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COP26 Primer: Glossary of terms, issues ahead of climate summit


By Marlene Leung,

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    TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — From Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, thousands of people will attend the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Here’s a primer on some of the terms and topics that will come up during the UN climate talks:

COP26: COP26 stands for Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change. This is a long name for what is basically the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. The meeting will bring together world leaders, scientists, NGOs and activists to push towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. The conference was initially supposed to take place in November 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paris Agreement: The 2015 Paris Agreement is an international treaty that committed 195 signing nations to meeting climate targets. The agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the rise in global temperature to below 2 C above pre-industrial levels (period before the industrial revolution), but preferably to limit the increase to 1.5 C. The agreement also wants signing nations to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Canada is a signatory to the Paris Agreement.

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1.5 C: The preferred goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. Maintaining a 1.5 C increase or less means a milder impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as fewer extreme weather events. However, a recent report by the UN climate body found that the world has already warmed by 1.1 C and is quickly approaching the 1.5 C benchmark.

Greenhouse gas emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions are gases that trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. They are a main driver of climate change. The most common greenhouse gas emission is carbon dioxide, which is primarily emitted via human activity.

Net-zero emissions: Achieving net-zero emissions is when all the greenhouse gas emissions that are produced are offset by the emissions that are removed from the atmosphere. For countries, getting to net zero means either emitting no greenhouse gas emissions or offsetting emissions already in the atmosphere. Some examples of offsetting include planting new trees and adopting carbon-capture technology.

Carbon capture: Carbon capture describes any processes used to capture carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere. This includes the capturing process, as well as the transportation and storing processes. When carbon dioxide is captured, it is then compressed and permanently stored underground.

Carbon sinks: Carbon sinks are anything that absorbs carbon compounds from the atmosphere. The two most common carbon sinks are vegetation and the oceans. Carbon sinks are one way countries can offset their carbon emissions.

Clean energy: Clean energy is energy that comes from natural sources or from processes that are continuously replenished. Wind and solar power are examples of clean or renewable energy.

Sea level rise: Sea level rise is the measurement of how much global sea levels are rising as a result of climate change. According to NASA, sea level rise is primarily caused by two factors related to climate change: melting ice sheets and glaciers, and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

Oilsands: The oilsands in Alberta are a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay, minerals and bitumen. The bitumen can be extracted and refined into consumer oil products, such as gasoline and diesel. The Alberta oilsands are the third largest oil reserve on Earth. According to the Carnegie Oil Climate Index, oilsands crude is associated with 31 per cent more emissions than the average North American crude.

Adaptation: Adaptation is the process of learning to live with an environment altered by climate change. This means taking measures to protect communities and ecosystems from climate change, as well as building to accommodate evolving environmental conditions. Adaptation can range in how much it disrupts our daily lives. Some examples of adaptation include: relocating entire communities, adopting new farming technology and building new structures to better withstand extreme weather events.

-With files from NASA, Global Citizen, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Natural Resources Canada

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