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An introduction to climate terminology, initiatives and abbreviations


2020 tied with 2016 as world’s hottest year on record (source). With temperatures rising, there is a growing awareness about the need for climate action which translates into an increase in climate initiatives in recent years. As a result, the international terminology relating to climate is extensive and can be confusing. To clarify things, we have created a list of the most important sustainability and climate terminology as these initiatives and their abbreviations can be quite overwhelming.

Terminology tied to the UNFCCC

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    The UNFCCC secretariat is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. The Convention has near universal membership (197 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement (More info).

  • Kyoto Protocol (11/12/1997 – 192 signatories & ratifications)
    The Kyoto Protocol commits industrialized countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets (More info).

  • Paris Climate Agreement (22/04/2016 – 197 signatories & 188 ratifications)
    The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the UNFCCC, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions, mitigation, adaptation, and finance. It is the first climate agreement that is legally binding for all countries. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This should be done by reducing emissions as soon as possible through Nationally Determined Contributions. In addition, the Paris Agreement also aims to increase the ability of parties to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change (More info).

  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)
    NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement. They embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change (More info).

  • Race To Zero
    Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth. It represents 454 cities, 23 regions, 1,397 businesses, 74 of the biggest investors, and 569 universities (More info).

Terminology tied to the SBTi

  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)
    The CDP is an international non-profit organisation that helps companies and cities disclose their environmental impact. It aims to make environmental reporting and risk management a business norm, driving disclosure, insight, and action towards a sustainable economy. It is also one of the founders of the Science Based Targets initiative (More info).

  • Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)
    The SBTi is a partnership between the CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The SBTi drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling companies to set science-based emissions reduction targets (SBTs). More specifically, the SBTi focuses on science-based GHG emission reduction targets, which ensure that companies reduce their emissions at a rate that is consistent with the level of decarbonisation required to limit warming to 1.5°C or well-below 2°C. Organisations that want to go further can opt for science-based net-zero targets. Science-based net-zero targets go beyond science-based GHG emission reduction targets because they ensure that companies also take responsibility for emissions that have yet to be reduced, or that remain unfeasible to be eliminated. Today, 1,009 companies, spanning 60 countries and nearly 50 sectors, are working with the SBTi to reduce their emissions (More info).

  • SME Climate Hub
    The SME Climate Hub is a global initiative that aims to create a tipping point for mainstreaming climate action and building business resilience for SMEs. The SME Climate Hub mentions SBTs as one possible way for SMEs to take climate action (More info).

Terminology tied to the EU

  • European Green Deal
    A new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050, and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use (More info).

Other initiatives

  • Alliances for Climate Action (ACA)
    ACA is a network of national alliances dedicated to driving ambitious climate action, increasing public support for addressing the climate crisis, and engaging national governments to decarbonize faster. ACA believes that to realize the transformation to a zero carbon future, we need everyone to advance climate solutions together (More info).

  • B Corp Climate Collective
    The B Corp Climate Collective is a member organisation of the UNFCCC's Race to Zero campaign. Over 800 B Corps have joined the B Corp Climate Collective and are committing to accelerate the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions to reach a 1.5 degree trajectory leading to net zero by the year 2030 – 20 years ahead of the 2050 targets set in the Paris Agreement (More info).