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Glossary of commonly used terms

Additionality

Emissions reductions are 'additional' if they occur because of the incentives associated with the existence of greenhouse gas markets. A variety of additionality 'tests' have been proposed. Basically, demonstrating additionality means showing that the emissions reductions being used as offsets are not 'business as usual'.

Afforestation

Planted forests on land not previously in forest.

Assigned Amount Unit

Assigned amount units (AAUs) are tradable units derived from an Annex I Party's emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Audit

A systematic examination against defined criteria to determine whether activities and related results conform to planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve the organisation’s objectives.

Biodiversity

The range of species (including genetic diversity within species), communities and ecosystems, and the natural interactions and processes that take place above and below ground in the environment.

Biomass

The total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area.

Biosphere

The part of the Earth system comprising all ecosystems and living organisms in the atmosphere, on land (terrestrial biosphere), or in the oceans (marine biosphere), including derived dead organic matter such as litter, soil organic matter, and oceanic detritus.

Cancellation Cancellation refers to the transfer of an emissions unit to a cancellation account. Once this is done an emission unit cannot be further transferred, retired, carried over or cancelled.

Carbon calculator

A tool used to calculate carbon dioxide emissions from fuel and energy sources and/or production processes.

Carbon credits

Credits are awarded for sequestering, avoiding or reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere, i.e. the carbon entered on the credit side of your account; CO2 emissions due to activities that use fossil fuels are on the negative side of the balance. A carbon credit is equivalent to one tonne of CO2 emissions.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned.

Carbon dioxide equivalents

The six greenhouse gases have different global warming potentials (GWP). The warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) is assigned a value of one and the GWPs of the other greenhouse gases are used to convert the non-CO2 gases to carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Carbon footprint

A measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels; in the case of an organisation or business, it is the CO2 emissions due to their everyday operations; in the case of an individual or household, it is the CO2 emissions due to their daily activities; for a product or service, it includes additional life-cycle CO2 emissions along the supply chain; for materials, it is a measure of the embodied CO2 emissions determined through life cycle assessment.

Carbon neutral

Being carbon neutral involves calculating total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing the remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset. The term may be used to describe a product, service, event, organisation, or individual activities.

Carbon sinks

Carbon sink refers to removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), usually via photosynthesis in plants. Ggrowing pasture to shrublands and shrublands to forest results in accumulation of large quantities of biomass carbon. Because growth of a native forest from a starting point of a pasture takes such a long time (probably centuries), the sequestration of biomass carbon will continue for a long time. Once a forest matures additional carbon sequestration slows and stops as trees begin to die and decay. Natural processes then cycle the carbon around the forest ecosystem, from live trees to dead trees to soil and back through new establishment and regeneration, without adding any more. Soil carbon is actually the largest carbon stock, but it often changes comparatively slowly, so is not expected to act as a sink in many cases. Because of the large stock involved even small changes will be significant, so soil carbon sinks or sources are the subject of much ongoing research.

Carbon trading

A market in which large emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) can offset their emissions by buying carbon credits from another party. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) and the Chicago Climate Exchange are examples. Emissions trading schemes are being introduced in New Zealand and Australia.

carboNZero programme

A certification programme to measure, manage and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Certified Emission Reduction unit

Certified Emission Reduction (CER) units are tradable emissions units generated by projects that reduce emissions in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Clean Development Mechanism

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) establishes a process for Annex I Parties to implement project activities that reduce emissions in non-Annex I Parties, in return for certified emission reduction (CERs) units. Annex I Parties can use the CERs to help meet their emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate change

Changes in long-term trends in the average climate, such as changes in average temperatures. The potential consequences of global warming include melting icecaps and glaciers, rising sea levels, and a greater incidence of extreme weather such as storms, heatwaves, droughts and floods.

Much of this change is a result of human activities that increase the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels are continuing to rise and have already exceeded anything that the world has ever seen (over the past 260 million years). Scientists expect that the world will continue to warm over the next 100 years. For more information, see Landcare Research's climate change pages www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/globalchange/climate_change.asp.

In IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change) usage, climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. In UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) usage, climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activity that alters atmospheric composition.

Commitment periods

The period over which countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol are legally bound to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The first commitment period (CP1) is from 2008 to 2012.

Continual improvement

The process of enhancing actions being taken to achieve improvements in overall greenhouse gas emissions measurement, management and mitigation, in line with the organisation’s commitment to the carboNZero Programme.

Conversion factor

A numerical factor used to convert use of an energy source into a greenhouse gas emissions figure in tonnes of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalents.  Conversion factors are also commonly referred to as emissions factors.

Data acquisition

The process by which an organisation captures data on its fuel and energy use.

Data sources

The source of data, e.g. electricity or gas retailer, production data.

Direct emissions
(Scope 1)

Greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the participant, e.g. from production processes, company-owned refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, and/or burning of fuel in boilers and company-owned vehicles.

EBEX21

Emissions Biodiversity Exchange in the 21st century.

