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Key Terms and Definitions





abatement is a reduction in a greenhouse gas emission
adaptation is conduct or behavioural change that accommodates or lessens the harm that would otherwise occur from climate change
Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) this is a group of low lying island countries especially vulnerable to sea level rise that have formed an alliance to represent their joint interests
arbitration arbitration is an ancient device used by states in contention in which they submit their dispute to a panel of arbiters. A third party or parties is engaged, with the mutual agreement of the parties in dispute, to reach a binding decision
Article XX a GATT article listing allowed 'exceptions' to the trade rules
baseline a line contiguous to the coast from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured
Berlin Mandate this mandate was adopted in COP-1 and initiated negotiations the led to the Kyoto Protocol
bioaccumulation bioaccumulation, or alternatively termed bioconcentration, is the cumulative uptake of organic compounds by animals and humans from either water or food. Many toxic organic chemicals attain concentrations in biota several orders of magnitude greater than their aqueous concentrations in the environment. Therefore, bioaccumulation poses a serious threat when an accumulating compound reaches toxic levels in the organism
biodiversity has multiple meanings in that the term biological diversity may refer to biological and genetic variations within species, between species or between ecosystems
biomes are major ecological communities classified according to the dominant vegetation that distinguishes the communities
biotechnology also genetic engineering, means in vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or, fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, overcoming natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers
boreal northern biological areas often characterised by coniferous forests
Bretton Woods Institutions the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Bretton Woods Agreements established the institutions in 1944, in the meetings in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA
catchment a catchment is literally the area that 'catches' precipitation and provides the natural drainage for the precipitation
chapeau in international law, the French word 'chapeau' is used to refer to the introductory text used in a treaty that broadly defines the principles, objectives and background of the treaty
CIS states the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is an association of states founded in 1991 comprising countries that were former Soviet Republics
civil law the legal system in most European and South American countries which is based on doctrines and rules developed by legal scholars
common law the legal system used in England and most of the United States which relies on prior case law to resolve disputes rather than written codes
compromis more completely, a compromis d'arbitrage is the agreement governing the terms of arbitration reached by the parties in a dispute who have voluntarily agreed to submit their differences to arbitration
conciliation conciliation may mean the broad variety of methods through which a dispute is resolved by the services of a conciliator. The conciliator may be another state or other third party such as a commission or body of enquiry. More narrowly, conciliation may be the referral of the dispute to a commission or other body charged with the preparation of a report including proposed solutions to the dispute
Conference of the Parties a main negotiating body under an international agreement. The COP is the policy-making body that meets periodically to review implementation of the agreement and to adopt decisions, resolutions, or recommendations for continuing implementation
Continental shelf an area of 'seabed' adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea of coastal states. It should be noted that, under UNCLOS, all coastal states have, in principle, an entitlement to an area of 'seabed' up to 200 nm from baselines, and if the geological and geomorphological circumstances permit, up to 350 nm
corrosive a corrosive is a liquid or solid that causes visible destruction or irreversible alteration in human tissue at the point of contact, or a liquid that severely corrodes steel. The term 'corrosive' includes items such as acids, and most batteries
country of origin of genetic resources according to the CBD, this means the country which possesses those genetic resources in in situ conditions
critical loads a critical load is the amount of a pollutant that, if exceeded in a given unit of time, will cause some ecological or human harm. Hence it is critical to ensure the actual loading of the pollutant within that time period is less than the critical load
customary international law aspects of international law derived from custom - consistent and repetitive action by nation states over time
directive a directive is issued by the EU Council and the Commission under the legislative powers of the EU institutions as laid down in Article 249 (ex 189) EC. EU directives are binding upon each member State in the results to be achieved. Each State must adapt their laws to meet the purposes of the directive but are allowed discretion in the method and form of the adaptation. Each directive indicates the date by which the directive should be transposed or adopted
disability adjusted life years (DALYS) the sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability
