running a green office

green virgins glossary

This section gives a concise explanation, in alphabetical order, of the many terms and phrases used about the environment and green issues.

acid rain
This is caused by sulphur dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels, particularly in coal-fired power stations. It causes the death of lakes and forests where it falls.

This will get worse if coal returns as a major power source and already there is anecdotal evidence that of an increase in charcoal burning in parts of Asia and Africa as oil gets increasingly expensive.

Means the variety of life. It includes everything from animals, plants and fungi to habitats such as woodland, heath land or salt marshes. It is a collective term for all life.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of all living things on our planet and the patterns they form. It includes the differences between species, the difference within species, and the range of habitats in which they live.

The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of millions of years of evolution. It has been shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. So far, about 1.75 million species have been identified. Scientists believe there are actually about 13 million species.

Biomass is a collective term for all plant and animal material. A number of different forms of biomass can be burned or digested to produce energy. Examples include wood, straw, poultry litter and energy crops such as willow and poplar grown on short rotation coppice and miscanthus. Biomass is a very versatile material and can be used to produce heat (for space and water heating), electricity and a combination of heat and power (electricity). The UK has some of the largest examples of the use of biomass to generate electricity in Europe.

carbon footprint
Carbon footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. It is quick and straightforward to calculate your own carbon footprint at Duport. All you need to know is your energy usage, (including how much is from renewables), how many journeys are made each year (including car, train and plane) etc. Armed with this knowledge it is easy to reduce the amount of carbon used.

carbon offsets
Carbon offsets enable people and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. Carbon offsets allow carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, to be taken out of the atmosphere or reduced in another part of the world. There are several ways of offsetting your carbon footprint.

You can plant a tree. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. This process is called "carbon sequestration”. Or it is possible to purchase carbon dioxide credits and then not use them. This stops other people, organisations and countries using them.

Another alternative is to invest or donate to companies or organisations that research and develop renewable and sustainable technologies. Or you can buy energy efficient technologies and donate them to developing countries.

carbon trust
The Carbon Trust is an independent company funded by the government. Its role is to help the UK move to a low carbon economy by helping business and the public sector reduce carbon emissions now and support the development of low carbon technologies.

climate change
The overwhelming majority of scientists and governments now accept that human activities are causing changes to the Earth's climate, primarily by the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.

By increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere we are magnifying the natural greenhouse effect, and raising the average global temperature. Most emissions of carbon dioxide come from burning the fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. So to reduce these emissions we need to implement energy conservation measures and to turn to renewable sources.

The world is now the warmest it has been in the last 12,000 years as a result of rapid warming, in particular over the past 30 years. The average global temperature rose by 0.6 degrees over the last century, and NASA climatologists say that the earth has warmed by about 0.2C (0.4F) in each of the last three decades. Worse still, the Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

Estimates of the future increase vary between 2 and 6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. The consequences are uncertain but experts predict more chaotic weather such as hurricanes, storms, high tides, and droughts. Sea levels will rise and habitats will disappear while animals dependent on certain conditions may become extinct. Already plant and animal species struggle to migrate fast enough to cooler regions. Many of the impacts of climate change are already being seen around the world.

Climate Change Levy (CCL) is a tax on energy delivered to users in the UK and it aims to provide an incentive to increase energy efficiency and to reduce carbon emissions.

Introduced on April 1, 2001 under the Finance Act 2000, CCL was forecast to cut annual emissions by 2.5 million tonnes by 2010, and forms part the UK’s initiative. The levy applies to most energy users, but not domestic and transport sectors. Electricity generated from new renewables and approved cogeneration schemes is not taxed. Electricity from nuclear power is taxed even though it causes no direct carbon emissions. The levy will now rise annually in line with inflation.

ethical trading initiative (ETI)
Ethical Trading Initiative is an alliance of companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and trade union organisations. It promotes and improves the implementation of corporate codes of practice which cover supply chain working conditions. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that the conditions of workers producing for the UK market meet or exceed international labour standards.

