Getting yourself from A to B by physical activity, such as walking, cycling, running, skateboarding etc.
A renewable organic material derived from living organisms, such as plants and animals. It is a renewable resource and a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun, produced by plants through photosynthesis, and can be burned to generate heat, converted to liquid or gas.
The umbrella term used to describe the diverse range of living organisms existing in the environment. Biodiversity covers plants, animals, and bacteria. Biodiversity is responsible for our food systems, soil, water, weather, and the air we breathe.
A fuel source derived from living matter, such as plants. They are considered a low carbon alternative to fossil fuels since the carbon the emissions they emit while burning are balanced out by the carbon absorbed during the growing process.
A design structure that develops sustainable solutions by mimicking nature. Biomimicry can often be described as nature-based solutions, where the goal is to create products and services that adapt to life on Earth.
A term used to describe economic activities associated with the oceans and seas. The ocean covers 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and presents a vast economic opportunity; however, the Blue Economy must be managed sustainably.
Hydrogen produced primarily from natural gas using a process calle4d steam reforming, which brings together natural gas and heated water to produce hydrogen. CO2 is a byproduct of blue hydrogen production. Blue hydrogen processes involve CCS.
Hydrogen made from brown/black coal. It is the most environmentally damaging form of hydrogen.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most common of six greenhouse gasses emitted by human activity. Carbon is the shorthand for CO2, meaning the same thing.
A carbon budget refers to the quantity of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted for a given level of global warming. Government’s and organisations are often tasked with carbon budgets to reduce overall emissions, abate global warming, and create accountability for those who exceed their budgets.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS)
CCS refers to technologies which are designed to capture carbon and lock it away to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
A term for tradable certificates or permits which allow an organisation to emit one tonne of CO2 equivalent. This can cover other greenhouse gasses, and trades must be undertaken within an emissions trading scheme.
A measure of an organisation’s GHG emissions over a given period of time. A carbon footprint can also be measured for individual practices, such as driving, or products. They can cover the emissions of all greenhouse gasses or just carbon, so ensure you check what a footprint is calculating.
Footprints are expressed in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e).
This involves compensating for an organisation’s footprint by removing emissions elsewhere within an organisation’s value chain.
When a business removes more GHG emissions from the atmosphere than they emit. Confusingly, the term “carbon positive” means the same thing, and the two terms are interchangeable.
Balancing GHG emissions with an equivalent amount of carbon offsets. This term is used interchangeably with “climate neutral”, or “net zero”, however there are subtle differences to their meaning.
Any activity which reduces overall emissions of GHGs through the purchase of verified carbon credits, emissions reduction projects, and carbon absorption projects.
Activities deemed to reduce or offset more emissions than it produces. See “carbon negative.”
Anything that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and stores carbon, such as forests, oceans, and other natural environment resources.
The process of capturing and storing CO2.
An economy that maximises resource efficiency and keeps materials in use for as long as possible. This is done through recycling, restoration, upcycling, and repurposing of materials and resources.
A long-term shift in global weather patterns or average temperatures caused by global warming. Consequences of climate change include sea level rises, loss of biodiversity and natural habitats, extreme weather, and natural resource decline.
Climate change mitigation
Strategies focussed on preventing or limiting the consequences of climate change by reducing GHG emissions or removing them from the atmosphere.
Materials that break down completely into non-toxic components that support plant growth. Different conditions are required for different types of organic matter to fully decompose.
An abbreviation for “Conference of Parties”; the United Nation’s annual climate summit gathering almost 200 countries to work towards reducing global GHG emissions and protecting our natural environment.
A practice whereby consumers specifically purchase products and services with positive climate impacts and avoid those with negative climate impacts.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
A business management concept whereby social and environmental concerns are integrated into an organisation’s operations.
The use of large numbers of small energy generators (such as rooftop solar) on the power network, as opposed to centralised energy which relies entirely on the output of a few, large energy generators.
Demand-side response (DSR)
Flexibility services to network operators where an organisation agrees to temporarily reduce energy consumption when prompted. The purpose of DSR is to balance out peaks and troughs in grid demand.
Distribution network operator (DNO)
A DNO is the operator of an electricity distribution network. If investing in onsite renewable energy generation, you will have to raise a request to connect to the grid through your DNO.
A vehicle that runs on electricity powered by a battery.
The emissions involved in the creation of a product or asset, such as during manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of materials.
Emissions trading scheme (ETS)
A tool that puts a price on GHG emissions with the aim of reducing them. An ETS is a “cap and trade” principle where a cap is placed on the amount of emissions allowed by a sector or organisation.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)
These show home-owners, property-owners and tenants how energy efficient a building is. EPC ratings detail information on potential energy costs and CO2 emissions. EPC G properties are the least energy efficient, and EPC A properties are the most.
