Explainer: Climate Change terms you need to know ahead of COP27

Jehad El-Sayed , Friday 4 Nov 2022

The news on the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27), which will be held in Egypt in November in the Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheikh, uses a multiplicity of terms that might not be familiar to all.

climate change
Weathering climate change



Ahram Online provides a compiled list of definitions and significance for the most used climate change-related terms.



Making the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. Mitigation is achieved either by reducing the sources of these gases, increasing the share of renewable energies, establishing a cleaner mobility system, enhancing the storage of these gases, or by increasing the size of forests. 



This refers to actions that decrease the negative impact of climate change, while taking advantage of potential new opportunities. It involves adjusting policies and actions because of observed or expected changes in climate.

Adaptation can be reactive, occurring in response to climate impacts, or anticipatory, occurring before the impacts of climate change are observed. In most circumstances, anticipatory adaptations will result in lower long-term costs and be more effective than reactive adaptations.


Climate finance

This refers to local, national or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions.

The Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement call for financial assistance from Parties with more financial resources to those that are less endowed and more vulnerable. This recognises that the contribution of countries to climate change and their capacity to prevent it and cope with its consequences vary enormously.

Climate finance is needed for mitigation, because large-scale investments are required to significantly reduce emissions. Climate finance is equally important for adaptation, as significant financial resources are needed to adapt to the adverse effects and reduce the impacts of a changing climate.


Climate crisis

This term is used to show a greater sense of emergency and urgency about climate change. It asserts the severity of the threat that climate change poses.


Climate emergency

This term is used by the United Nations to stress the need to take urgent action to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.


Loss and damage

This phrase normally refers to the destructive impacts of climate change that cannot be avoided either by mitigation or adaptation.

It reflects the fact that climate change is already having negative effects on ecosystems, infrastructure and people’s health and livelihoods around the world. However, there is no internationally agreed definition for loss and damage.

Loss and damage is often divided into economic loss and damage, including to livelihoods and property, and non-economic loss and damage, including loss of life and losses to biodiversity and cultural heritage.


Climate justice

This term is used by the United Nations and other organisations, such as the NAACP, that frame climate change as a social and political issue rather than just an environmental one.

According to the UN, climate change disproportionately affects those nations where the average income is much lower than in industrial nations and would have a much greater impact on populations in countries in Africa and Asia. These nations have largely rural societies and lack the wealth or resources to make up for the significant absence of food that would occur due to climate change.


Climate strike

A form of protest in which people absent themselves from education or work in order to join demonstrations demanding action to counter climate change.


Paris Agreement (Paris Accord)

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5, degrees Celsius.

To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.

The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations together to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.


Sea-level rise

The term sea-level rise, or its variants such as relative sea-level rise or global sea-level rise, might be more familiar to you than the other terms on this list, but you may not know exactly what it means.

The sea level is the horizontal plane or level corresponding to the surface of the sea at mean level between high and low tide. Sea-level rise refers to the steadily increasing sea levels that scientists are recording on a global scale.


Carbon emissions

It is the amount of carbon dioxide, in general, emitted into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels or through industry.



It is diversity among and within plant and animal species in an environment. Climate change has a severe negative effect on biodiversity.

Biodiversity is important to maintain a healthy environment (such as in pollination of plants and continuing the nutrient cycle), but we humans depend on biodiversity as well for medicines, food, and the joy we get from seeing flourishing plants and animals.


Visit Ahram Online special coverage page for COP27 for more news and analysis

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