UN-sponsored climate talks in Paris – commonly referred to as COP21 – have opened in the French capital, with leaders including French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping leading calls for a global deal.
The talks are riddled with jargon and acronyms that endlessly baffle those who are not experts in the field. To help you to decipher the official language of the two-week summit, here is a guide to the most important terminology – in video (above) and in glossary form (below).
Action to adjust human life to impacts of climate change.
Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP)
The ADP was established at COP17 in 2011. The aim of the ADP negotiations is to develop a “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” applicable to all Parties, which is to be completed no later than end-2015 – this is the reason that a deadline has been set for a new agreement to be reached in Paris this year.
Annex I parties
Industrialised nations and countries with economies in transition in 1992 that have to reduce emissions below 1990 levels by 2012.
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)
Negotiating group made up of 39 low-lying coastal and small island countries, currently chaired by the Maldives.
Important negotiating made up of the emerging bloc Brazil, South Africa, India and China. BASIC was formed in 2009 to jointly negotiate at COP15 in Copenhagen and has been a prominent coalition in the talks since.
Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAF)
Framework adopted as part of the Cancun Agreements at COP16 where it was affirmed that adaptation must be given the same priority as mitigation.
Conference of the Parties (COP)
Governing body of the UNFCCC that oversees implementation of the Convention, and negotiates new commitments.
Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)
Governing body of the Kyoto Protocol. Comprises all governments that are party to the Kyoto Protocol. Non-KP parties may also attend as observers.
Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement (CMA)
Provisional name given to the governing entity of the hoped for Paris agreement going forward.
Formal agreement leading to binding actions (unlike a resolution, which is a guiding opinion and is not legally binding).
Non-binding political statement made by ministers at major meeting.
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Responsible for the financial mechanism of the Convention, on policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria for funding.
Green Climate Fund (GCF)
Independent operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention. Established at COP16 in Cancun, the GCF is intended to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country parties using thematic funding windows. The fund recently approved its first eight projects, including a green bond in Latin America and adaptation initiatives in Africa and South Asia.
Group of 77 and China (G77+China)
The G77 was originally formed in 1964 with 77 members, but now comprises of 134 developing countries plus China – essentially the entirety of the global south. The G77 is a key player in the negotiations and has a history of blocking key decisions. South Africa currently holds the rotating Chairmanship of the group.
Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)
After years of deadlock and the collapse of the COP15 in Copenhagen, countries were called upon to define their own long-term goals for emission reductions and other actions to address climate change. These so called ‘contributions’ were requested to be submitted to the UN ahead of COP21. Almost all countries have published their INDCs, which will form the basis of an agreement in Paris.
Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)
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.
Least developed country (LDC)
47 countries designated by UN as the world’s poorest countries based on income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability.
Loss and damage
The idea that developed countries should provide some form for indemnity for developing countries that suffer from the impacts of climate change.
Action to reduce sources of greenhouse gases.
Monitoring, report and verification (MRV)
Actions aiming to increase transparency of climate change regime.
National appropriate mitigation action (NAMA)
Set of policies and actions that countries undertake to reduce emissions.
Non-Annex I parties
Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that were not listed in Annex I. Mostly developing countries.
A document issued informally during the talks to spark debate.
Quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELRO)
Legally binding emission reduction targets and timetables under the Kyoto Protocol.
Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD+)
A mechanism to use market and financial incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Square brackets [ ]
Square brackets are placed around sections of text that are under negotiation to indicate that the language is yet to be agreed upon.
Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI)
Assesses and reviews the implementation of the UNFCCC and reports to the COP. Looks at implementation issues, mechanisms, institutions, and compliance, including examining information in national communications and emission inventories.
Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)
Carries out scientific, methodological and technical work under the Convention and KP on the development and transfer of environmentally friendly technologies. Plays an important role in linking scientific information with policy-oriented needs of the COP.
Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI)
Committee that makes recommendations on policy and implementation issues to the COP.
Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA)
Committee that serves as link between information and assessments provided by expert sources and the COP.
Technology Executive Committee (TEC)
Committee established at COP16 in Cancun to facilitate the implementation of the Technology Mechanism.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The Convention sets an overall framework for global efforts among governments to tackle challenges posed by climate change.
Informal coalition of developed nations, comprising of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the US. Excludes the EU.
Optimism High as Climate Summit Convenes
Two weeks of United Nations climate talks begin Monday with at least 147 heads of state and government due to address envoys. So far, 177 of the 195 participating nations have submitted pledges to address climate change. Progress over the past year or more—alongside a growing conviction that strong action has to be taken—has left observers optimistic the deal that eluded negotiators in Copenhagen in 2009 can be completed today.
“The negotiations are in the best shape they have been in for many years,” said Mohamed Adow, climate adviser to the development charity Christian Aid. “What has helped is the U.S. and China have moved from the back of the class to the front.”
The unprecedented level of political engagement comes through in our daily survey, with 12 observers of the talks giving an average rating of 8 that a deal will be done. The scale goes from 0 (pessimistic) to 10 (optimistic.)