Climate Change & Sustainability

Climate Change Jargon Buster

Climate Change related terms and their meanings.


Sustainability is known as the integration of environmental health, social equality, and economic vitality to create thriving, healthy, diverse, and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come.

The practice of sustainability recognizes how these issues are interconnected and requires a systems approach and an acknowledgment of complexity.

Climate Change

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.

Such shifts can be natural, due to changes in the sun’s activity or large volcanic eruptions.

Since the 1800’s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas.

Net Zero

Net zero refers to a state in which greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere.

This is important because – for C02 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions/Carbon Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat.

Burning of fossil fuels generates GHGs that act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping heat and raising temperatures.

The main GHGs causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane.

These come from using vehicles, coal, and heating buildings for example.

Clearing land and cutting forests also releases carbon dioxide.

Agriculture, oil, and gas operations are major sources of methane emissions.

Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture, and land use are among the main sectors causing GHGs.

Scope 1 Emissions

Scope 1 covers emissions from sources that an organization owns or controls – directly for example from burning fuel in our fleet of vehicles (if they’re not electrically powered).

Scope 2 Emissions

Scope 2 are emissions that a company causes indirectly and come from where the energy it purchases and uses is produced.

For example, the emissions caused when generating the electricity that we use in our buildings would fall into this category.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 encompasses emissions that are not produced by the company itself and are not the result of activities from assets owned or controlled by them, but by those that it’s indirectly responsible for up and down its value chain.

An example of this is when we buy, use, and dispose of products from suppliers.

Scope 3 emissions include all sources not within the Scope 1 and 2 boundaries.

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the action or process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from industrial or other human activity, by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of cardon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the practice of removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it, this is one of the many approaches being taken to tackle climate change.

Biological sequestration includes forests, soil and ocean whereas geological sequestration includes graphene production, engineered molecules and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) are drainage solutions that provide an alternative to direct channelling of surface water through networks of pipes and sewers to nearby watercourses.

SuDS aims to reduce surface water flooding, improve water quality, and enhance amenity and biodiversity value of the environment.

This is achieved by lowering flow rates, increasing water storage capacity, and reducing the transport of pollution to the water environment.


Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is used to masterplan projects, infrastructure, and buildings.

BREEAM assessment evaluates the procurement, design, construction, and operation of a development against a range of targets based on performance benchmarks.

It focuses on sustainable values across a range of categories:

  • Energy
  • Land use and ecology
  • Water
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Pollution
  • Transport
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Management

Passive House Standard

Passive House Standard stands for quality, comfort, and energy efficiency.

Passive Houses require very little energy to achieve a comfortable temperature year-round, making conventional heating and air conditioning systems obsolete.

Climate Mitigation

Climate Mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emissions of greenhouse gases.

Mitigation can mean using new technologies and renewable energies, making older equipment more energy efficient, or changing management practices or consumer behaviour.

Climate Adaptation

Climate adaptation means altering our behaviours, systems, and – in some cases – ways of life to protect our families, our economies, and the environment in which we live from impacts of climate change.

The more we reduce emissions right now, the easier it will be to adopt to the changes we can no longer avoid.

Circular Economy

Circular Economy is an economic system based on the reuse and regeneration of materials or products, especially as a means of continuing production in a sustainable or environmentally friendly way.

It is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.

Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity loss refers to the decline or disappearance of biological diversity, understood as the variety of living things that inhabit the planet, its different levels of biological organisation and their respective genetic variability, as well as the natural patterns present in ecosystems.

This includes the worldwide extinction of different species as well as the reduction or loss of species in a certain habitat, resulting in the loss of biological diversity.

Natural Capital

Natural Capital can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things.

It is from this natural capital that humans derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are defined as the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human well-being and have an impact on our survival and quality of life.

There are four types of ecosystem services: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services.