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Topics Environment, climate change and nature

Overview

This section provides detailed guidance for all the words and phrases related to climate change.

Biodiversity

Use to describe all living organisms within an ecosystem including plants, fungi and bacteria.

Also see ecosystem, wildlife.

Carbon dioxide

CO2

Carbon dioxide. Write “carbon dioxide (CO2)” at the first reference in each section then “CO2” for all further uses. Write out the number at full size, do not use superscript.

CO2e

Carbon dioxide equivalent, which also includes other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, as well as CO2. Write “carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)” at the first reference in each section then “CO2e” for all further uses. Write out the number at full size, do not use superscript.

Carbon dioxide emissions

Use to refer specifically to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere. These differ from greenhouse gas emissions, which may include other pollutant gases.

Also see CO2, greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change

Use “climate change” to describe the various effects of greenhouse gases on the Earth, including extreme weather, storms, changes in rainfall patterns, ocean acidification and sea level.

Also see global warming.

COP

COP refers to the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (“Conference of the Parties”).

Other COPs for topics such as biodiversity are also available.

COP26

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (“Conference of the Parties”), held in Glasgow from 31 October to 13 November 2021.

Write the first reference in each section in full as “The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26)”, then abbreviate as “COP26” for all further uses.

COP27

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (“Conference of the Parties”), held in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt from 7 to 18 November 2022.

Write the first reference in each section in full as “The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27)”, then abbreviate as “COP27” for all further uses.

COP28

The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (“Conference of the Parties”), to provisionally be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

Write the first reference in each section in full as “The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28)”, then abbreviate as “COP28” for all further uses.

Department and organisation names

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Abbreviate to BEIS after first use. This department is no longer in operation. It was divided into new departments, including the Department for Energy and Net Zero (DESNZ) and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), on 7 February 2023.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Abbreviate to DSIT after first use. Formerly part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

Abbreviate to DESNZ after first use. Formerly part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Write in full for first use and then abbreviate to Defra (lower case) for any further uses.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Upper case and can abbreviate to IPCC after first use.

International Monetary Fund

Upper case and can abbreviate to IMF after first use.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Upper case and can abbreviate to OECD after first use.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Upper case and can abbreviate to UNECE after first use.

Earth

Upper case for the Earth, Planet Earth and Earth sciences, with lower case for “the”.

Eco

Eco

Short form of “ecologically”. Followed by a hyphen when used as a prefix, for example, eco-friendly, eco-sustainable.

Ecologically

The relation of all living organisms, including humans, animals, plants and other organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

For example, “Brazil’s rainforests are of global importance both economically and ecologically.”

Ecology

The study of the relationships between all living organisms, including humans, and their physical surroundings.

Ecosystem

One word, unhyphenated. A biological environment where plants, animals and other organisms interact with each other and with non-living things, landscape characteristics and weather to create and sustain life.

Also see biodiversity.

UK National Ecosystem Assessment

Upper case and can abbreviate to UK NEA after first use.

Environmental accounts and sectors

Environmental accounts

Lower case when used in general terms, upper case when referring specifically to the UK Environmental Accounts.

Environmental protection expenditure

Lower case and can abbreviate to EPE after first use.

Environmental goods and services sector

Lower case and can abbreviate to EGSS after first use.

Fish

Use “fish populations” instead of “fish stocks”. Fish do not exist solely to be harvested but play a vital role in the natural health of the oceans.

Fossil fuels

Always use lower case for fossil fuels.

Global warming

Use “global warming” when describing the effects of the rise in the Earth’s surface temperature from greenhouse gas emissions forming an atmospheric blanket that stops the sun’s heat escaping back to space.

Green Deal and green jobs

Green Deal

Upper case, as this is the name of a programme, but lower case for any parent noun: Green Deal programme, Green Deal team.

Green jobs

Always use lower case for green jobs. The ONS's definition of a green job is "employment in an activity that contributes to protecting or restoring the environment, including those that mitigate or adapt to climate change".

Greenhouse gases and emissions

Greenhouse gases

Always use lower case for greenhouse gases and can abbreviate to GHG after first use.

Write out the numbers of the component elements at full size, do not use superscript:

  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • methane (CH4)
  • nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
  • nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

Greenhouse gas emissions

Use “greenhouse gas emissions” to refer to all gases that warm the atmosphere, including methane, nitrous oxide, fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and carbon dioxide emissions. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are not greenhouse gas emissions.

Also see carbon dioxide emissions.

Land Cover Map

Upper case and can abbreviate to LCM after first use.

Measurements

kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – explain this is thousand tonnes for first use, can abbreviate to Kt CO2e after first use

million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – can abbreviate to Mt CO2e after first use

million tonnes of oil equivalent – can abbreviate to Mtoe after first use

temperature – use Celsius for temperature and write out “degrees” instead of using the ° symbol followed by “Celsius” in upper case: 37 degrees Celsius

Particulates

Write out the numbers at full size, do not use superscript: PM2.5, PM10.

Parts per million

Lower case and can abbreviate to PPM after first use.

Natural capital accounts

Lower case when used in general terms, upper case when referring specifically to the UK Natural Capital Accounts.

Net zero

Lower case except when used as an adjective: Net Zero programme.

Special areas of conservation and interest

Special areas of conservation

Lower case and can abbreviate to SAC after first use.

Sites of special scientific interest

Lower case and can abbreviate to SSSI after first use. For Northern Ireland these are areas of special scientific interest (ASSI).

Special Protection Areas

Upper case and can abbreviate to SPA after first use. Protected areas for birds in the UK classified under UK and European legislation.

Taxes

Upper case all specific environmental taxes, for example, Fuel Duty.

United Nations systems and frameworks

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Upper case and can abbreviate to UNFCCC after first use.

United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting

Upper case and can abbreviate to SEEA after first use.

Wildlife

Use to describe all animal life on earth. Use “biodiversity” to describe all life including other organisms, such as plants, fungi and bacteria.

Also see biodiversity.

We acknowledge existing style guidance and definitions in the creation of this style guide, including GOV.UK, Wikipedia, Associated Press and The Guardian.

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