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Glossary of climate change terms

This is a guide to some of the words and phrases you might hear being used in climate change discussions.

Glossary of climate change terms
Term Description
15-minute city Where everyone living in a town or city has access to essential urban services within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride.
Absolute reduction Generally, 90% reduction from the baseline across Scope 1, 2 and 3
Active travel  Making journeys by physically active means such as walking or cycling. 
Adaptation Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change and seeks to lower the risks posed by the consequences of climatic changes. Examples include the construction of barriers to protect against rising sea or river levels or switching to growing crops that can survive high temperatures and drought. 
Biodiversity Net Gain A concept for development and/or land management that aims to increase biodiversity, using quantitative and qualitative approaches. 
Carbon footprint  The amount of carbon emitted by an individual or organisation in each period, or the amount of carbon emitted during the manufacture of a product. You can find an estimation of the carbon footprint in each Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) in Warwickshire. 
Carbon Neutral Balance between carbon emitted and carbon removed from the atmosphere through investment in carbon offsets. 
Carbon offsetting A way of compensating for emissions of CO2 by participating in, or funding, efforts to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. Offsetting often involves paying someone else to save emissions equivalent to those produced by your activity. 

One example in Warwickshire is the WCC biodiversity offsetting scheme

Circular Economy A model of production and consumption which minimises waste through sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. This aims to reach maximum efficiency in the use of finite resources as part of creating a sustainable, productive economy. 
Climate change A pattern of change affecting global or regional climate, as measured by yardsticks such as average temperature and rainfall, or an alteration in frequency of extreme weather conditions. This variation may be caused by both natural processes and human activity. Global warming is one aspect of climate change.
Climate emergency An action taken by governments and scientists to acknowledge humanity is in a climate emergency. The first such declaration was made by a local council in Australia. 

We declared a climate emergency in 2019 and Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council, Rugby Borough Council, Stratford upon Avon District Council and Warwick District Council have all also declared climate emergencies.
COP 26  Conference of the Parties. 2021 was the 26th hosting of the event. The event is attended by countries who signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994. 

Watch WCC Leader Izzi Seccombe reflecting on her COP26 visit 
Green Economy Broader than a low carbon economy; it aligns to the wider context of the UN SDGs. An approach to sustainable economic growth with a central focus on reducing societal and environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It embeds climate adaptation into its construct. It transitions from the current ‘growthbased’ approach to investments, employment, and skills towards growth without degrading the environment, and the wellbeing and prosperity of citizens. 
Greenhouse gases  Natural and industrial gases that trap heat from the earth and warm the surface. The focus is usually on emissions of six greenhouse gases in particular: natural (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane) and industrial (perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride). 
ISO14001 Environmental Management System  Sets out the criteria for an environmental management system that can be certified to. This helps us as an organisation to make sure we are setting up and following an effective system for managing environmental factors. 
Low Travel Neighbourhood (LTN)  A scheme where motor vehicle traffic in residential streets is greatly reduced and where the movement of people is prioritised over cars. They are sometimes referred to Active or Liveable Neighbourhoods. 
Mitigation  Action that addresses the root causes of man-made climate change. This includes action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

Details of our actions to reduce emissions 

Multi modal journeys  Making journeys in a combination of two or more forms of transport within a single trip from start to finish. This may include a mix of different vehicles, such as train, bicycle, bus, tram, car and scooter.

WCC bus service improvement plan (PDF, 5.4MB) 
Natural Capital  Stocks of the elements of nature, such as forests, fisheries, rivers, biodiversity, land and minerals. Stocks of natural capital provide flows of ecosystem services over time which produce a wide range of benefits. 
Natural Capital approach  Framing nature as an asset, or set of assets, that society benefits from and attempts to assess, in qualitative, quantitative and monetary terms, the ability of natural assets to provide ecosystem services, in order to make them more visible in decision making. It enables a much clearer picture of what we stand to gain or lose when we make decisions about how to manage or consume natural resources.
Net zero  This is the balance between the amount of carbon emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away. WCC has signed up to the UK100 Net Zero Pledge on carbon emission reduction
Park & Stride Parking five to ten minutes from a school, workplace or shopping centre and walking the rest of the way. 
Prosperity  Growing wealth for wellbeing (not just financial wealth but the full range of human, social, physical and natural capitals). 
Renewable energy  Renewable energy is energy created from sources that can be replenished in a short period of time. The five renewable sources used most often are: biomass (such as wood and biogas), the movement of water, geothermal (heat from within the earth), wind, and solar.  
Sustainable Meeting the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations. 
Zero carbon  No carbon commissions are produced by a product or service. Energy sources like wind, nuclear and solar do not create carbon emissions and are referred to as zero carbon.  

WCC has committed to the worldwide race to net zero emissions (opens in new window)