Glossary of Terms

Acceptance – In practice acceptance is used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require an agreement to be ratified by the head of State. Acceptance has the same legal effect as ratification (UNEP, 2007).

Accession – An act whereby a State becomes a Party to an international agreement already negotiated and closed for signature. Accession has the same legal effect as ratification, although an acceding State has not signed the agreement (UNEP, 2007).

Adaptation – A process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects (IPCC, 2012). 

Adaptation Fund – Fund which was established to finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of Climate Change (IUCN, 2011).

Adoption – 1) Adoption by a country of an international agreement refers to the process of its incorporation into the domestic legal system, through signature, ratification or any other process required under national law. 2) Adoption by the international community of an international agreement is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established. 3) Adoption of a decision, resolution, or recommendation is the formal act (e.g. strike of gavel) by which the form and content of a proposed decision, resolution or recommendation are approved by delegations (UNEP, 2007).

Afforestation – The direct human-induced conversion of land that has not been forested for a period of at least 50 years to forested land through planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources (UNFCCC). Should be distinguished from “reforestation” (UNEP, 2007).

Agreement – 1) Generic term for an international legally binding instrument. In this sense, encompasses several instruments, such as treaties, conventions, protocols or oral agreements. 2) Specific term used to designate international instruments that are sic “less formal”, thus corresponding to soft law and deal with a narrower range of subject matter than treaties (UNEP, 2007).

Air Pollution – The introduction of chemicals, particulate matter or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment into the atmosphere is known as air pollution (IUCN, 2011).

Amendment – 1) A modification or addition to an existing legal instrument (e.g., treaty, convention, or protocol). 2) A modification to a proposal under negotiation (e.g., draft decision, draft recommendation, or draft resolution) (UNEP, 2007).

Anthropogenic emissions – Emissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors and aerosols associated with human activities are known as anthropogenic emissions. These include burning of fossil fuels for energy, deforestation, and land use changes that result in net increase in emissions (IUCN, 2011). 

Approval – In practice, approval has been used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require an international agreement to be ratified by the head of State. Approval has the same legal effect as ratification (UNEP, 2007).

Atmosphere – The gaseous envelope surrounding the Earth. The dry atmosphere consists almost entirely of nitrogen (78.1% volume mixing ratio) and oxygen (20.9% volume mixing ratio), together with a number of trace gases, such as argon (0.93% volume mixing ratio), helium, and radiatively active greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (0.035% volume mixing ratio) and ozone. In addition, the atmosphere contains the greenhouse gas water vapour, whose amounts are highly variable but typically around 1% volume mixing ratio. The atmosphere also contains clouds and aerosols (IPCC, 2012). 

Binding – Adjective which means that an instrument entails an obligation (usually for States) under international law (UNEP, 2007).

Biodiversity – Shorthand for biological diversity. Variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar, WHS).

Biological resources – Genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity (CBD).

Biomass fuels or biofuels – A fuel produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants. These fuels are considered renewable as long as the vegetation producing them is maintained or replanted, such as firewood, alcohol fermented from sugar, and combustible oils extracted from soybeans (UNFCCC).

Biosafety – Set of measures or actions addressing the safety aspects related to the application of biotechnologies (see biotechnology) and to the release into the environment of transgenic plants and other organisms, particularly microorganisms, that could negatively affect plant genetic resources, plant, animal or human health, or the environment (UNEP, 2007).

Biotechnology – Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use (CBD).

Capacity building – In the context of climate change, the process of developing the technical skills and institutional capability in developing countries and economies in transition to enable them to effectively address the causes and results of climate change (UNFCCC).

Carbon Market – A popular term for a trading system through which countries may buy or sell units of greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to meet their national limits on emissions, either under the Kyoto Protocol or under other agreements, such as that among member states of the European Union (UNEP, 2007).

Carbon sequestration – The process of removing additional carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in other “reservoirs”, principally through changes in land use. In practical terms, the carbon sequestration occurs mostly through the expansion of forests (UNEP, 2007).

Carbon Tax – Tax by governments on the use of carbon-containing fuels.

Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) – A Kyoto Protocol unit equal to 1 metric tonne of CO2 equivalent. CERs are issued for emission reductions from CDM project activities. Two special types of CERs called temporary certified emission reduction (tCERs) and long-term certified emission reductions (lCERs) are issued for emission removals from afforestation and reforestation CDM projects (UNFCCC). Both types of CER can be purchased from the primary market (purchased from the original party that makes the reduction) or secondary market (resold from a marketplace) (IUCN, 2011).

CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons. A category of chemical substances that contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. Regulated under the Montreal Protocol (UNEP, 2007).

Clean technologies – Both process and product engineering that reduces the pollutants and environmental impacts inherent in industrial production (UNEP, 2007).

Climate Change – Change of climate, which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (UNFCCC).

Climate change adaptation – The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate change and its effects (IPCC, 2012). 

Climate conventions – The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (UNEP, 2007).

Climate resilience – The ability of a system, community or society exposed to climate-related hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from the effects of such hazards in a sustainable and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through disaster risk management (based on UNDRR, 2016).

Coalition – A group of like-minded States or delegations that work together towards a common objective (UNEP, 2007).

Committee – Subset of a Plenary, open to all Parties, established to perform particular tasks (e.g., drafting committee), address a particular issue (e.g., credentials committee) or a particular set of agenda items (then equivalent to a working group). Committees make recommendations to the Plenary (UNEP, 2007).

Complementarity – Funding principle according to which funded activities must be coherent with national programmes and policies to maximise global environmental benefits (UNEP, 2007).

Compliance – Fulfilment by countries/businesses/individuals of emission reduction and reporting commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC).

Conference of the Parties (COP) – One of the designations for the main negotiating body under an international agreement. The COP is a policy-making body that meets periodically to take stock of implementation of the agreement and adopt decisions, resolutions, or recommendations for the future implementation of the agreement (UNEP, 2007).

Consensus – A mode of adoption of decisions, resolutions, or recommendations without voting. A decision is adopted by consensus if there is no formal explicit objection made. Whether there is consensus on an issue or not is determined by the presiding officer on the basis of the views expressed by delegates and his/her subjective assessment of the sense of the meeting (UNEP, 2007).

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – Convention on Biological Diversity. Adopted in 1992, entered into force in 1993. One of the Rio Conventions (UNEP, 2007).

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Adopted in 1973, entered into force in 1975 (UNEP, 2007).

Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) – Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Also called the “Bonn Convention”. Adopted in 1979, entered into force in 1983 (UNEP, 2007).

Decision – Formal expression of the will of the governing body of an international organisation or international agreement. Usually binding but may also correspond to soft law (UNEP, 2007).

Declaration – A formal statement of aspirations issued by a meeting. Usually issued by high-level representatives. A declaration is not binding (UNEP, 2007).

Deforestation – The direct human-induced conversion of forested land to non-forested land (UNFCCC).

Delegate – Representative of a State or organisation who has been authorised to act on its behalf and whose credentials are in order (UNEP, 2007).

Delegation – Team of delegates to a meeting from the same country or organisation (UNEP, 2007).

Desertification – Degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities (UNCCD).

Designated National Authority (DNA) – An office, ministry, or other official entity appointed by a Party to the Kyoto Protocol to review and give national approval to projects proposed under the Clean Development Mechanism (UNFCCC).

Disaster – A serious disruption of the functioning of a community that exceeds its capacity to cope using its own resources. There are many potential causes of such disruption, including natural and technological hazards, industrial accidents, mass movements of populations and infectious and contagious diseases, as well as various factors that influence the exposure and vulnerability of communities (IFRC, 2019). 

Disaster risk management – The organisation, planning and application of measures preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters (IFRC, 2019).

Disaster risk reduction – Measures aimed at preventing new and reducing existing disaster risk (IFRC, 2019).

Dispute – Disagreement on a point of law (e.g., the interpretation of an international agreement) or fact (e.g., an action taken by a State) (UNEP, 2007).

Economic Instruments – One of the tools for environmental protection that make use of fiscal incentives (subsidies) and deterrents (taxes), as well as market measures such as tradable emissions permits, rather than regulating specific outcomes (UNEP, 2007).

