November 27, 2012

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Representatives from nearly 200 nations have come together in Doha, Qatar for a two-week United Nations climate change conference. The overarching question that will shape discussions over the next two weeks is: How can nations strengthen climate change mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation now and in the future?

As representative discuss this question, propose solutions, and reach resolutions the media will be following along. However, the United Nations climate lingo, found within conference overviews and summaries, can seem like an uncrackable code—making it hard to follow what is happening at this critical meeting in Doha. Thankfully, the Associated Press has put together a quick guide that will help you understand the U.N.’s climate lingo. Learn all the unintuitive acronyms that will help you follow along as climate talks unfold:

UNFCCC: No wonder the climate talks turned into such an alphabet soup when the first acronym they came up with had six letters, ending with three Cs. It stands for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Adopted in 1992 and ratified by 194 countries and the European Union, it provides the foundation of the global climate talks.

COP 18: Each meeting of the countries who have joined the convention is called a Conference of the Parties, or COP. This year’s edition in Doha is the 18th such meeting, hence the name COP 18. Things got confusing at the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, when the uninitiated assumed COP was an abbreviation of the host city.

KYOTO PROTOCOL: Known to the climate crowd as the “KP,” it’s the most important deal signed within the convention, establishing binding greenhouse emissions targets for 37 industrialized nations. (Keep reading to find out how to say emissions target in Kyoto-speak). The U.S. was the only industrialized nation that didn’t ratify the agreement. Adopted in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997, the KP expires at the end of 2012. A key issue in Doha is negotiating an extension, referred to as a second commitment period.

LCA: Since the KP focuses on emissions from industrialized nations, a second work flow was set up in 2007 to discuss other climate actions, including by developing countries and Kyoto-dropout U.S. The formal name is the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action. Delegates just refer to it as the LCA. It’s supposed to be closed at the end of this year, but some developing countries say its work isn’t finished. That’s another sticking point in Doha.

DURBAN PLATFORM: Last year in Durban, South Africa, countries agreed to craft a new global climate pact that would include both rich and poor nations. Negotiators gave themselves a 2015 deadline to adopt the agreement, which would enter into force in 2020. A new working group was formed called the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Most delegates call it the Durban Platform or the ADP.

QELRO: It may have a more exotic ring to it than “emissions target” but it’s essentially the same thing. A QELRO is the commitment that a country has made to cut its greenhouse emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. It stands for Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Obligation. Don’t confuse QELROs with the NAMAs, or Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, pledged by developing countries; or NAPAs, Nationally Adaptation Programs for Action, which are action plans submitted by the poorest countries on how to adapt to climate change.

REDD-PLUS and LULUCF: Even those inside the climate bubble will be hard pressed to spell out what those initials stand for. The important thing to know is they are initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and agriculture.

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