A climate change jargon cheat sheet

World leaders are, at the moment, still trying to come up with an agreement to deal with the climate crisis at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 26th Conference of Parties at Glasgow, Scotland with letters like these being written to the negotiators.

In the last two weeks, climate news has, maybe for the first time ever, made it to Indian newspapers in volume. But to understand what’s at stake and how discussions are unfolding, one has to know the language of climate change. The Washington Post has made life easier for everyone by creating a cheat sheet of climate terms used in climate talks.

If you don’t know the difference between adaptation and mitigation, and why they are important concepts, read here.

Why Glasgow is important

This is the 26th time the world has gathered within the framework of the United Nations to address the climate crisis. Although these conferences are annual events, with some being more important than others, the one happening right now holds special importance.

The scientific community is more certain than ever about the threat of climate crisis. The time to undo the damage is running out. This decade will either make or break the planet, which will depend on whether world leaders can come to an agreement. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data released earlier this year, for global heating to remain within 1.5 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels, global emissions have to reduce by 45-50% compared to 2010 levels by 2030. This decade, as Sunita Narain, the Director General of the Delhi based think tank, Centre for Science and Environment, puts it, will requires a “desperate need to front-load action on mitigation”.

Read here and here to know why Narain thinks the CoP26 is crucial and what is at stake.

What do Glasgow announcements mean for the climate?

World leaders have made many promises at the CoP26 since November 1. Many countries have enhanced their national plans to target climate change, there has been a pledge to stop deforestation and one to phase out coal.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi also had his media moment when he gave the world his five “panchamrit”, mostly focusing on the improvement of renewable energy in India’s energy mix and also a net zero emission promise by 2070.

What do these pledges and promises mean collectively for the planet? It is important to mention here that a pledge doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Plus, many of these pledges – like India’s – are conditional on climate finance flowing from the developed to the developing world.

This analysis by the climate news website, Carbon Brief, explains more.

Where is the money?

A major bone of contention at the CoP between the developed and developing countries is climate finance. At the 2009 conference held in Copenhagen, the developed world had promised to pay developing countries to undertake climate crisis mitigation and adaptation measures. This sum was supposed to have increased to USD100 billion by 2020. This hasn’t happened and developing countries are not happy about it.

Many of them have made their climate pledges conditional on receiving this money. Here’s an article in Nature that explains what this promise was and importantly, how it was broken. The developing countries, organised in a group of 24 like-minded countries, which include India and China, have now pegged the climate finance requirement at USD1.3 trillion annually.

This report by the publication, Climate Change News, explains what this tussle means.

Moreover, there is friction between developed and developing counties over finance for climate crisis-caused loss and damage. The idea is that since the disasters caused by the changing climate are primarily a responsibility of the developed world, on account of their historical emissions, they are liable to pay for these damages: an idea now referred to as “climate reparations”.

Here’s a report explaining the issue and the discussions around it.

Nature-based solutions and problems

The theme of this CoP was “nature-based solutions”, jargon for climate crisis mitigation measures like afforestation. This is because of the increased focus on net zero emission commitments by counties (so far, 49 countries plus the European Union).

A net zero emission situation, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang, is when the greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by the removal of these gases. The only problem is that right now there are no commercially viable technologies which can do this. Forests and oceans remain the only way where carbon can be removed form the atmosphere, hence the focus on nature-based solutions.

However, planting trees is not as easy a solution as it seems.

Here’s a BBC video report which breaks it down.

Ishan Kukreti covers sustainability for Scroll.in. You can read all his reportage here.