The 1.5°C target refers to the Paris Agreement’s goal from 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Succeeding will help tame the severe impacts of global warming, including the more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, storms, floods, and other extreme weather events. In alignment with the agreement, countries have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Meeting the 1.5°C target requires immediate and significant action from governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide.
Adaptation limits mark the extent of climate change that an ecosystem or human society can tolerate without suffering the loss of function or irreversible damage. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognises two types of adaptation limits – soft and hard. Soft adaptation limits are when adaptation options exist but aren’t currently available to avoid intolerable risks. Hard adaptation limits are when there is no way to prevent intolerable risks. Overseeing adaptation limits is crucial for ensuring the resilience and sustainability of nature and human societies in the context of climate change.
Afforestation is the process of planting trees on land that hasn’t been forested for a long time or ever before. The method includes establishing a forest or allowing natural forest regeneration to increase coverage and improve ecosystems.
Afforestation is a tool for mitigating climate change as forests absorb and store CO2 through photosynthesis. In addition, forests help keep ecosystems healthy by assisting biodiversity conservation, soil conservation and water regulation. Successful afforestation depends on suitable site selection, tree species choice, and effective management practices.
Air pollution is the presence of harmful substances (chemicals or particles) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Various sources, including transportation, industry, agriculture or natural events like wildfires and dust storms, could emit such pollutants.
Low air quality has many long-term adverse effects on human health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it accounts for millions of premature deaths yearly. Air pollution increases the risk of various diseases and allergies. It also contributes to ecosystem degradation and climate change. Efforts to reduce air pollution involve a range of strategies, including using renewable energy, sustainable urban planning, and regulatory measures. Read more
Ammonia is a colourless, water-soluble gas consisting of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms (NH3). The decomposition of organic matter in the environment and the activity of bacteria in soil and water naturally release ammonia.
Ammonia’s primary application is as a fertiliser. Additionally, it is used as an energy-dense fuel within different processes. Other applications include as an ingredient in cleaning products, refrigerants, and more. Read more
Ammonia co-firing refers to burning ammonia alongside other fuels, like coal, gas, or biomass, in power plants or industrial boilers. Ammonia has a high energy density and can be produced from renewable sources, making it a promising alternative fuel.
When green ammonia is co-fired with other fuels, it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiency. In addition, the combustion of ammonia produces lower nitrogen oxide emissions than other fuels, which can help to reduce air pollution.
However, developing efficient, safe, and economically-viable technologies for ammonia co-firing faces various challenges. Read more
Anthropogenic factors refer to the human activities that cause or influence climate change directly or indirectly. These factors include the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, agricultural practices, industrial processes, transportation, changes in land use (urbanisation and construction), and more. The emission of greenhouse gases from these activities is the primary cause of global warming.
According to scientists, so far, human activities have caused a 1.1°C increase in the global average temperature since the pre-industrial era. The warming is expected to reach 1.5°C in the early 2030s without immediate and deep emission reduction.
Reducing anthropogenic factors that contribute to climate change requires a collective effort from governments, businesses, and individuals, such as mass adoption of renewable energy sources and fossil fuel phase-out, improved energy efficiency, promotion of sustainable agriculture and forestry practices, and investing in public transportation.
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are emissions of greenhouse gases that result from human activities like fossil fuel burning, deforestation, agriculture, and industrial processes. These emissions increase carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and fueling climate change.
Some efforts to reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions, critical for mitigating the impacts of climate change, include: transitioning to cleaner and more efficient energy sources, such as renewable energy; adopting technologies and policies that promote energy efficiency; implementing sustainable agricultural practices; protecting and restoring forests and other ecosystems, and more.
Anthropogenic removals refer to removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through human activities – reforestation, afforestation, using carbon capture and storage technologies, etc. These activities aim to increase the amount of carbon stored in ecosystems, soils, and geologic formations and thus reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Anthropogenic removals have significant potential to mitigate climate change. However, their effectiveness depends on various factors, including methodology, management practices, and more.
Battery storage refers to using batteries to store generated electrical energy that isn’t immediately used. The technology is essential to a modern electricity grid, balancing energy supply and demand, integrating intermittent renewable energy sources, and improving grid stability and reliability.
Battery storage systems typically consist of multiple battery cells or modules. Their capacity and performance depend on the type of battery chemistry used, the system design, and the operating conditions.
Battery storage systems are increasingly used in homes, commercial buildings, utility-scale projects, electric vehicles, etc. With evolving technologies and declining prices, battery storage is becoming a more viable and cost-effective solution for addressing energy challenges and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Biodiversity is the diversity of life that exists on our planet. It encompasses the complexity and interconnectedness of all living organisms, their habitats, and the ecosystems that support them. Each species has its unique role in life, and the loss of even one species can have immense, cascading effects on entire ecosystems.
Biodiversity is crucial to sustaining life on Earth, providing essential ecosystem services such as pollination, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling, which are critical to human well-being.
Anthropogenic activities like air and water pollution, habitat destruction, overexploitation of natural resources, and climate change expose biodiversity to unprecedented risk. That is why scientists are focused on biodiversity conservation – a process that relies on adopting more sustainable practices that minimise our environmental impact, protect habitats, and support the recovery of endangered species.
Biomass fuels or biofuels
Biomass fuels, or biofuels, are a form of renewable energy derived from organic matter, such as wood, crop waste, and algae. They can be used to generate electricity or as a transportation fuel, either in pure form or blended with conventional fuels. Examples of biofuels are biodiesel, made from vegetable oils or animal fats, and ethanol, made from corn, sugarcane, or other crops. Unlike fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide trapped underground for millions of years, biofuels release CO2 recently absorbed from the atmosphere by plants during photosynthesis.
Emissions from biofuels are very low in comparison to conventional fuels. Biomass fuels can potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. However, biofuel production should be handled with care to avoid negative impacts on land, food security, and biodiversity. Read more
Black carbon aerosol
Black carbon aerosol is a type of fine particulate matter formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biomass, and biofuels. It is a significant component of air pollution and contributes to climate change through its ability to absorb and scatter sunlight, thereby warming the atmosphere. It can travel long distances and has been found in remote areas such as the Arctic and Antarctic, contributing to ice sheet melting.
Black carbon aerosol also has adverse health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and premature death. In addition to its effects on human health and the environment, black carbon aerosol also reduces visibility and harms agriculture and ecosystems. Strategies to reduce black carbon aerosol emissions include improving energy efficiency, using clean cooking fuels, and reducing emissions from transportation and industry.
Black hydrogen is a term used to describe hydrogen produced from coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
Black hydrogen is produced through coal gasification. Coal is heated at high temperatures in the presence of steam and oxygen, resulting in a mixture of gases containing hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. The process is associated with increased greenhouse gas emissions, making black hydrogen production a highly polluting method.
Shifting towards low-carbon forms of hydrogen production, such as green hydrogen (from renewable sources), is critical if hydrogen is to play a role in our sustainable energy future, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
Blue hydrogen is a form of hydrogen produced from natural gas using steam methane reforming (SMR) combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The carbon dioxide produced during SMR is captured and stored underground to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While blue hydrogen is intended to help decarbonise industries that rely on fossil fuels, or be used for transportation and power generation, concerns exist about the technology’s cost, scalability and efficiency. Research to ensure its viability as a low-carbon energy source continues. Video explainer
Carbon is a chemical element with the symbol C and atomic number 6, essential for the life on our planet. It forms the basis for all known living organisms. Carbon is crucial to many important compounds, including fuels, plastics, and medicines. However, when carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it can contribute to global warming by trapping heat and causing a global temperature rise. Reducing carbon emissions is critical for mitigating climate change’s impacts.
Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)
Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) is a process that involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes, utilising them in various applications, and storing them underground. CCUS can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change while transitioning to a low-carbon economy. CCUS involves three main steps – capturing industrial CO2, using it in applications such as enhanced oil recovery or producing building materials, and storing it deep underground in geologic formations like depleted oil and gas reservoirs.
