 and is expected to finalise a new agreement. Key issues to be discussed include the following:

  • Measuring the reductions of emissions among participating countries;
  • Seeking agreement on the continued commitment of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond the initial “commitment period” of 2008-2012;
  • The possibility of expanding this agreement to the international maritime industry and aviation industry (these are currently omitted from the Kyoto Protocol);
  • Issues surrounding Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the possibility of Carbon Capture and Storage;
  • Whether the agreement will include measures to curb the rate of deforestation, especially of tropical rainforests in developing countries.






The conversion of forest to non-forest. See also Afforestation and Reforestation.

Demand Side Management

In the energy sector, the management and reduction of energy use through incentives and other measures to reduce and/or manage customer demand for energy more efficiently.





Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.

The International Ecotourism Society defines the guiding principles of ecotourism as being about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:

  • Minimize impact.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate

Emissions Reduction Unit (ERU)

This is equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 emissions reduced from a Joint Implementation (JI) project.

Emissions Trading

A system that allows countries or businesses that have committed to CO2 reduction targets to ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ emissions permits among themselves, which, in many cases allows participants to reduce emissions where it is most cost-effective to do so.

Energy Efficiency

The ratio of energy output of a conversion process, or of a system to its energy input.

Entergy Intensity

The ratio of energy consumption to economic or physical output. For Ireland, the energy intensity would equate to the ratio of the final energy consumption to Gross Domestic Product.

Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs)

Technologies that generally use all resources in a more sustainable manner, and protect the environment by satisfying some of the following scenarios:

  • Pollute less;
  • Recycle more waste and products;
  • Handle residual waste in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they are substitutes;
  • Are compatible with socio-economic, cultural, and environmental priorities.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme

The EUETS started in January 2005. The main participants in the scheme are large industrial users of energy who are allocated a maximum emissions cap by the government. Companies that reduce emissions below this cap may sell emission reductions to those who have exceeded their targets thereby ensuring that emission reductions are made in a cost effective manner across the economy.





Flexible Mechanisms

The three flexible measures that are provided for in the Kyoto Protocol are, as follows:

Fossil Fuel

Peat, coal, fuels derived from crude oil (e.g. petrol and diesel) and natural gas are called fossil fuels because they have been formed over long periods of time from ancient organic matter. All contain varying amounts of carbon, and in the recovery of energy from the fuel through combustion in the presence of air, the carbon combines with the oxygen to form CO2, which is vented to the atmosphere.

Fuel Bunkering

Fuel that is bought in Ireland by private motorists and hauliers but consumed outside Ireland. It is also known as ‘fuel tourism’.

Fugitive Fuel Emissions

The loss, waste, or by- product of greenhouse-gas emissions in the process of fuel production, storage, or transport.





Global Warming

The rise of the earth’s surface temperature caused by the greenhouse effect. This, in turn, is responsible for climate change.

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

The GWP is used to compare the abilities of different greenhouse gases to trap heat in the atmosphere. GWPs are based on the radiative efficiency (heat-absorbing ability) of each gas relative to that of carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as the decay rate of each gas (the amount removed from the atmosphere over a given number of years) relative to that of CO2. The GWP provides a construct for converting emissions of various gases into a common measure, which allows climate analysts to aggregate the radiative impacts of various greenhouse gases into a uniform measure denominated in carbon or carbon dioxide equivalents.

Gold Standard

This is awarded to CDM and voluntary projects that have higher sustainable development credentials than required by the CDM rules. The Gold Standard (GS) was set up by a group of environmental NGOs who wanted to encourage developers to run high quality projects. The GS board run a GS VER accreditation scheme for the voluntary market.

Greenhouse Gases

Gases occurring naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. The most important greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and Fluorinated Gases (F-Gases). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), those that are affected because of human activities are:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): e.g., the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products, and as a result of other chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement).

Methane (CH4): e.g., the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil, agricultural practices, and the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O): e.g., during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.

Fluorinated Gases: Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (i.e., CFCs, HCFCs, and halons).





Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

This is the authoritative scientific, intergovernmental body which looks at the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced which is relevant to understanding the risk of human interference with the global climate system.





A regional group alliance of the non- EU developed countries, which acts as an information sharing and discussion forum. JUSSCANNZ stands for Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand. Iceland, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and other invited countries may also attend meetings.

Joint Implementation

When a country finances a project that reduces net greenhouse-gas emissions in another developed country, they can receive emissions reduction units under the Kyoto Protocol.





Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is the international agreement on tackling climate change, drawn up in Japan in 1997. It linked to the UNFCCC. The core part of the Kyoto Protocol involves setting binding targets for industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.

Following the original Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was introduced and has now been ratified by over 140 countries. In 1997, at the fourth Conference of the Parties to the Convention, (often referred to as 'COP 4'), the Kyoto Protocol was signed. This laid out the targets for the industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol was ratified by the required number of countries in February 2005 and came into force. This means that in the five years between 2008 and 2012 the UK has to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, on average, to 12.5% below what they were in 1990. Each country has a different target, but the total emission reductions amount to 5.7% below 1990 levels.





Land-use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

When humans change the use of management of land. Presently, the rate, extent and intensity of LULCC are far greater than ever in history, which has been seen to drive unprecedented changes in ecosystems and environmental processes at local, regional and global scales.

