Campaigning on climate change can quickly become a quagmire of definitions, abbreviations, and confusion. We’ve tried to avoid that in this guide, and thought it would be helpful to start with some key terms and the definitions we find useful.
NET ZERO: A term that generally means net zero greenhouse gas emissions. As the UN says, “Put simply, net zero means we are not adding new emissions to the atmosphere. Emissions will continue, but will be balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.”
The concept has been around for a long time, and took a huge step forward in 2015 when some concepts related to net zero were included in the Paris Agreement.
Another key moment in the history of net zero was the IPCC special report in October 2018, which established the concept of ‘net zero by 2050’ as the scientific standard. Today, it is widely accepted as what humanity needs to do if it’s going to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. For more on the story of net zero, see this detailed excellent history.
1.5 DEGREES: Why 1.5 degrees? As the BBC explains, “1.5 degrees Celsius has become the new “safe” upper-limit for global warming after many years of campaigning by activists and policy makers.” And the New York Times says, “The Earth has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 19th century. Now, a major new United Nations report has looked at the consequences of jumping to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.”
NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS: NDC are at the heart of the Paris Agreement, and are key to achieving the Agreement’s long-term goals. NDCs represent efforts by individual countries to reduce their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
THE PARIS AGREEMENT A legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 countries at COP 21 in Paris on 12 December 2015, and entered into force on 4 November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Read more here.
COP 21 is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 countries at COP 21 in Paris on 12 December 2015, and entered into force on 4 November 2016. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Read more here.
THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC) Brought together by the United Nations to provide objective information to help us understand the scientific basis of the natural, political and economic risks of human-induced climate change, and possible ways of responding to it.
The UNFCCC The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force on 21 March 1994. Today, almost every country in the world is a member. The 197 member countries are called Parties to the Convention. Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC. The Convention is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
A JUST TRANSITION is both the outcome – a fairer, greener future for all – and the process that must be undertaken in partnership with those affected by the transition to net zero. It supports a net zero and climate-resilient economy in a way that delivers fairness and tackles inequality and injustice.