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Glossary of Terms (A-G)

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Measures taken by societies and individuals to adapt to actual or expected adverse impacts on the environment, especially as the result of climate change.  



Short for biological diversity. Refers to the wealth of ecosystems in the biosphere, of species within ecosystems, and of genetic information within populations. 


Carbon offset A financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Although there are six primary categories of greenhouse gases, carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) A family of inert, nontoxic, and easily liquefied chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, and insulation or as solvents and aerosol propellants. Because CFCs are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, they drift into the upper atmosphere, where their chlorine components destroy ozone.
Civil society The totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state (regardless of that state's political system) and commercial institutions.
Climate Change

Change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.


EcologyThe relationship of living things to one another and their environment, or the study of such relationships.
EcosystemThe interacting system of a biological community and its nonliving environmental surroundings.
EffectivenessThe extent to which the development intervention's objectives were achieved, or are expected to be achieved, taking into account their relative importance.
EmissionPollution discharged into the atmosphere from smokestacks, other vents, and surface areas of commercial or industrial facilities, from residential chimneys; and from motor vehicle, locomotive, or aircraft exhausts.
EnvironmentThe sum of all external conditions affecting the life, development, and survival of an organism.
Environmental and social effects IEG's indicator as a part of Development Outcome evaluation, covering: (i) the project's environmental performance in meeting IFC's requirements; and (ii) the project's actual environmental impacts, including pollution loads, conservation of biodiversity and natural resources and, in a broader context, social, cultural and community health aspects, as well as labor and working conditions and workers' health and safety.
Environmental aspect Element of an organizations activities, products and services that can interact with the environment
Environmental assessment A process whose breadth, depth, and type of analysis depend on the proposed project. EA evaluates a project's potential environmental risks and impacts in its area of influence and identifies ways of improving project design and implementation by preventing, minimizing, mitigating, or compensating for adverse environmental impacts and by enhancing positive impacts.
Environmental footprint A measure of human demand on the ecosystems and natural resources .
Environmental Impact Any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from an organization's environmental aspects (as defined in ISO 14001).
Environmental mainstreaming The integration of environmental concerns into macroeconomic and sectoral interventions
Environmental Management Plan The synthesis of all proposed mitigative and monitoring actions, set to a timeline with specific responsibility assigned and follow-up actions defined. The EMP is one of the most important outputs of the environmental assessment process.
Environmental Management System Part of an organization's management system used to develop and implement its environmental policy and manage its environmental aspects.
Environmental objective  Overall environmental goal, consistent with the environmental policy that an organization sets itself to achieve. 
Environmental Performance Measurable results of an organization's management of its environmental aspects.
Environmental Performance Criterion Environmental objective, target, or other intended level of environmental performance set by the management of the organization and used for the purpose of environmental performance evaluation.
Environmental risk assessment An evaluation of the environmental risks associated with a specific intervention.
Environmental Performance Evaluation Process to facilitate management decisions regarding an organization's environmental performance by selecting indicators, collecting and analyzing data, assessing information against environmental performance criteria, reporting and communicating, and periodically reviewing and improving the process (ISO 14031)
Environmental sanitation infrastructure Infrastructure such as a wastewater treatment plant or sanitary landfill designed in part to improve environmental quality although its ultimate purpose is to protect human health and welfare
Environmental sustainability Ensuring that the overall productivity of accumulated human and physical capital resulting from development actions more than compensates for the direct or indirect loss or degradation of the environment. Goal 7 of the UN Millennium Development Goals specifically refers to this in part as integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reversing loss of environmental resources.
ExternalitiesUninternalized costs or benefits resulting from one economic agent's actions that affect the well-being of others. They may be either positive or negative with pollution and other forms of environmental degradation frequently cited as an example of the latter.
Financial intermediary

An institution that performs financial intermediation between two or more parties.


Greenhouse gas Gases in the atmosphere that reduce the loss of heat into space and therefore contribute to global temperatures through the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases- water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons-affect the temperature of the Earth. 

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Note: These definitions are according to the World Bank. IFC definitions may vary.

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