EBEX21 carbon credits

From 2008 all EBEX21 credits are expected to be Kyoto-compliant and will be tracked through the New Zealand Emission Unit Register (NZEUR) once the regulations for the PFSI/ETS have been finalised. See www.ebex21.co.nz for more information.

Emissions intensity

A measure of greenhouse gas emissions against a key performance indicator, e.g. tonnes per unit of production or tonnes per productive man hour.

Emissions inventory

An analysis or profile of where greenhouse gas emissions are being generated, e.g. proportion from air travel, vehicle travel, or electricity used by various activities.

Emissions reduction

A measured reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or emissions intensity due to efficiency projects and/or fuel substitution.

Emission Reduction Unit

Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) are tradable emissions units generated by Joint Implementation Projects in Annex I Parties. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target and are equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Facility

A facility is a single installation, set of installations or production processes (stationary or mobile) that can be defined within a single geographical boundary, organisational unit or production process.

Fossil fuel

A hydrocarbon deposit, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, derived from living matter of a previous geologic time and used for fuel.

Global change

Changes in the environment resulting from both natural changes and impacts of human activities on the world's atmosphere and climate system.

Global warming

The progressive gradual rise of the Earth's average surface temperature thought to be caused in part by increased concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases trap heat that is normally radiated into space, and reflect it back to earth.

Global Warming Potential

Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a relative measure of the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere by any greenhouse gas. GWP values for different gases are expressed relative to the GWP of the reference gas, carbon dioxide, which is assigned a value of 1.

GWP of greenhouse gases over 100 years

Gas

1996

2001 2007  

Carbon dioxide

1      

1 1 Mainly from fossil fuel use

Methane

21   

23 25 Mainly from ruminant animals and waste

Nitrous oxide

310   

296 298 Mainly from agriculture

Hydrofluorocarbons
HFC-23
HFC-134a


11700
1300


12,000
1300


14800
1430

Mainly from refrigerants

Perfluorocarbons

6500 - 9200

5700-11900   From aluminium production

Sulphur hexafluoride

23900   

22200 22800 Mainly from the electricity industry

Sources:
IPCC Second Assessment Report 1995, Third Assessment Report 2001, Fourth Assessment Report 2007

Greenhouse gas emissions

The major greenhouse gases (GHGs) are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases occur naturally, but human activities such as travel, energy consumption, and agriculture increase the amount of these gases in the atmosphere. Other greenhouse gases that do not occur naturally, but are generated by industrial processes, are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Greenhouse Gas Protocol

A standard developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for corporate greenhouse gas accounting and reporting.

Indirect emissions (Scope 2)

Greenhouse gas emissions arising from the generation of imported (purchased) electricity, heat or steam consumed by the organisation.

Indirect emissions (Scope 3)

Greenhouse gas emissions that occur as a consequence of the activities of the participant, but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the participant.  Inclusion of these is on a case-by-case basis, e.g. road freight, shipping freight, and employee air travel. A materiality test is applied to decide whether indirect emissions should be included in a participant’s inventory. Indirect emissions should be included if:

  • They are believed to be large (individually or cumulatively) relative to the direct emissions
  • They contribute to the organisation's carbon liability exposure
  • They are deemed to be critical by key stakeholders
  • There are potential emission reductions that can be undertaken or influenced by the organisation.

Intent

A written and published statement from an organisation stating its intent to meet the requirements of the carboNZero programme and/or achieve certification.

IPCC

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. See www.ipcc.ch

ISO 14064 and
ISO 14065

A series of standards prepared by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for greenhouse gas accounting and verification.

  • ISO 14064-1:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals.
  • ISO 14064-2:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for the quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions and removal enhancements.
  • ISO 14064-3:2006, Greenhouse gases – Part 3: Specification with guidance for the validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions.
  • ISO 14065: 2007, Greenhouse gases – Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition

Joint Implementation

A project-based mechanism that allows an Annex I Party (with a commitment inscribed in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol) to implement an emission-reducing project or a project that enhances removals by sinks in the territory of another Annex I Party (with a commitment inscribed in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol) and count the resulting emission reduction units (ERUs) towards meeting its own Kyoto target.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is the first legally binding international agreement aimed at slowing, and eventually stopping, global warming. It is an international plan of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One hundred and seventeen countries have signed it. Countries that ratify the Protocol agree to cut back their greenhouse gas emissions to predetermined levels over the period 2008-2012 (the first commitment period). They can do this by directly reducing the emissions they produce, buying carbon credits from other countries, or offsetting the emissions they cannot reduce, for example, by planting new forests or increasing areas of scrubland vegetation to increase the amount of carbon dioxide taken from the atmosphere. New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. For further information on the Kyoto Protocol, see http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php.

Land-use, Land-use change

Land uses and land-use changes can act either as sinks or as emission sources. It is estimated that approximately one-fifth of global emissions result from land-use activities. The Kyoto Protocol allows Parties to receive emissions credit for certain land-use activities that reduce net emissions.