Animals are struggling to migrate fast enough to cooler areas and there are fears they might not be able to keep pace with recent temperature rises. A further rise of 1°C would be seen as critical and if it reaches two or three degrees the planet will be very different indeed. Many species will become extinct.

fair trade
The fair trade movement works to ensure that producers in the developing world get better prices for their products, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers. Fair trade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers and helps people improve and have more control over their lives.

fairtrade foundation
This organisation promotes fair trade and products bearing the Fairtrade mark, and there is also a directory of local Fairtrade groups in the UK

green tourism
Green tourism is a term used to describe best environmental practice within the tourism sector.
Green tourism differs from eco-tourism as green tourism businesses must make efforts to reduce their impact on the environment and may not use the environment or nature as a marketing tool.

greenhouse effect
First discovered by Joseph Fourier in1824, and first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrheniusin 1896, the greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere (water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, for example) trap energy from the sun. Without these gases heat would escape back into space and the world would be up to 30°C cooler.

The term "greenhouse effect" may be used to refer either to the natural greenhouse effect, due to naturally occurring greenhouse gases, or, more commonly to describe the results from gases emitted as a result of human activities.

ice melt
Warming is greatest at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere and more pronounced over land than oceans according to a recent study by researchers from NASA, Columbia University and the University of California Santa Barbara. The loss of snow and ice cover has been caused by the rise in temperatures. As the earth has warmed, melting snow and ice has exposed dark land surfaces which absorb more energy from the sun, resulting in more warming – a process known as “positive feedback”.

Warming is less over the ocean than over land because of the great heat capacity of the deep-mixing ocean, which causes warming to occur more slowly there. Oceans are also warming and are indicative of global temperature shifts.

IFAT is the global network of fair trade organisations and it aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting fair trade organisations and working towards greater justice in world trade. The IFAT administer the Fair Trade Organisation mark, which means standards are being met regarding working conditions, wages, child labour and the environment

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a consortium of several thousand independent scientists. The IPCC assesses the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.

kyoto protocol
Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement setting targets for industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. These gases are considered at least partly responsible for global warming. The protocol was agreed in 1997 and came into effect in 2005. Basically industrialised countries have committed to cut their combined emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 - 2012.

Each country that signed the protocol agreed to its own specific target. EU countries are expected to cut their present emissions by 8% and Japan by 5%. Some countries with low emissions were permitted to increase them.

The USA did not join, saying it would damage its economy, and developing countries do not have to commit to emissions reductions. This includes China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters.

levy exemption certificates
Organisations that pay the climate change levy can enter into agreements with suppliers to purchase renewable electricity which is exempt from the levy. Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs) are evidence of CCL exempt electricity supply generated from qualifying renewable sources. LECs will be redeemed by suppliers to HM Revenue & Customs to demonstrate the amount of non-climate change electricity able to be levied that had been supplied to non-domestic customers in the given period.

nuclear power
The nuclear industry promotes itself as an answer to the problems of climate change. However, it leaves a legacy of highly dangerous radioactive material for thousands of years and there are the present dangers of low-level emissions from power stations, accidents, pollution and the spread of plutonium for nuclear bombs.

Nuclear power is simply the controlled use of nuclear reactions to release energy for work including propulsion, heat and the generation of electricity. Nuclear energy provides 7% of the world’s energy and 15.7% of the world’s electricity. The US produces the most nuclear energy (20% of the energy it consumes) while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical energy from nuclear reactors – around 80%.

ozone hole
Many people get this confused with global warming but it is quite different. The ozone layer is a filter around the planet that prevents harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun reaching the earth's surface. It is destroyed by chemicals (called CFCs and HCFCs) used in fridges, aerosols, certain industrial processes and insulating materials made of expanded polystyrene. Among the effects of the holes are increased skin cancers and the destruction of certain plankton which are the basis of the oceans' food chain.

renewable obligations certificates
ROCs are digital certificates which hold details of exactly how a unit of electricity was made, by whom and also who bought and used it. ROCs are traded separately to the actual electricity itself and work as a bonus premium on top of the price paid for the unit. Because energy companies must now generate at least 10% of their electricity output from sustainable sources they can buy ROCs on the open market to make up any shortfall in that 10%.

sixth great wave of mass extinction
Many people believe that we are in the sixth great mass extinction ever to affect life on earth. As the population has more than doubled in the last half century many species are said to now be at risk of extinction.

