Carbon Glossary

Terms and definitions

Most of the definitions below are courtesy of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW).

Go to carbon terms: A – D | E – H | I – N | O – R | S – Z

ACCUs:  An ACCU is a unit issued by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) for greenhouse gas abatement activities undertaken as part of the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Additionality: A requirement that a project or activity provide abatement that is additional to any that would occur in the absence of the project or activity, and that is additional to abatement that would occur anyway to meet Australia’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme cap or International Target.

Airport Carbon Accreditation: The only airport industry certification for carbon management. There are four levels of award for mapping, reduction, optimisation and neutrality.

Australian Emissions Unit (AEU):  An emissions unit issued under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), also referred to as a ‘carbon pollution permit’.

Annex I countries:  Countries listed in Annex I to the United Nations Framework  Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including all developed (OECD) countries and the countries in transition in central and Eastern Europe (including Russia and Ukraine).  In the context of the Kyoto Protocol, ‘Annex I country’ is used to refer to a party included in Annex I to the UNFCCC with a commitment inscribed in Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol.

Basis of Preparation (BOP): A BOP details how an organisation has interpreted and applied the requirements of NGER, including methodologies applied, assumptions and estimations used.

Business unit:  A unit that is recognised by an entity as having administrative responsibility for one or more facilities of the corporation.

Carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2-e):  A standard measure that takes account of the different global warming potentials of greenhouse gases and expresses the cumulative effect in a common unit.

Carbon footprint:  A measure of the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions attributable to an activity, commonly used at an individual, household, organisation or product level. Measure your business’ carbon footprint.

Carbon neutrality: Carbon neutrality refers to a year-on-year state achieved through actions to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, followed by neutralising or compensating remaining emissions that cannot be avoided. Neutralisation and compensation require the purchase of carbon offsets, mechanisms to abate or sequester greenhouse gas emissions through approved projects. Climate Active is the Australian Government-recognised carbon neutral certification program. Read more about carbon neutrality and Climate Active.

Carbon offset:  Represents a reduction in greenhouse gases, or enhancement of greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere by sinks, relative to a business as usual baseline. Carbon offsets are tradeable and often used to negate (or offset) all or part of another entity’s emissions. Read more about offsets and certified carbon credits.

Carbon sink: A natural or manmade reservoir that accumulates and stores carbon dioxide for an indefinite period.

Carbon units: A carbon unit is issued by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) under the Act for the purposes of satisfying liabilities under the ACT.

Certified Emission Reduction (CER):  A Kyoto unit corresponding to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, and issued for verified emission reductions or removals achieved by projects approved under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). CDM projects undertaking afforestation and reforestation activities issue temporary and long term units known as tCERs and lCERs, which must be replaced after a specified period.

Clean Energy Regulator (CER): The CER will administer key elements of the carbon pricing mechanism, as well as the Carbon Farming Initiative and the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM):  The CDM allows greenhouse gas emission reduction projects to take place in countries that have no emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol, yet are signatories.  The CDM is defined in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Active: Climate Active is the only Australian-Government recognised carbon neutral certification program. Read more about Climate Active and carbon neutrality.

Climate Change Authority: The Climate Change Authority will review pollution caps, the future trajectory of Australia’s pollution levels, and the performance of the carbon price. It will also track Australia’s progress towards meeting its targets for reducing carbon pollution.

Climate Solutions Fund – Emissions Reduction Fund: Government funding available through a reverse auction scheme for approved carbon credit projects (ACCUs).

Emissions and Energy Reporting System (EERS): An online reporting system for liable interim emissions entries under the carbon pricing mechanism. EERS was released in April 2013 and enhanced to allow all reporters to submit emissions and energy reports (under sections 19, 22E, 22G and 22X), and liable entity reports (under 22A) of the NGER Act.

Eligible emission units:  Each eligible emissions unit represents one tonne of CO2-e.

Emission factor:A factor that gives the kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted per unit of activity.

