Climate Change Jargon Buster


Is a chemical element that serves as the building block of life and is essential for the structure of organic compounds. In the context of sustainability and the environment, ‘carbon’ often refers to carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere primarily through human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide contribute to global warming and climate change, making efforts to reduce carbon emissions crucial for a sustainable future.

Carbon Footprint:

Is the total amount of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, emitted directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product throughout its lifecycle. It expresses environmental impact in terms of carbon emissions, helping to assess and manage contributions to climate change. Efforts to reduce a carbon footprint involve minimizing energy consumption, using cleaner technologies, and supporting carbon offset projects to achieve greater sustainability.

Net Zero:

Refers to achieving a balance between the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted and the amount removed from the atmosphere. It involves reducing emissions through various means and offsetting remaining emissions by supporting projects that capture or absorb an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases. The goal is to effectively neutralize the impact of human activities on climate change, contributing to a more sustainable and balanced environment.

Carbon Offsetting:

Involves compensating for your carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce or capture an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This helps to counterbalance environmental impact, promoting sustainability and climate goals.

Carbon Neutral:

Means achieving a balance between carbon emissions produced and carbon removed or offset from the atmosphere. This is achieved by taking action to reduce one’s level of emissions and supporting initiatives that absorb or mitigate an amount of carbon equal to the level produced, resulting in a net-zero carbon footprint.

Carbon Trading:

Is also known as ‘emissions trading’ or ‘cap-and-trade’ and is a market-based approach to controlling carbon emissions. It involves organisations ‘trading’ the ‘unused’ part of their allocated emissions allowance with other organisations. So, an organisation emitting less than its allocated allowance can sell its surplus allowance to organisations that have exceeded their limits. This creates financial incentives for emission reductions and promotes environmental sustainability while allowing flexibility in meeting emissions targets.


Refers to the deceptive practice of portraying a company, product, or action as environmentally friendly or sustainable when it in fact is lacking in substantial effort or adherence to true environmental standards. This misleading communication can misguide consumers and investors, undermining genuine sustainability efforts and the overall credibility of responsible practices.

Climate Change:

Refers to significant changes in global temperature, precipitation, wind patterns and other measures of climate that occur over time. It is connected to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Global Temperature:

Is an average of air temperature recordings measured by land and sea weather stations as well as some satellites. Worldwide, the period from 2006 to 2015 was the warmest decade on record since modern global record-keeping began in 1880.

Global Warming:

In the early 1960s scientists recognized that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was increasing. Later they discovered that methane, nitrous oxide and other gases were also rising. Because these gases trap heat and warm the Earth just as a greenhouse traps heat from the sun, scientists concluded that increasing levels of these ‘greenhouse gases’ would increase global warming.

Mitigation Potential:

Is a measurement of the amount of carbon that can be stored to balance the release of carbon. It is a key factor in discussions about power plants and vehicles.

Renewable Energy:

Is energy derived from sources that will renew themselves within our lifetime. Renewable energy sources include wind, sun, water, biomass, and geothermal energy.

Solar Power:

Refers to energy harnessed from the sun. This can then be transformed into different energy forms such as thermal and electric.


Are substances released into the air and are measured by their concentrations (or parts per million) in the atmosphere.

Carbon Sequestration:

Is the process of the capture and removal of carbon from the atmosphere and its storage in biological or geological matter (e.g. soil, forests, grasslands, bodies of water, rocks).

Carbon Sink:

Anything, such as an organism or natural environment, which stores more carbon than it emits.

Carbon Source

Anything, such as an organism or natural environment, which emits more carbon than it absorbs.


Are ‘renewable’ fuels that are derived from biomass - biological materials such as algae, plants, and biowaste. Biofuels are produced in a short period of time, contrary to the very slow natural processes involved in the production of ‘non-renewable’ fossil fuels. Examples of biofuels are ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, and Sustainable Aviation Fuels.