What’s it all About? An ABC to the COP


World leaders have arrived in Paris today for the opening of the UNFCCC COP21 conference on climate change.  Over the next two weeks politicians, businesses and civil society will gather in the French capital in the hopes of hammering out a global deal to limit emissions and keep the earth’s temperature from rising above two degrees centigrade. The last time such a deal was on the table was in 2009 in Copenhagen, however, the Copenhagen conference famously failed.  Now, six years on, there is growing pressure on world leaders to come to an agreement.

As the European Conservative spokesperson on energy and climate change I will be blogging regularly from Paris, bringing you all the latest news and information as the negotiations unfold.  To get us started I’ve produced an ‘ABC to the COP’, giving you an insight into the often impenetrable jargon used by the United Nations.  Be sure to check back regularly on my website for all the latest news from Paris.

ABC to the COP – Do you know your mitigation from your adaptation? Your BINGO from your ENGO?

ADP (The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action)

ADP is a key part of the negotiations and will be fundamental to this week's talks.

ADP discussions are divided into two main areas, Workstream 1 (WS1) and Workstream 2 (WS2): WS1 is dedicated to this year's highly anticipated Paris COP 21 deal to devise a global “protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force”, which will enter into force in 2020; WS2 addresses climate action in the years up to 2020.

Annex 1 and Non-Annex 1 Parties

Quite possibly the most controversial area of the current talks, this refers to the division of Parties into two distinct groups: Annex 1 and non-Annex 1.  Annex 1 Parties are those considered to be wealthier industrialised states in 1992 (when the Rio Conventions were originally established). To date, these countries have been bound to emissions reductions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, whereas all other non-annex 1 states have much less of a legal obligation to act. 

Some countries view this distinction (referred to as the "firewall" in UNFCCC circles) as a major obstacle to agreeing an ambitious global deal, while others see it as essential to ensuring equal representation in the talks, and that those with historical responsibility for climate change take the greatest responsibility in tackling it.

Bali Roadmap

Action plan agreed at UN Climate Change Conference in 2007 to achieve a secure climate future.

BINGO (Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organisations)

It is not only countries that attend the climate negotiations, and BINGOs represent some of the most influential of the non-governmental groups present at each COP. 

Bottom-up vs top-down

As this year’s summit begins, the debate around the structure of the deal is centred on proposals for either a ‘bottom-up’ approach with countries setting their own, non-binding, voluntary reduction targets, or a more ‘top-down’ method where a common global goal for emissions reduction will be agreed and then divided between the Parties.  The US Secretary of State John Kerry intervened recently to state that the deal will not be a treaty, like Kyoto.  French President Francois Hollande has sugeested the deal may not be binding at all.

Carbon Offsetting

A way of compensating for emissions of CO2 by participating in, or funding, efforts to take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

CBDRRC (Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities)

This is a fundamental principle of the climate convention, and closely related to the division of parties into Annexes.  Although climate change is the common responsibility of all countries, Parties to the convention must recognise that certain countries have historic responsibility for climate change and that these states should be "first-movers" and take the lead, for example, on mitigation. 

In addition, CBDRRC recognises that the capability of states to act varies considerably due to factors such as finance and access to technology.

CDM (Clean Development Mechanism)

An important component of the Kyoto Protocol, CDM allows Annex 1 countries to gain emissions reductions credits by funding a variety of carbon-reduction projects in developing (non-Annex I) countries.  Originally perceived as a way for states to reduce global CO2 emissions while rolling-out low-carbon development in other countries, the mechanism is now seen as being flawed.  Some Parties even disagree with the basic premise of the mechanism, arguing that it allows annex 1 states to avoid committing to making the low carbon transition.

COP (Conference of the Parties)

Paris is the twenty first Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC; the first was held in Berlin in 1995.  When talks open this year in Paris, countries will have been negotiating for two decades.  Should the COP21 fail to agree an ambitious deal, questions will be raised about the UNFCCC as an effective mechanism for addressing climate change.

ENGO (Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations)

In addition to BINGOs, ENGOs comprise a large percentage of delegates attending the COP.

Fugitive Emissions

Unintended releases of gas, for example during the development of oil wells.

GCF (Green Climate Fund)

The GCF was formally established by parties at COP 16 in Cancun to finance activities in developing countries around combating climate change and its impacts. It is intended to be the centrepiece of long term financing under the UNFCCC, which has set itself a goal of raising $100 billion per year by 2020.  At present, a lack of pledged funds and potential reliance on the private sector is highly controversial and has been criticised by developing countries.  To date, 36 governments have pledged to the Green Climate Fund, totaling $10.2 billion.

INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions)

Despite being a major component of the discussions here in Paris, a standard definition for INDCs is still to be agreed by the convention. INDCs are meant to reflect the intended efforts that Parties to the UNFCCC are willing to make to tackle climate change; these goals must be seen in the context of a binding international framework.

Countries agreed last year in Warsaw at the COP19, to share their INDCs well in advance of Paris, working to a deadline of March 2015, in order to build trust and enable comparison of each country’s individual efforts. This requirement is particularly important as it applies to both developed and developing countries; a break from a convention that required different commitments from developed and developing countries. The final, agreed content of these INDCs will nevertheless vary significantly depending on national circumstances.

To date, more than 140 countries have submitted an INDC, covering 80% of the world’s carbon emissions.  Scientists believe they are not enough to keep the earth from warming above 2 degrees, instead they will only keep us within 3 degrees.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

The IPCC is the scientific body of the UNFCCC, and since its formation in 1988 has consistently provided clear warnings to act on climate change or face potentially devastating consequences.  The latest report is the IPCC fifth assessment report (AR5). 

The report makes clear that without swift and ambitious strategies to reduce our carbon emissions, global temperatures by the end of the century are likely to exceed the 2 degree limit necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol remains the only legally-binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions achieved by the UNFCCC and covers most annex 1 countries.  The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.  A second commitment period proposed in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment, will commit only Europe to further CO2 reductions until 2020 but it is still to be ratified.  The US, Canada and Japan have refused to commit to the new agreement, on the grounds that they will not sign up to a treaty with specified legal provisions to reduce emissions.


Stands for Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry.  LULUCF is a measurement of the amount of carbon taken from or released into the atmosphere as a result of changes to the use of land (for farming, for example) or from forestry activities.

MRV (Measurable Reportable and Verifiable)

MRV is another area of contention that will need to be resolved before a “global deal” is reached.  The USA and other, mainly Annex 1 parties want the mitigation targets and actions of all Parties to be inter-dependently measured and verified.  However, a number of non-annex1 countries, particularly China, remain opposed to its wider application.

Natural Capital

Natural resources, like water, air and soil.

Post-Consumer Waste

People’s rubbish.

Technology Transfer

The sharing of knowledge and equipment to help ‘stakeholders’ adapt to the demands of climate change.

Triple Bottom Line

As well as financial effects, the triple bottom line refers to the social and environmental effects that an organisation has.

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)

The UNFCCC was signed in 1992, and held its first COP in 1995. One of the three Rio Conventions (on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification) derived directly from the 1992 Earth Summit, it was established with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system”.

Water Footprint

The amount of fresh water used in making a product.