Consult our practical glossary to better understand concepts, technical terms, oft-used phrasing and jargon in climate talks



UNFCCC Paris Agreement

Kyoto Protocol

International Emissions Trading

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Joint Implementation

UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP)

Permanent Bodies under the UNFCCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage Transparency Mechanism
Compliance Mechanism Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)
Technology Transfer

Climate Finance

Adaptation Fund

Global Environment Fund Green Climate Fund

Negotiation Groupings

Group of 77 and China

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

Least Developed Countries (LDC)

European Union (EU)

The Umbrella Group

Environmental Integrity Group (EIG)


Ambition Global Stocktake
Long Term Temperature Goal

Loss and damage

Ocean acidification

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

Loss and Damage related Terms

Sudden-onset events

Economic losses & Non-Economic losses

Irreversibility & permanence

Existential risk

Limits to adaptation

Intolerable risk

Limits to risk management

Risk transfer & Risk Sharing

Adaptation Retrofit
Photovoltaic system Rainwater harvesting
Building climate resilience Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Climate Climate change
Climate justice Decarbonization
Fossil fuel Global warming
Mitigation National Adaptation Planning Process
Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Negotiations, negotiators & consensus
 Particularly Vulnerable Periodic Review of the Long Term Goal
 Role of Civil Society

 Role of Caribbean Institutions

CARICOM (Caribbean Community)

Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change (5Cs)

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)

Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)

Caribbean Catastrophe Insurance Risk Facility (CCRIF)

Panos Caribbean, CYEN & others

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Transformational Change
Talanoa Dialogue Weather
Other useful publications  



United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - This is an international agreement, signed by 195 countries who have committed to undertaking joint initiatives intended to reduce the release of greenhouse gases and address climate change.

Paris Agreement - The Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015, at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris.

  • Kyoto ProtocolThis Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which commits its parties to reducing their emissions by specified quantities. This agreement recognises that the developed countries are the ones principally responsible for the current high level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere and as such places a heavier burden on these countries under the principle of ‘Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)’. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in December 1997 and an emissions reduction period was set for 2008 to 2012. During this period, developed countries, referred to as Annex 1 countries were responsible for reducing their emissions by set amounts. A second commitment period was set for 2013 to 2020. Under the Protocol, countries must meet their emission reduction targets through implementation of mitigation measures at the national level. However, the protocol also allows for other means, that is, through 3 market based mechanisms:
    • International Emissions Trading – this is a system that allows Parties that have exceeded their emission reduction amounts (emission reduction targets) under the Kyoto Protocol to sell their excess amounts to other countries that have not exceeded their respective emission limits. Another option that Parties have to address their excess amounts, is to buy ‘credits’ from developing countries.
    • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – this mechanism allows developed countries to undertake greenhouse emission reduction (or emission removal) projects in developing countries to counteract their own domestic emissions. Each CDM project generates Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) units that can then be traded and used the developed country to meet part of its emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
    • Joint Implementation – under this mechanism, developed countries may undertake emission reduction projects in other developed countries as well as engage in international emissions trading.

The intended impact of the Kyoto Protocol, in terms of reducing emissions, has not been as successful as anticipated and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise. As the ending of the second commitment period under the Protocol nears, the Conference of Parties continue to stress the urgent need for accelerating the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol in order to enhance pre-2020 ambition.

Given the relatively short timeframe left on the second commitment under the Protocol, in 2011, a working group (Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) was established to develop another legal instrument to come into effect and commence implementation by 2020, that is, at the end of the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. The resultant legal instrument is the Paris Agreement. This Agreement calls for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which essentially define actions that countries have committed to undertaking to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.

  • UNFCCC Conference of Parties - The Conference of Parties, called COP for short, is a meeting of the nations and regional economic integration organizations that are a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Notably, to date, the Economic Union is the only economic integration organization that is party to the UNFCCC.
  • Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol – This is a meeting of the nations that are a party to the Kyoto Protocol; and is called CMP (conference meeting of the protocol) for short.
  • Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Paris Agreement – This is a meeting of the nations that are a party to the Paris Agreement; and is called CMA (conference meeting of the agreement) for short.
  • Permanent Bodies under the UNFCCCThere are two permanent bodies established under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) to support the work of conferences being held under the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement:
    • Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) – This body provides timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters as they relate to the international agreements. In addition, the SBSTA serves as the main link between the scientific information provided by expert sources, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the one hand, and the policy-oriented needs of the meetings of the governments on the other hand.
    • Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) – This body discusses and facilitates issues of implementation of the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, including addressing issues relating to the organization of intergovernmental meetings and administrative, financial and institutional matters.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) –The IPCC is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide, relevant to the understanding of climate change. The work of the Panel is published through Assessment Reports and Special Reports, which comprise the full scientific and technical assessment of climate change. The Panel meets in Plenary Sessions at the level of government representatives for all member countries.  Currently, the IPCC has 195 members. The Panel meets approximately once a year at the plenary level. Major decisions are taken by the Panel during the plenary session, including the approval, adoption and acceptance of reports. Notably, the first assessment report of the IPCC served as the basis for negotiating the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the work of the IPCC has continued to be supportive of efforts being undertaken under the UNFCCC. The IPCC is organized into 3 Working Groups. Working Group I deals with "The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change", Working Group II with "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" and Working Group III with "Mitigation of Climate Change". The outputs of these three groups are used to prepare the Assessment and the Special Reports. At this time, the Panel has commenced preparations for its Sixth Assessment Report and three Special Reports. The three special reports are as follows:
    • Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ºC above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways
    • Special Report on climate change and oceans and the cryosphere.
    • Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

