Global Green Carbon

Carbon Glossary

AAU - Assigned Amount Unit is a tradable ‘Kyoto unit’ representing an allowance to emit one metric tonne of greenhouse gases expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents.

Additionality - Refers to a carbon emission reduction, avoidance, or removal, that has occurred through an action, intervention, or undertaking, that is explicitly directed to climate mitigation and is beyond what would occur under a "business as usual" scenario. Such considered carbon offsets can be sold within offset markets. Various standards, including ISO, VCS and CCBA, may be used to ensure an appropriate level of rigor has been applied to quantifying the reduction, avoidance or removal, and confirm that there is no "double counting" of the benefits.

Afforestation (AF) - Planting of new forests on lands that historically have not contained forests.

AFOLU - Agriculture, Forestry, and other Land Uses. Following the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, the AFOLU consolidates the previous sectors LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) and agriculture.

Agricultural Methane Emissions- Methane gas emissions produced from the decomposition of animal waste.

Agricultural Methane Protocol- Regulations describing methodologies and procedures that result in the capturing and destruction of agricultural methane emissions.

Anaerobic Digestion- Is a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to release energy.

Anaerobic Digester- A storage device that facilitates the process of anaerobic digestion and captures the methane gas produced.

Atmosphere - The gaseous envelope surrounding the earth; the air.

Avoided Deforestation - (AD) - Refers to the prevention or reduction of forest loss in order to reduce emissions of global warming gases.

Baseline - A scenario that represents the anthropogenic emissions (human-caused GHG emissions) that would occur in the absence of the proposed project activity. For example, in REDD projects the baseline is a key component because emissions reductions credits are generated based on performance against the baseline.

Base Year - Targets for reducing GHG emissions are often defined in relation to a base year. In the Kyoto Protocol, 1990 is the base year for most countries for the major GHGs; 1995 can be used as the base year for some of the minor GHGs.

Biodiversity - The diversity of plant and animal life in a particular habitat or in the world as a whole. A high level of native biodiversity is desirable.

Business as Usual Scenario - Refers to the baseline scenario that examines the consequences of continuing current trends in population, economy, technology and human behavior.

CAR- The Climate Action Reserve is a national offsets program working to ensure integrity, transparency and financial value in the U.S. carbon market.

CARB/ARB- The California Air Resource Board is a part of the California Environmental Protection Agency whose purpose is to promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources through the effective and efficient reduction of air pollutants.

Carbon - A naturally abundant, nonmetallic element that occurs in all organic compounds and can be found in all known forms of life.

Carbon Cycle - Refers to the four main reservoirs of carbon interconnected by pathways of exchange. The reservoirs are the atmosphere, terrestrial biosphere (usually includes freshwater systems), oceans, and sediments (includes fossil fuels). The ocean contains the largest pool of carbon near the surface of the Earth, but most of that pool is not involved with rapid exchange with the atmosphere. The annual movements or cycling of carbon, the carbon exchanges between reservoirs, occur because of various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes. It involves living things absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, or carbonate rocks and ocean deposits (limestone and coral), or dead organic matter in the soil, or food; after which carbon is returned to the atmosphere by respiration, combustion, or decay, in the form of carbon dioxide or methane.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - A colorless, odorless gas that is present in the atmosphere when any fuel containing carbon is burned. It is expired from mammals' lungs during respiration. It is produced by the decay of organic matter and is used by plants in photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also used in thousands of other applications and processes. It is the principal greenhouse gas. Approximately fifty percent of the CO2 emitted today will still be in the atmosphere a hundred years from now. Roughly 3.7 units of CO2 equal 1 unit of carbon (C). CO2 plays a critical role in creating and regulating the earth's climate (see Greenhouse Gas).

Carbon Footprint - A measure of the amount of CO2 emitted through the use of energy and the combustion of fossil fuels; in the case of an organization, business or enterprise, as part of their everyday operations; in the case of an individual or household, as a part of their daily lives; or during the process of conveying a product or commodity to market. This footprint is often expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide or CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) on a monthly or yearly basis.

