COP26 Buzzword Buster
More than 100 world leaders attended the COP26 summit in Glasgow. With so much jargon popping up in the media, we’ve compiled a list that will help you understand more about what is happening at COP26. Read on and learn more about COP26 jargon, buzzwords and lingo that you can take down to the pub and impress your social circle.
Biofuel is a renewable source of energy that comes from algae or plant material or animal waste. You could call it green gas. Biodiesel, for example, is derived from vegetable oil and liquid animal fats, which burn when ignited to power things like cars – it is a much cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.
With carbon capture technology, it’s possible to stop the carbon dioxide from factories and power plants from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. They fit filters to chimneys that capture the carbon emissions before the factory emits them into the environment. These carbon emissions are then kept off-site and can be reused to generate power.
Carbon Dioxide or CO2
Carbon dioxide is a natural gas that’s harmless in small quantities. We breathe out carbon dioxide after our lungs have processed the oxygen. Burning fossil fuels also create carbon dioxide but in much larger quantities.
Trees can absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen via a process called photosynthesis. However, because we’re cutting down so many of the trees that absorb CO2, the current levels are increasing. By burning fewer fossil fuels, we can regain a balance which is safe for the planet.
Carbon emissions are the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere. Over the last few decades, we’ve added an average of 1.5% per year of CO2 to the atmosphere. With the carbon emissions unable to escape the earth's atmosphere, this has caused the planet to heat up.
Everyone creates a carbon footprint with their activities. Almost everything that you do releases carbon into the environment, from boiling your kettle to emailing to taking a flight. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide you release into the atmosphere because of these things. There are ways to offset or reduce your carbon footprint by planting trees, boiling your kettle less, walking instead of driving, or even by offsetting your carbon footprint through offsetting schemes such as those offered by Selectra.
Being carbon neutral means that all your carbon emissions are offset, or equal. For the average person in the UK to be carbon neutral, they would have to offset around 12.7 tonnes of CO2 each year. With about six trees able to offset one tonne of CO2, this means the average Brit will need to plant 76 trees every year to be carbon neutral.
Once you’ve become carbon neutral, you can look to become carbon negative. This means the amount of CO2 emissions you remove from the atmosphere are more than the amount of CO2 emissions you output. The easiest way to become carbon negative is by planting trees.
If you’re unable to plant trees yourself, you can look at the National Trust plant a tree project where you can donate as little as £5 for a tree to be planted in one of the National Trust parks, or through Trees for Cities who for £6 will plant a tree in urban woodland.
Whilst many people associate climate change with a change in the weather, it’s different. We measure climate change over many years, whereas the weather is day to day or year to year.
Climate change is the long-term change of temperature and weather patterns in a place, which can affect things like farming and lead to other changes, such as intense hurricanes, floods, downpours, and winter storms. Whilst climate change happens naturally, humans are speeding it up at an unsustainable rate.
COP26 is the 26th session of the COP (Conference of Parties), which has brought together the 197 nations and territories who are members of the UNFCCC (United Nations Climate Change Conference). It is the biggest climate change conference yet and the largest gathering of world leaders ever to take place in the UK.
The UK will use its presidency of the COP26 Glasgow to call on all countries to set emissions reduction targets for 2030, which will put us on a path to net-zero by 2050.
This is how we will reach Net Zero. Decarbonisation means reducing, eliminating and offsetting carbon emissions, and applies to everybody from the single person living in a studio apartment to large organisations.
We can all play our part in decarbonisation by making simple changes such as switching to a renewable energy supplier.
These occur through natural geological processes and include coal, crude oil, and natural gas. They’re formed from the decomposing remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago.
Global warming is what most people associate with climate change. Global warming is the gradual increase in the earth's temperature's atmosphere and the greenhouse effect because of increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants like those found in aerosol cans.
Whilst CO2 is a major cause of the ‘greenhouse effect’ which is heating-up the planet, there are other gases that include methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone which are known as the greenhouse gases. Because of our increase in population and changes to our lifestyles, emissions from greenhouse gases are unsustainable.
For example, livestock farming is the biggest cause of methane emissions in the world and contributes to over 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Choosing to eat less meat or become vegetarian or vegan can be better for the environment.
Net zero is the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas we produce and the amount that is removed from the atmosphere. We will reach net zero when the amount of greenhouse gases we add is no more than the amount taken away.
We can achieve net zero by using more renewable energy, offsetting emissions by planting trees, and investing in carbon offset projects such as the Gandhi Project Selectra works with. We can also try to make our homes more energy-efficient.
Net Zero target
In June 2019, the UK announced a legally binding target of “net zero emissions” of greenhouse gases by 2050, which they have called the 2050 Net Zero Pledge. The target aims to give us a 50/50 chance of keeping increases in global average temperature to a minimum of 1.5 degrees celsius. Since the UK legislation, a further 59 countries have set similar goals, including the United States and China, who are the world’s largest contributors to climate change.
Renewable energy comes from natural resources that are constantly replaced, like the sun, wind, and water. When fossil fuels eventually run out, the sun will continue to shine, the wind will continue to blow and water will continue to flow.
Renewable energy emits less CO2 than fossil fuels and, in certain cases, such as with wind farms and solar power, they don’t emit any emissions aside from the initial construction and continued maintenance.
In environmental terms, sustainability is about how we make sure the earth’s natural resources are still available for generations to come.
As individuals, we can become more sustainable by making changes at home and using smarter energy efficient technology or choosing energy tariffs that use renewable energy sources.
You can find there are many ways to be more sustainable.
The Paris Agreement
COP 21, which was held between the 30th November and the 12th December 2015, aimed to address the increasing warmth of the earth's atmosphere because of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the first time, nearly every country on earth agreed to work together to keep global warming to below two degrees celsius, with a target of 1.5 degrees celsius, by bringing forward plans to reduce carbon emissions.
It was also agreed at COP 21 that they would review the plan every five years and, whilst each country can raise their targets, no country may lower their climate change targets. 186 countries published their action plans shortly after COP 21 with their individual steps towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Zero carbon simply means that if there are no carbon emissions in the first place, then no carbon needs to be offset or captured. For example, there are no fossil fuels used in the production of a zero-carbon energy tariff.