Climate change: An A-Z glossary of the words you need to know in the fight against global warming

·5-min read

Climate change affects everybody on this planet, so it is important to know all the terminology surrounding it.

Here are some of the most important words and phrases:


Changes in processes, practices and structures to helps cope with the effects of climate change - such as building flood defences or switching to drought-resistant crops.


A wide range of living organisms, such as animals and plants, in an environment. Biodiversity is essential for ecosystems to survive. For example, without plants, there would be no oxygen - and without bees to pollinate, there would be no fruit or nuts.


Biomass is any organic matter that comes from plants and animals, such as cow dung, corn crops or wood chips that be used for renewable energy.

Biofuel is the fuel derived from biomass. The UK considers biofuel renewable, but some scientists say it is not as it emits CO2.

Carbon budget

The amount of CO2 that a country, company or organisation has agreed is the most it will produce in a particular period of time to meet emission reduction commitments.

Carbon capture/sequestration and storage

The collection and transport of concentrated CO2 gas from large emission sources, such as power plants.

Those gases are then injected into deep underground reservoirs. Geological sequestration is another name for carbon capture.

Carbon intensity

The amount of carbon, by weight, emitted per unit of energy consumed.

Carbon markets

One country pays for carbon emissions to be reduced in another country so the first country can count those reductions towards its own national targets.

This can also be at regional or company level, with those who are going to exceed a greenhouse gas capable to trade allowance from a company that will not reach the cap.

Project trading can also happen with carbon offsetting (see below).

Carbon offsetting/credits

The practice of reducing CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions made in one area to compensate for emissions elsewhere.

This could be planting trees for taking a plane and often involves a company funding a project elsewhere restoring forests or developing renewable energy, for example.

Carbon tax

The amount those producing carbon must pay for each tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change

The long-term changes in the Earth's climate, or a region on Earth, including variations in sea levels, amounts of snow and sea ice.

Climate finance

Local, national or transnational financing that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement (scroll down) calls for financial assistance from those with more financial resources than those that are poorer and more vulnerable.

Climate justice

Looking at the climate crisis through a human rights lens instead of a purely scientific one.

It puts people and communities most vulnerable to the impact of climate change at its heart.


The 26th UN Climate Change Conference due to take place in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November 2021. COP stands for Conference of the Parties.

It will bring world leaders together to agree on what actions need to be taken to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and those of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Energy mix

The different energy sources used in a geographical region, and in what proportions - often split into renewable (such as wind, solar and tidal) and non-renewable (such as gas and coal).

Energy transition

The global energy sector's shift from fossil-based energy production and consumption to renewable energy.

Fast fashion

Cheap, often poor quality clothes produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. They are bought regularly and are often only worn a few times before being thrown out.

Global warming

A gradual increase in the Earth's overall temperature caused by increased levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2, CFCs and other pollutants that absorb infrared radiation.


Disinformation produced by an organisation to present an environmentally responsible public image.


The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was created to provide politicians with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks and to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.


Actions to limit global warming by reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reducing their concentrations.


Nationally determined contributions of each of the Paris Agreement's signatories.

They are national climate plans highlighting climate actions, including targets, policies and measures aimed at reducing climate change.

Net zero/absolute zero/carbon neutrality

All terms for when the amount of CO2 emissions released on an annual basis is zero or negative.

Paris Agreement

A legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by 196 parties at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2C, preferably to 1.5C, below pre-industrial levels.

Every five years, countries must submit their plans for climate action (NDCs) and in 2020 they had to submit a long-term plan.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty addressing climate change.

It was signed by 154 states at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 with the aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations to prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system.

The Daily Climate show launches today, watch it at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday as we follow Sky News correspondents investigating how global warming is changing our landscape and how we live our lives.

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