This glossary includes abbreviations and is prepared by the Institute to create common terminology for our research. Where possible, we have included links to international work to support our definitions.

Last updated as at October 2023.

Agenda 21
Agenda 21 is a (300 pages) comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations system, governments, and major groups in every arena in which human activity impacts on the environment.

Anew NZ
An independent, non-partisan network of motivated and concerned New Zealanders seeking a sustainable future .

Baseline scenarios

Baseline scenarios are singular scenarios created to act as a control within a group of scenarios. For example, in regard to the climate, baseline scenarios are ‘scenarios that are based on the assumption that no emission mitigation policies or measures will be implemented beyond those that are already in force and/or are legislated or planned to be adopted. Baseline scenarios are not intended to be predictions of the future, but rather counterfactual constructions that can serve to highlight the level of emissions that would occur without further policy effort.

Bellagio Principles
Refer IISD

Civil Society Organisations
All civic organisations, associations and networks which occupy the ‘social space’ between the family and the State and who come together to advocate their common interests through collective action. It includes volunteer and charity groups, parents and teachers associations, senior citizens groups, sports clubs, arts and culture groups, faith-based groups, workers clubs and trade unions, non-profit think-tanks and ‘issue-based’ activist groups.

Climate models

Carbon Brief, a UK-based website specialising in the science and policy of climate change, describes a climate model as ‘an extension of weather forecasting, but focusing on changes over decades rather than hours’. A global climate model takes ‘hundreds of scientists many years to build and improve; and it can require a supercomputer the size of a tennis court to run. The models themselves come in different forms – from those that just cover one particular region of the world or part of the climate system, to those that simulate the atmosphere, oceans, ice and land for the whole planet.’

Climate statements

Section 5 of the Financial Reporting Act 2013 defines climate statements as ‘the climate-related disclosures for the entity as at the balance date, or in relation to the accounting period ending at the balance date, that are required to be prepared in respect of the entity by an applicable climate standard.’ For example, an entity (that is identified as a climate reporting entity under the Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021) would include a section in their annual report that aligns with the XRB’s Aotearoa New Zealand Climate Standards and discloses company information against these standards.

Climate-related reference scenarios

Climate-related reference scenarios are reference scenarios that explore the impacts of climate change. For example, climate-related reference scenarios could explore Aotearoa New Zealand under various Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), such as RCP 2.6 (below 2.0°C), RCP 6.0 (1.4°C–3.1°C), and RCP 8.5 (2.6°C–4.8°C). In contrast to projections and sensitivity analysis, climate-related reference scenarios should include more variables, such as social, economic, and technological responses. Rather than attempting to predict the future (as with projections), they should generate many possible (but not necessarily likely) future worlds.

Climate-related scenarios

Climate-related scenarios are scenarios that are intended to provide an opportunity for organisations to develop their ability to better understand and prepare for the uncertain future impacts of climate change.

The External Reporting Board (XRB) defines climate-related scenarios in Aotearoa New Zealand Climate Standard 3: General Requirements for Climate-related Disclosures (NZ CS 3) as  ‘A plausible, challenging description of how the future may develop based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces and relationships covering both physical and transition risks in an integrated manner. Climate-related scenarios are not intended to be probabilistic or predictive, or to identify the ‘most likely’ outcome(s) of climate change. They are intended to provide an opportunity for entities to develop their internal capacity to better understand and prepare for the uncertain future impacts of climate change.’

Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)
The United Nations CSD was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. [Before 1992, the above task was completed by the WCED.]

Department for International Development (DFID)
The DFID is the part of the UK Government that manages Britain’s aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty. It is headed by a Cabinet minister, one of the senior ministers in the Government, reflecting the importance the UK Government places on reducing poverty around the world. DFID has two headquarters (in London and East Kilbride, near Glasgow) and 25 offices overseas. Almost half of its 2500 staff work abroad.

Development Assistance Committee (DAC) (of the OECD)
The Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is a forum for consultation among 22 donor countries and the European Commission on how to increase the level and effectiveness of aid flows to all aid recipient countries. The member countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and United States.

Environment Liaison Center (ELC)
Environment Liaison Centre International is an old non-governmental organization (NGO), by most standards: it emerged from the first Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972, and was established in Nairobi in 1974 to track international environmental processes when the United Nations Environment Programme was located there.

