From the Blue Zone to the Global Stocktake: edie’s COP28 jargon buster

With COP28 kicking off in Dubai this week, the media will be filled to the brim with acronyms, frameworks and terminology that might make your head spin. Never fear - edie’s Jargon Buster explains all the key terms you’ll likely hear over the next two weeks.

From the Blue Zone to the Global Stocktake: edie’s COP28 jargon buster

The UN’s annual global climate summit is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government in Dubai this year.

Between 30 November and 12 December, more than 60,000 people are set to descend on Expo City for COP28. Official government delegations will provide progress updates on cutting emissions and shielding against climate risk, and will also seek to reach a refreshed global agreement on actions to be taken going forward.

Outside of the official negotiating room we can expect side events hosted by cities, regions, businesses, NGOs, philanthropic organisations, academics, environmental scientists and activists.

It is a highlight in the calendar for anyone working in (or just interested in) climate-related topics including the energy transition, climate justice, cleantech and the just transition.

But it is also a time in which the UN and, indeed, a lot of media outlets, will be speaking in a lot of jargon.

To help you make sense of the happenings over the next two weeks, we’ve pulled together a handy glossary in the form of a Jargon Buster. Read on for brief definitions and explainers of key COP-related terms.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

‘COP’ stands for ‘the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’. The UNFCCC is the arm of the UN which coordinates its activities relating to tackling the climate crisis.

COPs have been held every year since 1995 and, each year, the COP Presidency rotates among the UN’s recognised regions – Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe and other nations.

Blue Zone

Every COP has two main zones – blue and green. The blue zone houses the official negotiating room, country pavilions and the media centre. It is where world leaders give their initial address during the first two days, also. Only selected attendees are given access to the blue zone.

Green Zone

The green zone, meanwhile, is open to all attendees. It will play host to side events and pavilions and desks manned by businesses, academic organisations, NGOs and civil society groups. For COP28, the UAE is issuing tickets to the green zone to prevent overcrowding.

Paris Agreement, 1.5C and 2C

The key part of the final negotiating text resulting from COP21 in France, the Paris Agreement united nations in a fresh vision to limit the global temperature increase on pre-industrial times. The Agreement stipulates that nations should aim to keep the increase ‘well below 2C’ and should pursue efforts to cap the increase below 1.5C.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that there is a stark difference between the two temperature pathways in terms of likely damage to ecosystems, livelihoods and the economy. Read edie’s summary here.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

Once the Paris Agreement was ratified, the UN called on every supporting nation to outline how it would deliver its ‘fair share’ of emissions reductions. Countries do this through roadmaps known as Nationally Determined Contributions, which COP host nations request updates for at least every other year.

The quality of NDCs is mixed, to say the least. The UN estimates that, if NDCs were delivered as they currently stand, the global temperature increase on pre-industrial times will be between 2.5C and 2.9C by the year 2100.

Global Stocktake

Referred to by some as the world’s biggest and most important report card, the Global Stocktake will be a UN report taking stock of progress towards the Paris Agreement so far.

The first Global Stocktake will be published at COP28. It was meant to come five years after the Paris Agreement but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report will cover climate mitigation (reducing emissions), climate adaptation (making systems more resilient to climate risks) and implementation and support. This last section will track progress resulting to finance.

Non-state actors

Any organisation participating in COP which is not a part of a national government. Non-state actors include cities, universities, businesses and NGOs.

Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The world’s largest climate fund, set up in 2011 in an effort to leverage more finance for sustainable development in low-income countries.

The CGF is headquartered in South Korea and has provided more than $13.5bn of financing to date.

New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance

In 2009, wealthy nations agreed to increase their provision of international climate finance to developing and emerging countries to $100bn annually. This was known as the Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance.

This vision has gone unmet so far and the OECD believes it may have been delivered for the first time in 2022 (final figures are still pending).

2022 saw nations agreeing to update this figure before 2025, creating a New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance. We can expect debates at COP28 on what the new target should be and whether it should include any back-payments.

Small Island Developing States

A group of more than 40 countries and regions considered to be particularly impacted by climate change due to their economic and environmental contexts. The UN has recognised this group of places as a special case regarding sustainable development since 1992.

Two years prior to that recognition, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was formed to help these places speak with a unified voice on the international stage.

Loss and Damage

Loss and damage refers to the negative consequences of physical climate impacts on society and the natural environment.

Historically, it has been quantified in terms of damage to natural and man-made infrastructure from extreme weather events made more likely and intense by the climate crisis. The UN is advocating for a broader consideration beyond financial losses, covering aspects such as culture loss or trauma.

High-Level Climate Champions

Individuals selected to connect the work of governments and non-state actors at COPs and between each meeting.

There are two champions each year – one from the previous host nation and one from the current host. For 2023, the champions are Dr Mahmoud Moheildin from Egypt and Razan Al Mubarak from the UAE.

Race to Zero

Launched in 2020 ahead of COP26, Race to Zero is a global campaign convening non-state actors to collaborate in reducing emissions this decade and working, more broadly, to deliver a sustainable future.

High-Level Climate Champions play a key role in promoting this campaign.

You can find out more on the Race to Zero website here.

Transition plan

A transition plan sets out how a non-state actor, usually a business, will turn its climate targets from ambition to action. A robust plan should cover how the transition will be financed; preferred technology pathways; the potential risks of inaction and the potential risks and opportunities of action.

It should also foresee potential negative consequences on people or on other aspects of sustainable development, such as job losses, and set out plans to minimize the damage.

Are there any other COP keywords you’d like us to explain? Let us know in the comments.

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