Emissions Reduction Unit (ERU):  A Kyoto unit corresponding to one metric tonne  of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced or sequestered arising from a Joint Implementation (defined in Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol) project.

Energy – Mass Balance (EMB): This is a method used to understand energy conversion efficiencies. An EMB demonstrates how energy systems work, such as energy flows and mass flows. The model takes into account equipment, processes and other external factors.

Facility:  An activity, or a series of activities (including ancillary activities), that involve the production of greenhouse gas emissions, the production of energy or the consumption of energy and that form a single undertaking or enterprise and meet the requirements of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Regulations.

Functional unit: A means of expressing the greenhouse gas emissions of a product in a way that is meaningful for the product being investigated (for example kilograms of CO2­e per unit of product).

Greenhouse gases:  The atmospheric gases responsible for causing global warming  and climate change. The six Kyoto Protocol classes of greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydro­fluorocarbons (HFCs), per­ fluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Enquire about a GHG assessment.

Gold Standard Verified Carbon Standard (GS VER): A certification program for non-governmental emission reductions projects. It operates in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Voluntary Carbon Market, and other climate and development programs.

Gold Standard Validation/Verification Bodies (GS-VVB):  Gold Standard-approved auditors are referred to as GS-VVB.

GRESB: (Formerly Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) GRESB Real Estate Assessment measures the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance of property.

International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB): a system of comprehensive standards that set a global baseline of sustainability disclosures for investors and the financial markets. The ISSB is developed by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

International target: The greenhouse gas emissions target that Australia has  committed to meet by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol and the target agreed for Australia in any replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.

Investor Climate Action Plans (ICAPS) Expectations Ladder and Guidance: Sets clear expectations for investors who issue climate action plans, including how to support net zero emissions goals for 2050 or sooner.

Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO): These are units from the new mechanism for the international emissions trading between participating entities to the Paris Agreement.

Joint Implementation (JI):  A market­based implementation mechanism defined in  Article 6 of the Kyoto Protocol, allowing Annex I countries or companies from these countries to implement projects jointly that limit or reduce emissions or enhance sinks, and to share the ERUs.

Kyoto Protocol:  An international treaty created under the UNFCCC in 1997.  It entered into force in 2005.  Among other things, the Kyoto Protocol sets binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries and countries in transition.  It includes individual emission reduction targets for Annex I countries to be met within the first commitment period of 2008­12.

Kyoto unit: An emissions unit recognised for compliance under the Kyoto Protocol.  Kyoto units include Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), CERs (including tCERs and lCERs), ERUs and Removal Units (RMUs).

Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF): Land sector projects seeking to mitigate climate change. International and national LULUCF programs for carbon credit generation remunerate farmers and landowners for carbon credits created through actions such as plantings, savannah fire management, reforestation, afforestation, avoided deforestation and other land use change activities.

Life cycle assessment (LCA): The compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.

Materials & Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance (MECLA): A leadership body of approximately 400 professionals from the building industry and government sector who promote low emission building materials such as green steel and concrete, and products such as geo polymers.

Measurement & Verification (M&V): A system to measure the amount of energy saved due to an energy efficiency upgrade. This is an accurate, repeatable methodology requiring a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP).

National Australian Built Environment Ratings System (NABERS): NABERS is a performance based rating system. Star ratings between 1 to 6 indicate the environmental impact of  Australian buildings, tenancies and homes.

National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) System:  The national  reporting framework for information related to the greenhouse gas emissions, and energy production and use of corporations operating in Australia.  The framework is established under Commonwealth legislation, which makes registration and reporting mandatory for corporations whose greenhouse gas emissions or energy production or use meet certain thresholds.

Natural Capital Unit: A Natural Capital Unit (NCU) is the joining of a Verified Carbon Unit (VCU) with a Vegetation Unit certified by the Australian Government. Each NCU involves the permanent protection of 1m2 of native habitat. As with VCU’s, each NCU is the carbon offset equivalent of one tonne of CO2e.

