Abatement: The reduction of the degree or intensity of emissions.


Adaptability: The degree to which adjustments are possible in practices, processes, or structures of systems to projected or actual changes of climate. Adaptation can be spontaneous or planned, and be carried out in response to or in anticipation of changes in conditions.


Additionality: Emissions reductions achieved in addition to those that otherwise would occur without an intervention to reduce emissions.


Allocation: The division of emissions permits or allowances among greenhouse gas emitters for the purpose of establishing a market in tradable permits. There are several possible methods for allocating permits, including "grandfathering" and permit auctioning.


Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS): A coalition of low-lying and island countries that are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and, accordingly, share common public policy positions on climate change. The 42 members and observers are American Samoa, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominica, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guam, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Netherlands Antilles, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobaga, Tuvula, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu.


Annex 1 Parties: The group of 40 industrialized nations that, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, pleged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Annex 1 parties include: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, European Economic Community, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States.


Anthropogenic Emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions that result from human activity.


Auctioning: A method by which permits for greenhouse gas emissions may be allocated among emitters and firms in a domestic emissions trading regime based upon willingness to pay for these permits. Supporters of this method of emissions trading assert that the advantage of auctioning is that it would provide governments with revenue and provide price signals to the new and developing market for permits. Critics contend that auctioning's disadvantage is that it may be less politically acceptable to those entities that would stand to gain from grandfathering of permits.




Banking: Saving emissions permits for future use in anticipation that these will accrue value over time.


Binding Targets: Environmental goals that are to be met in the future.


Biodiversity: Variety of organisms found inhabiting a specific geograhpic area.


Bubble: The idea that emissions reductions anywhere within a specific area count toward compliance. For example, if a plant with multiple emissions sources is treated as being "under an emissions bubble," regulators assess only the total emissions of the plant, not the emissions of each individual source, in determining compliance.




Carbon Dioxide (CO2): A naturally occurring gas, and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas that affects the Earth's radiative balance.


Carbon Sequestration: The capturing of carbon -- in a carbon sink, such as the oceans, or a terrestrial sink such as forests or soils -- so as to keep the carbon out of the atmosphere.


Carbon Sink: Carbon stores and conditions that take in and hold more carbon (carbon sequestration) than they release. Carbon sinks can serve to partially offset greenhouse gas emissions. Forests and oceans are common carbon sinks.


Carbon Taxes: Fees designed to discourage the use of fossil fuels and aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by placing a surcharge on the carbon content of oil, coal, and gas.


Certified Emission Reductions (CERs)/Certified Emission Reduction Units (CERUs): Verified and authenticated units of greenhouse gas reductions from abatement or sequestration projects which are certified by the Clean Development Mechanism.


Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): A modified version of Joint Implementation that was included in The Kyoto Protocol for project-based activities in developing countries.

In Article 12.2 of the Protocol, the parties established the CDM for the purposes of assisting developing countries in achieving sustainable development and helping Annex I parties meet their emissions limitation and reduction obligations. Under the supervision of an executive board, private and public funds may be channelled through this mechanism to finance projects in developing countries. As in the case of JI, but with slightly different language, any party "may involve private and/or public entities" in the regime. One innovative aspect is that a share of the proceeds from project activities is to be used to cover the administrative expenses of the clean development mechanism . Another part of those proceeds will be used to help particularly vulnerable developing countries meet the costs of adapting to a changing climate.  As the Protocol stands now, developing country commitments are restricted to voluntary participation in CDM and the undertaking of general obligations such as the formulation of national programs and political as well as scientific cooperation among each other.


Co-Control Benefit: The additional benefits derived from an environmental policy that is designed to control one type of pollution, while reducing the emissions of other pollutants as well. For example, a policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions might reduce the combustion of coal, but when coal combustion is reduced, so too are the emissions of particulates and sulfur dioxide. The benefits associated with reductions in emissions of particulates and sulfur dioxide are the co-control benefits of reductions in carbon dioxide.


Command-and-Control Regulation: Regulation requiring polluters to meet specific emission-reduction targets and often requires the installation and use of specific types of equipment to reduce emissions.


Commitment Periods: A range of years within which parties to The Kyoto Protocol are required to meet their GHG emissions reduction target, which is averaged over the years of the commitment period. The first commitment period is 2008-2012.