Ecosystem – Dynamic complexes of plant, animal and microorganism communities and the non-living environment interacting as functional units or a community of all plants and animals and their physical environment functioning together as an interdependent unit (IUCN, 2011).

Ecosystem-based adaptation – The use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change (CBD, 2009).

Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction – The sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems to reduce disaster risk, with the aim of achieving sustainable and resilient development (Estrella and Saalismaa, 2013)

Eco-tourism – Travel undertaken to witness sites or regions of unique natural or ecologic quality, or the provision of services to facilitate such travel (UNEP, 2007).

Emissions trading – One of the three Kyoto mechanisms, by which an Annex I Party may transfer Kyoto Protocol units to, or acquire units from, another Annex I Party. An Annex I Party must meet specific eligibility requirements to participate in emissions trading (UNFCCC).

Enforcement – Range of procedures and actions taken by a State and its competent authorities to ensure that persons or organisations failing to comply with laws or regulations are brought back into 35 Environmentally Sound Management Defined as taking all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous wastes or other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect compliance or punished through appropriate action (UNEP, 2007).

Entry into force – The point at which an intergovernmental agreement becomes legally binding – occurring at a pre-stated interval after a pre-stated and required number of ratifications by countries has been achieved (UNFCCC).

Environment – It encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof (IUCN, 2011).

Environmental Degradation – The reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs (IUCN, 2011).

Environmental Impact Assessment – Process by which the environmental consequences of a proposed project or programme are evaluated is known as environmental impact assessment. It is undertaken as an integral part of planning and decision-making processes with a view to limiting or reducing the adverse impacts of the project or programme (IUCN, 2011).

Extreme climatological events – Events which are rare for the place where they occur and appear in the top or bottom of the range (in terms of temperature, wind speed, volume of rain and so on) observed or that location. Not all extreme events will lead to a disaster, as this will depend on a variety of factors including location, levels of exposure and vulnerability of the people in the affected area, and whether it occurs simultaneously with other shocks or hazards (IPCC, 2012). 

FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The UN specialised organisation for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. Established in 1945 (UNEP, 2007).

G8 – Group of eight industrialised countries comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US (UNEP, 2007).

G77 – Originally a group of 77 developing countries established in 1964 at the first session of UNCTAD. Now gathering 132 developing States. The Group seeks to harmonise the positions of developing countries prior to and during negotiations. China sometimes also associates itself with the G77, in which case the group is referred to as “G77/China” or “G77 plus China.” 

GHGs – Greenhouse gases. The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming and climate change. The major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH4 ) and nitrous oxide (N2 O). Less prevalent but very powerful greenhouse gases are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) (IUCN, 2011).

Global Environment Facility (GEF) – Launched in 1991, GEF provides grant and concessional funds to developing countries for projects and programmes targeting global environmental issues: climate change, biological diversity, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants. Its implementing agencies are UNEP, UNDP, and the IBRD. Designated as the operating entity of the financial mechanism for some MEAs (e.g., the CBD and the UNFCCC). (UNEP, 2007).

Habitat – 1) The particular environment or place where an organism or species tends to live; a more locally circumscribed portion of the total environment is known as habitat (IUCN, 2011). 2) Shorthand for UN-Habitat (UNEP, 2007).

Hazardous waste – Waste that exhibits one or more hazardous characteristics, such as being flammable, oxidising, poisonous, infectious, corrosive, or ecotoxic (Basel Convention) (UNEP, 2007).

HFCs – Hydrofluorocarbons. Regulated under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as under the Montreal Protocol (UNEP, 2007).

ICJ – International Court of Justice. The principal judicial organ of the UN. The ICJ has established a special chamber for environmental disputes (UNEP, 2007).

ILO – International Labour Organisation. UN specialised agency, which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. Founded in 1919 (UNEP, 2007).

IMF – International Monetary Fund. International organisation established to, inter alia, promote international monetary cooperation, foster economic growth and high levels of employment, and provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment. Established in 1945 as one of the Bretton Woods Institutions (UNEP, 2007).