While CCUS has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, scientists advise using it only as an accompanying, not a leading, technology in the energy transition. Furthermore, technology cost, efficiency, and scalability challenges remain. Ongoing research and investment are now aimed at addressing those challenges to enable the widespread deployment of CCUS technology. Read more
A carbon credit is the permitted amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a company or individual. These credits can be traded on a carbon market so businesses can meet their emission targets. The idea behind carbon credits is to incentivise companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by making them financially beneficial.
However, accounting mechanisms like carbon credits and carbon offsets remain questionable and are criticised for allowing companies to continue emitting greenhouse gases rather than transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Read more
The carbon cycle refers to the natural processes of exchanging carbon between the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land, and living organisms. Carbon is essential to life on Earth, and the carbon cycle helps to regulate the planet’s climate by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
Plants absorb carbon through photosynthesis, which converts CO2 into organic matter. This organic matter is then consumed by animals and broken down by decomposers, which release carbon into the atmosphere as CO2. The oceans also play a role in the carbon cycle, absorbing and releasing CO2.
Using fossil fuels and deforestation have significantly altered the carbon cycle by releasing immense amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. This results in an increase in global temperatures, leading to adverse environmental impacts. Understanding and managing the carbon cycle is essential to mitigating the climate crisis.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring gas and a critical component of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is produced through natural processes such as respiration, volcanic activity, and human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps solar heat in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
While CO2 is a necessary component of the atmosphere, excessive amounts can negatively impact the environment and human health. The increase in CO2 emissions from human activities is one of the reasons for global warming, changes in weather patterns, and other environmental impacts. Therefore, efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy are critical to mitigating climate change.
Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)
Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a measure for comparing the emissions from different greenhouse gases (e.g., methane) based on their global-warming potential (GWP) to that of the benchmark, CO2. CO2e is calculated by multiplying the gas emissions by the GWP, which measures how much heat a gas traps in the atmosphere compared to CO2 over a given time. The measure aims to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have the same warming effect over a given period as the greenhouse gas in question.
CO2e is essential in climate policy because it allows policymakers to compare and aggregate emissions from different sources and gases. For example, a carbon offset project that reduces methane emissions can be translated into CO2e, making it easier to compare to a project that reduces CO2 emissions. CO2e is also used as a standard measure of emission reductions and is often the basis for emissions targets set by governments and corporations.
Carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, organisation, process, product, event, etc. These emissions can be measured in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and cover various GHGs. The carbon footprint is calculated by analysing the GHG emissions of all related processes or operations, including energy consumption, transportation, waste generation, and other activities.
Reducing the carbon footprint is critical in mitigating climate change, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes global warming and other environmental impacts. Strategies to reduce carbon footprints include decarbonising operations and production processes by employing renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, reducing fossil fuel use, and more.
A carbon market is a system that enables the trading process of carbon credits. The creation and operation of carbon markets aim to encourage a transition to a low-carbon economy by incentivising GHG emission reductions.
The European Union Emissions Trading System (EUETS) is the most popular regulated carbon market, which covers over 40% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other well-known carbon markets include the UK’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), the California Cap and Trade Program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the US, and more.
Carbon neutrality is the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere by a business, organisation, individual, process, or initiative. Being carbon neutral means having no net emissions. This can be achieved by various measures such as energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption, changing behaviour, or investing in offsetting/reducing emissions through projects or instruments.
The concept of carbon neutrality is becoming increasingly important as a way to reduce the global carbon footprint and combat climate change, with many countries and businesses making commitments to become carbon neutral in the coming decades. Video explainer
Carbon offset refers to measures and activities to reduce or remove emissions somewhere, designed to compensate for emitted greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. The idea is that by investing in certified carbon offset projects and funding emission reduction projects, such as renewable energy adoption or reforestation, the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) released into the atmosphere is balanced or offset.
Carbon offset initiatives have gained popularity in recent years as a way for individuals, businesses, and organisations to take responsibility for their carbon footprint and reduce their environmental impact. However, carbon offsetting isn’t a direct replacement for reducing emissions in the first place. Since they are often used as a wildcard to continue polluting, there are broad concerns about the effectiveness and integrity of some existing offsetting initiatives.
To ensure the credibility of carbon offset projects, they are often certified by third-party organizations. Read more
Carbon offset project
A carbon offset project is a project or initiative that compensates for the carbon emissions produced by an individual, organization, or event by investing in activities that help reduce, remove, or prevent greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. These initiatives can involve reforestation, renewable energy adoption, energy efficiency measures, methane capture, and other technologies.
Carbon offsetting projects are getting increasingly popular, so independent organisations often verify and certify their credibility and effectiveness to prevent manipulative practices like greenwashing. While carbon offsetting projects shouldn’t be considered a substitute for reducing emissions, they can serve as a complementary method to more efficient decarbonisation strategies.
Carbon offset standard
A carbon offset standard is a set of guidelines defining the criteria for a credible, transparent and compelling carbon offset project. These standards ensure that carbon offset projects are rigorously assessed, verified, and certified to deliver genuine carbon reductions. Some common carbon offset standards include the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the Gold Standard, and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards.
According to the VCS, a carbon offset standard provides a clear framework for developing, assessing, and certifying carbon offset projects that comply with international regulations and industry best practices.
The Gold Standard emphasizes the importance of sustainable development, social and environmental co-benefits, stakeholder engagement, and carbon reduction. The CCB Standards focus on biodiversity and community co-benefits alongside carbon reduction. Overall, carbon offset standards ensure these projects deliver genuine emissions reductions, adhere to ethical and sustainable practices, and benefit local communities and ecosystems.
Carbon sequestration is the process of catching and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from various sources to prevent its release into the atmosphere, thereby mitigating its global warming contribution. This process occurs naturally through photosynthesis in plants and trees or human-made technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines carbon sequestration as “increasing the carbon content of a reservoir other than the atmosphere.”
Carbon sequestration is an integral approach to mitigating the effects of climate change, as it can help reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and deliver other environmental and sustainability benefits. It is being explored as a promising avenue for achieving carbon neutrality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, it requires careful consideration and proper implementation to ensure its effectiveness.
A carbon tax is an environmental charge that places a price on carbon emissions, usually based on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases emitted by a company, industry, or individual. The tax is intended to encourage carbon emission reduction by making it expensive, thereby incentivising a shift towards low-carbon alternatives.
Carbon taxes serve as a market-based approach to reducing emissions that can be implemented at the local, state, or national level. By increasing the cost burden of emissions, it encourages businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon footprint. Carbon taxes effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote energy efficiency, and foster innovation in low-carbon technologies. However, they require careful design to ensure they don’t unfairly burden vulnerable populations or specific industries.
Certified Emission Reduction (CER)
Certified Emission Reduction (CER) is a certificate issued by the United Nations and granted to member nations for preventing or removing one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions through a Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) project. CDM projects are applied in developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting sustainable development.
CERs are emission reduction units generated by CDM projects that have been verified by an independent third party and certified by the CDM Executive Board.
Certified Emissions Reduction certificates have been critical in promoting emissions reduction and supporting sustainable growth in developing countries. They also provide a means for companies and governments to achieve their emissions reduction targets and demonstrate their commitment to mitigating climate change. However, CERs have been controversial and criticised due to concerns over their reliability.
Clean coal technology
Clean coal technology refers to a range of technologies designed to reduce coal-fired power plants’ health and environmental impact as leading sources of GHG emissions and air pollutants. These technologies aim to improve coal combustion efficiency, reduce emissions of contaminants, and capture and store CO2 emissions to prevent their release into the atmosphere. These technologies can include coal gasification, post-combustion capture, and more.
However, developing and deploying clean coal technologies remains a controversial practice since, on the one hand, they help mitigate the impact of coal-fired power plants, while on the other hand, many experts see them as a way to extend the life of the most polluting fuel sources, instead of directly decommissioning them. Furthermore, their effectiveness in reducing emissions and cost-effectiveness remain subject to debate and further research. Read more
Climate change refers to a long-term alteration of global weather patterns characterised by rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and more frequent and severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires. It is an ongoing process that seriously threatens the opportunity to ensure a livable future on Earth. Climate change is mainly caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) from human activities.