Low Carbon Buildings Programme

Superceding the Clear Skies grant scheme, the LCBP will "provide grants for microgeneration technologies to householders, community organisations, schools, the public and not for profit sector and private businesses." You can find out more on their website: www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk





Metric Ton (Mt)

Common international measurement for the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) defines a metric ton as equal to 2205 lbs.


Measures seeking to avoid, reduce, or delay global warming by reducing any greenhouse gas emissions that are within human control.

Modal Shift

In the transport sector, the move from the use of one mode of transport to another (e.g. greater use of public transport, rather than private cars for commuting).




Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

An intergovernmental organisation made up of twelve oil-producing countries which coordinates and unifies the petroleum policies of Member Countries. They also ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.




Public Service Obligation (PSO)

An obligation placed on utility undertakings (generally in the energy sector) which take account of general social, economic and environmental factors.

Primary Energy

Energy in natural resources such as coal, crude oil, and sunlight that has not undergone any conversion or transformation by humans.




Radiative Forcing Index

Radiative Forcing is the change in radiation received at the surface of the earth due to the emission of greenhouse gas(es). The Radiative Forcing Index equates this to the effect of a similar quantity of CO2.

RFI is usually used in relation to aviation. It is similar to GWP, except that it is not integrated over time. The two are often used interchangeably but it is incorrect to do so.


When forests are planted on lands that have contained forests before, but that have been since converted to some other use. See also Afforestation and Deforestation.

REPS Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Provides an income support scheme for farmers run by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The aims of the Scheme are to:

  • Establish farming practices and production methods which reflect the concern for conservation and landscape protection.
  • Protect wildlife habitats and endangered species of flora and fauna.
  • Produce quality food in an environmentally friendly manner.


Energy generated from natural resources, for example, solar energy, hydropower, wind, tides, and carbon- neutral technologies such as biomass.





Carbon sequestration is the process where carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere by growing plants. Reforestation projects can be a source of carbon offsets, but at ClimateCare we prefer to invest in projects that prevent CO2 being released in the first place.

Sustainable Development

Development that meets human and environmental needs in the present, but also for future generations.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI)

The national agency for energy efficiency and renewable energy information, advice, and support.

Sustainable Tourism

Like sustainable development which involves “development that meets human and environmental needs in the present, but also for future generations”, sustainable tourism describes the same approach taken towards the development of tourism. It takes all impacts, positive and negative, into account.

Sustainable tourism has the following characteristics:

Economic prosperity

  • Long term competitive and prosperous tourism businesses,
  • Quality employment opportunities, fair pay and conditions for all employees.

Social equity and cohesion

  • Tourism that improves the quality of life of local communities,
  • Community involvement in tourism planning and management,
  • Safe, satisfying and fulfilling visitor experiences.

Environmental and cultural protection

  • Reduced pollution and degradation of the global and local environment,
  • Tourism that maintains and strengthens biodiversity,
  • Tourism that maintains and enriches our unique and diverse culture.




Technology Transfer

The exchange of knowledge, money, and equipment across different stakeholders so that the technology for adapting to or mitigating climate change is spread.

The Carbon Trust

Is a not for profit company set up by the UK Government in 2001. Its purpose is to advise businesses on how to reduce the amount of energy they use. The Carbon Trust works with both large and small companies. For more information visit the Carbon Trust website.





UK Emissions Trading Scheme

In 2002 33 companies voluntarily took on a legally binding obligation to reduce their emissions and began trading under this DEFRA scheme. Companies with Climate Change Levy Agreements can also buy and sell credits in the scheme to help them achieve their targets.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was the first international agreement on action to tackle human-induced climate change. While the UNFCCC encouraged countries to address greenhouse-gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol commits them to do so.





Verified Emission Reductions (VERs)

Also referred to as Voluntary Emission Reductions. This is a unit of emission reductions that has been verified by an independent auditor to a recognised standard.

Voluntary Agreement

In the context of the environment, this refers to an agreement between government and industry to facilitate voluntary action to improve environmental performance.




Water-use Efficiency (WUE)

Measures that reduces the amount of water used per unit of any given activity. In the context of the environment, this also extends to the maintenance or enhancement of water quality.





Alliance of Small Island States
Accessed at: http://www.sidsnet.org/aosis/

C Change Jargon Buster
World Development Movement,
London, www.wdm.org.uk
Email wdm@wdm.org.uk
Accessed at: http://www.wdm.org.uk/resources/briefings/climate/climatejargon13112006.pdf

Climate Change Glossary
BBC Science and Technology
Accessed at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1015162.stm

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Accessed at: http://www.epa.gov/

Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Accessed at: http://unfccc.int/essential_background/glossary/items/3666txt.php

Ireland National Climate Change Strategy, 2007- 2012
Department of the Environment,
Heritage and Local Government,
Custom House, Dublin 1, www.environ.ie 
Acccessed at: http://www.environ.ie/en/PublicationsDocuments/FileDownLoad,1861,en.pdf

The International Ecotourism Society
Accessed at: www.ecotourism.org/

Visit Scotland
Accessed at: http://www.greentourism.org.uk/what-is-sustainable-tourism.html

IPCC Glossary

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