Don’t know your MOP from your COP? You’re not alone. United Nations conferences are awash with organizational and procedural monikers containing more letters than a Welsh train station sign.

The following is a primer on COP10 acronyms; learn them all and you just might be awarded a coveted position with the U.N. CBD COP SBSTTA (Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, an advisory group assisting the biodiversity convention).


Access and Benefit-Sharing. At COP10, delegates are striving to finalize regulations governing access to genetic resources (such as plant compounds that can be used for new medicines) and the equitable sharing of proceeds arising from them. However, developed and developing nations remain divided over the details.


Convention on Biological Diversity, which provides a global legal framework for action on biodiversity.


Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, the CBD’s governing party, which meets every few years to review progress in implementing the CBD and decides on new programs and policies. Currently being held from Oct. 18-29 in Nagoya.


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scientific body that informs climate change policymaking. The hope is that COP10 will create something similar for biodiversity.


Intellectual Property Rights. COP10 will examine sharing IPRs for genetic resources in developing nations between pharmaceutical or other multinational companies and indigenous communities.


International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The largest, most respected environmental conservation NGO (see below), comprising 11,000 volunteer scientists.


Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. From Oct. 11-15, member government delegates thrashed out issues related to living genetically modified organisms (LMOs) such as seeds and genetically engineered fish. The Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety, which came into force in 2003, governs the handling, transport and packaging of LMOs.


National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans. The CBD calls on all nations to develop their own plan for conserving biodiversity, and 177 have done so (including Japan, four times); the United States, which has not ratified the CBD treaty, is not included, although it has passed some thorough species-conservation and recovery policies.


Non-Governmental Organizations (also collectively referred to as “civil society”). Although they lack official standing, NGOs wield increasing clout at environmental conferences. Major biodiversity-linked groups include the IUCN, World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Nature Conservancy.

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