Examples of climate change-contributing practices include burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes. Climate change has a wide range of impacts, including rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, changes in agricultural productivity, land and resource loss, and more. It poses significant risks to human societies and ecosystems and requires urgent mitigation and adaptation efforts. Individuals, businesses, and governments must work together to reduce GHG emissions, invest in renewable energy technologies, and promote sustainable practices to tame the climate crisis. Read more
Climate change adaptation
Climate change adaptation is a process of adjusting to the effects of climate change. The goal of climate change adaptation is to reduce the vulnerability of human societies and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change and increase resilience to future changes. As the global climate changes, communities, ecosystems and businesses must adapt to the new realities of more frequent and intense extreme weather events, rising temperatures and precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels.
Adaptation strategies can range from building sea walls to protect coastal areas from flooding and replanting forests to developing more resilient (e.g., drought-resistant) crops, implementing irrigation systems to maintain agricultural productivity in areas with less rainfall, and more. Adaptation efforts require collaboration between multiple stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and communities. Read more
Climate change mitigation
Climate change mitigation is a term used to describe the actions taken by an individual, organisation or government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit its contribution to climate change. There are various types of climate change mitigation strategies, including transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, decarbonising heavy-emitting sectors, decommissioning polluting fossil fuel plants, changing behaviour, afforestation and reforestation practices to increase the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere, and more. Climate change mitigation is critical to limit global warming’s impacts on human societies and ecosystems.
Climate finance (green finance)
Climate finance, also known as green finance, refers to financing projects in the field of climate change adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage. Some target areas include greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects, clean energy development, habitat and ecosystem preservation projects, zero-carbon technology research and development, and more. The concept of climate finance has gained traction in recent years due to the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy.
There are public, private and joint sources of climate finance, including multilateral development banks, private banking institutions and institutional investors, government or multi-government funds and initiatives, and more. Read more
Climate governance refers to the mechanisms, practices and initiatives that enable governments, institutions, international organisations, and civil society groups to respond to the challenges of climate change. It aims to adopt a coherent and integrated approach that encompasses all sectors of the economy and involves participation from a diverse range of stakeholders. The governance mechanisms may be formal or informal and take place at local, national, regional or global levels.
Examples of climate governance initiatives include the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Conference of the Parties, and more. Effective climate governance is essential for addressing the complex challenges of climate change and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
Climate impact refers to the ways in which climate change affects the environment, economy, and society. The impacts can include changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, sea levels, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events (e.g., heat waves, droughts, wildfires, increased flooding and storm surges), among others. These events can cause indirect consequences like health and environmental problems, reduced economic growth, societal issues, and more.
Climate impacts are already being felt worldwide and are expected to grow in intensity and frequency in the coming decades. The poorest and most vulnerable populations are to be the most affected by climate change due to their reduced adaptation abilities. The impacts of climate change are wide-ranging and complex, requiring urgent action to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate. Read more
Climate justice ensures a fair and equitable distribution of the costs and benefits of addressing climate change, recognising that the poorest and most vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by climate impacts. It also requires the most responsible for the climate crisis to compensate the least responsible ones and help them adapt to the climate crisis. It involves protecting human rights, including the right to a clean environment, information access, and development. Addressing historical and current inequalities in the distribution of resources and power is also crucial to climate justice, including addressing environmental racism and ensuring marginalised communities have a voice in decision-making. Climate justice aims to provide that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inclusive and fair, focusing on the equitable distribution of benefits and burdens.
Climate risk refers to the potential adverse consequences of climate change on the economy, environment, and society. The dangers of climate change are already being felt and are expected to intensify in the coming decades, particularly in vulnerable regions. These risks can include physical threats, such as loss of human life, ecosystem destruction, damage to infrastructure and property from extreme weather events, and more. Climate risk can have social and political consequences, such as displacement of people and conflict over resources, and requires proactive measures to mitigate it. Read more
Climate sensitivity refers to the warming the Earth experiences in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. It is a fundamental parameter of the climate system, with important implications for understanding past and future climate change. According to scientists, climate sensitivity is likely between 1.5 to 4.5°C.
The climate system is the complex and interconnected set of physical, chemical, and biological processes determining Earth’s climate. The climate system includes the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere, the biosphere, and the cryosphere (the frozen components of the Earth system). These components interact in complex ways, with feedback mechanisms that amplify or dampen the effects of changes in one element on the others. The climate system is also influenced by external factors such as solar radiation and volcanic activity.
Climate variability refers to the natural fluctuations in some factors of the Earth’s climate system (e.g., precipitation and temperatures) over different time scales (seasons, decades, centuries, etc.). Various factors, including sun intensity changes, volcanic eruptions, and climatological phenomenons like El Niño and La Niña, can cause climate variability. Human activities such as land use changes and greenhouse gas emissions can also contribute to climate variability. Climate variability can significantly impact natural ecosystems and human societies, particularly in regions already vulnerable to climate change. Understanding and predicting climate variability is crucial for planning and adapting to changing climate conditions.
Climate-compatible development (CCD) / Sustainable development
Climate-compatible development (CCD) focuses on achieving sustainable development while mitigating GHG emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. CCD aims to incorporate climate change considerations into all aspects of development planning, including policies, strategies, and investment decisions. This involves identifying opportunities for reducing emissions and addressing potential trade-offs and synergies between economic, social, and environmental objectives. CCD also emphasises the importance of equal and universal stakeholder engagement and participation, including vulnerable groups, in developing and implementing development programs. Sustainable development involves balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations and ensuring inclusive, equitable, and resilient growth.
Coal mine methane
Coal mine methane (CMM) is the gas released during coal mining operations. CMM is a greenhouse gas that has significantly greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. The methane is released due to the geological and mining conditions and can be captured and used to generate electricity or heat. CMM capture has the potential to significantly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the coal sector and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Read more
Coal power refers to generating electricity using coal as a fuel source. It is the number one contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions from energy-related activities. In coal power plants, water is heated by coal combustion to produce steam. That steam drives a turbine that generates electricity. The emissions from burning coal contain harmful air and water pollutants, which are the leading cause of air pollution and can have severe health and environmental impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths. To address these effects, many countries are shifting towards cleaner energy sources, such as renewable energy, and implementing policies to reduce coal use and emissions.
Coalbed methane (CBM), is similar to coal mine methane, but it refers to methane in coal seams that will never be mined. CBM forms when bacteria break down organic matter in the coal and produce methane. Coalbed methane is typically found in underground coal seams and can be extracted using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The methane is released by drilling into the coal seam and pumping water, sand, and chemicals to fracture the coal and release the gas. CBM can be used as an energy source for heating, electricity generation, and industrial processes. The production of CBM using fracking techniques can have negative environmental and social impacts. Therefore, the safe and responsible development of CBM requires appropriate regulatory frameworks and technology deployment.
Conference of the Parties (COP)
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual event serving as the highest decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was first launched in 1992. The COP meetings provide a forum for countries, international organizations, civil society, and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and strategies for addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development. Each year, COP’s participants assess progress in climate change and negotiate and implement new obligations for governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. During the COP meetings, parties discuss and negotiate various issues, including adaptation, mitigation, finance, and technology transfer, and work to reach agreements on multiple aspects of the mission to tame climate change. COP meetings have resulted in several landmark agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the Marrakech Accords.
Coral bleaching occurs when corals expel the colourful algae within their tissues, causing them to turn white or pale. This transformation results from environmental stressors such as high temperatures, pollution, or changes in water chemistry. The algae, known as zooxanthellae, provide corals with the energy they need to survive, and without them, corals become weakened and more susceptible to disease and mortality. Coral bleaching is a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems worldwide, with recent severe bleaching events leading to mass coral death and ecosystem collapse. The increasing frequency and severity of bleaching events are linked to climate change, causing ocean temperatures to rise and ocean chemistry to change. Mitigating the impacts of coral bleaching requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing measures to improve the resilience of coral reefs, such as reducing pollution and protecting reef habitats.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) describes a company’s responsibility to operate in an ethical and sustainable manner while balancing the interests of its stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the broader community. CSR encompasses a range of activities, including environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and ethical governance. Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives may involve reducing a company’s ecological footprint, promoting fair labour practices, supporting local communities, engaging in philanthropy, and more.
