Terms & Definitions


In order to fully engage with the proposed solutions in the City's Climate Action Plan, please review the following key terms and definitions. These terms have been denoted throughout the entire website by an underline and are linked to this page to easily review anywhere in the process.

General terms

Climate change:

Climate change refers to the long-term changes in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas level in Earth’s atmospheres and raises Earth’s average surface temperature. Key indicator of climate change from the data record include: global land and ocean temperature increases; rising sea levels; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; frequency and severity of changes in extreme events such as hurricanes, heatwaves, droughts, and floods; and cloud and vegetation cover changes. These changes have a broad range of observed effects for systems and communities across the world (NASA).

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

A gas that absorbs and traps heat in the atmosphere. Some common GHGs include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases.

Climate action plan:

Comprehensive roadmaps that outline specific activities that a government or institution will undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate mitigation:

Climate mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases

Climate adaptation:

Climate adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize damage or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise.

Carbon neutrality:

Reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal.

Carbon sequestration:

Long-term removal or capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through natural or artificial means.

A science-based climate target sets a rate of climate action1 that is aligned with keeping average global temperature increases below a specified level of increase (such as 2°C) compared to pre-industrial temperatures. A science-based target is based on the physical characteristics of the earth's atmosphere and how atmospheric changes are expected to affect the biosphere.

Science-based targets:


Emissions-specific terms

Community greenhouse gas inventory:

A quantitative estimation of greenhouse gas emissions for which the community as a whole is responsible for in a given year. An inventory typically includes multiple sectors, including residential, commercial, industrial, transportation/mobile emissions, and waste. A community greenhouse gas inventory is the sum of local and imported emissions.

Local emissions:

Imported emissions:

Refrigerant loss:

Leaks of refrigerant from air conditioning systems that contribute to climate change because refrigerants are powerful greenhouse gases. Refrigerant loss and leakage can also mean less energy-efficient appliances, leading to higher energy and service costs.

MT CO2e:

Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent – a unit of measure. Most greenhouse gases are more potent in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. In order to calculate and compare emissions easily, all gases are calculated and combined into a carbon dioxide equivalent, typically measured in metric tons

Emissions generated by and in a specific location, in this case, the City of Edmonds.

Emissions that are generated outside of the community during the production of goods, food, fuels and service products consumed by residents of Edmonds.

Energy-specific terms


Solar Power:

Solar power is the conversion of energy from the sun into thermal or electrical energy.

Energy Intensity:

Energy intensity is the measured quantity of energy required per unit output or activity. In other words, using less energy to produce a product reduces the intensity.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED):

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. It is a third-party green building certification system that focuses on efficiency and delivering the triple bottom line of “people, planet, and profit.”


The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health (Zero Waste International Alliance).

Transportation-specific terms


Vehicle miles traveled (VMT):

Vehicle miles traveled is a metric used in transportation planning to measure the cumulative mile traveled by all vehicles in a geographic region over a given time period.

Active transportation:

Transit oriented development (TOD):

Any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation used to get to and from destinations. Active transportation can be any form of movement from walking to rolling.

Transit-oriented development, or TOD, includes a mix of commercial, residential, office and entertainment centered around or located near a transit station. Dense, walkable, mixed-use development near transit attracts people and adds to vibrant, connected communities (Federal Transit Administration).