Glossary of climate change acronyms and terms

Glossary of climate change acronyms and terms


Assigned amount unit. A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. Each Annex I Party issues AAUs up to the level of its assigned amount, established pursuant to Article 3, paragraphs 7 and 8, of the Kyoto Protocol. Assigned amount units may be exchanged through emissions trading.

Refers to reducing the degree or intensity of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Adaptation Committee. The Adaptation Committee was established by the Conference of the Parties as part of the Cancun Agreements to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner under the Convention, inter alia, through various functions. More information available here.

An act whereby a State becomes a Party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other States; has the same legal effect as ratification.

Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

Adaptation Fund
The Adaptation Fund was established to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable and are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The Fund is to be financed with a share of proceeds from clean development mechanism (CDM) project activities and receive funds from other sources. It is operated by the Adaptation Fund Board. More information available here.

Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. The ADP is a subsidiary body established at COP 17 in Durban in 2011 to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. The ADP is to complete its work by 2015 in order to adopt this protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session of the COP and for it to come into effect from 2020. More information here.

Planting of new forests on lands that historically have not contained forests.

Ad hoc Group on Article 13. A subsidiary body (committee) created by COP-1 to explore how to help governments overcome difficulties experienced in meeting their commitments under the Climate Change Convention (1995-1998).

Ad hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate. A subsidiary body created by COP-1 to conduct the talks that led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. The AGBM concluded its work on 30 November 1997.

Activities implemented jointly. Activities carried out under the Convention to mitigate climate change through partnerships between an investor from a developed country and a counterpart in a host country under a pilot phase that ended in the year 2000. The purpose was to involve private-sector money in the transfer of technology and know-how. See also JI - Joint Implementation

A modification by the COP to the text of the Convention. If consensus cannot be reached, an amendment must win three-quarters of the votes of all Parties present and casting ballots.

Annex I Parties
The industrialized countries listed in Annex I to the Convention, which committed to returning their greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000 as per Article 4.2 (a) and (b). They have also accepted emissions targets for the period 2008-12 as per Article 3 and Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol. They include the 24 original OECD members, the European Union, and 14 countries with economies in transition. (Croatia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Slovenia joined Annex 1 at COP-3, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia replaced Czechoslovakia.) List of Parties to the Convention can be found here.

Annex II Parties
The countries listed in Annex II to the Convention which have a special obligation to provide financial resources and facilitate technology transfer to developing countries. Annex II Parties include the 24 original OECD members plus the European Union. List of Parties to the Convention can be found here.

Anthropogenic greenhouse emissions
Greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from human activities.

Alliance of Small Island States. An ad hoc coalition of low-lying and island countries. These nations are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and share common positions on climate change. The 43 members and observers are American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guam, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu.

Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement. The APA was established to prepare for the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and for the convening of the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA). More information here

Article 4.1
An article of the Convention stipulating general commitments assumed by all Parties, developing or developed.

Article 4.2
An article of the Convention stating the specific commitments of developed-country (Annex I) Parties only -- notably that they would take measures aimed at returning greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Article 6 Supervisory Committee
A committee providing international oversight of "track-two" joint implementation projects. Joint implementation projects are carried out by sponsoring and recipient developed countries under Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol -- with the recipient likely to be a country with an "economy in transition". Track-two is used if one or both of the countries does not meet requirements for the standard ("track one") joint implementation programme. See track two.

Ad hoc Working Group on further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto ProtocolThe AWG-KP was established in 2005 by Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal to consider further commitments of industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol for the period beyond 2012. More information here

Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. The AWG-LCA was established in Bali in 2007 to conduct negotiations on a strengthened international deal on climate change. More information here.


Bali Action Plan. Included in the Bali Road Map, agreed at the Conference of the Parties in Bali, Indonesia in 2007 (COP13), introduced AWG-LCA.

Bali Road Map
The Bali Road Map was adopted at the 13th Conference of the Parties and the 3rd Meeting of the Parties in December 2007 in Bali. The Road Map is a set of a forward-looking decisions that represent the work that needs to be done under various negotiating "tracks" that is essential to reaching a secure climate future. It includes the Bali Action Plan, which charts the course for a new negotiating process designed to tackle climate change, with the aim of completing this by 2009. It also includes the AWG-KP negotiations, the launch of the Adaptation Fund, the scope and content of the Article 9 review of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as decisions on technology transfer and on reducing emissions from deforestation.