ECOSOC UN Economic and Social Council. A principal organ of the UN, addressing economic, social, cultural, educational, health, environmental and other related matters
ecosystem comprises all the animals, plants and microbes that inhabit a defined area which, combined with the physical conditions of that area, represent an ecosystem for that area
ecosystem services are the products such as food and fuel, the benefits such as moderation of weather or improved water quality, or non-material benefits such as recreational or amenity services
ecotoxic simply a substance or chemical that is toxic to the ecosystem
estoppel a legal doctrine that prevents a person or agency denying or asserting something that contradicts a matter of fact already established under the law
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) this is a concept which can be said to have crystallised into a rule of customary international law during the period of the negotiations leading to UNCLOS. This maritime zone comprises the area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea and extends up to 200 nautical miles from baselines. The sovereign rights and scope for the exercise of jurisdiction of the coastal state, and the rights and freedoms of other states over and in respect of the EEZ, are regulated as per relevant provisions in UNCLOS. Under Article 56(1), the coastal state has in respect of the EEZ 'sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living and non-living'
genetic material defined by the CBD as any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity
genetic resources the OECD defines genetic resources as genetic material of plants, animals or microorganisms of value as a resource for future generations of humanity
germplasm a preserved collection of genetic resources of an organism
Global Environment Facility established in 1991, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) provides grant and concessional funds to developing countries for projects and programmes targeting global environmental issues such as climate change, biological diversity, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants
GRAS acronym for the phrase 'generally recognised as safe'. Under Sections 201(s) and 409 of the US Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act any substance added to food is technically a food additive, which makes it subject to review and approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unless the substance is generally recognised by qualified experts as having been shown to be safe under the conditions of use
greenhouse gases (GHGs) there are three major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)
hazardous waste explosive materials; flammable liquids and solids; substances or wastes liable to spontaneous combustion, or which, in contact with water emit flammable gases; oxidising materials; organic peroxides; acutely or chronically poisonous substances, infectious substances; corrosives; substances likely to emit toxic gases upon exposure to air or water; and ecotoxic substances or wastes
high seas these comprise maritime areas (including waters, seabed and subsoil) and suprajacent airspace not subject to any state sovereignty and in respect of which no states may exercise sovereign rights. Activities in and with regard to the high seas areas are regulated essentially by Part VII (Articles 94 to 120) of UNCLOS
highly migratory fish stocks highly migratory fish stocks swim over very large distances. They may be found in numerous Exclusive Economic Zone jurisdictions and the high seas. Annex 1 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas lists 17 highly migratory species
human rights human rights are the freedoms, immunities and benefits that all human beings should be able to claim where they live and work. In practice, these rights are being secured by progressive measures. See the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
humanitarian law humanitarian law addresses the use of weapons and conduct of war including the treatment of prisoners and the civilian populations at risk during armed conflict
intellectual property refers to property rights comprising intangible rights that protect commercial products of human intelligence
inter alia among other things
inter partes between the parties that have a legal relationship, ie parties in dispute in the MEA, and not of concern to others
international law laws that govern the conduct of independent nations in their relationships with one another
International Law Association was founded in Brussels in 1873. Its objectives are 'the study, clarification and development of international law, both public and private, and the furtherance of international understanding and respect for international law'. As an international non-governmental organisation, it has a respected consultative status with the United Nations
International Law Commission on 21 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 174 (II) establishing the International Law Commission. Under its statute, the 'Commission shall have for its object the promotion of the progressive development of international law and its codification'
IUCN The World Conservation Union. A hybrid international organisation composed of governments and non-governmental organisations
jurisprudence the theory and philosophy of law
liability a civil or criminal legal responsibility. It is a condition of being bound under law to meet some obligation or duty
living modified organism a living organism possessing a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology
locus standi in iudicio having legal standing to take a legal action such as going to court