IMO – International Maritime Organisation. UN organisation, created in 1948, to address shipping activities (UNEP, 2007).

Implementation – Actions (legislation or regulations, judicial decrees, or other actions) that governments take to translate international accords into domestic law and policy (UNFCCC).

Informal consultations – Exchange of views among delegations which take place outside the formal setting of negotiations. Usually undertaken with the aim of identifying a compromise position (UNEP, 2007).

In-session documents – Documents distributed during a meeting, such as conference room papers (CRP), limited distribution documents (L. docs), informal documents, etc (UNEP, 2007).

Interlinkages – Connections between and among processes, activities, or international agreements (UNEP, 2007).

International Emissions Trading – Regime that allows Parties subject to emissions reduction targets to buy and sell emissions credits among them (within the Kyoto Protocol context). (UNEP, 2007).

IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Established jointly by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and UNEP in 1998 to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic impacts of climate change (UNEP, 2007).

ITLOS – International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Judicial organ established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to deal with disputes related to the law of the sea  (UNEP, 2007).

IUCN – The World Conservation Union. A hybrid international organisation, the membership of which is composed of governments and nongovernmental organisations (UNEP, 2007).

Kyoto Protocol – Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Provides for binding emission reductions for Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC. Adopted in 1997, entered into force in 2005 (UNEP, 2007).

Land degradation – Reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from land use or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activity and habitation patterns (UNEP, 2007).

LDC Fund – Fund established by the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to assist least developed countries to undertake activities to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change (UNEP, 2007).

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – The world’s poorest countries. The criteria currently used by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for designation as an LDC include low income, human resource weakness and economic vulnerability. Currently 48 countries have been designated by the UN General Assembly as LDCs (UNFCCC).

Mandate – What a meeting, organisation or individual has been given authority to do (UNEP, 2007).

Marrakech Accords – Agreements reached at COP-7 which set various rules for “operating” the more complex provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Among other things, the accords include details for establishing a greenhouse-gas emissions trading system; implementing and monitoring the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism; and setting up and operating three funds to support efforts to adapt to climate change.

Meeting of the Parties – A body equivalent to the Conference of the Parties. The terminology differs according to agreements. In practice, there is a tendency within environment negotiating fora to use “Conference of the Parties” for the conventions and Meeting of the Parties for the protocols (UNEP, 2007).

Member State – State which is a member of an international organisation (UNEP, 2007).

Memorandum of Understanding – A simplified type of international instrument, which can be concluded between States, between States and international organisations or between international organisations. MoUs can provide a framework for cooperation or be concluded for specific time-bound activities (UNEP, 2007).

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – A set of time-bound and measurable goals for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, discrimination against women and environmental degradation, agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 (IUCN, 2011).

Mitigation – A human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other “sinks” to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (UNFCCC).

Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEAs) – A generic term for treaties, conventions, protocols, and other binding instruments related to the environment. Usually applied to instruments of a geographic scope wider than that of a bilateral agreement (i.e., between two States) (UNEP, 2007).

NAP – National Action Plan. Required under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for the implementation of the Convention (UNEP, 2007).

National Communication – Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a document by which a Party informs other Parties of activities undertaken to mitigate climate change (UNEP, 2007).

Nature-based solutions – Actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits (IUCN, 2016). They include ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and ecosystem-based adaptation.

Non-Governmental Organisation(s) (NGOs) – Applied to community groups and not-for-profit organisations. In the UN system, it also includes business associations. The term gathers organisations with different mandates (e.g., research, education and awareness building, lobbying, technical assistance, field projects, etc.) (UNEP, 2007).

Observer – Non-state or State actor invited to participate in a limited capacity in discussions during negotiations. Observers are not allowed to negotiate text and have no voting powers. In practice, some observer States do negotiate, although they do not participate in final decision making (UNEP, 2007).

ODS – Ozone-depleting substance (under the Montreal Protocol and the Vienna Convention). (UNEP, 2007).

OECD – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an organisation of 30 advanced economies in North America, Europe, and the Pacific region that share a commitment to democratic government and a market economy. Originated in 1948 as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), to help administer the Marshall Plan for the re-construction of Europe after World War II (UNEP, 2007).