Conference of Parties (COP): The supreme body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is comprised of 170+ nations that have ratified the Convention. Its first session was held in Berlin, Germany, in 1995, and is expected to continue meeting on a yearly basis. The COP's role is to promote and review the implementation of the Convention. It will periodically review existing commitments in light of the Convention's objective, new scientific findings, and the effectiveness of national climate change programs.


Contingent Valuation Method: A survey-based economic method that is often used to quantify in dollar terms the benefits (or costs) of an environmental policy.


Cost-Benefit Analysis: Economic technique applied to public decision making that attempts to quantify in dollar terms the advantages (benefits) and disadvantages (costs) associated with a particular policy. For example, a policy that requires a power plant near the Grand Canyon to install pollution abatement equipment would reduce air emissions from the plant and improve the visibility at the Grand Canyon for visitors (a benefit), but would increase the cost of electricity to customers (a cost).




Decision Framework: A way of organizing and evaluating information.


Developing Countries (or Less Developed Countries, LDCs): Those countries which are in the process of becoming industrialized but have constrained resources with which to combat their environmental problems.


Differentiation: Differing national circumstances that might imply differing obligations, within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  It can refer to North-South distinctions, or to differences within the rich Annex 1 countries. The differences can reflect population, income, economic composition, or energy endowment.


Discounting: A method used by economists to determine the dollar value today of a project’s future costs and benefits. This is done by weighting money values that occur in the future by a value less than 1, or “discounting” them.

Because environmental decision makers are increasingly forced to evaluate policies with costs and benefits that will be spread out over tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of years, discounting is used to help evaluate the value of measures that deal with problems such as stratospheric ozone depletion, global climate change, and the disposal of low- and high-level radioactive wastes.


Discount Rate: The annual rate at which the effect of future events are reduced so as to be comparable to the effect of present events.


Double Dividend: The notion that environmental taxes can both reduce pollution (the first dividend) and reduce the overall economic costs associated with the tax system by using the revenue generated to displace other more distortionary taxes that slow economic grow at the same time (the second dividend).


Downstream: Any point in the economy, and in particular, at the level of energy consumers rather than suppliers. It is commonly interpreted to be industrial boilers, electric utilities and other major energy users, but also applies, in theory, to all consumers of gasoline, coal, electricity etc. Conversely, upstream refers to the point (or close to it) where fossil fuels enter the economy. In the U.S., it means at the input to oil refineries, at coal processing plants and where natural gas enters pipelines.




Ecosystem: The complex of plant, animal, fungal, and microorganism communities and their associated non-living environment interacting as an ecological unit. Ecosystems have no fixed boundaries. Parameters are set according to the scientific, management, or policy question being examined. Depending upon the purpose of analysis, a single lake, a watershed, or an entire region could be considered an ecosystem.


Emissions: Pollutants released into the air or waterways from industrial processes, households or transportation vehicles. Air emissions pertain to atmospheric air pollution; water emissions refer to pollutants released into waterways.

Emissions Cap: Mandated restraint that puts a “ceiling” on the total amount of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that can be released into the atmosphere.


Emissions Leakage:Concept often used by policymakers in reference to the problem that emissions abatement achieved in one location may be offset by increased emissions in unregulated locations. Such leakage can arise, for example, in the short term as emissions abaters reduce energy demand or timber supply, influencing world prices for these commodities and increasing the quantity emitted elsewhere; and it can arise in the longer term, for example, as industries relocate to avoid controls.


Emission Taxes: Taxes levied on air or water emissions, usually on a per-ton basis. Emission taxes provide incentives for firms and households to reduce their emissions and therefore are a means by which pollution can be controlled. The greater the level of the emissions tax, the greater the incentive to reduce emissions.


Emissions Trading:Economic incentive-based alternative to command-and-control regulation. In an emissions trading program, sources of a particular pollutant (most often an air pollutant) are given permits to release a specified number of tons of the pollutant. The government issues only a limited number of permits consistent with the desired level of emissions. The owners of the permits may keep them and release the pollutants, or reduce their emissions and sell the permits. The fact that the permits have value as an item to be sold or traded gives the owner an incentive to reduce their emissions.

Energy Intensity: Amount of energy consumption and economic or physical output. Nationally, energy intensity is the ratio of total domestic primary energy consumption or final energy consumption to gross domestic product or physical output.


Energy Security:Term used to describe a variety of issues from the economic cost of oil supply disruptions to the cost of military expenditures to secure international trade.


Environmental Equity (Environmental Justice): Environmental protection for all citizens so that no segment of the population, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, or income, bears a disproportionate burden of the consequences of environmental pollution.


