Education & Awareness
A Bali Acronym Buster - 13 December 2007
URBANSPROUT - If anyone's catching up on the Climate Change Conference in Bali and has tried to read the Official UN Climate Change website you'll have noticed no shortage of acronyms. Perhaps if you're in government's climate change response team or work for a civil society climate change NGO or if you're a climate scientist, then everything will be perfectly clear. But for the rest of us mere mortals a quick scan of the site reveals way too many acronyms to feel comfortable with. Granted your average Joe is not the intended audience, but for someone like me who has a passable interest, the more times I read about COP 13, CMP 3, SB 27, AWG 4, G77, CDM, Annex I Parties without actually knowing what they mean, the more likely I'm just going to file under "too difficult".
So for anyone else who feels the same way here's a jargon buster and backgrounder:
UNFCCC - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the international environmental treaty that was formulated at the UN Conference on Environment and Development, back in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Also referred to as the Rio Convention, Rio Summit or Earth Summit. The treaty's objective is "to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a low enough level to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" and was entered into force on March 21, 1994. It's also referred to as the FCCC or the Convention. [wiki] [unfccc]
Anthropogenic - caused by humans. A word I learnt thanks to, ahem, climate change.
Kyoto Protocol - The UNFCCC treaty sets no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual nations and is not legally binding. Rather, the treaty included provisions for updates (called "protocols") that would set mandatory emission limits. The principal update is the Kyoto Protocol, which has become much better known than the UNFCCC itself.
Expanding on the Kyoto Protocol could constitute several blog posts, but basically those developed nations who sign it ("ratify" in UN legalese) are required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to certain levels by 2012. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted back in Dec 1997, but not signed by enough countries to be enforced until much later. It was only after Russia signed in late 2004 that the Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 Feb 2005.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets for developed countries must be met within a five-year time frame between 2008 and 2012, and add up to a total cut in GHG emissions of at least 5% against the baseline of 1990.
The Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities." There are two reasons for this. Firstly, developed countries can more easily pay the cost of cutting emissions. Secondly, developed countries have historically emitted more GHGs per person than developing countries.
In order to give signatories to the Kyoto Protocol ("Parties" in UNFCCC parlance) flexibility in meeting their emission reduction targets, the Protocol developed three mechanisms - Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). [wiki], [unfccc]
COP 13 - The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the "supreme body" of the Convention, i.e. its highest decision-making authority. It is an association of all the countries that are Parties to the Convention. The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise. COP 13 at Bali is the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.
Other notable COP's were COP 3 when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted and COP 11 which took place in Montreal and was the first Conference after the Kyoto Protocol entered into force. So COP 11 was also the first MOP - the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. And it followed that COP 12 in Nairobi last year was held in conjunction with MOP2.
MOP is also known as CMP or The Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. CMP is the "supreme body" of the Kyoto Protocol. It is an association of those Parties to the Convention that have also ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The CMP meets every year during the same period as the COP.
So the Bali Conference includes the COP 13 and the CMP 3. Aha, the penny's dropping.
SB 27 - Okay so just when its starting to make sense along comes SB 27, which stands for "The twenty-seventh session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change". Can definitely see the need for an acronym there.
The SBSTA and SBI give advice to the COP and each has a different mandate. The SBSTA aims to promote the development and transfer of environmentally-friendly technologies, and to improve the guidelines for preparing national communications and emission inventories. The SBI gives advice to the COP on all matters concerning the implementation of the Convention.
AWG 4 - Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG) at its fourth session. The Annex I parties to the Kyoto protocol are those countries that are legally bound to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
G77 - The Group of 77 at the United Nations is a loose coalition of developing nations, originally comprising 77 countries when formed in 1964, but since expanded to 130 nations. South Africa is part of the G77.
CDM - Clean Development Mechanism. A way for developed countries to offset their emissions by investing in development projects that reduce greenhouse gases in developing countries.
Not enough jargon for you? The UNFCCC Glossary lists close to 200 terms that you'll need to understand if you want to move comfortably in Climate Change circles.