COP26: Language and Meaning

As I am travelling up to COP26 for the second week, I thought that it might be useful to provide a brief glossary of terms, with suitable meanings, which are being bandied about at the Conference. In particular there are a lot of acronyms which many involved in COP26 take for granted, but which for members of the public, or those not closely involved in the climate change debate, may be confusing or downright unintelligible. I have chosen what I think are some of the most important such terms and have tried to give simple definitions of them below.


This is the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (attending will be the majority of those countries (amounting to 197 nations) who signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992). This is a global annual meeting to debate and, hopefully agree, the future global trajectory in the goal of tackling the global climate change crisis.

NDC: Nationally Determined Contributions:

These are essentially the national plans (which were agreed at COP21 under the Paris Agreement signed at the meeting) needed to be provided by each of the UNFCCC signatories. These plans need be prepared by individual countries and are to set out the proposed climate actions, policies and measures which each such country is prepared to take to enable the terms set out in the Paris Agreement to be achieved. Although many countries have supplied their NDCs there are still a number of countries which have failed to provide them.

Net Zero:

This means the achievement of a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions which are produced globally, and the amount of such emitted greenhouse gases which is removed from the earth’s atmosphere.

Greenhouse Gases:

These are: carbon dioxide; methane; nitrous oxide; hydrofluorocarbons; perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. The most common of these is, of course, CO2.

CCC: The Committee on Climate Change

This is the body set up under the Climate Change Act 2008 to advise the UK Government on emissions target and climate change issues.

About the Author

Rory Tait was a solicitor for 34 years prior to retiring from legal practice in 2020. His legal career has focussed exclusively on advising clients on projects in the renewable and clean energy sector from a regulatory and commercial standpoint. He has worked for a number of the larger Energy and Renewables legal practices including Eversheds where he jointly led the Renewables practice. Rory is an expert on the regulatory regime governing the electricity industry, and he has advised extensively on the structuring and execution of generation projects across the majority of renewables technologies. He has also advised on the acquisition and disposal of individual projects, as well as portfolios of renewables assets, and he has negotiated connection agreements and power offtake arrangements for developers. Rory is also the Secretary of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), and has held this role for the last 20 years. With his deep knowledge of the sector gained over the course of many years Rory brings together a combination of legal, commercial and regulatory expertise which provides a comprehensive all round advisory offering for clients.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy, infrastructure and natural resources sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and other technical experts.

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