E.U. Bubble: In the context of international climate change negotiations refers to the notion that the European Union (EU) as a whole would accept some aggregate limit on carbon reductions but that the limit would not have to be shared pro rata by all members. One could then have a weaker reduction limit for, say, Portugal than Germany, provided that the total reflected the internationally agreed-upon goal (e.g., stabilization at 1990 levels in 2010). In effect, a bubble allows the EU to achieve differentiation of national standards -- something that is quite controversial in the negotiation process.

The generic concept of "bubble" refers to the idea that emissions reductions anywhere within a specific area count toward compliance. For example, if a plant with multiple emissions sources is treated as being "under an emissions bubble," regulators assess only the total emissions of the plant, not the emissions of each individual source, in determining compliance.


Evapotranspiration: Loss of water from the soil both by evaporation and by transpiration from the plants growing in the soil and rises with air temperature.


Externalities: The inadvertent impact of one person’s activity on the well-being of another person. Many aspects of environmental degradation, such as air pollution, global warming, loss of wilderness, and contamination of water bodies, are viewed as externalities of economic transactions.



Flexibility Mechanisms: Established by The Kyoto Protocol they seek to increase the flexibility and reduce the costs of making emissions reductions; the three primary mechanisms contained within the Protocol are the Clean Development Mechanism, emissions trading, and Joint Implementation (or activities implemented jointly).


Fossil Fuels: Combustible geologic deposits of carbon in reduced form and of biological origin including coal, petroleum and natural gas.

Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC): International treaty unveiled at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as the "Rio Summit"), in June 1992. The FCCC commits signatory countries to stabilize anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) greenhouse gas emissions to "levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

The FCCC also requires that all signatory parties develop and update national inventories of anthropogenic emissions of all greenhouse gases not otherwise controlled by the Montreal Protocol. Out of 155 countries that have ratified this accord, the U.S. was the first industrialized nation to do so.


Fuel Cycle: The total life of a fuel in all its uses and forms. For example, the fuel cycle of coal is extraction; transportation; combustion; air emissions, and ash removal, transportation and disposal.




General Circulation Models: Complex computer simulations of climate and its various components used by researchers and policy analysts to predict climate change.  Typically run on “super computers,” these models can approximate future climates and give some clues to how climate has changed or might change over time.


General Equilibrium Theory: Theory that demonstrates the advantage of looking beyond first-stage effects.  In the context of climate policy, it implies that the various parts of an economic system are interrelated, and the net effect of an action may be markedly different from the initial (and intended) effect.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Organized collections of computer hardware, software, geographic data, and personnel designed to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze and display all forms of geographically referenced information. GIS is being used by many researchers in the environmental field to view a number of different indicators simultaneously as data layers on a geographic grid. By associating data of all kinds with points on a map, GIS can illustrate patterns and trends that might otherwise be incomprehensive. For example, using GIS, a researcher can map multiple health indicators at and around a specific toxic waste site.


Global Warming: The progressive, gradual rise of the Earth's surface temperature thought to be caused by the greenhouse effect and responsible for changes in global climate patterns.


Global Warming Potentials (GWPs): An index created in The Kyoto Protocol that allows for equal comparison of the various greenhouse gases due their varying power to accelerate global warming and/or the duration of their presence in the atmosphere.


Grandfathering: With relation to emissions permits is a method by which permits for greenhouse gas emissions may be allocated among emitters and firms in a domestic emissions trading regime according to their historical emissions. Supporters of this method of emissions trading assert that this would be administratively simple but some critics argue that this method would reward firms with high historical emissions and unfairly complicate entry into markets by new firms and emitters.


Greenhouse Effect: The progressive, gradual warming of the earth's atmospheric temperature, caused by the insulating effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that have proportionately increased in the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect disturbs the way the Earth’s climate maintains the balance between incoming and outgoing energy by allowing short-wave radiation from the sun to penetrate through to warm the earth, but preventing the resulting long-wave radiation from escaping back into the atmosphere.


Greenhouse Gases: Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. This group includes the common gases of carbon dioxide and water vapor, but also rarer gases such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) whose properties relate to the transmission or reflection of different types of radiation. The increase in such gases in the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming, is a result of the burning of fossil fuels, the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere, and deforestation.

Group of 77 and China (G77/China): An international organization established in 1964 by 77 developing countries; membership has now increased to 133 countries. The group acts as a major negotiating bloc on some issues including climate change.