European Community (EC)
The 15 member states and the common institutions, notably the European Commission, cooperating on a range of economic and other issues in supra-national integration.

European Development Fund
The European Development Fund is the main route through which EC funds committed to the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific under the Cotonou Convention are channelled.

European Union (EU)
Created by the Treaty of Maastricht 1992, which enhanced the integration of the European Community but also enabled the member states to cooperate together in an inter-governmental, not supra-national, way in the areas of Common Foreign and Security Policy Justice and Home Affairs.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a multi-stakeholder process and independent institution whose mission is to develop and disseminate globally applicable Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is a measure of how big an economy is. Nominal GDP is expressed in current prices i.e. in the common dollars that we all know and love. Real GDP is expressed in constant prices i.e. in the dollar values of a particular year, which is known as the base period. Real GDP is in effect nominal GDP after adjustment for inflation. Changes in real GDP are often referred to as volume increases in GDP, and are a measure of economic growth.

Gross National Income (GNI)
Previously known as Gross National Product, Gross National Income comprises the total value of goods and services produced within a country (i.e. its Gross Domestic Product), together with its income received from other countries (notably interest and dividends), minus similar payments made to other countries.

G7/G8 Group
The G7 Group of major industrialised democracies comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. The Group of Eight (G8) includes Russia. Their heads of government meet annually at the G7/G8 Summit to discuss areas of global concern.

Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (IEEA)
Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (IEEA) is an operational tool that tracks resource use, natural resource depletion and the resulting environmental degradation, hence providing a more real indicator for sustainable development.

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Established in 1988, its first report provided the initial scientific evidence of climate change.

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
The International Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1919 with an overriding aim that remains unchanged: to serve world business by promoting trade and investment, open markets for goods and services, and the free flow of capital.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
IIED is an independent, non-profit organization promoting sustainable patterns of world development through collaborative research, policy studies, networking and knowledge dissemination. It works to address global issues, for example; mining, the paper industry and food systems.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Founded in 1990, the IISD is in the business of promoting change towards sustainable development. Through research and effective communication of their findings, they engage decision-makers in government, business, NGOs and other sectors to develop and implement policies that are simultaneously beneficial to the global economy, the global environment and to social well-being. In 1996, the IISD with others developed, in cooperation with a group of leading international practitioners, the Bellagio Principles . The Bellagio Principles identify common patterns in sustainable development-related assessments.

International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund aims to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange stability, and orderly exchange arrangements; to foster economic growth and high levels of employment; and to provide temporary financial assistance to countries to help ease balance of payments adjustment.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
The World Conservation Union is the world’s largest and most important conservation network. The Union brings together 82 States, 111 government agencies, more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The World Conservation Union is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.

Inter-Parliamentary Union Meeting (IPU)
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was founded in 1889 by two backbench MPs: Frederic Passy from France, and William Randal Cremer from Westminster. It is a world-wide organisation of parliamentarians working for peace and cooperation among peoples and the firm establishment of representative institutions.

Local and national scenarios

Scenarios can relate to a local community or a national community. Although both are useful, the Institute’s primary interest is in impacts to the country from a national perspective.

Marrakesh Agreement
The Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization [in 1994], often referred to as ‘the Marrakesh Agreement’, embodies the results of the Uruguay Round. The Agreement defines the institutional framework, objectives and functions of the new organization. In addition, a number of important specific agreements and understandings negotiated during the Uruguay Round are incorporated into this Agreement as Annexes.

Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
A set of eight international development goals for 2015, adopted by the international community in the UN Millennium Declaration in September 2000, and endorsed by IMF, World Bank and OECD.

  • eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • achieve universal primary education
  • promote gender equality and empower women
  • reduce child mortality
  • improve maternal health
  • combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • ensure environmental sustainability
  • develop a global partnership for development

Alongside the goals, a series of 18 targets were also drawn up to give the international community a number of tangible improvements to aim for within a fixed period of time, and also make it easier for them to measure their progress to date. The intention is that almost all of these targets will be achieved by 2015.