Some findings suggest that companies prioritising CSR may benefit from increased employee and customer loyalty, reduced regulatory and legal risks, and improved financial performance. However, critics argue that CSR is often a public relations tool and may need to dive deeper into addressing systemic issues such as inequality and environmental degradation.
Decarbonisation is the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human activities to mitigate climate change. The transition towards a decarbonised economy aims to rely on energy sources with low or zero levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The process involves transitioning from fossil fuels, which are a significant source of CO2 emissions, to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower. Other critical elements of the decarbonisation process include increasing energy efficiency and adopting sustainable practices and technologies across all economic sectors.
Scientists are unified around the idea that there is an urgent need for deep decarbonisation through collective efforts on regional and national levels to avoid climate change’s worst impacts.
Decoupling refers to ensuring economic growth without it leading to environmental degradation. Alternatively, reducing the environmental impact of economic growth without compromising it. Decoupling can occur in different ways, such as through adopting cleaner technologies, improved resource efficiency, and changes in consumption patterns. It is a critical concept in sustainable development, where the goal is to achieve economic growth while protecting the environment and ensuring social equality.
Decoupling has become increasingly important as the world faces rising environmental challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion. It requires addressing the structural causes of environmental degradation, such as unsustainable consumption, production patterns, and inefficient resource use. Additionally, there is a need for policy measures and incentives to drive decoupling at the local, national, and global levels.
Deforestation is the clearing or removal of forests or woodlands, typically for commercial or agricultural purposes. It is a significant cause of global warming, as forests absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide. Deforestation also leads to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. It occurs primarily in tropical regions, with large-scale agriculture, logging, and infrastructure development as the leading driving forces. Efforts to combat deforestation include forest conservation and restoration, sustainable land management practices, policies and initiatives that promote responsible forest management and certification, and more.
The urgency of addressing deforestation has been highlighted by the United Nations, which has set targets to halt deforestation and increase forest restoration as part of its Sustainable Development Goals.
Electric vehicles (EVs)
Electric vehicles (EVs) are automobiles that run on electricity rather than gasoline or diesel fuel. Instead of internal-combustion engines, EVs are powered by rechargeable batteries that can be charged from an external power source, typically through a charging station or a conventional electrical outlet. They offer significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation industry and help improve air quality.
Electric vehicles come in various types, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that use only electric power, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that combine electric and gasoline power and can be externally charged, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) that use a combination of petrol and electric power, and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that use a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, rather than drawing electricity only from a battery. EV adoption has been rapidly increasing, driven by government incentives, technological advancements, and consumer demand for sustainable transportation. Using renewable energy sources to power EVs can further reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to transitioning to a low-carbon energy system. Read more
Emissions refer to pollutants released into the atmosphere from various sources, including transportation, industry, and energy production. These pollutants include greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change, and other harmful substances that can affect air and water quality and human health. Reducing emissions is a critical element in efforts to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development. This requires various actions, such as increased use of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, and adopting cleaner technologies and practices. International agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, have set targets for emissions reduction to limit global warming and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
An emissions cap refers to a regulatory limit on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a company or industry can produce over a certain period. It is a crucial policy tool to achieve emissions reductions and combat climate change.
An emissions cap creates a market-based incentive for companies to keep their emissions below the cap by trading allowances or permits. It encourages companies to invest in low-carbon technologies and processes. The European Union Emissions Trading System is an example of a cap-and-trade system that has successfully reduced emissions in the power sector. However, critics argue that an emissions cap may need to be more stringent to achieve the required emissions reductions and that complementary policies, such as carbon pricing regulations, may be necessary.
An emissions factor refers to a number representing the amount of greenhouse gases or other pollutants emitted per unit of activity, such as energy consumption or production. It is a critical parameter used in emissions inventories and modelling and an essential tool for assessing emissions levels, identifying sources, and developing mitigation strategies. Emissions factors are typically based on scientific measurements or estimates and can vary depending on fuel type, combustion technology, and operating conditions. They are used by governments, businesses, and researchers to estimate emissions from various sectors, such as transportation, industry, and agriculture, and to develop policies and technologies to reduce emissions. However, emissions factors may not always accurately represent actual emissions levels, and continuous monitoring may be necessary to ensure compliance and track progress.
Emissions trading, or cap-and-trade, is a market-based approach to controlling GHG emissions by providing economic incentives for reducing the emissions of pollutants. It involves setting a limit, or cap, on the total amount of emissions that companies or countries can release. Entities that emit less than their allocated allowances can sell their unused allowances to entities that need them to comply with their emissions cap. This creates a market for emissions allowances, which can drive innovation and reduce emissions more efficiently than command-and-control regulations. Emissions trading can provide flexibility in meeting emission targets while encouraging technological innovation and economic growth. However, critics argue that emissions trading can be susceptible to market manipulation and may not result in sufficient reductions.
Energy efficiency is when less energy is used to perform the same function or achieving more output with the same amount of energy. It is an essential strategy for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and is considered among the main climate mitigation tools. It reduces energy costs and environmental impacts and enhances comfort, productivity, and health. It can create jobs, reduce poverty, and improve energy security. Upgrading building insulation, using more efficient appliances and vehicles, and implementing industrial process innovations can improve energy efficiency.
Energy transition describes the global shift from fossil fuel-based energy systems to low- and zero-carbon, sustainable alternatives. The transition is motivated by the need to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other factors influencing the energy transition are the desire for increased energy security, improved air quality, and enhanced access to energy. The energy transition requires a significant increase in deploying renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, and electrifying transportation and heating systems. Read more
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are standards used to evaluate a company’s long-term commitment to environmental, social, and corporate governance factors. ESG criteria are used by investors and other stakeholders to assess a company’s sustainability and ethical practices and to determine its long-term financial prospects. ESG criteria cover corporate policies and approaches towards topics like climate change, biodiversity, human rights, labour practices, executive compensation, board diversity, anti-corruption measures, and more. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria can help investors identify risks and opportunities in their portfolios and promote responsible investment practices. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) states that integrating ESG factors into investment decisions can lead to better long-term outcomes for investors and society. Read more
Ethanol fuel is a renewable fuel produced from plants and crops such as corn, sugarcane, and wheat, collectively known as “biomass.” Ethanol fuel is usually blended with gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. It contains ethyl alcohol, the same type found in alcoholic beverages.
The use of ethanol fuel has been promoted in various countries as a strategy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change. However, it has its critics due to its impact on food prices and the fact that its sustainability depends on several factors, including feedstock production, conversion processes, and land use changes. Read more
Fair & just energy transition
A fair and just energy transition refers to the shift from an energy system based on fossil fuels to a sustainable, affordable, and equitable one. Its main goal is to share the benefits of climate action universally while sparing or ensuring a fairer distribution of the costs with those least able to afford them.
The concept is based on social justice, human rights, and participatory democracy and recognises that nobody should be left behind. A fair and just energy transition requires civil society organizations, governments and the private sector to all work together. It also requires a long-term perspective and careful planning to ensure an adequate and equitable transition. Read more
Feed-in tariff (FIT)
A feed-in tariff (FIT) is a policy mechanism that promotes the development of renewable energy sources by providing long-term contracts and guaranteed electricity pricing to renewable energy generators. Under this mechanism, a fixed price is paid to renewable energy producers for the generated electricity for an extended period (typically 15-20 years). The price is usually set above the market rate to encourage investment in renewable energy and make the projects economically viable. Many countries worldwide have adopted the feed-in tariff mechanism to increase the share of renewable energy in their energy mix. Feed-in tariffs have successfully driven the deployment of renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power, particularly in their early development stages, all across the world.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources formed naturally in the Earth’s crust from millions-years-old remains of plants and animals. They are primarily composed of hydrocarbons, molecules of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Oil, coil and natural gas are the most common fossil fuels and have been the primary energy source for electricity generation, transportation, and heating globally for decades.
