Green Glossary

General – Word of the week
  • Carbon Footprint – The measurements of greenhouse gases (including Carbon dioxide and methane) produced directly or indirectly by a person/product/organisation’s activities. Some definitions limit carbon footprint just to a measure of carbon dioxide resulting from activities.
  • Net-Zero – In respect of any activity means a balance between the greenhouse gas emissions produced in respect of that activity and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions removed from the atmosphere. So for example, in building a house there are two ways in which this activity could be net zero – the build could not result in any greenhouse gas emissions at all OR (if it did) the builder could undertake certain activities to remove an equivalent level of greenhouse gas emissions from the air.
  • Climate Change – a change in climate (including global temperatures and weather patterns) occurring both naturally and accelerated by human caused activities causing the emission of greenhouse gases. Used interchangeably with “Global Warming”. Generally when we refer to Climate Change we are focused on human caused activities.
  • Global Warming – An increase to the average surface temperature of the Earth, accelerated by burning fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases. Used interchangeably with “Climate Change”.
  • Carbon Dioxide – a greenhouse gas produced as a result of the respiration of living organisms and formed by the combustion of carbon.
  • Greenhouse Gases – gases including carbon dioxide and methane, which help to maintain the planet’s temperature. Where too much of the gases are produced as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, it contributes to the greenhouse effect, i.e. trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and  results in global warming.
  • Carbon Credit – A document which allows the holder to emit a particular level of greenhouse gases/carbon when carrying out particular activities. They can be issued under any number of programmes or schemes.
  • Carbon Offset – The act of organisations participating in schemes or activities which make reductions of carbon in the atmosphere to balance out the carbon they have produced in respect of a particular activity. Schemes can include tree planting, the use of renewable energy, or participation in community schemes.

Infrastructure – Energy
  • Renewables Obligation (RO) – supports large-scale renewable electricity projects by requiring energy suppliers to source a specific proportion of electricity they supply to customers from renewable sources. The RO closed to new generation from 31 March 2017 and is being replaced by CFDs.
  • Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) – issued to generators by Ofgem per megawatt of renewable electricity they generate. Generators can sell their ROCs to electricity suppliers who must present a certain number of ROCs to Ofgem (or pay a penalty for each ROC that they should have provided) as part of the RO.
  • Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) – certificates of proof providing transparency to consumers about the proportion of electricity renewably sourced by suppliers. Ofgem issues one REGO certificate per megawatt hour of eligible renewable output to generators of renewable energy.
  • Contracts for Difference (CFDs) – contracts between low-carbon electricity generators and the government. Under a CFD, the generator receives a top up payment when it sells electricity for less than the contract price, but has to make a repayment when it sells electricity for more than the contract price. The idea is that the generator receives the agreed tariff (but no more than that) for the renewable electricity that it produces.
  • Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) – a government scheme supporting small-scale renewable and other low-carbon electricity generators, under which householders can receive payments for surplus electricity generated and exported to the National Grid by eligible installed systems, for example solar panels or wind turbines. The FITs scheme closed to new generation from 31 March 2019 and is being replaced by the SEG scheme.
  • Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) – a government scheme replacing the FITs scheme, whereby householders can receive payments for surplus electricity generated and exported to the National Grid by eligible installed systems, for example solar panels or wind turbines. Under the SEG scheme, a smart energy meter is required to evidence the energy exported to the National Grid as SEG payments are based on actual exports (rather than 50% of the energy produced as was generally the case with FITs payments).

Infrastructure – Waste
  • Environmental Permit – a permit required for activities that release emissions to land, air or water, or that involve waste. The environmental permitting regime aims to protect the environment and deliver environmental targets and is governed by the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
  • Anaerobic digestion – a way of generating energy by breaking down food and animal products. This is done in an oxygen-free tank and produces biogas and fertiliser.
  • Energy from waste – the process of generating energy from landfill (i.e., non-recyclable waste). This is a sustainable way of producing electricity and heat.
  • Office for Environmental Protection – a new public body established under the Environment Act 2021. It has been established to work alongside Defra to make public bodies accountable for breaking environmental laws by investigating and taking enforcement action.
  • 1.5 degree target – countries came together in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and again at COP26 in 2021 to agree a goal to limit global warming to below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. This links to the global net zero goal in order to avoid the most serious effects of climate change.

  • Green Home – a home designed and built with sustainability and decarbonisation as a key consideration throughout every stage of development, providing benefits to the environment which a conventionally built home does not.
  • Daylighting – the controlled admission of natural light into a space through windows with the intent of reducing or eliminating the need for electric lighting.
  • Passive Solar – design strategies for using the sun’s energy to heat a space, such as the use of windows oriented for solar gain coupled with thermal maximising interior materials.
  • Cradle to Cradle (as opposed to cradle to grave) – the principle of the Circular Economy whereby materials and products are designed and produced with the explicit intention of being used, recycled and used again indefinitely.
  • Construction Waste Management – strategies for the control and reduction of waste generated by construction through careful planning, surveying and ordering of construction materials with the objectives of lowering construction costs, maximising the use of salvaged and recycled materials and reducing the extent to which waste is disposed of via landfill.
  • Construction Playbook – Government Guidance on sourcing and contracting public works projects and programmes, including on how to improve green delivery.
  • Embodied Carbon – the carbon footprint of a building or infrastructure project before it becomes operational. It includes any CO2 created during manufacture and transport of materials and construction method used.
  • Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) – quicker means of construction using fewer resources, with a particular focus on off-site techniques such as mass production and factory assembly.
  • PAS2080 – the global standard for managing infrastructure carbon, authored to meet World Trade Organisation requirements.
  • Social Value – how contracting authorities evaluate the wider societal benefits of tenders beyond pure financial considerations, including how they achieve environmental objectives.