Net-zero: Net-zero is a science-based target and refers to reducing scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions to zero, or to a residual level consistent with reaching net-zero emissions at the global level (in line with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C by 2050). Read more about the net-zero here.

Negawatt power: The amount of energy (in watts) saved due to efficiencies implemented.

NGER Audit Section 73: The Clean Energy Regulator may cause an organisation to undergo an audit under Section 73 of the NGER Act. This may occur if the Regulator suspects that the organisation has not met its reporting obligations.

NGER Audit Section 74: The Clean Energy Regulator may cause an organisation to undergo an audit under Section 74 of the NGER Act. In this case there is no suspicion of non compliance and the Regulator will appoint and pay for a greenhouse and energy auditor.

Offset:  See carbon offset.

Operational control:  The greatest authority to introduce and implement any or all of  the following for the Facility: (i) operating policies; (ii) health and safety policies; (iii) environmental policies. Only one corporation can have operational control over a Facility at any time.

Permanence:  With regard to offsets, permanence requires the generation of offsets to  have actually occurred and the carbon stored or sequestered not to be released into the atmosphere in the future.

RE100: A 100% renewable energy campaign, a CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) and The Climate Group project.

Recognised Energy Savings Activity (RESA): Eligible activities that fall into the NSW State  Government’s Energy Savings Scheme.

Removal Unit (RMU): A Kyoto unit corresponding to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions sequestered and issued for removals of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by eligible land use, land­ use change and forestry activities.

Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP): RCP is a greenhouse gas concentration rather than emissions trajectory that was adopted by the IPCC. RCPs try to capture future trends and predict GHG concentrations based on human activities.

Safeguard Mechanism: The Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy’ Safeguard Mechanism’ makes sure that any emissions reductions purchased via the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) are not impacted by increases in emissions above business-as-usual in other parts of the economy. This mechanism is administered by the NGER scheme.

Safeguard Mechanism Credit (SMC): A Safeguard Mechanism Credit is a government-issued unit that gives Safeguard facilities a way to reduce emissions below their baseline. As with ACCUs, one (1) SMC represents one (1) tCO2-e, but while ACCUs are generated from one sector and purchased as offset units by different sectors, SMCs are in-scheme emissions reductions from the industrial sector .

Scope 1 emissions: The release of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as a direct  result of activities at a Facility.

Scope 2 emissions: The release of greenhouse gas as a result of electricity generation,  heating, cooling or steam that is consumed by a Facility.

Scope 3 emissions:  The release of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere that is generated in the wider economy as a consequence of a facility’s activities but that are physically produced by another Facility.

Sequestration:  The removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, either through biological processes (for example, photosynthesis in plants and trees), or geological processes (for example, storage of carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs).

Sink: See carbon sink.

Social License to Operate (SLO): Also referred to as social license. SLO is the acceptance of an organisation’s standard business practices and procedures by employees, stakeholders, and the global community.

Sub-facility:  Organisational units that make up a Facility.

TCFD: Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. An organisation developing voluntary climate-related financial risk disclosures for companies. This information is intended for investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders.

TNFD: Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures. A framework enabling companies to integrate nature loss into risk analysis and decision making.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):  An international treaty, adopted in 1992, aimed at achieving the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

United Nations Sustainability Development Goals: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or UNSDGs) comprise a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future. This is a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015 for 2030. Find more information on the UN website.

Verified Carbon Unit (VCU): A unit corresponding to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced, certified and issued under the Verified Carbon Standard. Purchase VCU carbon credits to offset your emissions.

Verra: Verra is the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). As with the Gold Standard, this is a certification standard for non-governmental emission reductions projects. It operates in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the Voluntary Carbon Market, and other climate and development programs.

Voluntary Emissions Reduction (VER): Emission reduction units that have been generated according to defined voluntary standards.

Understand more about climate change

The Australian Academy of Science clarifies climate change: implications, areas of confusion, certainties and uncertainties. Go to: The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers, 2015.