Hot Air: Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, for example, in the former Soviet Union, due to economic collapse, as opposed to intentional efforts to curb emissions.




Incentive-Based Regulation: Utilizes the economic behavior of firms and households to attain desired environmental goals. Incentive-based programs involve taxes on emissions or tradable emission permits. The primary strength of incentive-based regulation is the flexibility it provides the polluter to find the least-cost way to reduce emissions.


Industrialized Countries: Nations characterized by relative political stability and long-term industrial success.  Their per capita income is comparable to those of Canada, Northern Europe, and the United States, and they have achieved a higher level of economic and environmental sustainability than developing countries because of higher levels of capital and natural resources.


Intergenerational Equity: A term that, within the context of environmental policy, refers to the fairness of the distribution of the costs and benefits of a long-lived policy when those costs and benefits are borne by different generations. In the case of a climate change policy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the costs of the emissions reductions will be borne by the current and near term generations, while the benefits of an unchanged climate will be enjoyed by far distant generations.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): The IPCC was established jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988. The purpose of the IPCC is to assess information in the scientific and technical literature related to all significant components of the issue of climate change.

The IPCC draws upon hundreds of the world's expert scientists as authors and thousands as expert reviewers. Leading experts on climate change and environmental, social, and economic sciences from some 60 nations have helped the IPCC to prepare periodic assessments of the scientific underpinnings for understanding global climate change and its consequences.

With its capacity for reporting on climate change, its consequences, and the viability of adaptation and mitigation measures, the IPCC is also looked to as the official advisory body to the world's governments on the state of the science of the climate change issue. For example, the IPCC organized the development of internationally accepted methods for conducting national greenhouse gas emission inventories.


Internalizing the Externality: Economic concept where the polluter directly bears the cost created by his pollution.


Irreversibilities: Changes that, once set in motion, cannot be reversed, at least on human time scales.



Joint Implementation (JI): A concept where industrialized countries meet their obligations for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by receiving credits for investing in emissions reductions in developing countries. Proponents of joint implementation argue that such an international trade in emissions credits would achieve greenhouse gas reductions in industrialized countries at much lower costs while providing foreign investment benefits to developing countries.


JUSSCANNZ: Acronym describing Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand, the negotiating bloc for the non-EU developed countries. Countries meet periodically to discuss various issues related to climate change.




Kyoto Forests: Forests that comply with the specifications of the Kyoto Protocol.   Under Article 3, carbon sequestration will be credited only for forests planted after January 1, 1990 and only for carbon sequestered during the commitment period of 2008-2012.

The Kyoto Protocol: International agreement struck by 159 nations attending the Third Conference of Parties (COP-3) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (held in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan) to reduce worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. Delegates to COP-3 agreed to the following specific provisions:

Developed Countries: Thirty-eight developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases. Collectively, developed countries agreed to cut back their emissions by a total of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012 from 1990 levels. The six gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three ozone-damaging fluorocarbons not covered by the Montreal Protocol that banned global chlorofluorocarbons (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride). The European Union agreed to reduce their emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels; the United States signed on to a 7 percent reduction; and Japan agreed to a 6 percent reduction. Some countries, including Russia and Ukraine, are not bound to make any reductions while countries with smaller economies such as Iceland, Norway and New Zealand are allowed to actually increase their emissions. Australia was also allowed to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries with Economies in Transition: Countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy but that are also classified along with the EU, Japan and the U.S. as Annex I parties to the Convention – including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, among others -- face smaller reductions.

Developing Countries: Countries which are in the process of becoming industrialized but have constrained resources with which to combat their environmental problems -- which include China and India -- have no formal binding targets, but have the option to set voluntary reduction targets.




Leakage: Emissions abatement achieved in one location that is offset by increased emissions in unregulated locations.




Mapped Atmosphere-Plant Soil (MAPPS) model: A global biological and geographical model that simulates the potential natural vegetation that can be supported at any site in the world under a long-term steady-state climate.

Market-based Incentives: Measures intended to directly change relative prices of energy services and overcome market barriers.


Methane: A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 23 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum, coal production, and incomplete fossil fuel combustion.

Montreal Protocol (on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer): International agreement that entered into force in January 1989 to phase out the use of ozone-depleting compounds such as methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and CFCs. CFCs are potent greenhouse gases which are not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol since they are covered by the Montreal Protocol.




