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A-Z of climate action terms

Adaptation – action that helps to cope with the effects of climate change, for example flood defences to protect against increased flood risk and planting of crops that are more resilient to high temperatures and droughts.

Air pollution – the contamination of air with chemicals or particles that can harm the health of humans, animals and plants. The major threat to clean air in our district is posed by traffic emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles which emit a wide variety of pollutants including carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM10). More information is available on the Oxfordshire Air Quality website.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) – areas where air pollution levels are harmful to health and are in breach of the ‘national air quality objectives’. There are currently three AQMAs in South Oxfordshire (in Henley, Wallingford and Watlington). More information is on the Oxfordshire Air Quality website.

Biodiversity – the enormous variety of life on Earth. It can be used more specifically to refer to all of the species in one region or ecosystem. (Source: National Geographic)

Biodiversity Net Gain – an approach to development that leaves biodiversity in a measurably better state than before the development started. Biodiversity Net Gain is measured using a metric that is published by the Government.

Carbon footprint – the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, service, place or product. 

Carbon neutral – where the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. (Source: European Parliament)

Carbon offsetting – a way of compensating for carbon emissions being emitted by participating in, or funding, efforts to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Carbon reduction – reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) being emitted by an individual, event, organisation, service, place or product.

Carbon sequestration – the process of storing carbon dioxide that reduces atmospheric concentrations.

Carbon sink – a forest, ocean, or other natural or artificial reservoir that absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it releases.

Car Clubs – these are short-term car rental services that allow their members access to locally parked cars which can usually be rented by the hour or day. They offer an alternative model to private car ownership for individuals and businesses. See more on the county council car clubs project in Oxfordshire here.

Circular economy – involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.

Climate action group – a community group, usually made up entirely of volunteers, which works locally to take action on climate change.

Climate change – the change in average weather conditions, such as temperature or rainfall, over a long period of time. 

Climate Mitigation – action taken to reduce climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, and by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed from the atmosphere.

CO2e (Carbon dioxide equivalent – also written as CO2 equivalent or Co2eq) – a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints which consist of lots of different greenhouse gases. It expresses the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide which would result in the same amount of warming.

COP (Conference of the Parties) – the governing body of the United Nations Convention of Climate Change. The meetings have been running since 1995 to review progress by members.

Decarbonisation – the reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide emissions.

Ecosystems – all the plants and animals that live in a particular area together with the complex relationship that exists between them and their environment (Source: Collins English Dictionary)

Electric vehicles (EVs) – a vehicle which runs on electricity rather than petrol or diesel. EVs are recharged and do not release any greenhouse gas emissions as they are driven. See where chargers are located in council-run car parks.

Environment Act 2021 – the government legislation which sets out the targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment. More information is available on the government website

Environmental Targets – the UK government targets, set in 2022, to protect our environment, clean up our air and rivers and boost nature.

Global warming – the steady rise in global average temperature in recent years, caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases – gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. While many greenhouse gases are naturally occurring, it is the increased emissions from human activities that are causing global warming. The main emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, for the energy that we rely on to heat (and cool) our homes, power our transport, cook our food and make many of the products we use. (Source: United Nations Environment Programme)

Heat pump – a device that can heat a building (or part of a building) by transferring thermal energy from the outside using a refrigeration cycle.

Nature recovery– actions we need to take to protect, sustainably manage, improve and restore the natural environment.

Net Zero – the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away. (Source: National Grid)

Recycling – the process of converting waste materials into new materials.

Renewable energyenergy which is produced from sources like the wind and sun that are naturally replenished and therefore more sustainable than ‘fossil fuels’ such as coal, oil or gas.

Retrofitting – making changes to existing buildings to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. See our dedicated webpage on retrofitting for more information.

Solar panels – solar electricity panels, also known as photovoltaics (PV), capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. By installing solar panels, you can generate your own renewable electricity.

Solar farms (also known as solar parks, solar power plants or photovoltaic power stations) – an area of land with a large number of solar panels installed which generate electricity. Unlike solar panels on buildings, solar farms generally supply energy to public utilities rather than to power the building the panels are installed upon.

Zero waste – the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health. (Source: Zero Waste Alliance)

Contact us - Climate and Biodiversity Team

South Oxfordshire District Council
Abbey House
Abbey Close
OX14 3JE