National Strategies for Sustainable Development (NSSD) [also known as NSDS]
This web site, funded by DFID (UK) and SIDA, provides tools to assist in promoting dialogues on national strategies for sustainable development and providing necessary background information and reference material in support of these dialogues. Overall objectives are to:

  • Improve international understanding of the key challenges and modalities for developing and implementing effective NSSD’s.
  • Elaborate good practices for donors in assisting developing countries with the formulation and implementation of NSSD’s.
  • Inform bilateral donor response to developing country requests for support of NSSD processes.

National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS)
Refer NSSD

New Zealand Programme of Action (NZPOA)
The New Zealand Programme of Action, published in January 2003, focuses on the practical application of the sustainable development approach to certain key issues, including: water quality and allocation, energy, sustainable cities and child and youth development.

Non-governmental organisations (NGO)
These are private non-profit making bodies which are active in development work. To qualify for official support UK non-governmental organizations must be registered charities.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is a unique forum where the governments of 30 market democracies work together to address the economic, social, environmental and governance challenges of the globalising world economy, as well as to exploit its opportunities.

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
OECS came into being on 18 June 1981, when seven Eastern Caribbean countries signed a treaty agreeing to cooperate with each other and promote unity and solidarity. Their mission is to be a major regional institution contributing to the sustainable development of the OECS Member States by assisting them to maximise the benefits from their collective space; by facilitating their intelligent integration with the global economy; contributing to policy and program formulation and execution in respect of regional and international issues, and by facilitation of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE)
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) aims to maintain and improve the quality of New Zealand’s environment. The central focus is on environmental sustainability – how we can live within the ecological limits of the planet today and into the future. As an independent Officer of Parliament, the PCE has wide-ranging powers to investigate environmental concerns. ‘Independent’ means independent of the government of the day, so the PCE reports not to a Government Minister but to Parliament through: the Speaker of the House and the Officers of Parliament Committee.

The Commissioner is quite separate from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE). The Ministry is a government department, responsible to the Minister for the Environment. But as an Officer of Parliament, the Commissioner’s job is to hold the Government to account for its environmental policies and actions. In a practical sense, MfE is a policy adviser and part of the system of agencies that manage the environment. The Parliamentary Commissioner is a policy reviewer outside this system and reporting on it.

The office was set up under the Environment Act 1986, and the Commissioner is appointed for a five-year term. In 2005 Parliament voted $2.319 million to fund the office (details on Treasury’s website).

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP)
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) are prepared by the member countries through a participatory process involving domestic stakeholders as well as external development partners, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Updated every three years with annual progress reports, PRSPs describe the country’s macroeconomic, structural and social policies and programmes over a three year or longer horizon to promote broad-based growth and reduce poverty, as well as associated external financing needs and major sources of financing. Interim PRSPs (I-PRSPs) summarize the current knowledge and analysis of a country’s poverty situation, describe the existing poverty reduction strategy, and lay out the process for producing a fully developed PRSP in a participatory fashion. The country documents, along with the accompanying IMF/World Bank Joint Staff Assessments (JSAs), are being made available on the World Bank and IMF websites by agreement with the member country as a service to users of the World Bank and IMF websites.

Programme of Action (POA) or (NZPOA)
This January 2003 New Zealand programme of action focuses on the practical application of the sustainable development approach to certain key issues, including:

  • water quality and allocation
  • energy
  • sustainable cities
  • child and youth development.

Reference scenarios

Reference scenarios are scenarios developed without too much detail, usually by government, as a base for users to build upon, in order to test policy or business decisions. There is normally more than one, e.g. a bestcase scenario and a worst-case scenario. Reference scenarios are often confused with baseline scenarios.

The EU defines a reference scenario as ‘an informed, internally consistent, and policy relevant projection on the future developments … that acts as a benchmark for new policy initiatives’

Rio Earth Summit
Rio Earth Summit is the 1992 meeting of the UNCED.

Rio +5
Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21 New York, 23 -27 June 1997.

Rio +10
Earth Summit 2002, Johannesburg.


NIWA defines scenarios as ‘[p]lausible and often simplified descriptions of how the future may develop based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces and key relationships. Scenarios may be derived from projections but are often based on additional information from other sources and sometimes combined with a narrative storyline.’

DPMC states ‘[g]ood scenarios cover multiple futures not just one future, are plausible and non-linear, are provocative and explore assumptions, are concise and clear, and create an immersive experience.’