Decisions taken by the IPCC have far-reaching consequences for the ability of countries to effectively influence decision making at other fora, such as the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP); noting that products of the IPCC, including the Assessment Reports, form the scientific foundation for negotiating at that policy level (e.g. at the UNFCCC COP meetings). Over the years, the region has played a leading role in securing decisions at the level of IPCC that have benefited the region at the level of the UNFCCC. For example, the region has contributed to the science literature of the IPCC by ensuring that there are Caribbean authors on working groups both as coordinating lead authors and chapter scientists. It is worth noting that the expert review of the first draft of the Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ºC was reviewed by 489 experts, with 19% of them coming from Central America and the Caribbean.

  • Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage associated with the Impacts of Climate Change – In 2013 in Warsaw, Poland, the conference of Parties (COP) established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (Loss and Damage Mechanism), to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The implementation of the functions of the Loss and Damage Mechanism are guided by an Executive Committee (Excom) under the guidance of the COP. The Excom comprises 20 members from Parties to the Convention, including two from the Caribbean Region. The initial work plan of the Excom comprises nine different Action Areas, one of which focuses on slow onset events. The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage is the main vehicle under the Paris Agreement to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries in a comprehensive, integrated and coherent manner. Functions of the mechanism are to:
    • Enhance knowledge & understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches
    • Strengthen dialogue, coordination, coherence & synergies among relevant stakeholders
    • Enhance action & support, including finance, technology & capacity building
  • Transparency Mechanism - To achieve the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Parties need accurate, consistent and internationally comparable data on trends in greenhouse gas emissions and on efforts to change these trends. Further, communicating information on the most effective ways to reduce emissions is critical. Reporting is one of the cornerstones of the UNFCCC’s regime as it provides for transparency and is the basis for understanding and gauging the impact of implementation of the Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. Notably, the Paris Agreement provides for an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, under which all Parties to the Paris Agreement will report. However, the Paris Agreement recognises the varying capacities among its members and indicates that the transparency framework shall provide flexibility in the implementation of the reporting and transparency provisions to developing country Parties that need it consistent with their capacities.
  • Compliance MechanismThere is a compliance mechanism under the Paris Agreement, which comprises a committee of experts to facilitate implementation in a transparent and non-punitive manner, and promote compliance with the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement specifically states that the committee shall pay particular attention to the respective national capabilities and circumstances of Parties.
  • Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) – the CBDR is a principle of international environmental law establishing that all States are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction, but are not equally responsible. The principle balances, on the one hand, the need for all States to take responsibility for global environmental problems and, on the other hand, the need to recognize the wide differences in levels of economic development between States. These differences in turn are linked to the States’ contributions to, as well as their abilities to address, global environmental problems. CBDR was formalized in international law at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. CBDR is enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), which states that Parties should act to protect the climatesystem “on the basis of equality and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”
  • Research and Systematic Observation - The Convention calls on Parties to promote and cooperatein the areas of research, systematic observation (organized and ongoing monitoring) and the development of data archives to facilitate exchange of information; support the work of pertinent programs, networks and organizations; and improve the capacities of developing countries. Implementation of research and systematic observation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Paris Agreement is supported through a number of cooperative agreements with various organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
  • Support – In general, the institutional framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides for three areas of support:
  • Capacity Building – Both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement speak to the importance of enhancing the capacity and ability of developing country Parties to undertake effective climate change actions. These agreements also call for the developed countries to assist in this regard. In 2001, the COP adopted two frameworks that provide a set of guiding principles and approaches to capacity-building; for example, that it should be a country-driven process, involve learning by doing, and build on existing activities. The frameworks also contain a list of priority areas for action on capacity-building, including the specific needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

  • Technology Transfer - Promoting the effective development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies is critical in enabling developing countries to pursue their objectives for sustainable development in a climate-friendly manner. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) therefore urges developed country Parties to take steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly to developing countries.