OPEC – Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Organisation of eleven developing countries whose economies rely on oil export revenues. Created in 1960 to, inter alia, achieve stable oil prices, which are fair and reasonable for both producers and consumers (UNEP, 2007).

Party – Refers to a State (or regional economic integration organisation such as the European Union) that has ratified, acceded to, or otherwise formally indicated its intent to be bound by an international agreement, and for which the agreement is in force. Also called “Contracting Party.” While most Parties have signed the instrument in question, it is not usually a necessary step in order to become a Party (UNEP, 2007).

Persistent Organic Pollutants – Also referred to as POPs. Chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods of time. Regulated under the Stockholm Convention.

PFCs – Perfluorocarbons. It is among the six greenhouse gases to be abated under the Kyoto Protocol. These are by-products of aluminium smelting and uranium enrichment. They also replace chlorofluorocarbons in manufacturing semiconductors. The Global Warming Potential of PFCs is 6,500 – 9,200 times that of carbon dioxide (IUCN, 2011).

Plenary – A formal meeting of the entire COP, CMP or one of the subsidiary bodies. Formal decisions or conclusions may only be taken during plenary sessions (UNFCCC).

Precautionary principle – Approach/principle according to which the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing action where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment or human health. The approach/principle is embedded in several instruments, including Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Whereby the precautionary approach is often used in negotiations to infer a less definite meaning than the precautionary principle (UNEP, 2007).

Protected Area – Geographically defined area which is designated or regulated, and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives (CBD).

Protocol – An international agreement linked to an existing convention, but as a separate and additional agreement which must be signed and ratified by the Parties to the convention concerned. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments (UNFCCC).

Public-Private Partnership (PPPs) – A mechanism for governments to procure and implement public infrastructure and/or services using the resources and expertise of the private sector. Where governments are facing ageing or lack of infrastructure and require more efficient services, a partnership with the private sector can help foster new solutions and bring finance (World Bank).

Ratification – Formal process by which a Head of State or appropriate governmental official or authority signs a document which signals the consent of the State to become a Party to an international agreement once the agreement has entered into force and to be bound by its provisions (UNEP, 2007).

Recommendation – Formal expression of an advisory nature of the will of the governing body of an international organisation or international agreement. It is not binding (UNEP, 2007).

Reforestation – The direct human-induced conversion of nonforested land to forested land through 78 planting, seeding and/or the human-induced promotion of natural seed sources, on land that was forested but that has been converted to non-forest land (UNFCCC).

Reservation – Unilateral statement made by a State upon signature, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to an international legal instrument, indicating that it wishes to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions in their application to that State. Reservations are generally permitted, but some international agreements expressly prohibit reservations (UNEP, 2007).

Resolution – Formal expression of the opinion or will of the governing body of an international organisation or international agreement. Usually non-binding (UNEP, 2007).

Rio Conference – Shorthand for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 (UNEP, 2007).

Rio Convention(s) – Used to designate the conventions negotiated and adopted during the Rio Conference in 1992. These Conventions are the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to which the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), adopted in 1994, is also added (UNEP, 2007).

Rio Declaration – Shorthand for the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted at the Rio Conference, the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Set of 27 Principles on sustainable development (UNEP, 2007).

SBI – In the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation. Advises the Conference of the Parties to the Convention and/or the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in the form of recommendations and draft decisions.

SCCF – Special Climate Change Fund. A fund established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to finance projects relating to adaptation; technology transfer and capacity building; energy, transport, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management; and economic diversification.

SEA – Strategic Environmental Assessment. Procedure for incorporating environmental considerations into national policies, plans and programmes. Sometimes referred to as “strategic environmental impact assessment.” 

SIDS – Small Island Developing States. Low Lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. Agenda 21 recognized that SIDS and islands supporting small communities are a special case both for environment and development. Currently 41 SIDS are included in the list used by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNEP, 2007).

Signatory – A State that has negotiated and signed an international agreement (UNEP, 2007).

Soft Law – The term used for quasi-legal instruments which do not have any binding force, or those whose binding force is somewhat “weaker” than the binding nature of traditional law, often referred to as “hard law”. (UNEP, 2007).

