Explainer: A field to climate jargon

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 Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, petrol, kerosene and natural gas is the main greenhouse gas responsible for warming the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo: Gallo Images/ Getty Images
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, petrol, kerosene and natural gas is the main greenhouse gas responsible for warming the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo: Gallo Images/ Getty Images

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Representatives from around the world will meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from today until November 18 to flesh out the rules of a new global climate pact. Decades of climate talks have spawned a host of acronyms and jargon. Here is a guide:

GLASGOW PACT

1. Reached at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the pact marked the first time a UN climate agreement mentioned the goal of reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The pact marked a breakthrough in efforts to resolve rules guiding the international trade of carbon markets to offset emissions.

With time running out for steep emissions cuts, the pact also urges nations to come up with more ambitious climate plans.

PARIS AGREEMENT

2. This is the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate treaty that expired in 2020. Agreed to in December 2015, the Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise in the average global surface temperature.

READ: Ahead of COP27, researchers call for climate compensation fund

To do this, countries that signed the accord set national pledges to reduce humanity’s effect on the climate, which are meant to become more ambitious over time.

GREENHOUSE GASES

3. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, diesel, gasoline, petrol, kerosene and natural gas is the main greenhouse gas responsible for warming the Earth’s atmosphere.

But there are others such as methane, which is produced by cows and waste dumps, which are much more potent than CO2 but are much shorter-lived in the atmosphere.

1.5°C

4. The Paris Agreement legally bound its signatories collectively to limit greenhouse gas emissions to keep the temperature rise “well below” 2°C this century.

But the countries also promised to pursue efforts to keep the rise below 1.5°C, which scientists say would help to avert some of the most catastrophic climate effects.

Soberingly, the world has already heated up by a little more than 1°C since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Even if all the pledges made so far are delivered, it is still on track for an average rise of 2.7°C this century, a UN report said.

COP27

5. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, made up of representatives from each country that signed the Paris Agreement, and which meets every year.

COP27, the 27th annual meeting, is being held under an Egyptian presidency in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTIONS

6. These are the pledges that each country makes to reduce its emissions and adapt to the climate crisis from 2020.

Countries have to update and expand their nationally determined contributions every five years. All signatories have submitted new pledges for the Glasgow Pact.

In sum, they are nowhere near enough, and a main aim of the conference is to use the negotiation process to increase them.

JUST TRANSITION

7The term used to describe a shift to a low-carbon economy that keeps the social and economic disruption of moving away from fossil fuels to a minimum, while maximising the benefits for workers, communities and consumers.

CLIMATE FINANCE

8. Richer countries agreed in 2009 to contribute $100 billion (R1.8 trillion) together each year by 2020 to help poorer countries adapt their economies and lessen the impact of rising seas, or more severe and frequent storms and droughts.

In 2015, they agreed to extend this goal through to 2025, but the target has yet to be met.

To put things into perspective, a US energy department official estimated that the US alone needed to invest $1 trillion a year to meet its new climate targets.

CBDR

9. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) was enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol.

It says that developed countries, which produced more emissions in the past as they built their economies, should take the lead in fighting the climate crisis.

The issue is always one of the most thorny in climate talks.

READ: COP27 | Africa must push for better in the fight for climate finance, say experts

The Paris Agreement sought to bind major, rapidly developing economies such as China and Brazil into the global effort to cut emissions, adding the words “in light of different national circumstances”. It does not, however, require them to make any immediate pledges to cut their emissions.

LOSS AND DAMAGE

10. Although richer countries have agreed to provide their poorer counterparts with funding to address the effect of the climate crisis, the latter continue to press for an agreed basis to assess liability for the losses and damage caused by climate change, and calculate compensation. 


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