  • Climate Finance - Climate finance refers to local, national or transnational financing, which may be drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing. Climate finance is critical to addressing climate change because large-scale investments are required to significantly reduce emissions. Climate finance is equally important for adaptation. The contribution of countries to climate change, and their capacity to prevent and cope with its consequences, varies enormously. It is therefore expected that developed country Parties will provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties in implementing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Paris Agreement. To facilitate this, a number of climate finance mechanisms support work under the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, including:
    • Adaptation Fund – this fund was established alongside the Kyoto Protocol and is supported by funds generated under the protocol, namely though a share of proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), International Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation. Of note is that in 2015, the Conference to the Parties to the UNFCCC informed that the fund serve may the Paris Agreement and in 2017, the conference meeting of the Kyoto Protocol agreed and decided that the fund will serve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. For direct access to funds from the Adaptation Fund, each Party to the Kyoto Protocol must designate an authority that will represent the government in its relations with the Fund’s Board. The Designated Authority is an officer within the Party’s government administration. Countries can also establish a National Implementing Entities (NIEs), which would be responsible for managing the country projects and programs being funding by the Adaptation Fund. To serve as an NIE, the entity/agency would need to go through an accreditation process to ensure that it has, inter alia, adequate financial standards, and environmental and social principles. In this regard, some countries have reported difficulties in selecting appropriate NIEs; for example, in some other cases, nominated agencies did not meet the fiduciary standards. However, should a country not be able to establish an NIE, an accredited regional or international implementing entity can be used by the government to access the fund. In the case of the region, the Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) serves as a regional implementing entity. Note that the main responsibility of the Designated Authority/Officer is to provide endorsements on behalf of the national government as it relates to accreditation applications; and projects and programs proposed by implementing entities. Several countries, including in the Caribbean Region, have benefitted from this fund through national, regional and international implementing entities.

  • Global Environment FundThis fund was established in 1992 to help tackle the planet's most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided over $17 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $88 billion in financing for more than 4000 projects in 170 countries, including many in the Caribbean Region. A Memorandum of Understanding established between the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the GEF Council allows the GEF to serve as an operating entity of the financial mechanism for the UNFCCC. As such, many of the projects and programs funded by the GEF are aimed at tackling climate change issues. The GEF is implementing several programs relevant to the region, including the GEF Small Grants Program. This program was established in 1992 and provides grants for up to USD50,000 to local communities, including indigenous people, community based organisation and non-governmental groups for a variety of projects, including climate change mitigation and adaptation. This program, like its overarching fund, the GEF, recognises the integral linkages between environmental degradation, poverty, climate change, land use and management, among other social, economic and environmental parameters.

  • Green Climate Fund - The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a relatively recent global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. The GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. In 2010, this fund was setup by countries who are party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as part of the UNFCCC’s financial mechanism. The fund aims to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation projects, while being guided by the Convention’s principles and provisions. For direct access to funds from the GCF, each Party must designate an authority that will represent the government in its relations with the Fund’s Board. The Designated Authority is an officer within the Party’s government administration and is the main contact/focal point for the country. In deploying its resources, the GCF is, like the Adaptation Fund, working through a wide range of institutions (GCF implementing entities) to finance projects and programs. Interested national, regional or international institutions/agencies/entities wishing to access funds for project/program implementation need to go through a process of accreditation, designed to assess whether they are capable of strong financial management, and safeguarding funded projects and programs against any unforeseen environmental or social harm. Note that, with endorsement from its national Designated Authorities, a country may work with any accredited implementing entity to access funds. In the region, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Caribbean Development Bank are on the list of GCF accredited agencies that countries can work with to access the GCF should they not have a national implementing entity.

  • Negotiation Groupings - To have their substantive interests better presented at negotiations, Parties usually organise themselves into that have similar concerns and needs ('like-minded' countries). The main negotiation groups are:
  • Group of 77 and China (G-77 and China)- Developing countries generally work through the Group of 77 to establish common negotiating positions. This groups includes many of the countries in the Caribbean region and SIDS.
  • Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)- A coalition of some 43 low-lying and small island countries, most of which are members of the G-77, that are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. AOSIS countries are united by the threat that climate change poses to their survival and frequently adopt a common stance in negotiations. 
  • Least Developed Countries (LDC)- The 50 countries defined as Least Developed Countries by the United Nations regularly work together in the wider United Nations system. They have become increasingly active in the climate change process, often working together to defend their particular interests, for example with regard to vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.
  • European Union (EU)- The 27 members of the European Union meet in private to agree on common negotiating positions.
  • The Umbrella Group- A loose coalition of non-European Union developed countries which formed following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no formal list, but the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US.
  • Environmental Integrity Group (EIG)- Formed in 2000, the EIG comprises Mexico, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland.
  • Other groups in the climate change process include the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Central Asia, Caucasus, Albania and Moldova (CACAM), the League of Arab Statesand the Agence intergouvernementale de la francophonie. The Caribbean Community and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States are also involved in the process.


  • Ambition - Ambition is a word often used in the context of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to mean the countries’ collective will—through both domestic action and international initiatives—to cut global greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet the goal of well below 2°C.  The UNFCCC’s ultimate goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a “level that would prevent dangerous, anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Scientists have found that in order to avoid devastating consequences such as mass desertification, glacier loss, extreme weather, and sea level rise, the international community must limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  Given that the rate of emissions today puts us on a pathway towards greater than 2°C, there is a call for greater ambition, which is to reduce emissions at a much faster rate.
  • Global Stocktake - The objective of the Global Stocktake is to guage the implementation of the Paris Agreement by assessing the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goal. The long-term temperature goal of the Agreement is to address climate change by limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to strive for 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. A global stocktake will take place every five years from 2023 onwards, to assess the global collective progress towards achieving the long term temperature goal of the Agreement.