Fossil fuels significantly contribute to climate change, as their extraction and burning release greenhouse gases. They are also associated with environmental and health impacts, such as air and water pollution, habitat destruction, and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, studies attribute 1 in 5 deaths to fossil fuels. Transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner, renewable energy sources are seen as crucial in mitigating the impacts of climate change and achieving the sustainable development goals.
Fugitive emissions refer to unintended or accidental releases of gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide, or nitrous oxide, during industrial processes and fossil fuel extraction, processing, storage, and transportation. These emissions differ from those from the intentional combustion of fossil fuels for energy production or transport. Fugitive emissions can occur due to leaks or malfunctions in equipment or infrastructure, and they can contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, thus exacerbating climate change.
The oil and gas industry is the most significant contributor to fugitive emissions globally, with methane being the primary gas released. Reducing fugitive emissions requires improved monitoring and maintenance of equipment and infrastructure and using advanced technologies and practices to minimise emissions during extraction, processing, storage, and transportation.
Global temperature is the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, measured over time. Solar radiation, volcanic activity, and human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions affect global temperature. It has been rising in recent decades, primarily attributed to anthropogenic factors such as the use of fossil fuels and deforestation. This warming trend has triggered various climate, environmental and societal impacts. Among them are sea level rise, ocean acidification, changes in weather patterns, increased poverty, decreased economic output and labour productivity, migration, and more. Scientists use various methods, such as satellite observations, ground-based temperature measurements, and ice-core analyses, to monitor and understand global temperature trends. The most widely used measure of global temperature is the global average surface temperature, calculated by combining temperature data from land and ocean areas across the globe. Read more
Global warming is the long-term increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature, primarily due to releasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes significantly increase GHG emissions. For example, so far the world has warmed at least 1.1°C since pre-industrial era due to human activities. This warming trend is causing various changes in the Earth’s climate, including sea-level rise, melting of glaciers and ice caps, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and changes in precipitation patterns.
Global warming has been a topic of concern for decades as it poses a significant threat to human societies and ecosystems worldwide. The Paris Agreement, an international treaty adopted in 2015, aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C to mitigate climate change and avoid its most catastrophic impacts.
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a term used to describe how much heat a unit of a specific greenhouse gas will trap in the atmosphere over a particular period, compared to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is used as the reference gas, with a GWP of 1. Other greenhouse gases like methane have higher GWP values because they trap more heat than CO2. The higher the GWP value of greenhouse gas, the more it contributes to global warming.
The GWP values of greenhouse gases vary depending on the time horizon being considered. The most commonly used time horizon is 100 years, but shorter and longer time frames are also used.
Green bonds, also known as transition bonds, are fixed-income securities designed to fund projects with positive environmental or climate impacts. The proceeds of the bonds are earmarked for projects that promote climate change mitigation, adaptation, or other environmental purposes, such as renewable energy adoption, energy efficiency improvement, transitioning towards clean transportation, adopting sustainable agricultural practices, and biodiversity conservation. Green bonds are issued by various organisations, including governments, corporations, and municipalities, and are typically structured similarly to traditional bonds. They offer investors an opportunity to support sustainability initiatives while generating a financial return.
Green bonds have to meet specific criteria, including aligning with the Paris Agreement goals, following best practices in sustainability reporting, and meeting independent third-party verification standards. The International Capital Market Association (ICMA) has developed voluntary guidelines for green bonds, known as the Green Bond Principles. They provide issuers with recommendations on transparency and disclosure, use of proceeds, and environmental impact management. The green bond market has grown significantly in recent years, with increasing interest from investors seeking to align their portfolios with environmental and sustainability goals. Read more
Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources. Unlike traditional hydrogen production methods, which rely on fossil fuels, green hydrogen is considered a clean fuel source since its production doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses. The production of green hydrogen involves splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen being captured and used as fuel. This process is known as electrolysis, and the electricity used is typically sourced from renewable sources such as solar, wind or hydropower. Green hydrogen could be a vital component of the transition to a low-carbon economy, with applications in the transportation, energy, and industrial sectors. However, its commercial application remains limited due to technology challenges and cost constraints. Video explainer
The greenhouse effect refers to the process by which certain gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, known as greenhouse gases, trap heat from the sun and prevent it from escaping back into space. This natural process is essential for life on Earth, as it helps to regulate the planet’s temperature and maintain a stable climate.
However, human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have distorted the balance of the natural process by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has enhanced the greenhouse effect and caused global warming. As a result, the impacts on the Earth’s climate are significant, including more frequent and severe floods, heatwaves, droughts, and other extreme weather events. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning to renewable energy sources, strategies such as carbon capture and storage can help mitigate the greenhouse effect and limit the impacts of climate change.
Greenhouse gases (GHG)
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) can retain heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming – a process known as the greenhouse effect. The most common GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases. They are primarily released by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, agriculture, and industrial processes. GHGs can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, amplifying their warming effects over time.
The increase in GHG concentrations has led to increased global temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in precipitation patterns, causing significant impacts on ecosystems, economies, and human well-being. To mitigate the effects of GHG emissions, it is essential to reduce their sources through energy efficiency, fossil fuel infrastructure decommissioning, adopting measures to enhance carbon sinks, such as reforestation and soil management, as well as increased renewable energy adoption and scaling other low-carbon technologies.
Greenwashing is making false or exaggerated claims about the environmental credentials of a product, service or initiative or misleading consumers to believe that a company is more environmentally conscious than it is in reality. It is a form of deceptive marketing that aims to capitalise on the growing consumer and investor interest in sustainability practices. An example of greenwashing is labelling a product as “green” or “eco-friendly” without any supporting evidence or certification.
Greenwashing can also occur when a company promotes a minor environmental initiative while downplaying or ignoring its significant negative impact on the environment. In some cases, greenwashing can even involve companies with a history of environmentally harmful practices. As consumers become more environmentally conscious, they must be aware of greenwashing risks and seek reliable information to make informed decisions. Video explainer
Grey hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced from natural gas using the steam methane reforming process without any carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. It is currently the most commonly made form of hydrogen, but it has a significant carbon footprint due to the substantial amounts of CO2 emissions generated during production. Grey hydrogen is considered a non-renewable energy source and contributes to climate change. It is less expensive to produce than green hydrogen but isn’t environmentally sustainable. Due to concerns about climate change, many countries and companies are now exploring ways to transition from grey to green hydrogen production to minimise their carbon footprints. The shift towards green hydrogen is crucial in reducing carbon emissions and achieving a carbon-neutral future. Read more
Heat waves refer to prolonged periods of abnormally hot weather, which can have serious health, environmental, and economic consequences. High daytime and elevated nighttime temperatures are often their main characteristics. Various factors, including atmospheric conditions, land use patterns, and global warming, can cause heat waves. They can affect human health by exacerbating existing health conditions or causing dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heart strokes. Heat waves can also significantly impact agriculture, infrastructure, and energy demand and elevate the risk of wildfires. The frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves are expected to increase in many regions due to climate change, highlighting the urgent need for adaptation and mitigation measures. Read more
Hydrogen power refers to using hydrogen gas as a fuel source for power generation. The process involves using a fuel cell, which converts the chemical energy of hydrogen into electrical energy. Hydrogen power is considered a promising alternative to fossil fuels because it produces no greenhouse gas emissions when used for power generation. There are several different methods of producing hydrogen, including electrolysis, steam methane reforming, and coal gasification.
However, some of these methods have significant carbon footprints, which makes them powerful polluters. Also, most hydrogen production mechanisms are currently proving energy-intensive and expensive, and the infrastructure for storing and transporting the fuel has yet to be widely available. Despite these challenges, hydrogen power derived from renewable energy sources can potentially play an essential role in a sustainable energy system. Read more
Hydropower is a type of renewable energy that generates electricity by harnessing the power of moving water. Hydropower plants typically consist of a dam or reservoir holding water and a turbine spinning as water flows through it, generating electricity. Hydropower is a reliable and consistent energy source, producing little to no greenhouse gas emissions, making it an essential tool for combating climate change.
