Just when I thought I was getting a hang of things, attending the Open Working Group meetings for the sustainable development goals, navigating the post-2015 process, and closely following the Commission on Population and Development, boom! I arrived in Lima Peru earlier this week to attend the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) find a whole new set of acronyms, systems, and political sensitivities—and thousands of people who are steeped in this work.


The infrastructure alone is impressive, prepared to accommodate the more than 15,000 registered participants. Big conference centers, coffee stands, computer centers, televisions, translation, and porta-potties. A sea of people in suits sprinkled with brightly colored indigenous clothing from Bolivia, India and other countries. Students convene in packs to make campaigns and advance a progressive agenda. And all are latched to tablets, laptops, and cell phones, bringing their story back to their corner of the world.

For those following the COP20 from afar, here are a few acronyms and themes you may be hearing, as well as places to go for good reading, position papers and updates.

Terms & Acronyms

Here are a few terms heard frequently throughout the negotiations:

  • ADP: The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action

The ADP has two workstreams that serve as the main channel for current negotiations: Workstream 1 focuses on the development of the 2015 Agreement and Workstream 2 focuses on pre-2020 ambition. Learn more here.

  • Loss & Damage

The idea that climate change can inflict impacts that are severe and irreversible (devastating floods, for example, or salinization of soil that pushes cropland beyond recovery), resulting in outcomes that are beyond the reach of adaptation. Many developing countries and civil society voices have called for action – and compensation – to address such impacts.

  • INDCs: Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions

Countries are expected to determine their “contributions” to goals of the 2015 agreement. These are broadly understood to be mitigation targets (greenhouse gas emissions reduction), rather than adaptation.  Some COP20 discussions are focused on what should be included in these targets and how they should be measured.

  • CBDR: Common But Differentiated Responsibilities

The idea that all parties to the convention are obligated to cooperate in achieving the goals of the convention, but that participation will take different forms depending on the circumstances of each country. The meaning and application of this principle continues to be a central component of debate and negotiation amongst parties, embodying highly sensitive issues of equity.

  • MOI: Means of Implementation

Shorthand for finance, technology, and capacity-building for developing countries (for both mitigation and adaptation).

  • “Pledge Without Review” or “Pledge and Chat”

A sentiment held by some parties and advocates that countries, on the basis of the responsibility and capability, provide adequate finance and the means of implementation that are required by the developing world to meet the dual challenge of development and tackling global climate change.


Some helpful documents and position papers:

In the news:

For updates:

  • Stay tuned for more updates from PAI at the COP20 in the next week! In the meantime, please feel free to follow @inthesaladdays on Twitter for updates.