Stakeholder – Individuals or institutions (public and private) interested and involved in a process or related activities (UNEP, 2007).

Standing Committee – Committee established under various international agreements to perform certain functions as agreed to by the Conference of the Parties (UNEP, 2007).

Stockholm Conference – Shorthand for the UN Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972 (UNEP, 2007).

Stockholm Convention – Shorthand for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Adopted in 2001, entered into force in 2004. Also referred to as the “POPs Convention.” (UNEP, 2007).

Stockholm Declaration – One of the outcomes of the 1972 Stockholm Conference. A set of 26 Principles on environmental protection (UNEP, 2007).

Sustainability – Achieving a balance between environmental, social and economic demands. Sustainable development refers to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).

Sustainable development – Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (UNFCCC).

Sustainable forest management (SFM) – The management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management uses very broad social, economic and environmental goals (IUCN, 2011).

Sustainable use – Sustainability is the capacity to use the present resources without deteriorating the resources for the use of future generations. In ecology, the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems (IUCN, 2011).

Technology Transfer – Transmission of know-how, equipment and products to governments, organisations or other stakeholders. Usually also implies adaptation for use in a specific cultural, social, economic and environmental context (UNEP, 2007).

Terms of Reference – The mandate and scope for work of a body or individual (UNEP, 2007).

Travaux preparatoires – Preparatory work. Record of negotiations and other documents which may be of evidentiary value in establishing the meaning of an international agreement (UNEP, 2007).

UNCCD – UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/ or Desertification, especially in Africa. Adopted in 1994, entered into force in 1996. Often referred to as one of the Rio Conventions (UNEP, 2007).

UNCED – UN Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio, Brazil, in 1992 (UNEP, 2007).

UNCLOS – UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Adopted in 1982, entered into force in 1994 (UNEP, 2007).

UNCTAD – UN Conference on Trade and Development. Established in 1964 to promote the development-friendly integration of developing countries into the world economy and help shape policy debates and thinking on development, with a particular focus on ensuring that domestic policies and international action are mutually supportive in bringing about sustainable development (UNEP, 2007).

UNDG – United Nations Development Group. A forum bringing together UN agencies working on development and the Millennium Development Goals (UNEP, 2007).

UNDP – United Nations Development Programme. Created in 1965. Body responsible for coordinating UN development-related work (UNEP, 2007).

UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme. Established in 1972 to lead and coordinate UN environment-related work (UNEP, 2007).

UNESCO – UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Created in 1945 (UNEP, 2007).

UNFCCC – UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Adopted in 1992, entered into force in 1994. One of the Rio Conventions (UNEP, 2007).

UNFF – United Nations Forum on Forests. Created in 2000 for 5 years. Provides a forum for policy development and cooperation on matters related to sustainable forest management (UNEP, 2007).

UN-habitat – United Nations Human Settlements Programme. Established in 1978 to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all (UNEP, 2007).

Vienna Convention – 1) Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Adopted in 1984, entered into force in 1985. 2) Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Adopted in 1969, entered into force in 1980. 3) Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties. Adopted in 1978, entered into force in 1996 (UNEP, 2007).

Voluntary commitments – A draft article considered during the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol that would have permitted developing countries to voluntarily adhere to legally binding emissions targets is known as voluntary commitments (IUCN, 2011).

Voluntary Contribution – A contribution of any kind that unlike Assessed Contribution, is not assessed under a binding international agreement, including the furnishing of funds for other financial support; services of any kind (including the use of experts or other personnel); or commodities, equipment, supplies, or other material (UNEP, 2007).

Vulnerability – The propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected [which encompasses] a variety of concepts and elements including sensitivity or susceptibility to harm and lack of capacity to cope and adapt (IPCC, 2014); or the conditions determined by physical, social, economic and environmental factors or processes, which increase the susceptibility of a community to the impact of hazards (UNDRR, no date).

World Food Programme (WFP) – Established in 1961. The food aid arm of the UN (UNEP, 2007).

World Health Organisation (WHO) – The UN specialised agency for issues related to health. Established in 1948 (UNEP, 2007).