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CDE) - CO2e - A quantity that describes, for a given mixture of greenhouse gas, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming potential (GWP) when measured over a specified timescale (generally 100 years). The GWPs of the 3 GHGs associated with forestry are as follows: CO2 persists in the atmosphere for about 200-450 years and its GWP is defined as 1. Methane persists for 9-15 years and has a GWP of 22 (meaning that is has 22 times the warming ability of carbon dioxide). Nitrous oxide (N20) persists for about 120 years and has a GWP of 310.

Carbon Neutrality - Involves measuring all GHG emissions for which an entity is responsible, pursuing actions to reduce those emissions as much as possible and netting the emissions to zero by offsetting the remaining emissions through the use of emission offsets.

Carbon Offset - Is a financial instrument representing a reduction in¸ or removal of, greenhouse gas emissions. Although there are six primary categories of greenhouse gases, carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases, based on their global warming potential. There are two primary markets for carbon offsets. In the compliance market, companies, governments or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. In the voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources.

Carbon Pools - A reservoir of carbon. A system that has the capacity to accumulate or release carbon. Carbon pools are measured in terms of mass (e.g., metric tonnes of carbon). The major carbon pools associated with forestry projects include live biomass (including above and below ground components such as roots), dead biomass, soil and wood products.

Carbon Sequestration - Is the uptake and storage of carbon through biological processes, or geological processes. Trees and plants, for example, absorb carbon dioxide, release the oxygen and store the carbon. CO2 can also be stored in underground reservoirs. Fossil fuels were at one time biomass and continue to store carbon until burned.

Carbon Sinks - Any process, activity or mechanism that results in the net removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Carbon Stocks - The quantity of carbon held within a pool at a specified time.

Carbon Source - Opposite of a carbon sink. A carbon pool is a net source of carbon to the atmosphere if less carbon is flowing into it than is flowing out of it.

CCBA - Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance is a partnership between leading companies, environmental organizations and research institutes.

CDM- The Clean Development Mechanism, is a verification tool used to promote emission-reduction projects in developing countries, allowing them to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. These CERs can be traded and sold under the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Change - Refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change may result from:

  1. Natural factors, such as changes in the sun's intensity or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun;
  2. Natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation);
  3. Human activities that change the atmosphere's composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

Climate Change Mitigation - The reduction of GHG emissions to achieve stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere and subsequently a cessation of further warming.

Co-Benefits - Are the benefits of policies/projects that are implemented for various reasons at the same time - including climate change mitigation - acknowledging that most policies/projects designed to address greenhouse gas mitigation also have other, often at least equally important, rationales (e.g., related to objectives of development, sustainability, and equity)

Deforestation - Conversion of forest to non-forest with the depletion of tree crown cover to less than 10%. This is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect for two reasons: 1) the burning or decomposition of wood that occurs as a result of deforestation releases carbon dioxide; and 2) trees that once removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using the process of photosynthesis are no longer present.

Ecosystem - A community of organisms together with their physical environment, viewed as a system of interacting and interdependent relationships and including such processes as the flow of energy through trophic levels and the cycling of chemical elements and compounds through living and non living components of the system. Healthy ecosystems remove CO2 from the atmosphere, absorbing the carbon and releasing oxygen.

Emission - A substance discharged into the air, especially by an internal combustion engine or a smoke stack. CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere by burning most types of fuels. Emission reduction programs will lower the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere but will not eliminate it. There are three categories of emissions:

  1. Scope One - GHG emissions that occur from sources that are owned or controlled by you or your company.
  2. Scope Two - accounts for emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating/cooling purchased by your or your company.
  3. Scope Three - is a category that accounts for all other indirect emissions. They are a consequence of activity by you or your company but occur from sources that are not owned or controlled by you or your company.

Ex-Ante - In terms of carbon offsets, ex-ante refers to GHG reductions that are forecasted using approved measurements and modeling techniques.

Ex-Post - Ex-post offsets are based on the measurement of emission reductions which have already occurred on site as a result of the project activities.

Fossil Fuel - Any combustible organic material such as oil, coal or natural gas, derived from the remains of a previous geologic time and used as fuel.

Forest - There are many definitions of forests. The FAO definition is land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and an area of more than 0.5 ha. Trees should be able to reach a height of more than 5 metres.

