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Carbon and Climate
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Carbon and Climate

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AAU - Assigned Amount Unit. Allowances for carbon emissions allocated to developed countries up to their target level under the Kyoto Protocol. These allowances are tradable under Kyoto's international emission trading mechanisms in place from 2008 to 2012. Each AAU equates to one tonne of CO2.

A/R - Afforestation and reforestation. Term given to the class of projects devoted to the planting of trees on unforested land for carbon emissions reduction and other environmental benefits. Under the Kyoto Protocol and the CDM, afforestation and reforestation activities are defined by strict definitions and rules.

Baseline and credit - A type of emissions trading scheme where firms are encouraged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below a projected “business as usual” path of increasing emissions. Any reductions below that future path earns credits for the difference which can be sold to other emitters struggling to contain increases to baseline levels.

Cap and trade - The most popular type of emissions trading scheme where emissions are subject to a cap, permits are issued up to that cap, and a market allows those emitting less than their quota of the cap to sell their excess permits to emitters needing to buy extra to meet their quota.

Carbon footprint - The global warming impact of human activities in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. The emissions associated with the use of power, transport, food and other consumption for an individual, family or organisation are added up to give one comparable measure in units of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Carbon neutral - An individual, household or organisation that is responsible for no net emissions of greenhouse gases from all its activities is considered "carbon neutral". Emissions must be cut to a minimum and any necessary emissions then offset by emission reducing activities elsewhere. Buying accredited clean electricity helps cut household or office greenhouse emissions, while investing in sustainable energy projects or afforestation schemes are examples of offsets.

Carbon positive - An individual, household or organisation that is responsible for taking more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than it emits is said to be "carbon positive". This requires minimising one's own emissions and more than offsetting remaining emissions by paying for activities such as forest planting or investing in renewable energy.

Carbon price - An economic value placed on the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from human activity. This price is designed to create a disincentive for emissions and incentive to avoid them. A carbon price takes the form of either a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

Carbon sink - Natural and potentially man-made features on the Earth's surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The major natural sinks are forests and oceans which have processes that absorb CO2. Carbon sinks are vital to fighting global warming because they counteract sources of carbon emissions, such as industry and transport.

Carbon tariff - Import duty levied by countries with greenhouse gas emission caps in place on carbon-intensive goods from countries without such controls in place. The intention is to protect the competitiveness of local industries whose goods have higher prices than their imported rivals because they reflect the cost of carbon.

Carbon tax - One form of carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions. Set by governments, a price on emissions is fixed and emitters are allowed to emit whatever they want at that price. Emissions trading prices carbon in the reverse approach; fixing emissions, with price varying.

CCS - Carbon capture and storage. A two-step measure to prevent carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels entering the atmosphere, particularly from power generation. Instead of CO2 being vented, it is contained and pumped underground under pressure, where it cannot contribute to global warming. This technology is still in its infancy with results largely unproven. Also known as one form of 'carbon sequestration'.

Copenhagen Accord - The four-nation agreement struck by the US, China, India and South Africa at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference and noted by the UN climate convention Council of the Parties. A limited political deal that the signatories hope will form the basis of a new global climate agreement from 2013. More

Emissions trading - One form of carbon price creating a market-based system for regulating the emission of greenhouse gases. The quantity of emissions is controlled and the price allowed to vary by the issuing of tradable emission permits. These rights to emit can be traded in a commercial market under an emissions trading scheme.

Food miles - Refers to the distance foodstuffs travel through the various stages of production and processing to the point at which they reach the consumer. A measure of both distance traveled and mode of transportation allows comparisons of the energy use and the contribution to greenhouse emissions associated with various food products and their origin.

GHG- Greenhouse gas.

Hot air - Also called paper credits, the term refers to carbon credits for emission reductions that occurred without any deliberate action. The prime example being the carbon credits arising under Kyoto in Russia and the Ukraine where the collapse of Soviet-era industry in the 1990s has seen emissions fall well below 1990 levels, the base year for reduction calculations, without the implementation of any climate-related measures.

Offsets - Carbon offsets, offset credits. Credits issued in return for a reduction of atmospheric carbon emissions through projects such as the provision of renewable energy to replace fossil fuel energy, or reforesting cleared land to create a carbon sink. By paying for such emission reducing activities, individuals and organisations can use the resulting credits to offset their own emissions, either voluntarily or under the rules of most emissions trading schemes. One offset credit equates to an emission reduction of one tonne of CO2.

VCU - Voluntary Carbon Unit. The name of carbon offset credits specifically verified to the Voluntary Carbon Standard, one of the leading independent standards established to demonstrate integrity in project-based emission reductions in the unregulated voluntary carbon market.

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