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – a certificate showing how energy-efficient a property is, giving it a rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient), and is valid for 10 years. An EPC contains information about a property’s energy usage and typical energy costs and recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money.
  • MEES Regulations – require a minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) to be met before properties in England and Wales can be let in certain circumstances.
  • Green lease – standard form lease with additional clauses included which provide for the management and improvement of the environmental performance of a building by both owner and occupier(s).
  • Green finance loans based on sustainability performance of a building.
  • ECV: Electric vehicle charging.

ICT, Data and Corporate
  • Climate modelling – the use of large-scale data to map and predict changes to the climate.
  • Climate technology – all know-how, technology, inventions, data, and technical or scientific information and associated documentation relating to climate change.
  • Digital Decarbonisation – the implementation of established approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonising the energy required for operating processes in a technology-neutral way.
  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Criteria – a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. Environmental criteria are used to evaluate companies’ sustainability.
  • E-Waste – electronic waste or e-waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Used electronics which are destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage recycling through material recovery, or disposal are also considered e-waste.
  • Green Data Centre – data repositories for systems designed for maximising energy efficiency and minimising environmental impact. Green data centres use advanced technologies for data storage, management, and operations on the data.
  • Green Deal Data Space – to use the major potential of data in support of the Green Deal priority actions on climate change, circular economy, zero pollution, biodiversity, deforestation and compliance assurance.
  • Green Deal Data Space – to use the major potential of data in support of the Green Deal priority actions on climate change, circular economy, zero pollution, biodiversity, deforestation and compliance assurance.
  • Green Information Technology – the practice of environmentally sustainable computing. It aims to minimise the negative impact of IT operations on the environment by designing, manufacturing, operating, and disposing of computers and computer-related product in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Smart Towns and Cities – a smart town or city is a technologically modern urban area that uses different types of technology to benefit town centres, high streets and communities. From free public Wi-Fi to data collection of footfall, Smart Towns and Cities are defined by their intelligent use of integrated energy, IT, and transport technologies to reduce their environmental impact and offer citizens better lives.
  • The Technology Mechanism – within the UN Climate Change process, countries have confirmed the importance of enhancing technology development and transfer to developing countries. To facilitate this, the Conference of the Parties established the Technology Mechanism. The Technology Mechanism consists of two bodies: the Technology Executive Committee (the policy arm) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (the implementing arm).

  • Biodiversity Net Gain – an approach associated with development and land management which aims to deliver measurable improvements to the environment/biodiversity by creating or enhancing habitats. For planning this means that development will need to increase levels of biodiversity present on a site.
  • Conservation Covenant – an agreement between a landowner and a body (such as a charity or local authority) to do or not to do something on the land for a conservation purpose.
  • Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) – a green space which is of a particular type and quality suitable for use as mitigation to offset the impact of new residential development on sites protected for their ecology, such as Special Protection Areas. Their purpose is to provide an alternative greenspace and they are designed in line with Natural England’s guidelines to attract residents of new developments away from protected areas.
  • Carbon Offset – an increase in carbon storage (e.g., through planting trees) elsewhere or a monetary contribution used to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions created by development.
  • District Heating Network – networks of underground pipes carrying hot water that supply heat from a central source. These networks can cover large areas (such as an entire city) or supply a small local area (a residential building, for example). Such heating networks are a low carbon cost effective way to produce heating. As the networks grow, they become more efficient and have a higher potential for carbon saving.

Green Ideas

  • Local authority litigators should bear in mind the following principles:
    • refrain from using hard copy documents except where necessary;
    • collect e-signatures and hold meetings and hearings remotely where possible; and
    • travel to unavoidable in-person hearings using more environmentally friendly modes of transport.
  • Litigators should also recognise the requirement for enforcement regimes to have teeth, particularly in relation to building and housing standards and environmental offences.


Gardening leave – can it get any greener? Instead of only asking former employees to stay away from the business, clients and competitors, it could be a requirement for the individual to volunteer their skills to a worthwhile ‘green’ cause i.e. tending to the world’s garden as well as your own (is that too cheesy?!)

  • Introduce non-cash benefits to employees e.g. cycle to work scheme, workplace charging and e-vehicle schemes (which also can have great tax benefits)
  • Introduce a couple of days of volunteering days (fully paid) where employees can get out in the community and give back – great for CSR and the reputation of the firm.
  • As an increasing number of contracts are now being e-signed, the same can apply to employment contracts. Not only greener, but often much easier to find years after the execution of the document.
  • Pensions – it is thought that 5% of employees are oblivious to their pension’s carbon emissions – give employees the option to choose a pension provider that will invest in ways that do not contribute to climate change