Excuse Me, Do You Speak Climate?

POZNAN, Poland ~ Oh dear.

The BINGOs are at odds with the TUNGOs and the RINGOs over the NAMAs and the NAPAs.

RFUK is concerned about what REDD is going to do to PAM.

But at least the SIDS are keen on LULUCF.

If you thought the science behind global warming was dauntingly complex and believed “low albedo” was something to do with sex drive – it means poor reflection of sunlight – then the UN climate talks in Poznan are not for you.

Running until December 12, the negotiations for concluding a new worldwide climate pact gather more than 10,000 policymakers, industrialists and campaigners.

And they are awash in alphabet soup.

To give the key to the above sentences: BINGOs are Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations.

TUNGOs and RINGOs are Trade Unions and Research and Independent NGOs. NAMAs are Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, and NAPAs are National Adaptation Programmes of Action.

RFUK is the United Kingdom Rainforest Foundation; REDD means Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation; and PAM is Policies and Measures.

SIDS are Small Island Developing States and LULUCF is Land-use, Land-use Change and Forestry.

And these are just a tiny number of the acronyms that have sprung up in the climate arena.

“I came upon a new one this week – MRV,” said one delegate, rather proudly. “It means measurable, reportable and verifiable.”

Over the past decade, acronyms have proliferated like hothouse plants, say veterans of COPs, as meetings of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are known (a COP is a Conference of the Parties, which of course is quite different from a MOP, or Meeting of the Parties).

“At my first COP, I kept wondering who this girl LULU was and when I was going to meet her,” said Steve Sawyer, a former Greenpeace campaigner who is now secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, a Brussels-based industry group.

Sawyer’s memory goes back to the misty dawn of UNFCCC talks in the 1990s.

In those simple, far-off times, QUELRO – quantified emissions limitation and reduction objective – was the buzzword.

Now QUELRO has gone the way of the dodo.

With Darwinian ruthlessness, the term has become extinct, its habitat invaded by newer, fitter species of words.

Once a scientific curiosity, climate change has become recognized as a global threat, with far-reaching impacts for economies and society.

As awareness of this peril has snowballed, so has the multiplicity of proposed measures to deal with it, in such areas as mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, addressing forest loss and helping poor countries cope with the impact of climate change.

And as these measures are debated in the international arena, new short-hand names emerge to make communication easier, although who does the coining is a mystery.

Maybe it’s the Bureau of Acronym, Blurb and Extreme Linguistics… or BABEL for short.

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