  • Long Term Temperature Goal – The Paris Agreement speaks to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. The holding of global temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels is referred to as the long term temperature goal. According to the science, the goal of "below 2°C" alone is unsafe as it bears serious risks of dangerous climate change, including extreme climate events, severe impacts on coral and marine life, and sea level rise that would inundate low-lying islands and atolls. Many severe climate risks can be avoided by limiting warming to 1.5°C, although even at that temperature goal there will remain risks to ecosystems and food security.

Small island states and many other countries would have preferred to have the long term goal set at 1.5°C as a maximum allowable limit, as exceeding 1.5°C will have serious consequences for the Caribbean region, as well as other areas of the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Bank’s “Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal” report, risks to unique and threatened systems, such as coral reefs, are high at 1.5°C and sea-level rise will continue long after 2100. Note that generally, a small anomaly of 1-2°C for about 5-10 weeks will induce coral bleaching. We have direct experience with this in the region. Moreover, even if corals do not bleach, their reproductive organs can be damaged by warmer water. In addition, corals produce fewer reproductive organs (both eggs and testes) in warmer waters. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that at 1.5°C, we stand to lose about 50% of coral reefs. However, at 2°C, we stand to lose well over 50%. Note that these figures do not take into consideration ocean acidification and existing stresses, such as pollution, on coral reefs. In 2005, a bleaching event occurred after prolonged a warming period of about 1 °C. In Saint Lucia, surveys showed that 50-80 percent of corals along the west coast bleached. Interestingly, given other stresses, such as pollution, to date, many of these coral reefs have not fully recovered. Moreover, in that same year (2005), it was also noted that the white sea urchin (Tripnuestes ventricosus) showed no signs of recruitment and the dolphin fish (mahi mahi) catch was unusually low. It is hypothesized that the warmer water also affected these species.

  • Loss and damage – Despite best efforts in terms of reducing emissions, there are limits to adaptation, in that not every aspect of climate change can be adapted to. The term ‘loss and damage’means the impacts of climate change that occur despite all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climatic changes. For example, it would not be possible to adapt to the loss of coral reefs from the region’s waters due to ocean acidification. As more and more carbon dioxide reaches the atmosphere through emissions, much of this carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans. As carbon dioxide mixes in the oceans it forms carbonic acid which makes the oceans more acidic – this is called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification affects animals in the ocean in a number of ways; for instance the shells of animals like the Caribbean Queen Conch and coral, may weaken and not grow well. If ocean acidification is not abated, the loss of coral reefs in our region can become a reality. With this realisation and others associated with loss and damage, small island states and other countries have been battling in climate change negotiations to get the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) to fully assess and understand the implications of loss and damage, and address its consequences. However, there has been much push back on the use of the term ‘loss and damage’, mainly due to the fact that the issue of compensation usually goes hand in hand with the term. The issue of compensation is an area that the developed world has, and continues to evade in climate change discussions. As a compromise, the COP agreed to include a mechanism in the Paris Agreement to begin to assess the implications of loss and damage due to climate change, with the decision that the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.

Loss and Damage related Terms - While there is a clear need for scientific assessment of loss and damage, and many countries, including small island states, believe that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the body to provide such information to the UNFCCC given its mandate to be policy relevant and not policy prescriptive, the term ‘loss and damage’ is, for the most part avoided in current IPCC literature. However, a number of other terms are used in IPCC and other literature to denote loss and damage:

  • Sudden-onset events include climaticdisasters, such as hurricanes that can result in loss and damage; for example the loss of lives suffered in the region during Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. On the other hand there are events that occur much more slowly and over a longer time period that can also result in loss and damage – these events are call slow-onset events (such as sea level rise) and can result in loss and damage. For example, loss of lands, territory and culture due to rising seas impacting coastal lands, coastal villages, small islands, and cultural and historic resources that lie in low lying or otherwise vulnerable areas, and ecosystem services (such as the loss of coastal protection from mangroves that may be impacted by sea level rise). Recall that sea level rise is a rise in the level of the ocean as a result of global warming.  Sea level rise is caused by thermal expansion caused by the warming of the oceans (since water expands as it warms) and the melting of land-based ice (such as glaciers and polar ice caps) due to increased temperatures.
  • Economic losses include the loss of resources, goods and services commonly traded on the market. For example, fisheries, agricultural crops, tourism resources and infrastructure. Non-economic losses would be the remainder of items that are not commonly traded in markets. These losses can be at the individual, society or environmental level. For example, loss of life, health, human mobility, territory, cultural heritage, indigenous knowledge, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. The absence of a market price on these things is one of the main reasons why assessing non-economic loss is challenging, but the effect on human welfare is no less important. The terms irreversibility and permanence are also found in the literature to connote the same sentiments of economic and non-economic loss.
  • An existential risk is a riskposing permanent, large, negative consequences to humanity which can never be undone. For example, Climate change, if not abated, is said to be such a risk.
  • The term limits to adaptation is used quite often in the literature, including the literature of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to imply loss and damage. The term simply recognizes that not all the impacts of climate change, despite best efforts, can be adapted to.
  • An intolerable risk is seen as the point at which an individual, entity or country must either live with the looming risk of imminent danger being posed, or transform their behaviour to avoid the risk. For example, to avoid an intolerable risk of having another hurricane devastate Barbuda, the government took a decision to vacate the island, impacting the extent of liveable space in the country as a whole and disrupting a way of life for Barbadians. Of note is that what is considered intolerable will differ depending on the perspective of an individual, entity or country. To determine what is considered an intolerable risk in a negotiating forum where there exists a wide range of differing views influenced by varying values, resources and political beliefs, there is a need to look to well recognised standards that define intolerable risks, for example through human rights violations.
  • Related to limits to adaptation is the term limits to risk management. This term simply means that despite putting the best plans, actions or policies in place to reduce the likelihood and conse­quences of climate change, there will remain risks that cannot be managed. For example, risks associated with extreme climatic events such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria (2017), will likely remain regardless of policy and other adaptation measures being put into place by countries of the region.
  • Risks associated with climate change can be managed through risk reduction such as reducing vulnerability to, and building resilience to climate change. But risks can also be managed though risk transfer and risk sharing. Risk transfer simply means transferring a risk to another person or entity. For example, by purchasing insurance for an unforeseen event such a home owner’s insurance that protects against storms and flooding. Risk sharing on the other hand involves sharing or dividing a risk between a two or more of partners. A number of risk transfer and risk sharing mechanisms exist that can be accessed by governments and person of the region and include the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility and Livelihood Protection Policy.

  • Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – In anticipation of the Paris Agreement, countries publicly outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement. These actions were outlined in each countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world would achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. With the ratification of the Paris Agreement these INDCs are now called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Implementation of the Paris Agreement requires that countries transform their NDCs into detailed strategies and concrete implementation plans consisting of a portfolio of actions, programs, and projects that are supported by policy, legal and institutional frameworks, and are ready for financing and implementation on the ground. Countries are expected to communicate NDCs detailing actions towards meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement every five years. At present, collective ambition is lacking as, to date (2017), the aggregate NDCs of all countries will not be sufficient to meet the 2°C goal. All countries are thus requested to submit a new NDC by 2020. It is expected that each new NDC would represent an increase in ambition. Notably, of the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members, all except Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory, submitted INDCs to the UNFCCC in the latter part of 2015. As a British Overseas Territory, Monserrat is not a Party to the Paris Agreement and therefore did not submit an INDC. Despite the fact that CARICOM countries contribute a minuscule 0.33% of global emissions, the NDCs of these countries are quite ambitious.


  • Adaptation - Adaptation is basically defined as adjusting to the actual or expected climate conditions and associated impacts. For example, adaptation to climate change may include:
    • The development of new policies, legislation and/or plans to outline guidelines, approaches and actions that a region, country or entity is seeking to use or undertake to minimise the risks and impacts of climate change. For example, the CARICOM Heads of Government have prepared a regional framework for developing resilience to climate change in the region’s social, economic and environmental systems.

  • Retrofit - This refers to the addition of new technology or a feature to an older system. For example, one can add hurricane straps to (retrofit) a roof to make the roof better able to withstand strong winds.
  • Photovoltaic system – This is a systemdesigned to absorb the sun's rays as a source of energy for producing electricity or heat. The system is also called a PV system for short. The system comprises several components, including solar panels used to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. PV systems are used in hot water systems (solar heaters) and can also be used to generate electricity at varying scales (e.g. from a household level to community level).
  • Rainwater harvesting - With climate change, water resources are expected to decline. Rainwater harvesting systems refer to a system that collects rainwater for domestic or commercial use and may range in technology from low to more sophisticated. For example, a drum that collects rainwater from a drain pipe would be consider low technology, and a community based system that collects and feeds rainwater to households and businesses through a pipe network would be considered more sophisticated.

  • Building climate resilience - These are efforts aimed at increasing the capacity of an individual, household, business, sector, community or country to better plan, prepare for, and respond to the negative impacts of climate change. For example, establishing a community rainwater harvesting system to allow a community to cope with the expected longer drought periods; or creating awareness at the individual level and ensuring access to required resources, such as financial mechanisms, to promote appropriate response to climatic events. Interestingly, some national banks have established lines of credit specifically for the implementation of climate change adaptation measures.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (CFCs) – How do these substances relate to climate change? Chlorofluorocarbons, also called CFCs are chemical substances that deplete the ozone layer; the ozone layer being a layer of gas known as ozone in the upper atmosphere. This layer shields the entire Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation that comes from the sun. CFCs were first mass-produced in 1928 for use as refrigerants, industrial solvents, cleaning fluids and agents in making foam products. In the late 1960s, these substances were also widely used in spray cans. However, some CFCs used were also heat trapping (greenhouse) gases and contributed to climate change. In the 1980s the use of CFCs in aerosol sprays was banned and the phase out of these substances began. More recently, emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),a substance that was developed to replace CFCs and found in air conditioners and refrigerators, have risen rapidly. Of concern is that HFCs are powerful heat trapping gases that can contribute to climate change. Notably, issues relating to CFCs are being addressed under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and issues relating to HFCs are being addressed under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