Berlin Mandate
Adopted at COP-1, the mandate that launched negotiations leading to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol.

Business and industry non-governmental organisations.

Biomass fuels or biofuels
A fuel produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants.
These fuels are considered renewable as long as the vegetation producing them is maintained or replanted, such as firewood, alcohol fermented from sugar, and combustible oils extracted from soy beans. Their use in place of fossil fuels cuts greenhouse gas emissions because the plants that are the fuel sources capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Bonn agreements
Informal term for a political deal reached at COP-6 in Bonn, Germany, in 2001, by which governments agreed on the most politically controversial issues under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. The Bonn agreements paved the way for the Marrakech Accords later in the same year.

Bonn fund
A special UNFCCC fund for contributions from the Government of Germany to cover costs of UNFCCC events held in Bonn.

Brazilian proposal
A proposal by the delegation of Brazil made in May 1997 as part of the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. It included a formula to set differentiated emission reduction targets for Parties based on the cumulative impact of Parties' historic emissions on the global average surface temperature.

Bunker fuels
A term used to refer to fuels consumed for international marine and air transport.

A body responsible for directing the work of the COP. Its 10 members are delegates elected by each of five regional groups. The Bureau includes the COP President, six Vice Presidents, the Chairs of SBI and SBSTA, and a rapporteur. Each of the Convention's subsidiary bodies also has a Bureau.


Negotiating coalition of countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Albania, and the Republic of Moldova.

Capacity building
In the context of climate change, the process of developing the technical skills and institutional capability in developing countries and economies in transition to enable them to address effectively the causes and results of climate change.

Carbon market
A popular (but misleading) term for a trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to meet their national limits on emissions, either under the Kyoto Protocol or under other agreements, such as that among member states of the European Union. The term comes from the fact that carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas, and other gases are measured in units called "carbon-dioxide equivalents."

Carbon sequestration
The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir.

Cartagena Dialogue
A collection of around 40 countries working towards an ambitious legally binding agreement under the UNFCCC, and who are committed to becoming or remaining low carbon domestically. Participates include: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Burundi, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, European Union, France, Gambia, Georgia,  Germany, Ghana,  Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Maldives, Marshall Islands, México, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Samoa, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, UAE, and the United Kingdom. 
Convention on Biological Diversity.

Training methodology for assessing vulnerability to climate change.

Clean Development Mechanism. A mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol through which developed countries may finance greenhouse-gas emission reduction or removal projects in developing countries, and receive credits for doing so which they may apply towards meeting mandatory limits on their own emissions.

CDM Help Desk
A support initiative for project participants, developers, coordinating and/or managing entities (CMEs), designated national authorities (DNAs) and designated operational entities (DOEs) to get reliable and timely information from the secretariat on issues regarding their CDM projects. It is only available to stakeholders in Africa, least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and countries that had 10 or fewer registered CDM projects as of 31 December 2010, as long as the project is in the process of validation or verification.

CDM Loan Scheme
An interest-free, loan initiative that provides funding to projects for development of PDD, validation, and first verification. It applies to projects located in host countries with less than 10 CDM project activities registered with the UNFCCC (as of 1 January of the year of submission), with a high probability of registration with the UNFCCC and generating at least 7,500 CERs/year for projects in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and 15,000 CERs/year in non-LDCs. More information here.

Central Group
Formerly CG-11, a negotiating coalition of Central European Annex I Parties, now called the Central Group.

Certified emission reductions (CER)
A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. CERs are issued for emission reductions from CDM project activities. Two special types of CERs called temporary certified emission reduction (tCERs) and long-term certified emission reductions (lCERs) are issued for emission removals from afforestation and reforestation CDM projects.


Central Group 11 (negotiating coalition of Central European Annex I parties).

Consultative Group of Experts on National Communications from non-Annex I Parties. A panel established to improve the preparation of national communications from developing countries. National communications are an obligation of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.


Chair (or Chairman, Chairperson, etc.)
National delegates elected by participating governments to lead the deliberations of the Convention's subsidiary bodies. Different chairs may be elected for other informal groups. The Chair is responsible for facilitating progress towards an agreement and serves during the inter-sessional period until the next COP.

Clearing house
A service which facilitates and simplifies transactions among multiple parties.

Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. All States that are Parties to the Paris Agreement are represented at the CMA, while States that are not Parties participate as observers. The CMA oversees the implementation of the Paris Agreement and takes decisions to promote its effective implementation. More information here.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention's supreme body is the COP, which serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The sessions of the COP and the CMP are held during the same period to reduce costs and improve coordination between the Convention and the Protocol. More information here

Carbon dioxide.

Coalition for Rainforest Nations
A voluntary grouping of largely developing nations with rainforests which addresses issues surrounding environmental sustainability specific to tropical rainforests. Participation does not necessarily imply that countries adhere to any specific domestic policies or negotiating positions within the international context. At September 2011, the group included Argentina, Bangladesh, Belize, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, DR Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Thailand, Uruguay, Uganda, Vanuatu and Vietnam. Countries participate on a voluntarily basis primarily through unified negotiating positions, workshops and collaborative programs. 

Committee of the Whole
Often created by a COP to aid in negotiating text. It consists of the same membership as the COP. When the Committee has finished its work, it turns the text over to the COP, which finalizes and then adopts the text during a plenary session.

Compliance Committee
A committee that helps facilitate, promote and enforce compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. It has 20 members with representation spread among various regions, small-island developing states, Annex I parties and non-Annex I parties, and functions through a plenary, a bureau, a facilitative branch and an enforcement branch. More information here.

Fulfilment by countries/businesses/individuals of emission reduction and reporting commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

Contact group
An open-ended meeting that may be established by the COP, a subsidiary body or a Committee of the Whole wherein Parties may negotiate before forwarding agreed text to a plenary for formal adoption. Observers generally may attend contact group sessions.

Conference of the Parties. The supreme body of the Convention. It currently meets once a year to review the Convention's progress. The word "conference" is not used here in the sense of "meeting" but rather of "association". The "Conference" meets in sessional periods, for example, the "fourth session of the Conference of the Parties." More information here

Common Reporting Format. Standardized format for reporting estimates of greenhouse-gas emissions and removals and other relevant information by Annex I Parties.

Conference room papers. A category of in-session documents containing new proposals or outcomes of in-session work. CRPs are for use only during the session concerned.

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.


A non-binding political statement made by ministers attending a major meeting (e.g. the Marrakesh Ministerial Declaration of COP-7).

Conversion of forest to non-forest.

Designated National Authority (DNA)
An office, ministry, or other official entity appointed by a Party to the Kyoto Protocol to review and give national approval to projects proposed under the Clean Development Mechanism. More information here.

DNA Help Desk
A support initiative for Designated National Authorities (DNAs) to provide advice, support and assistance with the submission of proposals for standardized baselines, recommendations of microscale renewable energy technologies for automatic additionality, or grid emission factors. It targets DNAs from least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing States (SIDS), African countries, or Parties with less than 10 registered projects as of 31 December 2010. It is possible for project participants and designated operational entities (DOEs) to liaise with a DNA to submit a request on their behalf.

Documents fall into different categories. Official documents are available to everyone and feature the logos of the United Nations and the Climate Change Convention. They carry a reference number, such as FCCC/CP/1998/1. Pre-session documents are available before a meeting, often in all six UN languages. In-session documents are distributed on-site (see CRPs, L docs, Misc. docs, Inf. docs and non-papers). Informal documents are often distributed outside the meeting room by observers.

Drafting group
A smaller group established by the President or a Chair of a Convention body to meet separately and in private to prepare draft text -- text which must still be formally approved later in a plenary session. Observers generally may not attend drafting group meetings.


Countries with Economies in Transition. Central and East European countries and former republics of the Soviet Union in transition from state-controlled to market economies.

Emission reduction unit (ERU)
A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. ERUs are generated for emission reductions or emission removals from joint implementation projects.

Emissions trading
One of the three Kyoto mechanisms, by which an Annex I Party may transfer Kyoto Protocol units to, or acquire units from, another Annex I Party. An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in emissions trading.

Entry into force
The point at which an intergovernmental agreement becomes legally binding -- occurring at a pre-stated interval after a pre-stated and required number of ratifications by countries has been achieved. The Climate Change Convention required 50 ratifications to enter into force. It now enters into force for each new Party 90 days after that Party ratifies the Convention.

Environmental Integrity Group
A coalition or negotiating alliance consisting of Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Monaco.

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

European Union (EU)
As a regional economic integration organization, the EU is a Party to both the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. However, it does not have a separate vote from its member states. Because the EU signed the Convention when it was known as the EEC (European Economic Community), the EU retains this name for all formal Convention-related purposes. Members are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism
A 10-member panel elected at COP-7 which supervises the CDM.

Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT)
An expert group established at COP 7 with the objective of enhancing the implementation of Article 4.5 of the Convention, by analyzing and identifying ways to facilitate and advance technology transfer activities under the Convention. The EGTT completed its work in 2010.

Expert review teams
Groups of experts, nominated by Parties, who review national reports submitted by Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Fast-start Finance (FSF)
At COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, developed countries pledged to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 - 2012 and with balanced allocation between mitigation and adaptation. This collective commitment has come to be known as "Fast-start Finance". More information here.

Financial Mechanism
To facilitate the provision of climate finance, the Convention established a financial mechanism to provide funds to developing country Parties. The financial mechanism also serves the Kyoto Protocol. The Convention states that the operation of the financial mechanism can be entrusted to one or more existing international entities. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has served as an operating entity of the financial mechanism for many years and at COP 17 in 2011, Parties also decided to designate the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an operating entity of the financial mechanism. The financial mechanism is accountable to the COP, which decides on its policies, programme priorities and eligibility criteria for funding.

Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in 2007.

Friends of the Chair
Delegates called upon by the Chair (who takes into account the need for political balance among various interests) to assist in carrying out specific tasks.

Fugitive fuel emissions
Greenhouse-gas emissions as by-products or waste or loss in the process of fuel production, storage, or transport, such as methane given off during oil and gas drilling and refining, or leakage of natural gas from pipelines.


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Global Climate Observing System.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)
The GEF is an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities. The Parties to the Convention assigned operation of the financial mechanism to the GEF on an on-going basis, subject to review every four years. The financial mechanism is accountable to the COP. More information here.

Global warming potential (GWP)
An index representing the combined effect of the differing times greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere and their relative effectiveness in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation.

Global Ocean Observing System.

Green Climate Fund (GCF)
At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties. The Fund will be governed by the GCF Board. More information here.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs)
The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). Less prevalent --but very powerful -- greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Group of 77 (G-77) and China
A large negotiating alliance of developing countries that focuses on numerous international topics, including climate change. The G-77 was founded in 1967 under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). It seeks to harmonize the negotiating positions of its 131 member states.

Group of Mountain Landlocked Developing Countries
Negotiating group formally established in June 2010 by the governments of Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikstan, focused issues faced by landlocked mountain developing countries specifically vulnerable to transportation costs and food insecurity, with a view towards expanding the group to include other interested countries.

Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Global Terrestrial Observing System.



"Hot air"
Refers to the concern that some governments will be able to meet their targets for greenhouse-gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol with minimal effort and could then flood the market with emissions credits, reducing the incentive for other countries to cut their own domestic emissions.


Independent Assessment Report, the output of an independent assessment of each Annex I Party's International Transaction Log, which in turn is part of the Party's reporting requirements to the UNFCCC. IAR is forwarded to expert review teams for consideration as part of the review of national registries under Article 8 of the Kyoto Protocol. the procedure to produce the IAR is designed to provide independent assessment of each national registry.

International consultation and analysis, a form of review currently being negotiated and designed in the UNFCCC intergovernmental process.

International Civil Aviation Organization.

International Climate Change Partnership - global coalition of companies and trade associations committed to constructive participation in international policy making on climate change.

International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives.

International Energy Agency.

Intergovernmental organization.

International Maritime Organization.

Actions (legislation or regulations, judicial decrees, or other actions) that governments take to translate international accords into domestic law and policy.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the UNFCCC (1990-1995). A committee created to draft the Convention. The INC met in five sessions between February 1991 and May 1992. After the text of the Convention was adopted in 1992, the INC met six further times to prepare for COP-1. It completed its work in February 1995. 

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. More information here

In-depth review (IDR)
A process by which an Annex I Party's implementation of the Convention and/or the Kyoto Protocol is technically assessed by international teams of experts.

INF document
Denotes an Information document. These documents are not translated and are available in the original language of issue.

Informal contact group
A group of delegates instructed by the President or a Chair to meet in private to discuss a specific matter in an effort to consolidate different views, reach a compromise, and produce an agreed proposal, often in the form of a written text.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme, the IPCC surveys world-wide scientific and technical literature and publishes assessment reports that are widely recognized as the most credible existing sources of information on climate change. The IPCC also works on methodologies and responds to specific requests from the Convention's subsidiary bodies. The IPCC is independent of the Convention.