In 2003 the World Conservation Union's Red List said more than 12,000 species (out of 40,000 assessed) faced some extinction risk. This included one in eight of all known birds, 13% of the world's flowering plants and a quarter of all mammals.

soil erosion
Wherever land is cleared or tilled, soils are lost faster than natural processes can create them. The rate of loss is greatly increased by unwise land management and excessive use of agrochemicals and heavy machinery.

solar power
Although it has been around a long time, solar power is only now taking off. Solar panels, which harness the sun’s energy, feature in many homes (although not as many as on the continent). Solar panels can readily bought in DIY stores and generate electricity via photovoltaic cells. They are now also being tested on sound barriers on the M27 in Hampshire to provide electricity as well as noise protection.

sustainable development
Sustainable development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

the stern report
The scientific report, compiled by Sir Nicholas Stern for the UK government, says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emission, particularly carbon dioxide, being kept below “dangerous” levels. The world has to act now or face devastating environmental and economic consequences.

If no action is taken on emissions there is a more than a 75% chance of global temperatures rising between two and three degrees Celsius over the next 50 years and a 50% chance that average global temperatures could rise by five degrees Celsius. The Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by 7 metres (23 feet) over 1,000 years. The poorest countries will be most vulnerable as floods increase, crop yields decline (particularly in Africa) and rising sea levels leave millions of people permanently displaced. Up to 40% of species could face extinction and there will be more extreme weather.

The options for change include reducing consumer demand for heavily polluting goods and services, make global energy supply more efficient, act on non-energy emissions – preventing deforestations for example, promote cleaner energy and transport technology, with non-fossil fuels accounting for 60% of energy output by 2050.

The Stern Report says there are technological options to reduce emissions – for example renewable sources of energy and “clean coal”, but that the biggest obstacle lies in vested interests, cultural barriers to change and simple lack of awareness.

The government says it will create a global market for carbon pricing and extend the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EETS) globally to bring in countries such as the US, India and China. It also plans to set new target for EETs to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 and 60% by 2050 and pass a bill to enshrine carbon reduction targets. A new commission will spearhead British company investment in green technology with the aim of creating 100,000 new jobs and the government wants to help create a $20 billion fund to help poor countries with climate change. Preventing deforestation is also on the agenda.

If you would like to read Duport’s more in-depth analysis of the Stern Report click here.

trade justice movement
Trade Justice Movement is a group of organisations including trade unions, aid agencies, environment and human rights campaigns, fair-trade organisations, faith and consumer groups. They campaign for trade justice.

UK emissions trading scheme
This was developed as the world's first bid-in economy-wide greenhouse gas emission trading scheme and helped UK organisations gain experience at trading prior to the introduction of new regulations.

Thirty four organisations ('direct participants' in the scheme) voluntarily took on a legally binding obligation to reduce their emissions against 1998-2000 levels. This equates to over 4 million tonnes of additional CO2 equivalent emission reductions in 2006.

The scheme is also open to the 6,000 companies with Climate Change Agreements. Climate Change Agreement companies can use the UK Emissions Trading Scheme either to buy allowances to meet their targets, or to sell any over-achievement of their targets.

water security
Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Half of the world's population does not have access to a reliable and safe water supply and even where there is enough it is often not collected or distributed efficiently.

The amount of water in the world is finite. Global water consumption has raised six fold between 1900 and 1995 - more than double the rate of population growth - and goes on growing as farming, industry and domestic demand all increase. Water quality is declining for many and more than five million people die from waterborne diseases each year – 10 times the number killed in wars. Climate change will affect who gets more water and who gets less and as the current six billion population rockets to almost nine billion in the next fifty years, water security will become more of a global issue.


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