  • Climate - Climate is the regarded as the average of a region's weather. It is usually based on the weather events experienced in a region over thirty years or more. Climate describes the total of all-weather occurring over that period in a given place. This includes the average weather conditions, regular weather sequences (like winter, spring, summer, and fall), and special weather events (like tornadoes and floods). Climate tells us what it is usually like in a particular place. For example, in the Caribbean we have a tropical climate (that is warm and generally sunny, with a wet and dry season); however, in Canada, the climate is temperate (that is, there are 4 seasons: summer, winter, fall and spring).
  • Climate change - Climate change is a change in the long-term weather patterns (i.e. a change in climate) caused by anthropogenic activities. Anthropogenic activities being activities carried out by humans. For example, we are generally used to having a wet and dry season at certain times of the year, but with climate change these seasons may no longer happen when and how we expect them to. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC), climate change is being caused by activities such as fossil fuel burning, greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

  • Climate Justice – Climate Justice is a term used to convey the ethical dimensions of global warming and its consequences, including climate change and sea level rise. A fundamental proposition of climate justice is that those who are least responsible for causing climate change (for example, Caribbean and other Small Island Developing States) will suffer the worst impacts of climate change. Climate justice presents a moral argument that 1) forces us to examine and understand the challenges faced by the most vulnerable among us as it relates to adapting and coping with the impacts of climate change; 2) helps us figure out what we need to do to fight climate change; and 3) highlights and emphasizes the fact that our response to climate change needs to be done as a global community.

  • Decarbonization - Note that to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change, scientists have estimated an actual limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that we can release into the atmosphere before the 1.5 degree temperature goal is surpassed. This estimated allowable amount of emissions is termed the carbon budget. The carbon budget has serious implications for short-term emission reduction efforts, as the larger the volume of emissions ‘spent’ now, the faster and deeper the emissions reductions will have to be in the future to ensure that 1.5 degree temperature increase is not surpassed; and the greater will be the financial costs and risks. Given the impacts of existential risks of climate change, there is an urgent need for decarbonization of our energy system – decarbonization being the process by which countries or other entities aim to achieve a low carbon economy, or by which individuals aim to reduce their consumption of carbon (i.e. reduce use of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases). In any decarbonisation initiative, there is need to consider net zero emissions this simply put, means that we need to reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions that we release into the atmosphere to a point where our total output is no greater than the emissions we remove from the atmosphere, through activities like planting forests, reducing deforestation and using technologies to remove the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. In other words, what we put into the atmosphere, we must take out. Having net zero emissions is also known as carbon neutral, or having a net zero carbonfootprint. The amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds released by a particular person or group due to their use of fossil fuels is also called a carbon footprint. For example, walking to work instead of driving will reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Fossil fuel - Fossil fuels are energy supplies that were made millions of years ago from dead plants and animals. For example, coal, oil and gas are fossil fuels. They are the world's most commonly used energy source. But, fossil fuels are finite (that is, we can use them all up) sources of energy and burning them produces carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that is resulting in global warming).
  • Global warming - Greenhouse gases are gases that naturally exist in the atmosphere and are capable of trapping the sun’s heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse. Since these gases can trap heat in the atmosphere they are responsible for keeping the Earth’s temperature warm. Without these gases the earth would be very cold; however, too much of these gases could cause the Earth to become too hot. Greenhouse gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, and each has different levels of impacts as each remains in the atmosphere for different lengths of time. However, with the most common greenhouse gas being carbon dioxide, scientists often standardise all greenhouse gases into ‘carbon dioxide equivalents’ which is often simply abbreviated to ‘carbon’ or ‘carbon emissions’. An increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can occur naturally; however, it is believed that the unprecedented release of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by human activities, such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity, is resulting in a warming of the earth. Interestingly, it is this warming of the earth that is driving climate change.
  • Mitigation - This term has a specific meaning in the climate change field and is different from the everyday use of the word which generally means to lessen. In the climate change field the term refers to actions taken to reduce or prevent the emission/release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. For example, using solar water heaters reduces the amount of fuel needed for electricity to heat water, thereby reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that would have been released if fuel was used. Reforestation is also a mitigation action, since trees absorb carbon dioxides, effectively serving as a sink for carbon dioxide (removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere). It is worth noting that while the Small islands contribute insignificantly to the problem of climate change, they stand to lose the most by its impacts. However, even though the region’s contributions to global emissions is insignificant (a mere 0.33% of global emissions by CARICOM countries), the Caribbean region remains prepared to reduce its emissions as an example to the rest of the world and further, to reap economic benefits from cheaper and more efficient energy sources. Notably, studies show that the region is considered quite ambitious in terms of plans to reduce their emissions, as seen from their Nationally Determined Contributions and efforts by Caribbean leaders to create the world’s first ‘climate smart zone’.

  • National Adaptation Planning Process – In 2011, the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the NAP process, along with some general planning elements – this process targeted least developed and developing countries. The National Adaptation Planning Process enables countries to formulate and implement National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) as a means of identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs and developing and implementing strategies and programs to address those needs. It is a continuous, progressive and iterative process which follows a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach. Since 2011, more detailed technical guidelines on the NAP process have been defined and to advance global adaptation efforts, the Paris Agreement outlines the expectation that all countries, not only developing ones would engage in national adaptation planning processes.

  • Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) – this refers to a set of policies and actions that a country undertakes as part of its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, NAMAs refer to any action that reduces emissions in developing countries and is prepared under the umbrella of a national governmental initiative. They can be policies directed at transformational change within an economic sector, or actions across sectors for a broader national focus. NAMAs are supported and enabled by technology, financing, and capacity-building and are aimed at supporting pre-2020 ambition. 

  • Negotiations - Each Party to one or more of the agreements (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol and/or the Paris Agreement) is represented at a negotiation session by a national delegation consisting of one or more official(s) empowered by the country to represent and negotiate on behalf of that government. A representative of the government at negotiation sessions is called a negotiator. Note that a government may select its negotiators from any source that it deems fit, including from the public service, technical and scientific agencies or private sector, including regional and international agencies. Generally, for countries in the region, finance tends to be the main limiting factor influencing the size of a country’s delegation of negotiators. Some level of support is received through the UNFCCC. However, governments can also seek to find additional funding to support their delegation.   Note that during negotiations decisions are made by consensus, that is, all Parties/countries must agree, else no decision can be made. Therefore, while there are a number of negotiation groupings (such as the Alliance on Small Island States - AOSIS) that allow countries to have a stronger voice in negotiations, such groupings cannot speak in the negotiation sessions on issues where there is no consensus within that grouping. For example, should one AOSIS member decide not to support an issue that the rest of the grouping supports, the AOSIS representative speaking on behalf of the AOSIS cannot speak to this issue in negotiation sessions; however, at that time each AOSIS member is free to speak to the issue consistent with their respective government’s position on the issue. Further, note that while the Economic Union is party to the UNFCCC) as a regional economic integration organization, it does not have a separate vote from its members. The members of the Economic Union do however, meet in private to agree on common negotiating positions.
  • Particularly VulnerableSmall Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean region are highly prone to devastating natural disasters. Vulnerability of these countries can be attributed to their small geographical area, which accounts for the fact that disasters take country‐wide proportions; their location in some of the highest risk areas of the planet, such as mid‐ocean ridges with strong volcanic and seismic activity, tropical cyclone belts, and direct exposure to the forces of the oceans; and the fact that many of these countries are dependent on few sources of income, in the agricultural sector or in tourism, for a substantial part of its gross national product. Moreover, many islands are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing number and severity of extreme weather events which have severe implications for loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure, and can very easily cripple small economies. SIDS are among least responsible for climate change and are highly dependent on others to ensure that significant action is taken in support of the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Given this scenario, SIDS are deemed particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

  • Periodic Review of the Long Term Goal – In 2010, Parties agreed on a long-term global goal which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, with concerns coming from a number of Parties, including small island states, on the adequacy of the goal, a decision was taken to periodically review the adequacy of the long-term global goal. The first periodic review was undertaken during the period 2013-2015. This review led to wording of the long-term global temperature goal detailed in the Paris Agreement which encompasses meeting a 1.5°C increase. The results of global stocktakes will inform future reviews.
  • Role of Civil Society – Civil society has, and continues to play a major role in influencing climate change negotiations. It is believed that four key groups in civil society (the scientific, economic, and business communities, and non-governmental organizations) influenced the outcome of negotiations in Paris in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was endorsed.   These groups first came together in an organized way to discuss climate change issues when the United Nations Secretary General brought together not just the heads of government, but also leaders from business and finance, city mayors and state governors, heads of international organizations and non-governmental organizations at a climate summit in 2014. At this summit, while heads of state gave formal speeches, civil society formed a movement outside the walls of the meeting. This movement termed ‘The People’s Climate March’took place on September 23, 2014 and became the largest in the history of climate campaigning, and involved countless parallel marches in cities around the world. Interestingly, in June 2015 the Pope’s letter to bishops on climate change, incited support from faith-based organizations who joint the forces on speaking to climate change issues and the need to protect the most vulnerable among us. In the Caribbean region, a campaign, ‘1.5 to stay alive’, sought to create public awareness, emphasizing that climate change is real and for our survival in the region, the temperature goal in the Paris Agreement must be set at 1.5oC as a maximum. The campaign used artists and artistes as the messengers and honed in on issues of importance to the region, such as loss and damage.   The momentum of the ‘People’s Climate March’ and other civil society led movements continued at the twenty third Conference of Parties (COP 23), which culminated in the Paris Agreement.