Hydropower is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy application, with evidence for its use dating back thousands of years. Today, it is the largest renewable energy source globally by a wide margin. Hydropower is used in over 150 countries. Despite its many benefits, hydropower can have negative environmental impacts, such as altering river ecosystems and displacing communities near hydropower projects. However, technological advances and increased attention to environmental considerations have led to the developing of more sustainable hydropower projects in recent years. Read more
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific organisation established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis for climate change and its impacts, future risks, and the possible adaptation and mitigation measures. The IPCC produces periodical extensive reports widely regarded as the most authoritative source of information on climate change, drawing on the expertise of thousands of scientists and experts worldwide.
The IPCC consists of a Task Force and three working groups that focus on different aspects of climate change. Working Group I addresses the physical science basis of climate change, while Working Group II deals with climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. The third group deals with climate change mitigation. The organisation has significantly shaped global climate policy, including the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Internal combustion engine (ICE)
An internal combustion engine (ICE) burns fuel inside a heat engine to create power. It is commonly used in automobiles, boats, and other vehicles. The process involves igniting fuel and air inside the engine’s combustion chamber, which creates a high-pressure gas that drives a piston, producing mechanical energy. The most common fuel used in ICEs is gasoline, although diesel, ethanol, and other fuels can also be used.
Internal combustion engines have been the primary power source for vehicles for over a century but are now being criticised and phased out due to concerns over their environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. A shift towards alternative technologies such as electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells is being promoted. Despite this, ICEs are still used widely in various applications due to their cost-effectiveness and reliability.
International Energy Agency (IEA)
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1974 to help countries coordinate a collective response to major oil supply disruptions. Today, its mandate has expanded to encompass energy security, economic development, environmental protection, and transitioning to a low-carbon energy system. IEA is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on energy, producing a range of reports, analyses, and policy recommendations that shape global energy debates. It provides data to support evidence-based policymaking and organises international forums for energy ministers, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to exchange knowledge and best practices. The agency is based in Paris, France, and has over 30 member countries, mainly from the OECD, and works closely with crucial energy players like China, India, and Russia. The International Energy Agency’s goal is to help promote secure, affordable, and sustainable energy for all.
Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP)
Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) are collaborative efforts between different governments, organisations, communities, and other stakeholders to support a particular country’s transition to a low-carbon economy by replacing fossil fuels with renewables. JETPs are usually structured as financing mechanisms and can take various forms, including public-private partnerships, industry initiatives, community-led efforts, and more.
These partnerships recognise that the energy transition can affect different communities and groups differently and aim to spare any social consequences. For example, they can help boost economic growth, create new jobs, reskill and retrain workers in the affected industries, finance sustainable initiatives that empower communities, and more. Read more
Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE)
The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is a metric used to evaluate the lifetime cost of producing electricity from a specific energy source, considering all the costs associated with building and operating a power plant over its useful life. These costs include capital expenditures, operational and maintenance expenses, fuel costs, and the cost of capital. It estimates the average minimum price at which the generated electricity should be sold for the system to break even. The LCOE helps compare the cost-effectiveness of different energy sources and technologies and informs policy decisions and investment strategies. It is used with other metrics, such as the levelised cost of electricity generation (LCOEG), which considers generation variability over time. The Levelized Cost of Energy has been widely used to compare the costs of renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, with those of conventional fossil fuel sources.
Liquified natural gas (LNG)
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas cooled to a liquid state, which reduces its volume by a factor of about 600, making it easier to store and transport. LNG is typically transported in specialised tanker ships to locations where it can be regasified and used as fuel. Although still a very GHG emitter, it is a cleaner burning fuel than coal and is often used to reduce power generation and transportation emissions. LNG is also used as a feedstock in producing chemicals and fertilisers.
The liquefaction process involves removing impurities from the gas and cooling it to around -162°C. Liquefied natural gas can be stored in large tanks, where it is kept at its boiling point to prevent evaporation. LNG remains an integral component of the global energy mix, and its use is growing as countries seek to substitute coal. However, for the world to achieve its climate goals, LNG should play a complementary role to renewables, not a leading one. Read more
Liquified petroleum gas (LPG)
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a fossil fuel that combines propane, butane, and other gaseous hydrocarbons liquefied through pressurisation. Liquefied petroleum gas is a highly flammable mixture usually stored in tanks during transportation. It is a versatile fuel used in various applications, including residential and commercial heating, cooking, and industrial processes. It is also an alternative fuel for vehicles, particularly in areas with unavailable natural gas infrastructure. LPG is considered a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline or diesel, with lower emissions of harmful particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. However, like all fossil fuels, LPG is a non-renewable resource, and its combustion contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Loss and damage
Loss and damage refer to the negative impacts of climate change that can’t be avoided through mitigation and adaptation efforts. These include the irreversible loss of biodiversity, the disappearance of small island states, and the damage caused by extreme weather events. The term was first introduced at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2013 and has since gained widespread recognition as a crucial issue in climate negotiations.
The concept of loss and damage recognises that some nations, communities and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their geographical location, socioeconomic status, or other factors and may require additional support to cope with these impacts. Discussions around loss and damage at international climate negotiations have focused on issues such as compensation for climate-related loss and damage, support for risk management and risk transfer, and establishing an international mechanism to limit and adequately address loss and damage. Video explainer
Megadrought is a prolonged and severe drought lasting for decades or centuries, disturbing the well-being of ecosystems and communities through extensive water scarcity and water conflicts, crop failure, increased wildfires, soil erosion, and other impacts. These droughts have occurred and can be linked to natural climate variability.
However, research suggests droughts are becoming more frequent and severe due to anthropogenic factors, highlighting the need for effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. The severity and duration of droughts are usually measured using various indices such as the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI).
Methane is a gas without colour and odour. It is the main element of natural gas. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a warming potential of 28 to 34 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timescale. On a 20-year time frame, it is 84 – 86 times more potent polluter than CO2. In nature, methane is produced through decomposing organic matter and enteric fermentation in livestock. The largest human-related sources of methane emissions are the production and transportation of coal, oil, and natural gas. Methane is also emitted during the show and transport of livestock and from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities. It is essential to study and control as it significantly contributes to global warming and climate change. Read more
Mitigation potential refers to the capacity of a particular technology or policy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or enhance carbon removal from the atmosphere. It represents the maximum possible reduction in emissions that can be achieved by implementing a specific measure, such as improving energy efficiency, switching to renewable energy sources, or adopting sustainable land use practices. The concept of mitigation potential is essential for assessing the feasibility and effectiveness of different emissions reduction strategies and guiding policy decisions to tame the climate crisis. The actual mitigation achieved may differ from the potential due to various factors such as economic, technical, and social barriers, but understanding the potential provides a valuable starting point for designing effective mitigation strategies.
Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs)
Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are financial institutions that aim to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries for economic and social progress. MDBs are owned by a group of member countries. Examples include the World Bank, the Asian, the African and the Inter-American Development Banks, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The banks provide support infrastructure, health, education, environmental, and other projects. The MDBs also provide expertise in policy development and implementation and work to promote sustainable development and poverty reduction.