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

International Standards Organization.

International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee (JISC)
The Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee (JISC), under the authority and guidance of the CMP, inter alia, supervises the verification procedure for Joint Implementation projects.

Joint Liaison Group (JLG)
Group of representatives of UNFCCC, CBD, and UNCCD Secretariats set up to explore common activities to confront problems related to climate change, biodiversity and desertification.

Joint implementation (JI)
A mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol through which a developed country can receive "emissions reduction units" when it helps to finance projects that reduce net greenhouse-gas emissions in another developed country (in practice, the recipient state is likely to be a country with an "economy in transition"). An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in joint implementation.

An acronym representing non-EU industrialized countries which occasionally meet to discuss various issues related to climate change. The members are Japan, the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand. Iceland, Mexico, and the Republic of Korea may also attend JUSSCANZ meetings.

Joint working group.


Kyoto Protocol
An international agreement standing on its own, and requiring separate ratification by governments, but linked to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol, among other things, sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by industrialized countries. More information here

Kyoto mechanisms
Three procedures established under the Kyoto Protocol to increase the flexibility and reduce the costs of making greenhouse-gas emissions cuts. They are the Clean Development Mechanism, Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation.


Land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF)
A 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.

L. docs
In-session documents that contain draft reports and texts for adoption by the COP or its subsidiary bodies. Usually such documents are available in all six UN languages.

That portion of cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions by developed countries -- countries trying to meet mandatory limits under the Kyoto Protocol -- that may reappear in other countries not bound by such limits. For example, multinational corporations may shift factories from developed countries to developing countries to escape restrictions on emissions.

Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
The world's poorest countries. The criteria currently used by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for designation as an LDC include low income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability. Currently 48 countries have been designated by the UN General Assembly as LDCs.

Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG)
A panel of 13 experts which provides advice to LDCs on the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) -- plans for addressing the urgent and immediate needs of those countries to adapt to climate change.

Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF)
The LDCF is a fund established to support a work programme to assist Least Developed Country Parties to carry out, inter alia, the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs). The Global Environment Facility, as the entity that operates the financial mechanism of the Convention, has been entrusted to operate this fund. More information here.

Loss and damage
At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments established a work programme in order to consider approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework. More information here.


Marrakesh Accords
Agreements reached at COP-7 which set various rules for "operating" the more complex provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Among other things, the accords include details for establishing a greenhouse-gas emissions trading system; implementing and monitoring the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism; and setting up and operating three funds to support efforts to adapt to climate change.

A formal gathering that occurs during a "session." Each session of the COP, for example, is divided into a number of meetings. A meeting is generally scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

MISC documents
Denotes a Miscellaneous document. These documents are not translated and are issued on plain paper with no United Nations masthead. In the UNFCCC process, submissions by Parties are normally issued as miscellaneous documents. They generally contain views or comments published as received from a delegation without formal editing.

In the context of climate change, a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other "sinks" to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international agreement adopted in Montreal in 1987.

Measurable, reportable and verifiable. A process/concept that potentially supports greater transparency in the climate change regime.


Nitrous oxide.

National adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs)
Documents prepared by least developed countries (LDCs) identifying urgent and immediate needs for adapting to climate change.

National communication
A document submitted in accordance with the Convention (and the Protocol) by which a Party informs other Parties of activities undertaken to address climate change. Most developed countries have now submitted their fifth national communications; most developing countries have completed their first national communication and are in the process of preparing their second.

National delegation
One or more officials empowered to represent and negotiate on behalf of a government.

Nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs)
At COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, Governments decided to set up a registry to record nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support, to facilitate the matching of finance, technology and capacity-building support with these actions, and to recognize other NAMAs. More information here.

According to Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement, each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions. More information here.

Not named

Non-Annex I Parties
Refers to countries that have ratified or acceded to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that are not included in Annex I of the Convention. List of Parties to the Convention is available here.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
Organizations that are not part of a governmental structure. They include environmental groups, research institutions, business groups, and associations of urban and local governments. Many NGOs attend climate talks as observers. To be accredited to attend meetings under the Convention, NGOs must be non-profit. More information here.

An in-session document issued informally to facilitate negotiations. A non-paper does not have an official document symbol. It may have an identifying number or carry the name of its author.

A state that has not ratified the Convention but attends meetings as an observer. More information here.

