List of abbreviations / definitions
Additionality: this principle for CO2 offsetting refers to the fact that it should be assured that the reduction project in question should not have happened anyway. It should only be possible through the financial support of the offsetting scheme.
British Standards Institute: Since its foundation in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, BSI Group has grown into a leading global business services organization providing standards-based solutions in more than 150 countries. It is an independent, private, non-profit distributing company which helps organizations improve their quality and performance, reduce their risk, manage and protect their reputations, and help them be more sustainable. (Source: www.bsigroup.com)
Cap and trade: Also called emission trading. This is a market-based approach used to control pollution where a central authority sets a limit or a cap on the amount of pollutants that can be emitted. Emission rights (the total being equal to the cap) are allocated or sold to firms, which can then start trading them depending on their need. Firms that reduce their emissions can sell their remaining emissions rights, while firms that pollute more are obligated to buy more emissions rights. The cap is usually lowered over time.
Carbon credits: One carbon credit represents the financial investment to offset one metric ton of CO2 emission.
Carbon dioxide: also known as CO2, naturally occurs in the carbon cycle (plants, trees, oceans remove CO2 from the atmosphere which is eventually re-emitted to create a balance). This cycle went out of balance due to human activities that emit this gas, such as the burning of coals, gas and oil, cutting forests, etc.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC): this organic compound consists of carbon, chlorine and fluorine. Many of these CFC’s were used as refrigerants, aerosols and solvents. This gas is extremely dangerous to the ozone layer, because it causes the ozone layer to deplete. That’s why the Montreal Protocol phased out the manufacturing of this product.
Clean Development Mechanism: This mechanism creates carbon credits named ‘Certified Emission Reductions’ (CERs) through emission reduction projects in developing countries. When emitters exceed their emission allocations, they can purchase these CERs to make up the difference. The whole process is regulated by the United Nations. Website: cdm.unfccc.int
CO2 equivalent: Abbreviation: CO2e. Greenhouse gases are converted in CO2e’s (taking into account their global warming potential), so the different types of greenhouse gases can be compared to each other on a like for like basis. The CO2e of a given type and concentration of greenhouse gas is equal to the concentration of CO2 that would cause the same level of radiative forcing.
Compliance carbon market: The market in carbon credits that has come about as a result of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and, more recently, the EU Emission Trading Scheme.
IPCC: the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Institution (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to provide comprehensive scientific assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences, and possible options for adapting to these consequences or mitigating the effects. The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change, producing reports which have the agreement of all the leading climate scientists and the consensus of every one of the participating governments. http://ipcc.ch/
ISO: International Organization for Standardisation.
Life cycle assessment (LCA): This is a technique to measure the environmental impact of all stages of a product, from the resource extraction to the disposal phase.
Greenhouse effect: Heat-trapping components (greenhouse gases) in our atmosphere reduce the efficiency with which the Earth loses its heat to space, leading to an increase of the average temperature on Earth from -18 ˚C to 15 ˚C. Since the industrial revolution, humans have enhanced this natural phenomenon by massively emitting GHGs in our atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, clearing forests, etc.
Methane: This greenhouse gas has a warming effect that is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide (compared over a time frame of 100 years). Livestock, fossil fuel production, rice cultivation and waste management emit methane. (source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Nitrous oxide: Also known as laughing gas because it has euphoric effects when inhaling it. In comparison to carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide has 298 times more impact per unit weight over 100 years. Agricultural soil management, animal manure management and sewage treatment are some examples of nitrous oxide emission sources (source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Ozone: This gas is produced by fuel combustion and evaporation of cars, factories, aircrafts, paints, solvents… In the presence of sunlight, warm temperatures and light winds, unhealthy ozone levels occur and measures must be taken (such as a lower speed limit).
PAS: Publicly Available Specification.
Reduction possibilities: Depending on the type of emitter, the reduction possibilities will always differ from one to another. Some possibilities: switch to local produced renewable energy, switch to electric cars, become more energy efficient (turning down the heat, putting lights off…), but also, eat less meat (methane emitted by livestock is one of the largest methane sources globally, accounting for almost 28% of the global methane emissions worldwide).
Scope 1: Greenhouse gas emissions from combustion that are owned or controlled by the entity (described as direct emissions) e.g. GHG emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc. (Source: PAS 2060: 2010 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality).
Scope 2: GHG emissions from the generation of energy utilized in direct connection to the activities of a particular entity/subject bur occurring at sources owned or controlled by another entity e.g. electricity, heat, steam and cooling that is purchased or otherwise brought into the entity boundary (Source: PAS 2060: 2010 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality).
Scope 3: GHG emissions that are a consequence of the activities of an entity/subject but occur at sources owned by another entity and which are not classified as Scope 2 emissions e.g. the extraction and production of purchased materials, transportation of purchased fuels, etc. (Source: PAS 2060: 2010 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality)
UNFCCC: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the main international treaty on climate change, consisting of 194 parties. It was negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, also known as the Earth Summit. The treaty itself set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms, but it provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called "protocols") that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases. The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. More recently, The 2010 Cancún agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C relative to the pre-industrial level.
Voluntary carbon market: The market in carbon offsetting credits that has come about as a result of the demand of individuals and organisations to be able to offset carbon emissions originating from their lifestyle/operations. This market has no legally binding obligations, and there are many different ‘trading units’, which are often not transferrable due to different quality standards.
Water vapour: this is water, in the gas phase. It is a potent greenhouse gas because it holds hydroxyl, which can absorb infrared radiation. As the water vapour content of the atmosphere will increase in response to higher temperatures, it is expected that this will lead to a water vapour feedback mechanism that will amplify the initial warming effect caused by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations.
The IPCC has provided an extensive glossary for its Fourth Assessment Report, providing many more explanations of climate change related terms. The pdf document can be downloaded here.