MDBs play a critical role in global development efforts, and their policies and actions can significantly impact developing countries’ social, economic, and environmental conditions. The banks are committed to promoting sustainable development, which includes addressing climate change, protecting the environment, and ensuring social inclusion and gender equality in their projects. They also work with governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector to promote development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Read more
Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)
A Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is a plan for a climate change response that each country develops. It usually targets greenhouse gas emission reduction and adaptation to the impacts of global warming. The Paris Agreement requires each country to submit an NDC every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat, outlining its goals, targets, and policies to address climate change. The NDCs vary depending on the country’s circumstances and capabilities but should reflect the nation’s highest possible ambition in addressing climate change. The NDCs aim to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
NDCs may include policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from different sectors like energy, transportation and agriculture. They may also include measures to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change. Each NDC is subject to a review process to assess its adequacy and transparency and encourage countries to enhance their efforts over time. NDCs are critical in achieving Paris Agreement goals and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon future.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel primarily composed of methane (CH4) with smaller amounts of other hydrocarbons. It is often found in underground reservoirs and extracted using drilling techniques. Natural gas is a versatile energy source that can be used for electricity generation, heating, and as a transportation fuel. It has lower carbon emissions than other fossil fuels, making it a popular transition fuel for countries looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, it still produces emissions during extraction, transportation, and combustion, including methane emissions, which have significant warming potential. Natural gas is often transported via pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers to different regions for various applications. Read more
Net zero refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and removed from the atmosphere. This can be done by reducing emissions by transitioning away from their primary sources (fossil fuel power infrastructure), adopting more clean energy power, and offsetting any remaining emissions through activities like planting trees, for example. The concept of net zero is becoming increasingly important in the fight against climate change and a critical step in mitigating its worst impacts, with many governments and companies committing to achieving net zero emissions by a specific date (the most common target is net-zero by 2050). However, there is debate over the ways different countries plan to achieve it and growing calls for more ambitious near-term targets. Read more
Offshore wind power
Offshore wind power is the use of turbines built offshore, on water, usually in coastal areas, to generate electricity from the wind. These wind turbines are typically larger and more potent than onshore turbines and are mounted on floating platforms or fixed foundations in the seabed. Offshore wind power advantages over onshore wind power include higher efficiency, more robust and consistent wind speeds, less visual impact, and reduced noise pollution. Offshore wind power has become increasingly important in the global renewable energy mix and a critical component for the swift clean energy transition. It has the potential to create new jobs and drive economic growth in coastal communities. While it still faces technical, financial, and regulatory challenges, it is seen as an integral tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.
Onshore wind power
Onshore wind power is a form of renewable energy that harnesses the power of wind turbines to generate electricity on land. Wind turbines capture the energy from the wind and convert it into electrical power that can be used for homes and businesses. Onshore wind farms are typically built in areas with high wind speeds, such as open plains or coastal regions. The construction of onshore wind farms can provide local economic benefits, including job creation. They are considered one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy, and their installation and maintenance have become increasingly efficient over time. Onshore wind power is critical to many countries’ efforts to transition to low-carbon energy sources and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive molecule composed of three oxygen atoms that occur naturally in the Earth’s upper atmosphere (stratosphere) and also at ground level (troposphere). In the stratosphere, ozone is crucial in protecting the Earth’s surface from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. However, ground-level ozone is a pollutant that harms human health and the environment, especially when it combines with other air pollutants. Ozone isn’t released directly into the atmosphere but is formed through complex chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and sunlight. In addition to its impact on human health, ground-level ozone can also cause damage to crops, forests, and other vegetation and contribute to climate change as a greenhouse gas.
The ozone layer is a part of the Earth’s stratosphere that contains a high concentration of ozone. It serves as a vital shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This layer is typically located between 10 and 50 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. It absorbs most of the sun’s harmful UV radiation, known to cause various diseases and health concerns in humans (e.g., skin cancer), as well as damage to crops and ecosystems. Ozone is naturally created in the atmosphere by the sun’s energy, but it is also destroyed by various human-made chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemicals can cause a depletion of the ozone layer, leading to the formation of an ozone hole and increased UV radiation exposure. The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement that aims to limit the production and phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances to protect the ozone layer.
Paris Climate Agreement (PCA)
The Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) is a legally binding international treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The agreement was adopted in 2015 and entered into force in 2016. It pursues efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. The PCA establishes a framework for countries to communicate and regularly report their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while mitigating and adapting to climate change’s impacts. The agreement also includes climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building provisions to support developing countries transitioning to low-carbon and climate-resilient economies.
The PCA has been signed by 197 countries and ratified by 190, including major emitters such as the United States, China, and India. The agreement has set a clear direction for governments to achieve a more sustainable and equitable future for all. However, much is yet to be done to implement the agreement and achieve its goals. The positive results of the Paris Climate Agreement depend on all countries’ continued commitment and actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Particulate matter (PM)
Particulate matter (PM) refers to tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in the air that can harm the environment and human health. These particles can come from natural sources such as dust, pollen, and sea salt, as well as from human activities like burning fossil fuels and wildfires. Particulate matter is categorised based on size, with PM2.5 and PM10 being the most common categories. PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, refers to particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less, while PM10 refers to particles of 10 micrometres or less. PM2.5 particles are particularly harmful as they can penetrate the lungs and even enter the bloodstream.
Particulate matter exposure has been associated with various health problems, including asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer. It also has environmental effects, such as reduced visibility and damage to crops and forests. To address the negative impacts of PM, governments and organisations have implemented regulations and strategies to reduce its emissions, including using cleaner fuels, improving industrial processes, and promoting sustainable transportation.
Photovoltaic (PV) solar system
A photovoltaic (PV) system is a solar power technology that converts sunlight into electricity. It uses photovoltaic cells made of semiconducting materials, as well as other complementing technologies like batteries, controllers, inverters, and more. The PV cells are typically combined into panels or modules that can be installed on rooftops, walls, or ground-mounted systems. Photovoltaic systems are easily deployed and used for residential and commercial purposes, interconnected with the electric grid, or in off-grid applications.
The performance of a PV system is affected by various factors, such as the equipment’s quality, the system’s location, and weather conditions. Over the years, PV system costs have decreased massively due to technological advancements, increased demand and mass adoption, and government incentives. In many parts of the world, solar has become the cheapest form of electricity in history, according to IEA. This makes it humanity’s leading tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Polluter Pays Principle (PPP)
The Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) is an environmental policy asserting that those who cause pollution or ecological damage should bear the cost of mitigating its impact. The principle aims to create economic incentives for polluters to consider their actions’ social and environmental costs, reduce their impact, promote the development of clean technologies, and adopt practices that reduce pollution. The PPP is based on the “user pays” principle, which advocates that resource users are responsible if they aren’t doing it sustainably.
The Polluter Pays Principle is a cornerstone of many environmental policies in different countries. It has been used in regulating air and water pollution, waste management, and natural resource extraction. However, implementing the PPP can be complex due to challenges in measuring the cost of environmental damage and allocating responsibility for it. Nonetheless, the PPP remains a critical tool for promoting sustainable development and ensuring ecological degradation is considered in economic decision-making.
Radiation refers to the energy emitted as electromagnetic waves or particles from the radiation source. The energy can come from natural sources like the sun or human-made sources like nuclear power plants. Radiation can be classified as ionizing or non-ionizing based on energy levels. Ionizing radiation, which includes X-rays and gamma rays, has high energy levels and can remove tightly bound electrons from atoms and molecules, causing damage to cells and DNA. Non-ionizing radiation like visible light, radio waves, and microwaves have lower energy levels and don’t have the same damaging effects as ionizing radiation. The harmful effects of ionizing radiation can be minimized through protective measures like shielding and exposure limits. However, prolonged exposure to low radiation levels can cause various health impacts, including increased cancer risk.
Recycling converts waste into new products or raw materials, thus reducing the energy use, waste, and consumption of new resources. The process involves collecting, sorting, and processing materials such as paper, plastic, glass, and metal, which are then transformed into usable materials for manufacturing new products. Recycling reduces the waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills or incinerators and the negative environmental impacts like greenhouse gas emissions, soil and groundwater contamination, and the release of toxic substances.
Recycling also creates jobs in collecting, sorting, and processing materials and manufacturing new products from recycled materials. However, there are challenges to recycling, such as the cost of collection and processing, contamination of materials, and the need for efficient systems to ensure that materials are recycled properly.
Reforestation is the natural or intentional process of replanting trees to recover forested areas. Its goal is to address environmental- and climate-related issues like desertification, deforestation, flooding, greenhouse gas emissions, and more.
Reforestation practices have the potential to contribute to mitigating climate change and provide additional benefits such as biodiversity conservation, soil conservation, and water regulation. Sustainable forest management practices are implemented globally, with the goal of balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations and promoting forest conservation and restoration. Read more
Renewable energy refers to non-depletable natural energy sources that can be continuously replenished over time. They are generally considered cleaner than traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass. Solar energy is harnessed through photovoltaic cells, while wind energy is captured through wind turbines. Hydroelectric power is generated through water movement, while geothermal power is harnessed through the heat of the Earth’s crust. Biomass energy is created through organic matter, such as wood chips or agricultural waste. Renewable energy has become increasingly important in the global energy mix as countries seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a more sustainable energy system.
