Climate action glossary

Last updated: October 1, 2022
Lisa Fritsch

This glossary provides a list of terminology to get you started and will help define terms that may be unfamiliar in our other blogs. We will continue to add more terms as we publish more articles. 

Need a definition that isn't on this list? Join our community and let us know! We'll add the definition or even write an article to explain it further.

Carbon or carbon dioxide (CO2)

Carbon is a chemical element (different to the chemical compound ‘carbon dioxide’) but in the context of greenhouse gases, it is often used interchangeably with carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), or greenhouse gases in general. If you are looking to be more precise in your language, avoid using “carbon” (as in “carbon footprint” or “carbon emissions”), although, in some cases, there are no common alternatives (e.g. “carbon credits”).

Carbon credit

Carbon credits offset greenhouse gas emissions. Purchasing carbon credits finances projects that reduce or absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Each credit offsets 1 metric tonne of carbon dioxide.

Carbon footprint

“Carbon footprint” is the colloquial term for an entity-level greenhouse gas emissions inventory (GHG inventory).

Carbon offsets

Once a carbon credit has been officially retired from a registry and used to compensate for emissions, it can be referred to as an offset.


CPD is a reporting framework that was initially created by institutional investors to promote the disclosure of climate impact and risk among their long-term investments.

Climate action communication

In the context of the climate journey, ‘climate action communication’ refers to the efforts made by a company to engage and inform internal and external stakeholders of their climate action efforts and share the progress and updates with them.  

Climate journey

The ‘climate journey’ is a concept that describes the steps an organisation should take for meaningful climate action. Each stage brings the organisation closer to becoming more sustainable and reducing the impact they have on the climate. These steps include measuring, roadmapping, reducing, compensating, and communicating (see these individual terms in this glossary).


In the context of the climate journey, ‘compensating’ refers to using carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions that aren’t mitigated by emission reduction efforts. These can be purchased through South Pole’s marketplace

Greenhouse gas (GHG)

Greenhouse gases are gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation, creating a greenhouse effect, which traps the heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere leading to global warming.  

GHG Protocol 

The GHG Protocol is a global standardised framework for businesses and organizations to measure and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Emissions are split into scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 emissions based on their use or consumption of energy. 

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

The Global Reporting Initiative is an international organisation that provides businesses and governments with the language they need to communicate their sustainability impact. They created the GRI Standards for sustainability reporting. 

Global warming potential (GWP)

Global warming potential is an index that shows how long greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere and how effective they are at absorbing outgoing infrared radiation. Multiplying the mass of a particular gas emitted by its GWP converts the emissions into the equivalent volume measured in carbon dioxide (CO2e).


In the context of a climate journey, ‘measuring’ refers to using tools to understand your carbon emissions, product impact, and climate change risks.

Nitrous oxide (N2O)

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas.

Net zero target

A net zero target is when the carbon emissions for which your organisation is responsible are equal to the amount of carbon offsets your organization has purchased. See ‘Paris Agreement’. 

Paris Agreement 

The Paris Agreement is the first universal, legally binding climate agreement. This agreement aims to unite the governments of the world on climate action towards a net zero target by 2050. 


In the context of the climate journey, ‘reducing’ refers to taking steps that will increase efficiencies and cut down carbon emissions.  


In the context of a climate journey, ‘roadmapping’ refers to creating a strategy to reduce your emissions to reach your targets by a chosen date. 

Scope 1:

Scope 1 emissions are defined by the GHG Protocol as part of its guidance on measuring emissions. Scope 1 emissions result from sources directly owned or operated by you. This can include things like vehicles, equipment/machinery, and energy that buildings use. 

Scope 2:

Scope 2 emissions are defined by the GHG Protocol as part of its guidance on measuring emissions. These are emissions based on the energy you purchase to directly operate your enterprise. The most common, across-the-board example is your electricity consumption.

Scope 3:

Scope 3 emissions are defined by the GHG Protocol as part of its guidance on measuring emissions. These emissions result from activities that are not directly owned by your business but are associated with its operation. This can include things like business travel, waste management, commuting, and third-party distribution.

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)

Sulphur hexafluoride is a potent greenhouse gas.

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