Newly-Industrialized Economies: Regions, primarily in southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim, that have experienced rapid economic growth rates in the last several decades. These include the economies of Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.


Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2): Form of air pollution that is a brownish gas produced when nitric oxide emitted from power plants combines with oxygen already in the atmosphere. It can damage trees and lead to acid rain, which can harm lakes and streams and also corrode exposed materials. In the presence of sunlight and volatile organic compounds, NO2 can contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, or smog.


Nitrogen Oxides (NOX): Often mentioned in discussions of nitrogen-based air pollution as a reference to both nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).  In addition to particulates and sulfur dioxide, NOX is one of the major electricity-related pollutants. It can transform to nitrates in the atmosphere (which is a fine particulate).


Non-Linearity: One variable causing a more than proportionate impact on another variable.


Non-Market Benefits: Benefits of a climate policy that can be measured in terms of avoided non-market impacts such as human-health impacts.


Non-Revenue-Raising Instruments: Environmental policies that do not raise revenue as a by-product of their environmental regulation. Traditional command-and-control regulations are non-revenue-raising and stand in contrast to instruments like emission taxes which raise revenue.




Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): Includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Japan, Luxemborg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Ozone (O3): A form of air pollution that is produced when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react in sunlight. It is not to be confused with stratospheric ozone, which is found 9 to 18 miles high in the Earth’s atmosphere and protects people from harmful radiation from the sun. Ground-level ozone pollution, or smog, is mainly a problem during hot summer days.




Particulate Matter (PM): A form of air pollution that includes soot, dust, dirt and aerosols. It has readily apparent effects on visibility and exposed surfaces, and can create or intensify breathing and heart problems and lead to cancer and premature death.


Permanence: The measure of the long-term success of biological carbon sequestration. Projects can utilize soils and biomass to store atmospheric C02 for marked offset benefits. However, such storage is susceptible to natural disturbances such as fire or intentional management operations, that negate the offset benefit by ultimately releasing the C02.


Policy Stringency: The strict adherence to policy goals and desired results by all relevant parties.  An example of environmental policy stringency is typically measured as a targeted reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.  


Polluter Pays: The principle stating that those who cause industrial pollution should offset its effects by compensating for the damage incurred, or by taking precautionary measures to avoid creating pollution.


Precautionary Principle: Within the context of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change refers to the idea that action to forestall large-scale, irreversible damage from climate change is warranted even though the risks of climate change are not yet fully understood. The precautionary principle thus puts a premium on the long-term safeguarding of the world's climate system, even in the face of uncertainty about the impacts and the need to bear near-term costs of mitigation.






Renewable Resources: Energy sources that do not use exhaustible fuels. Sources of renewable energy include water, wind, solar energy and geothermal energy, as well as some combustible materials, such as landfill gas, biomass, and municipal solid waste.


Restructuring: Changes in the ownership or internal operation of a public utility, and is often used to describe the broader concept of increased competition in the electricity industry.

It aims to separate the functions of generation -- the process used to create electricity where some form of energy is expended to drive a turbine, which in turn drives a generator which in turn produces electric current; transmission -- the process of conducting the flow of electricity at high voltages from the points of generation to the locations of groups of electricity users; and distribution -- the process of transforming high-voltage electricity to lower voltages and then physically delivering it to households, industrial facilities, etc.


Revenue-Raising Instruments: Policy instruments that include emissions taxes, which are levied against producers of pollution;  and tradable emissions permits, which can be bought or sold by coal-burning electric utilities and other industries. 


Revenue-Recycling: When revenue raised by an environmental policy is used to reduce other distortionary taxes or government deficits or is rebated to households.




Satellite Remote Sensing: Collection of data on land use, industrial activity, weather, climate, geology and other processes through Earth observations from satellites in outer space.


Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention: The United Nations staff assigned the responsibility of conducting the affairs of the UNFCCC. In 1996 the Secretariat moved from Geneva, Switzerland, to Bonn, Germany.


Sensitivity: The degree to which a system will respond to a change in climatic conditions.


Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI): Assists the COP in the assessment and review of the effective implementation of the Convention. It is open to participation by all parties and is comprised of government representatives who are experts on matters related to climate change and reports regularly to the COP on all aspects of its work. Under the guidance of the COP, the SBI assesses the overall aggregated effect of the steps taken by the parties in the light of the latest scientific assessments concerning climate change and assists the COP in the preparation and implementation of its decisions.


Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA): Body that provides the COP and its other subsidiary bodies with timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters relating to the Convention. It is comprised of government representatives competent in the relevant field of expertise and must report to the COP on all aspects of its work.


Sulfur Dioxide: A form of air pollution that is a gas. It results from the combustion of fuels that contain sulfur. SO2 is most prevalent in the combustion of coal.


Supplementarity: Whether parties of The Kyoto Protocol, while using flexibility mechanisms such as emissions trading to lower greenhouse gas mitigation costs, also institute adequate domestic energy and other policies for ensuring the achievement of long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals.


Sustainable Development: A broad concept referring to the need to balance the satisfaction of near-term interests with the protection of the interests of future generations, including their interests in a safe and healthy environment. As expressed by the 1987 UN World Commission on Environment and Development (the "Brundtland Commission"), sustainable development "...meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."




Tax-Interaction Effect: Outcome that can occur when environmental policies, such as emission taxes or permits, and the conventional tax system interact. This effect is the cost of the overall reduction in employment and investment caused by environmental policies, which exacerbate the distortionary effects of pre-existing taxes on labor and capital.


Technology-Forcing Regulations: Requirements and standards set by governments to catalyze environmental research and development. Some examples include corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulations and other energy efficiency requirements.


Technology Transfer:The process by which energy-efficient technologies and processes developed by industrialized nations are made available to the less-industrialized nations. These transfers may be conducted solely through the efforts of private parties or may involve governments and international institutions.


Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990: The measure set goals for the electric utility industry to reduce annual sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 10 million tons and annual nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by 2.0 million tons from 1990 levels by the year 2000. Beginning in the year 2000, total utility SO2 emissions are then limited to 8.9 million tons and total industrial SO2 emissions are expected to be 5.6 million tons.

Title IV's control of SO2 emissions instituted two important innovations in U.S. environmental policy. First, it introduced the SO2 emissions trading program where firms are given permits to release a specified number of tons of SO2.

The government issues only a limited number of permits consistent with the desired level of emissions. The owners of the permits may keep them and release the pollutants, or reduce their emissions and sell the permits. The fact that the permits have value as an item to be sold or traded gives the owner an incentive to reduce their emissions. Second, it established an average annual cap on aggregate emissions by electric utilities. This cap was set at about one-half of the amount emitted in 1980. The emissions cap represents a guarantee that emissions will not increase with economic growth.

Title IV used a more traditional approach in setting NOX emission rate limitations for coal-fired electric utility units, although emission rate-averaging among commonly-owned and operated utilities provides them with some flexibility in compliance. Hence, there is no cap on NOX emissions, but Title IV is expected to result in a 27 percent reduction of NOX from 1990 emission levels.


Tradable Emissions Permits: Mechanisms used in an environmental regulatory scheme where the sources of the pollutant to be regulated (most often an air pollutant) are given permits to release a specified number of tons of the pollutant. The government issues only a limited number of permits consistent with the desired level of emissions. The owners of the permits may keep them and release the pollutants, or reduce their emissions and sell the permits. The fact that the permits have value as an item to be sold gives the owner an incentive to reduce their emissions.




Uncertainty: The degree to which a value (future state) is unknown. Contrary to risk, uncertainty suggests unknown probability of occurrence. Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined concepts or terminology, or uncertain projections of human behavior. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures or by qualitative statements.


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):The centerpiece of global efforts to combat global warming. It was adopted in June 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, and entered into force on March 21, 1998. The Convention's primary objective is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (man-made) interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner."


Upstream: The point (or close to it) where fossil fuels enter the economy. In the U.S., it means at the input to oil refineries, at coal processing plants and where natural gas enters pipelines. Conversely, downstream refers to any point in the economy, and in particular, at the level of energy consumers rather than suppliers. It is commonly interpreted to be industrial boilers, electric utilities and other major energy users, but also applies, in theory, to all consumers of gasoline, coal, electricity etc.




Vulnerability: The extent to which climate change may damage or harm a system. It depends not only a system’s sensitivity but also on its ability to adapt to new climatic conditions.












California Energy Commission. (2008). California Climate Change Portal Glossary.


Kopp, Raymond J. and Thatcher, Jennifer B. (Eds.) (2000). Glossary of Climate terms. In Kopp, Raymond J. and Thatcher, Jennifer B. (Eds.) The Weathervane Guide to Climate Policy: An RFF Reader (pp. 113-120). Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future.


Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Glossary Overview.


United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2008). Glossary of Climate Change Terms.