Scope 1 emissions
Scope 1 emissions, also known as direct emissions, are greenhouse gases from sources owned or controlled by a company or organisation. These emissions result from burning fossil fuels for heating or transportation or onsite emissions sources such as manufacturing or waste disposal. Scope 1 emissions are categorised as being direct because they are under the company’s direct control and can be measured and reported accurately. These emissions are the most relevant for companies to address in their emissions reduction strategies. In corporate sustainability reporting, Scope 1 emissions are typically reported as part of a company’s overall greenhouse gas inventory, which may be used to track progress towards reduction targets or comply with regulatory requirements.
Scope 2 emissions
Scope 2 emissions are indirect greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity, heat or steam an organisation consumes. Scope 2 emissions don’t originate within the organisation but result from the consumption of purchased electricity. They are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Calculating and reporting Scope 2 emissions is essential for organisations seeking to measure their environmental impact and minimise their carbon footprint to align with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Renewable energy purchases can be used to reduce Scope 2 emissions. Using renewable energy certificates (RECs) or power purchase agreements (PPAs) can help organisations reduce their Scope 2 emissions by ensuring that the electricity they consume comes from renewable sources.
Scope 3 emissions
Scope 3 emissions refer to the greenhouse gas emissions produced indirectly in a company’s supply chain. These emissions are associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of the goods and services a company uses or provides, as well as the activities of its employees, including commuting and business travel. In other words, Scope 3 emissions cover the entire lifecycle of a product, from the extraction of raw materials to the end of its useful life.
Scope 3 emissions are the most challenging to measure and reduce since they don’t originate from assets or activities owned by the organisation but instead involve third parties like suppliers and employees. However, companies can still take steps to manage their Scope 3 emissions by collaborating only with suppliers to reduce emissions in their supply chain and investing in sustainable products and services. Companies must address Scope 3 emissions to align with reporting requirements and stay competitive and resilient in a rapidly changing business environment.
Sea level is the average level of the ocean’s surface in relation to the land, measured over a period of time. It is affected by tides, waves, currents, and oceanic and atmospheric conditions. The sea level has been relatively stable for thousands of years, but it is now rising due to the melting of glaciers and ice caps caused by global warming. The current rate of sea level rise is estimated to be about 3.6 millimetres per year. Sea level rise can significantly impact coastal communities, causing livelihood destruction, erosion, flooding, and loss of habitats. It can also increase the frequency and intensity of coastal storms and damage to infrastructure.
Solar panels converts sunlight into electrical energy by the photovoltaic effect. When sunlight falls on the solar panel, the photovoltaic cells absorb the energy from the light and release electrons, creating an electrical current. The amount of energy produced by a solar panel depends on the intensity of the sunlight falling on it, as well as the size and efficiency of the panel. Solar panels are often used as an environmentally-friendly source of electricity in residential, commercial and industrial settings. They are durable, require minimal maintenance, and generate up to 25 years of electricity. Technology constantly evolves, with innovations being made to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The use of solar panels also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote a transition towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.
Solar power is energy generated from the sun through solar panels. It is a renewable energy source that produces electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or air pollutants. Solar panels absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. This electricity is then converted into alternating current (AC) electricity using an inverter, which can be used to power homes, businesses, and even entire communities. Solar power is becoming increasingly popular due to its environmental benefits, decreasing costs, and reliability. It can be used as a standalone system or combined with other renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power, to provide a reliable and sustainable energy source.
Stranded assets are assets that end up as liabilities due to a premature loss of value or phase-out. The most glaring example of stranded assets is fossil fuel infrastructure like coal plants which risk being decommissioned way before the end of their anticipated economic lifespan due to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel resources like coal, oil and gas reserves also risk becoming stranded assets once the world embraces renewable energy sources en masse.
The transition to a low-carbon economy, including the adoption of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, is expected to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, leading to a potential decrease in the value of fossil fuel assets. That is why investors in such projects and fossil fuel companies need to develop strategies to ensure they are well-positioned for the energy transition. Read more
Temperature overshoot refers to a scenario where the global average temperature temporarily surpasses the target temperature limit set by the Paris Agreement, usually defined as 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, before returning to the target level. This can negatively impact ecosystems, natural resources, and human societies. The overshoot may result from a temporary delay in implementing mitigation measures or difficulties in reducing emissions from specific sectors.
There are arguments that overshoot is inevitable and may result in irreversible damage to the planet. To avoid overshoot, aggressive and immediate emission reduction actions are necessary, including phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure and replacing it with renewable energy sources, along with complementary measures such as reforestation, non-CO2 emission reduction, and more.
Transition risk refers to the financial and economic risks that companies, financial institutions, and investors face due to the ongoing transition to a low-carbon economy. This transition involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, which can significantly impact businesses and investors’ profitability and financial stability if they continue doing business as usual. The risks can include increased regulation, carbon pricing, changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and shifts in the political and social landscape. Due to the decreasing demand for fossil fuels, companies and investors exposed to them may face stranded asset risk, higher costs associated with transitioning to new technologies and business models, and more.
Transition risk can also have broader implications for the economy, as sectors heavily reliant on fossil fuels, such as the energy sector, may experience significant disruption. As such, businesses and investors need to assess and manage these risks to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience.
Transition washing refers to presenting false or exaggerated information about a company’s efforts to transition to a more sustainable business model to create a positive public image or secure investment. It is a form of greenwashing, a marketing tactic companies use to make their products or services appear environmentally friendly, even when they aren’t. Transition washing can take many forms, such as claiming to use renewable energy sources when they still rely heavily on fossil fuels or promoting a new sustainability initiative that isn’t truly aligned with the company’s core business practices. This can mislead stakeholders, investors, and the general public into believing that a company is making more progress towards sustainability than it is in reality.
To avoid transition washing, it is crucial for companies to be transparent about their sustainability efforts and to back up their claims with concrete actions and data. Investors and stakeholders should also carefully scrutinise the sustainability claims made by companies and demand evidence of genuine progress toward more sustainable and climate-friendly practices.
Weather refers to the atmospheric conditions prevailing in a specific area over a short period, usually a few hours or days. It includes various elements such as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, precipitation, and more. These elements are influenced by multiple factors like the Earth’s rotation, topography, ocean currents, and atmospheric circulation patterns. Weather patterns can vary from region to region and can be influenced by natural and human-made factors like climate change, for example.
Meteorologists use various instruments and techniques to monitor and forecast weather conditions, such as weather balloons, radar, satellites, and computer models. The information gathered from these sources is used to issue weather advisories, warnings, and forecasts to the public, which can help people prepare for severe weather events. Understanding and predicting weather patterns is critical for many economic sectors, including agriculture, transportation, and energy production.
A wildfire is a natural disaster characterised by a large, uncontrollable fire in a forest, grassland, or another wildland area, often caused by lightning, drought, or human activity. The intensity of a wildfire is influenced by various factors such as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, and topography. Wildfires can have devastating effects on wildlife, vegetation, and human infrastructure and pose risks to public health and safety.
The spread of wildfires is influenced by weather and environmental factors, including high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds, and more. As a result, fire management and prevention strategies have become increasingly important to minimise the risk and impact of wildfires. These strategies include prescribed burns, thinning of vegetation, and creating defensible spaces around homes and other structures. Furthermore, community preparedness plans and evacuation protocols are critical in mitigating the impact of wildfires on human populations.
Wind turbines produce electrical energy from the kinetic energy of wind. The basic design of a wind turbine consists of a rotor, blades, a hub, a nacelle, a tower, a generator, and more. The rotor is part of the turbine that spins and is connected to the blades. The blades capture the energy from the wind and turn the rotor. The hub is the centre of the rotor where the blades attach. The nacelle contains the gearbox, generator, and control electronics. The tower supports the entire wind turbine.
There are two primary types of wind turbines – horizontal axis and vertical axis. Horizontal-axis turbines are the most common and have blades that rotate around a horizontal axis. Vertical-axis turbines have blades that revolve around a vertical axis and are less common. Wind turbines are an essential renewable energy source to generate electricity in wind farms located on land or offshore. Read more