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The bluffer's guide to the Paris climate talks

Two weeks of climate change talks kick off in Paris on Monday.

This COP21 pow-wow is being billed as bigger than Kyoto and Copenhagen and "yet another" last chance to save the world from cataclysmic environmental climate change on the planet.

The scientists, politicians and activists will try and reach some accord about the action needed to avert crisis but will us mere mortals actually understand a word they are talking about?

In my pre-Paris prep, I've come up against a barrage of acronyms and abbreviations that'll present a big barrier to the rest of us actually having a clue of what on earth is being talked about.

So to help all of us interpret all the "climate-speak," I've put together my top 10 acronyms from planet COP.

1 - COP21

Polar bear on a wide surface of ice in the russian arctic close to Franz Josef Land.
Sepp Friedhuber | Getty Images
Polar bear on a wide surface of ice in the russian arctic close to Franz Josef Land.

First of all does anyone really know what COP21 stands for? It's the 21st attempt of the "Conference of Parties" to reach a global climate deal. It's the biggest one since the relative failure of COP15 in Copenhagen back in 2009. These meetings have been going onfor 20 years now. The key dates over the past quarter of a century have also includedthe 1997 Kyoto Protocol (this one failed in part as it was never actuallyratified by the U.S.).

2 & 3 - UNFCCC and IPCC

OK, the next thing you need to know is the UNFCCC and the IPCC. These are long winded abbreviations standing for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The UNFCCC is actually a treaty signed in Rio de Janeiro back in 1992, tasked with "stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and preventing dangerous climate change". The IPCC is the UN body which accumulates reports from scientists globally and then assesses the evidence.

4 - GHGs

So that's the background on who's running the show in Paris. Next you're going to hear a lot about GHG's. That's an easy one: GreenHouse Gases. These are everything from water vapor to methane (hence the critics of windy cows and burgers) and, of course, carbon dioxide. The problem here appears to be not agreeing that they exist, but how much more mankind appears to be throwing into the atmosphere and heating up the planet.

5 - 450PPM

So GHGs are apparently building up dangerously and the idea is that we try and limit global warming from pre-industrial times to only 2 degrees Celsius. Now I can already tell you that is not going to be achieved in Paris but maybe we'll get some commitments which might get us closer. With this in mind, you may hear a lot about 450PPM. This refers to the 450 parts per million concentration of CO2 that is synonymous with keeping climate change to only 2 degrees Celsius. However, it is worth noting that many scientists are still pretty wary of even 450ppm but we'll leave that for another day

6 - INDCs

So what action is COP21 supposed to achieve? Well, they have their INDCs – or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. These are what every country has put forward as their path to low carbon economies. Each country this time has their own ideas how to cut emissions. This will be at the centre of any successful deal in Paris and yet there are huge questions over what happens if the INDCs don't achieve their goals, how they are verified and if there will be any penalties for unattained targets.

7,8,9 - IEA, NPS, CPS (and one for free: OECD)

At this point you are probably getting a bit acronym-ed out so I'll just add that the IEA or International Energy Agency, which is the policy advisor for the rich nations of the world (or the OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, incidentally an acronym which I'm giving you for free), and has done a fair amount of work on NPS (New Policy Scenarios) which are models based on commitments from the INDCs, which form the baseline scenarios. These are different from CPS (Current Policy Scenarios) which assume no policy change by nations. Still with me?


10 - 2DS

Finally I'm just going to throw in the 2DS, or Two Degrees Celsius Scenario, not to be confused with 1D, which is a boy band with limited musical ability and very little in the way of climate credentials. 2DS is basically the global energy set up which mainstream scientific opinion thinks will have an 80 percent chance of limiting temperatures increase to 2 degrees Celsius. There are other scenarios such as 4DS and 6DS but for all our sakes let's not go there just now.

OMG, OIC, GR8 and WTF?

At this point you may be thinking OMG, OIC, GR8 or maybe even WTF? And you will not be alone in being slightly confused but hopefully when you see some of these abbreviations you will have a head start in understanding the jargon thrown at you over the next two weeks.

Steve Sedgwick is co-anchor for CNBC's flagship programme Squawk Box Europe.

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