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Making sense of the climate change conferences: 9 key terms for COP28

By Jake Beardslee · December 7, 2023

9 key terms related to efforts to address the climate crisis, from the Paris Agreement's emissions reduction goals to thorny issues like fossil fuel use and compensating vulnerable nations.  FinnishGovernment/Wikimedia

The climate crisis demands urgent action, but the negotiations at conferences like COP28 can get lost in jargon. Here are 9 must-know terms:

  1. Paris Agreement

    The landmark 2015 deal signed by nearly 200 countries to limit global warming.

  2. Global Stocktake

    Evaluates progress under the Paris Agreement to inform countries’ next climate pledges.

  3. Net zero

    Means balancing carbon released and removed from the atmosphere by mid-century.

  4. Carbon markets

    Let companies buy and sell the right to emit carbon, but their impact is debated.

  5. Carbon Capture and Storage

    Traps emissions from polluters before they enter the air, then stores them underground.

  6. Peak Emissions

    Refers to the point when global emissions reach their highest level before falling, determining how quickly cuts must happen afterwards.

  7. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

    Outline each country’s emission cuts and climate strategy.

  8. Just Transition

    Moves economies off fossil fuels while protecting vulnerable groups from harm.

  9. Loss and Damage

    Refers to the deadly impacts poorer nations face despite having little responsibility, demanding funding from rich emitters.