"No-regrets options"
Technology for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions whose other benefits (in terms of efficiency or reduced energy costs) are so extensive that the investment is worth it for those reasons alone. For example, combined-cycle gas turbines -- in which the heat from the burning fuel drives steam turbines while the thermal expansion of the exhaust gases drives gas turbines -- may boost the efficiency of electricity generating plants by 70 per cent.


Agencies, non-governmental organizations, and Governments not Parties to the Convention which are permitted to attend, but not vote, at meetings of the COP, the CMP and the subsidiary bodies. Observers may include the United Nations and its specialized agencies; other intergovernmental organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency; and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs). More information here.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.


A state (or regional economic integration organization such as the European Union) that agrees to be bound by a treaty and for which the treaty has entered into force. More information here.


A formal meeting of the entire COP, CMP or one of the subsidiary bodies. Formal decisions or conclusions may only be taken during plenary sessions.

Policies and measures (PAMs)
A frequently used phrase -- sometimes abbreviated as PAMs -- referring to the steps taken or to be taken by countries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. Some possible policies and measures are listed in the Protocol and could offer opportunities for intergovernmental cooperation.

The official of a member government elected by the Parties to preside over the COP and the CMP. The President is often a senior official or minister from the state or region hosting the Conference. The President may not participate in the negotiations as a representative of the member government during the term of presidency.

An international agreement linked to an existing convention, but as a separate and additional agreement which must be signed and ratified by the Parties to the convention concerned. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments.


Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Commitments (QELROs)
Legally binding targets and timetables under the Kyoto Protocol for the limitation or reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by developed countries.


Formal approval, often by a Parliament or other national legislature, of a convention, protocol, or treaty, enabling a country to become a Party. Ratification is a separate process that occurs after a country has signed an agreement. The instrument of ratification must be deposited with a "depositary" (in the case of the Climate Change Convention, the UN Secretary-General) to start the countdown to becoming a Party (in the case of the Convention, the countdown is 90 days).

A formal act of the COP or the CMP which is weaker than a decision or a resolution, and is not binding on Parties to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

Replanting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but that have been converted to some other use.

REG document
Regular documents have a serial number following the year. They are translated into all six official languages of the United Nations.

Regional groups
Alliances of countries, in most cases sharing the same geographic region, which meet privately to discuss issues and nominate bureau members and other officials for activities under the Convention. The five regional groups are Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), and the Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG).

Registries, registry systems
Electronic databases that tracks and records all transactions under the Kyoto Protocol's greenhouse-gas emissions trading system (the "carbon market") and under mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism. "Registry" may also refer to current discussions on a system for inscribing nationally appropriate mitigation actions.

Research and systematic observation
An obligation of Parties to the Climate Change Convention; they are called upon to promote and cooperate in research and systematic observation of the climate system, and called upon to aid developing countries to do so.

An exception or concern noted for the record by a Party in the course of accepting a decision of the COP or the CMP. No reservations are allowed to the Convention itself, or to the Protocol.

A component or components of the climate system where a greenhouse gas or a precursor of a greenhouse gas is stored. Trees are "reservoirs" for carbon dioxide.

Directives that guide the work of the COP or the CMP-- opinions rather than permanent legal acts. Unlike decisions, resolutions do not generally become part of the formal body of legislation enacted by the COP or the CMP.

Review of commitments
Regular scrutiny by Convention Parties of the adequacy of the treaty's Article 4.2 (a) and (b) outlining developed country commitments to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. The first review took place at COP-1 and led to a finding that progress was not "adequate" -- and so to negotiations that led to the Kyoto Protocol, which has more stringent commitments for developed countries.

Rio Conventions
Three environmental conventions, two of which were adopted at the 1992 "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), while the third, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), was adopted in 1994. The issues addressed by the three treaties are related -- in particular, climate change can have adverse effects on desertification and biodiversity -- and through a Joint Liaison Group, the secretariats of the three conventions take steps to coordinate activities to achieve common progress.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 4-6, 2012. The first UN Conference on Sustainable Development was the "Earth Summit", held in 1992, and it spawned the three "Rio Conventions"-- the UNFCCC, the UNCCD, and the UNCBD.

Removal unit (RMU)
A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent. RMUs are generated in Annex I Parties by LULUCF activities that absorb carbon dioxide.