  • Role of Caribbean Institutions - Partners in the region that play a key role in advocating on, and supporting the region’s response to climate change include the following:
    • The CARICOM (Caribbean Community) has 20 members (15 Member States and 5 Associate Members). The CARICOM fosters economic integration, ensures policy coordination, human and social development, and facilitates security. With the ever looming threat of climate change, which can negatively impacts the organisation’s goals and objectives, the CARICOM established a supporting arm, the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change (5Cs) which is mandates to lead and coordinate climate change matters in the region.  
    • The Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change (5Cs) is the main hub in the Caribbean region that coordinates issues relating to climate change in the region. This agency provides support to the region during climate change negotiations by formally speaking on the region’s vulnerability and circumstance in regional and international fora. The agency further facilitates coordination meetings with the region’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators and Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) representatives; builds capacity in the region to adapt to climate change and manage impacts; and contributes to climate change related research.
    • The focus of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is on 6 island States and 3 overseas territories in the eastern Caribbean. Through the OECS Commission’s Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Unit, the organisation contributes to the region’s response to climate change. Among a number of areas, the organisation focuses on enhancing the enabling environment for climate change response; creating awareness of the impacts of climate change; facilitating on-the-ground concrete climate change adaptation; and building capacity.
    • As the key regional lending institution in the region geared at supporting sustainable development of its members, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has become accredited as a regional implementing entity for both the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, and as such is in a position to ensure that its members benefit from these funds.
    • The Caribbean Catastrophe Insurance Risk Facility (CCRIF) was designed as a regional catastrophe fund for Caribbean governments to limit the financial impact of devastating hurricanes and earthquakes by quickly providing financial liquidity when a policy is triggered.  Climate risk is already very high in the Caribbean, and two of the major economic engines, tourism and agriculture, are both highly vulnerable to climatic events. With CCRIF, the governments have a mechanism which enables them to share their risk, allowing funds to become available when most needed.
    • Panos Caribbean is a regional organization that helps journalists to cover sustainable development issues. Panos Caribbean was in the forefront during the ‘1.5 to stay alive’ campaign, stimulating response from journalists, which resulted in high publicity of the region’s interests during negotiations for the Paris Agreement.
    • The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) is a non-profit, civil society, charitable body that focuses its resources on empowering young people and their communities to develop programmes/actions to address socio-economic and environmental issues. The CYEN programme aims at contributing to a number of sustainable development and environment issues, including climatic changes and global warming. The CYEN was an active partner during the ‘1.5 to stay alive’ campaign
    • Several other regional organizations also play a role in the region’s response to climate change by facilitating the implementation of climate change into their sectors, implementing relevant projects, and/or influencing high level policy changes that foster climate resilience. These organisations include the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM); Caribbean Public Health Agency (CarPHA); Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Association of Caribbean States (ACS); Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Caribbean Tourism Organization; and Caribbean Council for Science and Technology.

A number of institutions also contribute to research in the region and include the Caribbean Natural Resource Institute (CANARI); Climate Studies Group, Mona – Jamaica; University of the West Indies, Cave Hill – Barbados; Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH); Instituto de Meteorología (INSMET) – Cuba; Anton de Kom University of Suriname; and The CARIBSAVE Partnership (CARIBSAVE).


  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a set of 17 universal goals that call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Goal 13 speaks to climate change matters and includes a number of targets; for example, implementing the commitment taken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to jointly mobilize US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries with respect to adaptation and mitigation.

  • Transformational Change - There is a growing call for responses to climate change to go beyond the usual incremental adjustments and aim instead for society-wide change. As such, transformational change is a change that is generally defined by scale, novelty, and/or spatial reach. For example, a country invests a significant amount of funds in its health sector to equip the health system in a short span of time to avoid the high human and financial damage caused by climate sensitive diseases such as dengue, chikengunya and zika. The country invests in the establishment of risk registers; enhances policy, legal and institutional arrangements in the health sector to facilitate climate resilience; provides special training to health workers, upgrades hospital facilities; develops response plans and protocols; invests in early warning disease surveillance; and develops improved risk communication methods. This is would be considered a transformational change in the health sector because the country’s response addresses various facets of the health sector and, as a whole, reduces the vulnerability of the entire country with respect to these diseases.
  • Talanoa Dialogue – In 2015, during the COP21 in Paris, the COP decided to convene a facilitative dialogue (discussion towards resolving an issue) among Parties in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress being made towards the long-term temperature and to inform the preparation of more ambitious nationally determined contributions. In 2017, with Fiji at the helm of COP (President of COP), a Fijian style of dialogue was proposed and endorsed; and the facilitative dialogue called for in 2015 has now become known as the Talanoa Dialogue. "Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling. During the process, participants build trust and advance knowledge through empathy and understanding. Blaming others and making critical observations are inconsistent with building mutual trust and respect, and therefore inconsistent with the Talanoa concept. Talanoa fosters stability and inclusiveness in dialogue, by creating a safe space that embraces mutual respect for a platform for decision making for a greater good.” The Talanoa Dialogue will take over a one year period, 2017-2018.

  • Weather – Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, with respect to variables such as temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and barometric pressure. Weather describes whatever is happening outdoors in a given place at a given time. Weather is what happens from minute to minute. The weather can change a lot within a very short time. For example, it may rain for an hour and then become sunny and clear. Weather includes daily changes in precipitation (e.g. rain or snow), temperature and wind conditions in a given location.

Other publications that may be useful:

  • CARICOM Toolkit Trainers Manual for the Caribbean Hotel Sector on Climate Responsibility, Carbon Credits and Participation in Carbon Offset Programmes

  • Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017. Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme

  • Trade Policy and Climate Change in the Caribbean: Key Issues and Perspectives