Developing standards for emerging approaches to climate change

Guest post by Klaus Radunsky, chair of the mirror committee to ISO TC207/SC7 at Austrian Standardization Institute, Austria / 4 November 2020

[The views of guest post authors are their own. C2G does not necessarily endorse the opinions stated in guest posts. We do, however, encourage a constructive conversation involving multiple viewpoints and voices.]

The extent of future climate change will depend on the world‘s efforts to limit atmospheric greenhouse gases – whether by reducing emissions, or through sequestration – and to manage other factors that affect the balance of solar energy heating the earth, known as radiative forcing (e.g. aerosols, albedo).

These measures could include new proposed approaches to alter the climate, such as large-scale carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification.

In the potential development of these emerging approaches, the role of internationally agreed standards will be crucial. Markets and industry need urgent guidance on these topics, because of the significant lead times required for large-scale implementation.

To that end, ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) – through a key sub-committee, known as SC7 of TC207– is already preparing standards in areas that have not been addressed by the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such as radiative forcing management and carbon neutrality.

However, so far only a few countries have been able to nominate experts to the working groups preparing those standards. Given the relevance of these topics to climate action, broader engagement is strongly encouraged.

How does the ISO work?

ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization, with a current membership of 164 national standards bodies.

Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.

There are many actors directly involved in the ISO standards development process. These include the ISO Central Secretariat (ISO/CS) located in Geneva (Switzerland), ISO committee chairs and secretaries, national standards bodies (NSBs), working group convenors and experts, as well as P- or full members and Observer-members (“ISO Actors”).

The four key principles in ISO standard development are:

  1. Respond to need in the market
  2. Based on global expert opinion
  3. Developed through a multistakeholder process
  4. Based on consensus

Environmental management standards to help reduce environmental impacts, reduce waste and be more sustainable are usually developed under ISO Technical Committee 207.

More specifically: the scope of TC207 is standardization in the field of environmental management to address environmental and climate impacts, including related social and economic aspects, in support of sustainable development. [1]

Greenhouse gas management and related activities, including adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainability, is the scope of Sub Committee 7 of TC207. SC7 currently has 61 participating members.

Relevant standards that already exist

Ten standards have been published already under SC7. Some are key elements of emissions trading schemes worldwide, and are widely used by organisations engaged in emissions trading.

Others, such as the carbon footprint standard are also widely used although, usually without linkage to legislation.

  • ISO 14064-1: 2018 Greenhouse gases — Part 1: Specification with guidance at the organization level for quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals
  • ISO 14064-2: 2019 Greenhouse gases — Part 2: Specification with guidance at the project level for quantification, monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions or removal enhancements
  • ISO 14064-3: 2019 Greenhouse gases — Part 3: Specification with guidance for the verification and validation of greenhouse gas statements
  • ISO 14065: 2013 Greenhouse gases — Requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for use in accreditation or other forms of recognition
  • ISO 14066: 2011 Greenhouse gases — Competence requirements for greenhouse gas validation teams and verification teams
  • ISO 14067: 2018 Greenhouse gases — Carbon footprint of products — Requirements and guidelines for quantification
  • ISO / TR 14069: 2013 Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for organizations — Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1
  • ISO 14080: 2018 Greenhouse gas management and related activities — Framework and principles for methodologies on climate actions
  • ISO 14090: 2019 Adaptation to climate change — Principles, requirements and guidelines
  • ISO / TS 14092: 2020 Adaptation to climate change — Requirements and guidance on adaptation planning for local governments and communities
Relevant standards under preparation

The following nine standards are currently under preparation. Under normal circumstances, their preparation should not take more than 3 years. However, the COVID-19 crisis makes it impossible to have face-to-face meetings, meaning this work has to be done through virtual meetings, in which progress is still possible, but more time is usually required (and provided).

  • ISO / FDIS 14065 Greenhouse gases — General principles and requirements for bodies validating and verifying environmental information
  • ISO / WD 14068 Greenhouse gas management and related activities — Carbon neutrality (Note : this work item has potential linkages to carbon dioxide removal, including negative emissions technologies)
  • ISO / AWI TR 14069 Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for organizations — Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1
  • ISO / AWI 14082 Radiative Forcing Management— Guidance for the quantification and reporting of radiative forcing-based climate footprints and mitigation efforts (Note : this work item has potential linkages to approaches such as solar radiation modification)
  • ISO / WD 14083 Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions arising from operations of transport chains
  • ISO / FDIS 14091 Adaptation to climate change — Guidelines on vulnerability, impacts and risk assessment
  • ISO / WD 14093 Mechanism for financing local adaptation to climate change: Performance-based climate resilience grants
  • ISO / DIS 14097 Framework including principles and requirements for assessing and reporting investments and financing activities related to climate change
  • ISO / DIS 19694-1 Stationary source emissions — Determination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in energy-intensive industries — Part 1: General aspects

Individuals or companies cannot become ISO members, but there are ways they can take part in standardization work. If interested organisations want to get involved, they should contact their national standards body. They would then have to be nominated by those to the relevant technical committee/subcommittee and working group. Significant advantages to businesses include early access to information that could shape the market in the future, and a voice in the development of standards. The list of national members can be found on the web.

[1] Excluded are test methods of pollutants, setting limit values and levels of environmental performance, and standardization of products.

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