Roster of experts
Experts nominated by Parties to the Climate Change Convention to aid the Secretariat in work related to review of national reports of Annex I Parties, preparation of reports on adaptation technology, the transfer of technology to developing countries, and the development of know-how on mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Rules of procedure
The parliamentary rules that govern the procedures of the COP, the CMP and the subsidiary bodies, covering such matters as decision-making and participation. The COP has not yet formally adopted rules of procedure, but all except one (on voting) are currently being "applied." As such, they are commonly referred to as the "draft rules of procedure being applied".


Sulphur hexafluoride.

Second Assessment Report (SAR)
An extensive review of worldwide research on climate change compiled by the IPCC and published in 1995. Some 2,000 scientists and experts participated. The report is also known as Climate Change 1995. The SAR concluded that "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." It also said "no-regrets options" and other cost-effective strategies exist for combating climate change.

The office staffed by international civil servants responsible for "servicing" the UNFCCC Convention and ensuring its smooth operation. The secretariat makes arrangements for meetings, compiles and prepares reports, and coordinates with other relevant international bodies. The Climate Change Secretariat, which is based in Bonn, Germany, is institutionally linked to the United Nations. More information here.

Small island developing States.

The signing by a head of state or government, a foreign minister, or other designated official indicating a country's agreement with an adopted international text, such as a Convention or Protocol, and signalling the country's intention of becoming a Party to the agreement.

Any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Forests and other vegetation are considered sinks because they remove carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF)
The SCCF was established to finance projects relating to adaptation; technology transfer and capacity building; energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management; and economic diversification. This fund should complement other funding mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), as the entity that operates the financial mechanism of the Convention, has been entrusted to operate this fund. More information here.

"Spill-over effects" (also referred to as "rebound effects" or "take-back effects")
Reverberations in developing countries caused by actions taken by developed countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. For example, emissions reductions in developed countries could lower demand for oil and thus international oil prices, leading to more use of oil and greater emissions in developing nations, partially off-setting the original cuts. Current estimates are that full-scale implementation of the Kyoto Protocol may cause 5 to 20 per cent of emissions reductions in industrialized countries to "leak" into developing countries.

Subsidiary body
A committee that assists the Conference of the Parties. Two permanent subsidiary bodies are created by the Convention: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Two major temporary bodies that exist currently are the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), established at COP 11 in Montreal, and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), established at COP 13 in Bali. Additional subsidiary bodies may be established as needed.

Square brackets
Typographical symbols [ -- ] placed around text under negotiation to indicate that the language enclosed is being discussed but has not yet been agreed upon.

Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI)
The SBI makes recommendations on policy and implementation issues to the COP and, if requested, to other bodies. More information here.

Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)
The SBSTA serves as a link between information and assessments provided by expert sources (such as the IPCC) and the COP, which focuses on setting policy. More information here.

Sustainable development
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


Technology transfer
A broad set of processes covering the flows of know-how, experience and equipment for mitigating and adapting to climate change among different stakeholders

Third Assessment Report (TAR)
The third extensive review of global scientific research on climate change, published by the IPCC in 2001. Among other things, the report stated that "The Earth's climate system has demonstrably changed on both global and regional scales since the pre-industrial era, with some of these changes attributable to human activities. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." The TAR also focused on the regional effects of climate change.

Track-two JI
One of two approaches for verifying emission reductions or removals under joint implementation, whereby each JI project is subject to verification procedures established under the supervision of the Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee. Track two procedures require that each project is reviewed by an accredited independent entity.

Trust funds
Funds earmarked for specific programmes within the UN system.

Technology Transfer Information Clearing House.

Trade related non-governmental organisations.


Umbrella group
A loose coalition of non-European Union developed countries formed following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. Although there is no formal membership list, the group usually includes Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States.

United Nations.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

United Nations Development Programme.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

United Nations Environment Programme.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Uniform report format
A standard format through which Parties submit information on activities implemented jointly under the Convention.


Voluntary commitments
A draft article considered during the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol that would have permitted developing countries to voluntarily adhere to legally binding emissions targets. The proposed language was dropped in the final phase of the negotiations. The issue remains important for some delegations and continues to be discussed, currently in the context of the Bali Action Plan, in terms of what constitutes "voluntary".

The degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.


World Climate Conference.

Western European and Others Group (United Nations regional group).

World Health Organization.

World Meteorological Organization.

World Summit on Sustainable Development.

World Trade Organization.


Youth non-governmental organisation