Home What are the terms used to describe sustainability & climate change & what do they mean?

Biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity within a given area. Biodiversity is crucial for the health of ecosystems and the planet.

Carbon Emissions – also known as greenhouse gas emissions – release carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities.

Carbon Footprint – is a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by a particular person, organization, product, or activity. A bigger carbon footprint means a bigger contribution of emissions of carbon dioxide and methane that go into the atmosphere.

Carbon Offset – is a way to compensate for your carbon emissions by supporting projects that produce clean energy or reduce carbon emissions in other ways.

Carbon Compensation – also known as carbon offsetting, is the voluntary or mandatory purchase of carbon credits to balance the emissions caused by an entity.

Carbon Credits – are a tradable permit or certificate that provides the holder of the credit the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide or an equivalent of another greenhouse gas. The main goal for the creation of carbon credits was initially the reduction of GHG emissions from industrial activities to reduce the effects of global warming.

Carbon dioxide – (CO2) is a colourless, odourless gas consisting of one part carbon and two parts oxygen. CO2 is a natural component of our planet’s atmosphere and is one of the most common greenhouse gases. It is released through human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, but also by natural processes.

Carbon Neutral – Achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and removed from the atmosphere, usually through carbon offsetting or carbon sequestration.

Carbon Positive – Carbon positive, or climate positive, is a term often used by companies to announce that they have moved beyond carbon neutrality by reducing/removing more greenhouse gas emissions than they are generating – confusingly ‘carbon negative’ means the same!

Carbon Sequestration – is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. Forests are considered one of the best forms of natural carbon sequestration.

Circular Economy – An economic model that aims to minimize waste and keep resources in use for as long as possible by promoting recycling, reusing, and repairing products.

Climate Change – Long-term alterations in temperature patterns and weather conditions caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily due to human activities.

Environment, Social, Governance – ESG is a framework used to measure a business’s non-financial performance in environmental, social and governance categories.

Global warming – is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gas – (GHG) Gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Greenwashing – is the practice of making misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company to appear more sustainable than it actually is.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations responsible for advancing knowledge on human-induced climate change. The IPCC has recommended to reduce CO2 emissions globally by 45% before 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Mitigation – Climate change mitigation describes the efforts to minimise or avoid the emission of greenhouse gases. Some examples of mitigation could be switching to renewable energy or making older equipment more energy efficient to limit the effects of climate change.

Net Zero – Reaching net zero requires us to ensure that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are balanced by human efforts to remove carbon dioxide emissions (for example, by creating carbon sinks to absorb carbon dioxide) – thereby stopping further increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Paris Climate Agreement – is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France, on 12 December 2015. A global climate deal was set by governments around the world of ‘1.5 degrees’ to limit global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Reforestation – is the process of replanting trees in areas that had recent tree cover but where forests were lost, due to wildfires, drought, disease, or human activity such as agricultural clearing.

Renewable Energy – is energy derived from natural sources that are constantly being replenished, such as wind, sunlight, the flow of moving water, and geothermal heat. In contrast to energy sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, which accounts for 75% of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, energy from renewable sources is cheap, clean, sustainable, and generates more jobs.

Sustainable Development – is the practice of meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves balancing economic, environmental, and social factors to ensure long-term well-being and the preservation of natural resources.

Remember, this is just a selection of terms, and there are many more concepts and vocabulary related to sustainability and climate change.