Forest Degradation - Changes within the forest class (e.g., from closed to open forest) that negatively affect the stand or site - and in particular, lower the production capacity.

GHG-Greenhouse Gas - Any of the gases whose absorption of solar radiation is responsible for the greenhouse effect including carbon dioxide (approx 78%), methane, ozone and the fluorocarbons.

Greenhouse Effect - An atmospheric heating phenomenon, caused by short-wave solar radiation being transmitted inward through the earth’s atmosphere but longer wavelength heat radiation less readily transmitted outward, owing to its absorption by atmospheric carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane and other gases; thus the rising level of carbon dioxide is viewed with concern.

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - Is a scientific body tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity. The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two organizations of the United Nations. The IPCC does not carry out research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena. A main activity of the IPCC is publishing special reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty that acknowledges the possibility of harmful climate change; implementation of the UNFCCC led eventually to the Kyoto Protocol. The IPCC bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature.

Invasive Species - Non-native species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.

ISO: International Organization for Standardization. ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards.

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) - Has been the subject of two major reports by the IPCC. All have impacts on the global carbon cycle and as such these activities can add or remove carbon dioxide (or more generally, carbon) from the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Additionally, land use is of critical importance for biodiversity.

Leakage - Refers to the indirect impact that a targeted land use, land use change or forest activity in a certain place at a certain time has on carbon storage at another place or time. The term leakage has generally been used in the context of project-based accounting to refer to impacts outside the project boundary.

Methane- Methane (CH4), is a powerful greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times more potent in trapping heat within the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Metric Tonne - Is the common international measurement for the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions. A metric tonne is equal to 2205 lbs or 1.1 short tons.

Native Species - Native species are considered those that are part of the composition of a natural representative ecosystem of an area where a project site is located.

Non-Native Species - occurring outside their natural range, whether accidentally or intentionally introduced.

Offset - Something that counterbalances, counteracts or compensates for something else. Carbon offsets neutralize carbon emissions. Emission reductions (including those gained by using avoidance or reduction based offset programs) still leave behind a residual carbon "footprint" that must be neutralized by using removal offsets.

PDD: Project Design Document describes the project’s design, including its baseline and monitoring plan.

Permanence - The longevity of a carbon pool and the stability of its stocks given the managements and the disturbance environment in which it occurs. A feature of LULUCF projects is the possibility of a reversal of carbon benefits from either natural disturbances such as fires, disease, pests and unusual weather events or from the lack of reliable guarantees that the original land use activities will not return after the project concludes. Strategies have been identified that mitigate potential reversals such as the establishment of contingency carbon credits, insurance, conservation easements and mixed portfolios of projects.

Photosynthesis - The process in green plants and certain other organisms by which carbohydrates are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water using light as an energy source. Most forms of photosynthesis release oxygen as a byproduct. Photosynthesis is the only viable way known to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

REDD - Is an acronym that stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. At the 13th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Bali, REDD was listed among other mitigation activities as a potential means to achieve emission targets and voluntary action on REDD was encouraged. Many of the current REDD projects focus on forest conservation that creates reserves and parks to protect threatened forests. These place-based REDD projects preserve the carbon stocks on a parcel of land that otherwise would be deforested.

Reforestation - Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests within the relatively recent past.

Refugia - An area where special environmental circumstances have enabled a species or a community of species to survive after extinction in surrounding areas.

Removal - A decrease in GHG emissions in the atmosphere through an increase of GHG's in a reservoir through sinks.

Sink - Is any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas or aerosol from the atmosphere.

Source - Any process or activity that releases a GHG into the atmosphere

Species - A group of closely related and interbreeding living things; the smallest standard unit of biological classification.

Validation: The assessment of a project’s PDD by an independent third party, before the implementation of the project and against the requirements of a specific standard.

VCS - Voluntary Carbon Standard. The VCS is one of the preferred standards and provides a robust, new global standard for the approval of credible voluntary offsets.

Verification: Provides an independent third party assessment of the expected or actual emission reductions of a particular abatement project.

WCI- The Western Climate Initiative is a collaboration of independent jurisdictions who commit to work together to identify, evaluate, and implement policies to tackle climate change at a regional level. The WCI’s partner members are Arizona, California, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.




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