Technology that allows organisations to capture excess power and store it for later use, thereby reducing reliance on the grid at peak times. Energy storage is an essential component for advancing battery technology and renewable energy solutions, such as solar panels, or electric vehicles.
Discarded electronic appliances such as mobiles, laptops, computers, televisions etc.
The avoidance of investing in activities linked to unethical or unsustainable outcomes in favour of those which have socially and environmentally positive impacts.
A carbon-based fuel, which comes in solid, liquid or gas form, derived from decomposing living organisms placed under huge pressure beneath the Earth’s surface. Fossil fuels contain carbon and hydrogen which are released into the atmosphere when burned. Fossil fuels are in finite supply and are a key contributor to global warming. Coal, oil and natural gas are example of fossil fuels.
An increase in the world’s average temperature as a consequence of human activities. The temperatures rise because of increasing concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere. If the Earth’s temperatures surpass certain targets, the impacts will be catastrophic.
Greenhouse gasses (GHGs)
Gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to the “greenhouse effect.” The six key GHGs are...
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Nitrous oxide (N20)
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
- Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
Greenhouse gas removal technology (GGR Technology)
Also known as “negative emissions technologies (NETs),” GGR technologies remove emissions from the atmosphere either directly, by capture techniques, or indirectly through enhancing natural processes.
An economic system based on environmental principles.
Hydrogen made using clean energy to electrolyse water. Green hydrogen uses electrolysers to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero carbon in the process.
Activities or claims designed to mislead people into thinking a product, service or organisation is doing more to protect the environment than it actually is. Greenwashing can take the form of marketing techniques, incorrect product labelling, climate claims without proof, commitments that organisations do not intend to honour, and misunderstanding climate or net zero terminology.
See also: Key greenwashing terms worth knowing.
Currently the most common form of hydrogen production. Grey hydrogen involves a natural gas, such as methane, and steam reformation. Grey hydrogen doesn’t involve CCS.
A vehicle powered by both an internal combustion engine (ICU), supplemented by a battery of power from regenerative braking.
A gas which burns cleanly, producing only heat and water as a by-product. Hydrogen is produced in various ways, including brown hydrogen, green hydrogen, and blue hydrogen, pink hydrogen, yellow hydrogen, and white hydrogen.
Life cycle assessment (LCA)
The measure of an product or service’s environmental impact throughout the course of its existence.
Minute pieces of plastic less than 5mm in diameter. They are prevalent in land and water and a byproduct of plastic pollution.
The physical stock of natural assets in a given area. Natural capital covers woodland, minerals, water, carbon sinks, biodiversity and habitats.
Measures that work alongside the natural environment to provide environmental and social benefits while increasing resilience. A green wall or a carbon sink is an example of a nature-based solution
When an organisation is having an overall positive impact on the climate, such as by removing more GHGs from the atmosphere than they emit.
Reducing GHG emissions to as close to zero as possible, so they are balanced out by the removal of GHGs from the atmosphere through offsetting and capture techniques.
A legally binding climate change treaty adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December 2015, which officially came into force November 2016. The treaty was signed by more than 190 countries and outlines a 1.5C global warming limit compared to pre-industrial levels.
Hydrogen generated through electrolysis powered by nuclear energy.
Manufacturing a product or managing a process to avoid wasting materials, energy, effort, money and time.
A concept in which organisations take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they make. This takes into consideration all stages of the product’s life cycle.
Supporting and enhancing natural processes in a bid to nurture ecological health and biodiversity.
Rebuilding a product using reused, repaired, and upcycled parts.
Energy generated from natural, replenishable sources. Examples of renewable energy include solar, wind, geothermal heat, wave, and tidal energy. Clean energy is an interchangeable term for renewable energy.
Emissions reductions targets that align with up-to-date climate science and meets the necessary standards and goals of the Paris Agreement.
When calculating your carbon footprint, you must take into account scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions involved with your supply chain and product life cycle.
- Scope 1 – The emissions from sources you own and control, such as gas heating, company vehicles, air conditioning etc.
- Scope 2 – The emissions you indirectly produce through the energy, heat or steam you purchase. The most obvious example is the electricity your business uses.
- Scope 3 – The emissions you are indirectly responsible for from sources outside of your control. These are divided into:
- Upstream – such as emissions from goods and services you purchase from suppliers
- Downstream – distribution and end-use of your own goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, and waste disposal.
Sustainability has a plethora of definitions. The most commonly accepted definition is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The full range of activities needed to create a product or service.
Reducing emissions to absolute zero, which doesn’t include carbon offsetting to balance emissions. It is highly unlikely that an entire business will become zero carbon, but certain processes, products, and activities can be made zero carbon.
When an organisation reuses, recovers, or recycles 100 per cent of its waste. Zero waste products are also designed in such a way that the materials can be recycled, recovered, or reused at end of life.