Following UN climate negotiations requires wading through alphabet soup—COP, NDCs, Article 6, GCF and more. We offer this cheat sheet to help you navigate. Refer to this jargon dictionary to get a better understanding of all things COP25, the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid from December 2-13.
COP: The Conference of the Parties, or the annual gathering of the 197 Parties that have joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty adopted in 1992 to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions. This year's COP in Madrid is the 25th, hence COP25.
Presidency: The country that takes political leadership and chairs the COP meetings. The presidency rotates between five regional groups. Chile has the presidency of this year's COP, which was initially to take place in Santiago. The location was shifted to Madrid after Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said his government needed "to prioritize re-establishing public order" after anti-government protests.
Party: A country or bloc of countries, like the European Union, that has joined an international agreement, such as the UNFCCC or the Paris Agreement.
Paris Agreement: An international climate change agreement under the UNFCCC. It was adopted at COP21 in Paris in 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016. There are currently 187 Parties that have formally joined the Paris Agreement; the rules for implementing it are a key topic of discussion at COP25.
CMA: Shorthand to describe the official Meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement. (The source of the acronym is even more cumbersome: Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.) The CMA is the official governing body of the Paris Agreement and makes key decisions regarding its rules and processes.
Long-term goals: The three major goals of the Paris Agreement, found in its Article 2. The first is for countries to collectively reduce emissions enough to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and aim for 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels. These are temperature thresholds scientists have said are necessary for preventing some of the worst effects of climate change. The second is to increase countries’ abilities to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience. The third is to make finance flows consistent with a low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development pathway.
Net-zero emissions: When a country is producing no emissions, either because it has actually phased out all emissions or because it is removing enough carbon from the atmosphere to offset the emissions it releases. (Learn more here.) Most scientific studies suggest that the world will need to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century in order to achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goals. So far, 66 countries have a process in place to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
NDC: A plan by a Party to the Paris Agreement to take climate action, also known as a nationally determined contribution. NDCs describe emissions-reduction targets and policies, adaptation plans and other climate action goals. Countries’ NDCs, bolstered by action from non-state actors such as cities, states and businesses, should combine to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Parties are meant to put forward new, strengthened NDCs every five years.
Withdrawal: The lengthy process of leaving the Paris Agreement. Only one country, the United States, has ever formally begun this process. U.S. withdrawal will not take effect until November 3, 2020, the day after its presidential elections. Under a new president, the United States could submit a communication that it will rejoin the Paris pact, which would take effect 30 days later. (Learn more here.)
Enhanced NDC: An updated, stronger NDC. Under the Paris Agreement, countries are required to submit a subsequent and stronger NDC according to cycles that take place every five years. Most countries submitted their first NDCs in 2015; the COP decision in Paris in 2015 requests that Parties put forward updated NDCs by 2020. So far, 68 countries have indicated that they will enhance their NDCs by 2020. (Learn more here).
Paris Rulebook: The rules and guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement. (Learn more here.) COP24 in Poland resulted in a 300-page document to facilitate implementation of the Paris Agreement, both collectively and for individual Parties. Key components of the “Rulebook” were left unresolved last year and will be up for debate at COP25, including setting a common time frame for NDCs and for Article 6 on international carbon markets.
Common time frame: An effort to ensure that all countries’ NDCs span the same timeframe, in order to facilitate tracking and transparency and to spur a faster pace of action. The NDCs that countries submitted in 2015 ranged in length, with some running to 2025 and others to 2030. Countries agreed at COP24 that beginning in 2031, all NDCs should adhere to a common time frame. Establishing the length of this common time frame — whether it’s a five-year period (such as 2031-2035), or another — is an important issue for discussion at COP25. (Learn more here.)
Article 6: The section of the Paris Agreement that allows countries to use carbon markets to achieve their emissions-reduction goals. In this arrangement, countries or project developers can sell emissions reductions they’ve achieved to countries that buy the reductions and count them toward achieving their NDCs. The rules governing Article 6, which will be a primary topic of discussion at COP25, are of critical importance for ensuring that carbon markets actually facilitate emissions reductions and don’t undermine the intent of NDCs and the Paris Agreement. (Learn more about Article 6 and what’s at stake at COP25 in our explainer blog.)
Double-counting: Something Article 6 needs to prevent in the rules governing carbon markets. Double-counting involves two countries taking credit for the same emissions reductions, thereby giving the impression that the world has reduced emissions more than it actually has. For example, emissions-reduction credits from a country might be sold to another country while those reductions are still counted toward achievement of the NDC in the country where the credits originated. The rules on double-counting, which may be finalized at COP25, could play a critical role in the world’s ability to achieve the Paris Agreement’s targets.
Loss and damage: Impacts from climate change, including those that cannot be adapted to, such as loss of coastal communities, ecosystems or cultural heritage. While loss and damage increasingly affects all countries, the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage is particularly important for the most vulnerable Parties, such as small developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs). Negotiators will evaluate the WIM at COP25 and discuss how countries can support vulnerable countries and communities, while also taking forward concrete policy recommendations on issues such as displacement due to climate change.
$100 billion: A target established in 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen, where developed countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion a year in financial support by 2020 from public and private sources to help developing nations reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The Paris Agreement reaffirms this commitment. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a key channel for delivering some of the finance towards this goal. While there is disagreement about what should count towards the goal, last year the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance released an assessment that estimated total climate finance from developed to developing countries exceeded $70 billion in 2016.
Green Climate Fund (GCF): A key international fund that supports climate mitigation and adaptation in developing nations. In 2014, governments pledged $10.3 billion in startup funding to the GCF (though the United States has only delivered $1 billion of the $3 billion it pledged). The Fund is undergoing its first replenishment period this year. So far, 28 countries have pledged $9.7 billion. Other commitments are expected at COP25.
Just transition: Efforts to ensure that countries’ shifts to low-carbon economies do not unduly burden particular communities or people, such as coal workers, and that the economic benefits of the climate transition are widely and equitably shared. Some countries have multi-stakeholder processes to design and achieve just transition policies, including job retraining for fossil fuel workers, carbon-pricing systems that reinvest revenues in low-income communities, and more.