Marrakesh Accords the accords were agreements achieved in COP-7. They established rules for operating provisions of the Kyoto Protocol such as the carbon trading schemes
mediation the settlement of international disputes between nations
Meeting of the Parties this is a body equivalent to the Conference of the Parties. The terminology differs according to agreements. In practice, there is a tendency to use 'Conference of the Parties' for environmental conventions and 'Meeting of the Parties' for the protocols
mitigation mitigation is the procedure by which measures are identified and applied to avoid or diminish harmful impacts of the actions or activities proposed. This may be accomplished by choosing alternative options or by minimising the impacts by redesign. Providing compensation for a harmful impact is a last option
municipal law the national, domestic, or internal law of a nation state as opposed to international law
non liquet a situation where there is no applicable law, or the law is unclear
non-governmental organization(s) usually referred to as NGO(s); they are community groups, private and not-for-profit organisations. In the UN system, NGOs include business associations. Generally, NGOs are groups not established by governments although they may have government support in their operations
nuclear meltdown an informal term for the condition of a reactor that becomes severely overheated due to a failure of the cooling system. The risk is that the meltdown may release lethal levels of radioactivity
opinio juris the second element of customary international law that is necessary to establish a legally binding custom. Opinio juris is an obligation that subjectively binds a state to the law in question. (ICJ Statute, Article 38(1)(b)). The subjective aspect of opinio juris means it is an unsettled and debated notion in international law
persistent organic pollutant is a chemical that is organic, ie has a carbon base, does not break down easily and therefore will persist in the environment often for decades, and is toxic at certain levels
precautionary principle principle according to which incomplete scientific certainty shall not be a reason for inaction where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment or human health. The principle is incorporated in several instruments, including Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
procedural law procedural law is the rule by which something is accomplished. Procedural law represents how something, such as an EIA is performed
radiation by radiation the IEAE generally means ionising radiation. Ionising radiation is radiation with sufficient energy to remove tightly bound electrons from the orbit of an atom, causing the atom to become charged or ionised
risk assessment is a scientific process by which potential consequences of an act on the environment or for natural living resources is assessed - it is a common basis for decision-making
river basin this is another term for catchment with emphasis on the river as the drainage conduit for the drainage area comprising the catchment
scoping scoping should be an open and interactive procedure, preferably engaging the public and stakeholders, that follows screening by identifying what issues are important to consider in the EIA
screening screening is the first major step in an EIA procedure. Its purpose is to determine if a proposed activity or action requires an EIA by reviewing the expected environmental impact of the proposal
Secretariat the body established under an international agreement to arrange and service meetings of the governing body of the agreement, and assist in co-ordinating implementation of the agreement. May also perform other functions as assigned by the agreement and the decisions of the governing body
sink the UNFCC Handbook defines a sink as 'a process, activity or mechanism that removes a GHG from the atmosphere; a reservoir is part of the climate system that enables a GHG to be stored'
straddling fish stocks straddling fish are those that cross the line separating an exclusive economic zone and the high seas
substantive law substantive law defines peoples' rights, remedies and duties as opposed to procedural law which prescribes the steps by which such rights, remedies and duties may be enforced
territorial sea under UNCLOS, this may extend up to 12 nautical miles from baselines. A coastal state has sovereignty over the airspace above its territorial sea, the waters of its territorial sea and the marine resources found therein, as well as the living and non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil
traditional knowledge knowledge, the innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities throughout the world. It is developed from living experience over centuries in adaptation to the local culture and environment. Traditional knowledge is traditionally transmitted orally from generation to generation but also written records, ie Sanskrit writings, can be a means of passing on the knowledge
trait a trait in biotechnology is the characteristic introduced into an organism, such as a plant, by genetic engineering that is sought for some purpose such as resistance to an herbicide
UNDP created in 1965, the United Nations Development Programme is responsible for co-ordinating UN development-related work
UNEP the United Nations Environment Programme was established in 1972 to lead and co-ordinate UN environment-related work
vulnerability this is the extent to which a country, or community, may be unable to deal with the negative impacts of climate change
watershed another term for catchment