Long-term Certified Emission Reduction unit

Long-term Certified Emission Reduction (lCER) units are tradable units issued for afforestation and reforestation project activity that enhances removals of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere during a designated verification period in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). lCERs expire at the end of the crediting period of the project. Individuals are not allowed to hold lCERs in the New Zealand Emission Unit Register (NZEUR).

Materiality

The extent to which an organisation has included, or excluded, certain greenhouse gas emissions from its carboNZero programme. Emissions are material if their omission or misstatement could influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of the emissions inventory, or error judged in the particular circumstances of its omission or misstatement.

Measurement

Methods and systems used by participants to produce and continue to review their greenhouse gas emissions to build an emissions inventory and assist the organisation in meeting its objectives and targets within the carboNZero programme.

Methane

Methane (CH4) is a byproduct of digestion by ruminant animals, and decomposition of organic wastes in wet environments (e.g. swamps, paddy fields). Methane emissions also result from production of coal, natural gas, and oil.

New Zealand Units

New Zealand Units (NZUs)are emissions units in the New Zealand Emission Trading Scheme, comparable to and backed by a Kyoto Unit.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is emitted from breakdown of animal dung and urine in soil.

Offsetting

To compensate, counterbalance or neutralise carbon dioxide emissions by increasing carbon sinks, energy efficiency initiatives or sources of renewable energy. The removal of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere through the purchase of verified emissions units or carbon credits.

Organisation

A company, corporation, firm, enterprise or institution, or other legal entity or part thereof, whether incorporated or not, public or private, that has its own function(s) and administration.

Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative

The Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative (PFSI) is a New Zealand Government programme that provides an opportunity for landowners to establish permanent forest sinks and obtain tradable Kyoto Protocol compliant emission units in proportion to the carbon sequestered in their forests  The PFSI is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Indigenous Forestry Unit.
See www.maf.govt.nz/forestry/pfsi/

Production emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions produced from a production process.

Projects to Reduce Emissions

Projects to Reduce Emissions (PRE) is a New Zealand Government programme that supports initiatives that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beyond the reductions that would have occurred without the project by awarding them Kyoto-compliant carbon credits.
See www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/climate/policies-initiatives/projects/index.html

QEII covenant

A legal agreement with the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Trust to ensure current and future landowners keep the area under regenerating forest protected forever.  See www.openspace.org.nz for more information.

Reforestation / regeneration

Regrowth of forest on land that was previously forested by indigenous species. 

Registry

An emissions unit registry is a software system for the accounting of transactions in AAUs, RMUs, ERUs, CERs, tCERs and lCERs. Includes national registries and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) registry.

Removals

Removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. Such removals may lead to the generation of RMUs, tCERs or lCERs. They are the 'opposite' of emissions of greenhouse gases.

Removal units

Removal units (RMUs) are tradable units generated on the basis of removals of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities. They may be counted by Annex I Parties towards compliance with their emissions target. RMUs can be used within the current commitment period but cannot be banked for use in any subsequent commitment period. They can be converted into AAUs within the national registry. An RMU is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Ruminant

An animal that chews its cud regurgitated from its rumen, a ‘second stomach’ for digesting tough plant fibres.  Methane is ‘burped’ when the cud is regurgitated. Cattle and sheep are ruminants.

Sequestration

Removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, either through biological processes (e.g. plants and trees) or geological processes that capture carbon.

Sink

Carbon sink refers to removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide , usually via photosynthesis in plants. Growing pasture to shrublands and shrublands to forest results in accumulation of large quantities of biomass carbon. Because growth of a native forest from a starting point of a pasture takes such a long time (probably centuries), the sequestration of biomass carbon will continue for a long time. Once a forest matures additional carbon sequestration slows and stops as trees begin to die and decay. Natural processes then cycle the carbon around the forest ecosystem, from live trees to dead trees to soil and back through new establishment and regeneration, without adding any more. Soil carbon is actually the largest carbon stock, but it often changes comparatively slowly, so is not expected to act as a sink in many cases. Because of the large stock involved even small changes will be significant, so soil carbon sinks or sources are the subject of much ongoing research.

Temporary Certified Emission Reduction units

Temporary Certified Emission Reduction (tCER) units are tradable units issued for afforestation and reforestation project activity that enhances the removal of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere after the start of a designated project start date in Non-Annex I Parties under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). tCERs expire at the end of the commitment period following the one during which they were issued.

Terrestrial

Pertaining to the land; not aquatic.

Trace gases

A term used to refer to gases found in the Earth's atmosphere other than nitrogen, oxygen, argon and water vapour. When this terminology is used, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are classified as trace gases. Although trace gases taken together make up less than 1% of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are important in the climate system. Water vapour also plays an important role in the climate system; its concentrations in the lower atmosphere vary considerably from essentially zero in cold dry air masses to perhaps 4% by volume in humid tropical air masses.

UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
See http://unfccc.int/2860.php.

Voluntary Emissions Reduction units Voluntary Emission Reduction (VER) units are generated by small scale projects that are assessed and verified by third party organisations not through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Zero emissions

No greenhouse gases are emitted. Generally the term used should be zero net emissions, which means the actual emissions are completely offset through carbon sequestration or purchase of other carbon credits.