By using this website, you agree to our privacy policy

  1. Coping with COP
  2. ·
  3. A few worth having an opinion on
Back to Lessons

The phrases:
A few worth having an opinion on

New phrases come out of the woodwork everyday. This is just dusting off some particularly relevant or recent terms that we feel are worth having a wee opinion on.

Carbon pricing

It’s complicated. Whilst many now agree that we need some form of carbon pricing, what form it takes is controversial.

Is it more of a tax, or should it be about cap and trade (i.e. incentivising decarbonisation and letting the market determine the price)?

The crux of the idea is that the more carbon you use the more you pay. There are big ranges in what people are talking about it could be, and how we get to a carbon price that people trust. The Net-Zero Asset Owners Reliance recently called for an increase in carbon pricing across the world. As of October 2021, it trades at approx. $2 per tonne. Many feel it should be trading between $50-147 per tonne.

Doughnut model

The Krispy Kreme of planetary happiness.

A system designed by an Oxford academic, Kate Raworth, that shows how we can exist alongside nature - and how we can all live together, without upsetting natural balances, but also without sacrificing human happiness and security. It’s basically about creating a safe space - and a clear ‘do not cross’ line. Stay in our part of the doughnut (the jammy bit or the hole) and the squidgy dough of nature that surrounds and sustains us, is ok, and keeps sustaining us. If the jam/hole goes for domination, then the whole thing collapses.


It is understandable that all the talk of apocalypse and mass extinction has an impact on our mental health.

We’re talking about the survival of not just our way of life, but potentially our species; anxiety is not exactly an irrational response. In a recent global survey by Bath University 60% of young people said they were very or extremely worried about climate change. Climate grief, and transitional grief, are also increasingly talked about. Some high profile characters, from Prince William to Christiana Figueres, have called out the importance of positivity and remembering the better world we could build.


Green bonds have become more expensive, as demand has risen.

That is good - for us and the planet. As prices have risen, however, returns haven’t. The difference between that cost and the rate of return - i.e. the extra cost of acquiring a bond because it is green - has been snappily dubbed a ‘greenium.’

Just transition

Not leaving people behind, and making the transition (moving to greener, sustainable economies) as fair as possible.

Previous big economic transitions have created huge opportunities and jobs - but have sometimes come at the cost of those on the frontline at the highpoint of change. A just-transition is about avoiding that.

Natural capital

There’s no official definition. It’s basically all the stuff and services that nature does that we should value, but often don’t, and have historically not put a monetary value on.

The OECD divides them into natural resource stocks, land and ecosystems. Some definitions go beyond tangibles e.g. natural flood defences from forests, minerals and arable land, and include the inspiration we get from the landscape and wildlife, or biomimicry (e.g. the solution to the sonic boom problem of the Japanese Bullet trains came from observing kingfishers diving).

Net zero

The holy grail (sort of).

Many companies and countries have started to talk about carbon or climate positive - which is absolutely necessary - but the first, and crucial, step is to neutralise the carbon levels we are releasing back into the atmosphere. It requires us doing a lot of different things; we can’t simply rely on the cheap renewables cavalry appearing over the hill.

Scope 1, 2 and 3

Businesses have to reduce all 3; scope 3 is the hardest, but it also makes the biggest difference.

There’s a handy little MSCI rhyme: ‘if you don’t tackle scope 3 then your plan is a catastrophe’. It’s become the standard way of companies organising and reporting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Scope 1: Emissions companies make themselves e.g. fumes from making things, sales guys driving around selling things.

Scope 2: Emissions from the stuff you buy to do those things – e.g. the electricity needed to make those products or energy to run aircon systems.

Scope 3: the stuff you can’t control so easily – e.g. your supply chain and how employees travel to work.

Shifting baseline syndrome

When changes happen gradually over time, they can slip by unnoticed, even though the impact can be huge. Or we lack the knowledge or memory to benchmark.

Sir David Attenborough, for example, thought that the African savannas he experienced in the 1950s were abundant in comparison to the 2000s. What he now realises - through scientific research - is that that abundance of the 1950s was already drastically reduced.

He was comparing it to a baseline that had already shifted. To protect biodiversity, we have to compare it to the pristine, original baseline - not our wibbly one.

Whole life carbon

Carbon cradle to grave so to speak - looking at the carbon emissions of something from when it’s made, used, reused (hopefully) and disposed of.

The architects for a low carbon building, for example, will think about how to reduce emissions during its use, but also how to minimise the carbon footprint of all materials coming into the building - and to think about their end of life. They have to think about the lifetime consequences of their design decisions. It means not just low carbon materials, e.g. locally made bricks fired with biowaste, but design that minimises how much steel and cement you need.

Stay in the loop with us and all things COP

Follow the conversation on social

Our take on ESG
No longer a 'nice to have' ESG credentials are mission critical and sit at the heart of an organisation's reputation.
Our ESG Experience
We've worked with governments and organisations to help define, articulate and activate their ESG strategies.