Dozens of United Nations acronyms surround efforts to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.
David McNew/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Dozens of United Nations acronyms surround efforts to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

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COP21: The 21st Conference of Parties may result in new international agreements and goals aimed at cutting greenhouse gases.

CNN cheat sheet deciphers confusing acronyms linked to COP21

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Bureaucracies. They can be weird, right?

Sometimes they form their own microcultures and create unique words to go with those cultures.

Example: The United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference and the 21st session of the Conference of Parties.

In U.N.-speak, it’s called COP21.

If you haven’t heard about COP21 yet, it’s a big meeting of bureaucrats from 195 nations happening between November 30 and December 11 in Paris, where they’ll discuss the current impact of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. They also might negotiate new agreements or set goals aimed at cutting emissions in the future.

Here’s a sampling of unique language surrounding COP21. See if you can figure it out. It’s from a document about workflow – and be warned – it may give you a headache:

“… the ADP shall hold its first session of 2016 in conjunction with the first sessions of the SBSTA and the SBI in 2016 to organize its work on the implementation of the work programme referred to in paragraphs 7–9 above and to prepare draft decisions to be recommended by the COP to the CMA for consideration and adoption at its first session; …”

It brings to mind a more familiar acronym: WTF.

That paragraph contains enough acronyms to put a teenager with a smartphone to shame. I mean, it almost looks like a secret language, right?

I’m wondering who ADP is. Apparently it’s important to know when the COP will get with the CMA. Seems like there may be a bit of drama here: Will the ADP be able to coordinate with the SBSTA and the SBI?

Seriously, how will everyday humans understand this alien bureau-speak without a cheat sheet?

Wait! Cheat sheet. Great idea!

Here are some COP21-related acronyms we may run into during the conference.

Alliances of nations:

To strengthen their negotiating positions, nations with similar interests come to COP21 as members of various alliances – kind of like an episode of TV’s “Survivor” or “Big Brother.”

Climate change blogger Renee Juliene Karunungan has been having some fun with it, too. “In high school you had the jocks and cheerleaders, the bullies, and the nerds. In the UNFCCC you have the negotiating blocks …”

These alliances have full names that are a mouthful to pronounce and a pain to remember. It’s easier to just use acronyms. But God forbid that somebody has a dyslexic moment and confuses the MLDC with the LMDC. It might spark an international incident.

Some of these names sound like they could be the next new recording artist, dropping a fresh album on iTunes. Who knows? Soon we all might be chillin’ to the infectious beats of G77, AR5 and BASIC.

  • AOSIS: Alliance of Small Island States are 44 island and low-lying coastal countries
  • AILAC: Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean States
  • MLDC: Mountainous Landlocked Developing Countries includes Armenia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
  • LMDC: Like-Minded Developing Countries is a new group that represents 50% of the world’s population and includes India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
  • BASIC: Brazil, South Africa, India, China
  • LAS: League of Arab States: 21 Arab nations in northern and northeastern Africa and southwest Asia
  • LDC: 48 countries designated by the United Nations as least-developed
  • EIG: The Environmental Integrity Group includes Mexico, Liechtenstein, Monaco, South Korea and Switzerland.
  • ALBA: Antigua, Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela
  • UMBRELLA group: Informal alliance of non-European Union-developed nations including Australia, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States
  • AGN: African Group of Negotiators is made up of African members of the United Nations.
  • ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations consists of 10 member states
  • BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
  • CACAM Group: Central Asia, Caucasus, Albania and Moldova


  • UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a global climate treaty agreed on in 1992. COP21 comes 21 years after the birth of UNFCCC.

Panels and groups:


  • CDR: Carbon dioxide removal is another geoengineering idea which aims to develop ways to scrub C02 from the air and store it safely at the bottom of the ocean or deep underground.