12 words - COP21
10 December 2015

Do you speak #COP21?

Climate change, energy mix, ecological footprint... just some of the words that we read and hear increasingly often. But do you know what they actually mean? Check out these 12 definitions to impress in conversation both during and after COP21!
Content published under the Government Valls II from 2014 26th August to 2016 11th February

Infographic COP1. COP

This acronym is on everybody's lips, but what does it mean exactly? COP stands for "Conference of the Parties". This meeting brings together the signatories (195 countries plus the European Union) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This convention was adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and officially recognises the existence of climate change and human responsibility for it. The aim is to stabilise the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that prevents any dangerous human interference with the climate system. The 196 signatories meet every year. We talk about COP21 simply because this is the 21st conference to be held.

Climate change2. Climate change

Climate change is the topic of the international conference currently under way in Paris. Climate change is defined as a variation in climate caused by natural or human factors. The last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report forecast a temperature increase of 0.3 to 4.8°C by 2100 if no action is taken before then. The agreement to be concluded at the end of COP21 is intended to limit this increase.

Greenhouse gases3. Greenhouse gases

These gases are notorious for their contribution to global warming. They include water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. The greenhouse effect causes the surface of the Earth and the lower layers of the atmosphere to warm because these gases absorb and reflect some of the infra-red radiation emitted by the Earth. Greenhouse gas emissions accelerate global warming.

Sustainable development4. Sustainable development

The sustainable development policy attempts to reconcile protection of the environment, economic efficiency and social justice, in order to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. This policy may be relevant to the activities of a local authority or those of a company or social group.

Biodiversity5. Biodiversity

Biodiversity, a contraction of biological and diversity, represents the diversity of living beings and ecosystems: fauna, flora, bacteria, environments, as well as genes and domestic varieties of plants and animals. We humans belong to a species – Homo sapiens – which is one of the links in this biological diversity. But biodiversity goes beyond the variety of life! As a concept it includes interactions between the various aforementioned organisms, and between these organisms and their environments. Biodiversity is therefore a complex and rich concept.

Green growth6. Green growth

In August 2015, the Government adopted the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act. Green growth means environmentally friendly economic growth that aims to correct existing damage to the environment through specific innovations or actions.

Ecological footprint7. Ecological footprint

This indicator assesses the natural resources required to produce the things consumed by an individual, a population or an activity and to deal with the corresponding waste, and factors in the surface area required to produce these resources. The Energy Transition for Green Growth Act aims to reduce household waste and similar products by 10% by 2020; to enable 55% of non-hazardous waste to be recycled in 2020, and 65% in 2025; to reuse 70% of waste from construction and public works by 2020; and to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill by 50% by 2025.

Precautionary principle8. Precautionary principle

You’re probably familiar with the saying "better safe than sorry". This principle means applying this approach to the environment. When damage is likely to affect the environment seriously and irreversibly, even in the absence of a scientific consensus on the risks involved, these risks must be assessed, and provisional action must be considered in proportion to the likely damage. The precautionary principle was introduced into French law by the Reinforcement of Environmental Protection Act of 2 February 1995. This is now a constitutional principle, because the constitutional amendment of 1 March 2005 enshrined the Charter for the Environment, which explicitly mentions this principle, in the Constitution.

Polluter pays9. Polluter pays

This principle is self-explanatory: it means that the costs of preventing, reducing or fighting pollution or any other environmental damage are payable by the party found responsible. It was transposed into French law with the Act of 1 August 2008, which creates a new system for environmental liability based on the "polluter pays" principle.

The circular economy10. The circular economy

This is a term applied to an economic and social model that uses modes of production, consumption and exchange based on eco-design (a type of design which assesses – in order to reduce – its negative effects on the environment), repair, reuse and recycling and aims to reduce the resources used and the damage caused to the environment. The circular economy is good news for employment. In France, the waste management sector employs over 135,000 people.

Energy mix11. Energy mix

The energy mix is the breakdown, usually expressed as percentages, of primary energy sources (raw energy sources such as crude oil, natural gas, but also solar and wind energy, among others) used to meet the consumption needs of a country, local authority or industry. The Energy Transition for Green Growth Act aims to increase the percentage of renewable energy (solar, wind power, etc.) in the French energy mix. In 2012, 14% of the energy we consumed was renewable. The target stands at 23% in 2020 and 32% in 2030.

Agroecology12. Agroecology

Agroecology is any farming method which optimises the use of natural resources while protecting nature's ability to renew itself. It particularly aims to combine competitive farming with the sensible use of natural resources. 2015 marks Year 1 in the roll-out of agroecology in France, thanks to the implementation in 2012 of the levers making it possible: reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the law on the future of agriculture, plans to develop anaerobic digestion and the organic sector, and to reduce the use of antibiotics, etc. 45% of French farmers report that they already apply these methods.

The #COP21 in 12 figures

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8 December 2015