See also climate-related scenarios above.

Specific scenarios

Specific scenarios are scenarios that may be local or national in nature but explore a specific subject area or industry, such as climate change or the geothermal industry. This distinction is important as the Institute is more interested in some subject areas than others.

Strategies for Achieving the International Development Targets (or Target Strategy Papers)
These DFID papers set out the key development challenges to be addressed in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The papers also explore the action needed by the international community, developing country governments, civil society, the private sector and others in order to achieve the targets. Finally the papers explain what DFID will do to contribute to that effort.

Sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand (SANZ)
SANZ is a diverse group of individuals and organisations that have met in order to progress sustainable development in New Zealand through leadership, advocacy, networking, education and support.

Sustainable Development Commission (SDC)
The Sustainable Development Commission is the UK Government’s independent advisory body on sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Reporting Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (SDRC)
The SDRC was established in 2003 and is a national committee of the Institute.

Sustainability Special Interest Group New Zealand (SSIG)
A special interest member group that is linked to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (SDRC). SSIG

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is a government agency that reports to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In August 2004 Sida had 769 employees of whom 165 were working abroad, usually at one of Sida’s approximately 40 offices in the partner countries. The Government appoints the members of Sida’s board and Sida’s director general. Sida is responsible for most of Sweden’s contributions to international development cooperation. In 2004, the contributions amounted in total to SEK 21 751 millions. The goal of Sida’s work is to improve the standard of living of poor people and, in the long term, to eradicate poverty.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, 3–14 June 1992

United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat is a vital interface between global policies in the economic, social and environmental spheres and national action. The Department works in three main interlinked areas: (i) it compiles, generates and analyses a wide range of economic, social and environmental data and information on which Member States of the United Nations draw to review common problems and to take stock of policy options; (ii) it facilitates the negotiations of Member States in many intergovernmental bodies on joint courses of action to address ongoing or emerging global challenges; and (iii) it advises interested Governments on the ways and means of translating policy frameworks developed in United Nations conferences and summits into programmes at the country level and, through technical assistance, helps build national capacities.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
The regional arm of the United Nations Secretariat for the Asian and Pacific region is the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). The functions of UNESCAP have been defined by the Secretary-General as follows:

  1. Promoting economic and social development through regional and sub regional cooperation and integration;
  2. Serving as the main economic and social development forum within the United Nations system for the UNESCAP region;
  3. Formulating and promoting development assistance activities and projects commensurate with the needs and priorities of the region while acting as an executing agency for relevant operational projects;
  4. Providing substantive and secretariat services and documentation for the Commission and its subsidiary bodies;
  5. Carrying out studies, research and other activities within the terms of reference of the Commission;
  6. Providing advisory services to governments at their request;
  7. Developing and executing programmes of technical cooperation;
  8. Coordinating UNESCAP activities with those of the major departments/offices of the United Nations at Headquarters and specialized agencies and inter-governmental organizations

United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)
UNFCC represents the international community’s collective response to climate change. It was established at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development which was held in Rio.

World Bank
The term World Bank is commonly used to refer to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association. Three other agencies are also part of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Together these organizations are referred to as the World Bank Group.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The WBCSD is a coalition of 175 international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development via the three pillars of economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. A New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) was established in 1999.

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)
The WCED was established in 1983 by the UN to propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving Sustainable Development by the year 2000 and beyond (resolution 38/161 of 19 December 1983). It was subsequently changed into the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

World Conservation Strategy (WCS)
The United Nations Environment Programme commissioned the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to produce the strategy in 1980. The World Conservation Strategy was first and foremost an attempt to bring conservation and development together.

World Conservation Union (WCU)
The WCU is the world’s largest and most important conservation network. The Union brings together 82 States, 111 government agencies, more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The World Conservation Union is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.

World Resources Institute (WRI)
World Resources Institute is an independent non-profit organization with a staff of more than 100 scientists, economists, policy experts, business analysts, statistical analysts, mapmakers, and communicators working to protect the Earth and improve people’s lives.

World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
The IIED have a home page on the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2002.

World Trade Organisation (WTO)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations [approx 146 member countries] and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.

Also see OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms