COP 21: Standards to tackle climate change under development

1st December 2015

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Matthew Prescott

A surge in demand for standards to tackle climate change is driving the development of next generation standards currently underway, according to a panel of experts.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (GHGMI) held a panel discussion on the sidelines of the UNFCCC talks in Paris.

Tom Bauman, co-founder of the GHGMI and chair of a technical committee working on climate change mitigation and adaptation standards at the ISO, said that it had received a large number of requests over the past 18 months for new climate change standards.

Nick Blyth, policy and practice lead at IEMA, said that the demand for new standards was driven partly by a general increase in awareness of the impacts of climate change as well as the publication of the revised ISO 14001 environmental management standard. The revised 14001: 2015 standard requires organisations to consider the impact of the environment, including climate change, on their operations as well as their impact on the environment.

"The revised ISO 14001 should introduce more people to climate change, which will then lead them into the scope of other GHG standards," he said.

More than 324,000 organisations worldwide were certified to 14001 in 2014, according to the ISO's latest figures. The high rate of use is bringing climate change into mainstream environmental management systems, Blyth added.

Chikako Makino, from the International Accreditation Forum, is leading work on ISO 14080, which will provide a framework for standards on climate change mitigation and adaptation. The standard will help local authorities, cities, the private sector and others to develop consistent and effective adaptation and mitigation schemes to meet greenhouse gas reduction programmes and the requirements of climate finance, she said.

Ira Feldman, who is working with the GHGMI and the ISO on a framework for a standard covering climate change adaptation, said that a one-size fits all approach would not be appropriate for adaptation.

What works for the private sector would not necessarily work for the public sector, and the same goes for standards for organisations based in developing countries and those in developed countries. A survey undertaken by the committee developing the standard found that developed countries were most interested in green infrastructure and city resilience, while developing countries were more interested in coastal regions, he said.

In September, the committee decided to move ahead with a high-level framework standard, and progress work on three other potential issues - monitoring and verification, planning and vulnerability assessment. One of the three will be chosen to take forward to a standard, Feldman said.

Meanwhile, Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of the Gold Standard Foundation, told delegates about work on a new standard, V3.0, which will launch in 2016. This standard aims to bring a holistic approach to tackling climate change and the new sustainable development goals agreed by world leaders in September. The standard should help organisations balance the trade-offs between energy, water and land use issues, he said.

Looking to the future, Joe Madden, chief executive of US-based EOS Climate, said standards could be used to provide capital markets with the robust data they need to integrate and price external impacts of commodities in markets. "The biggest opportunity for standards would be to enable markets to differentiate materials by impact," he said.

He gave the example of different types of oil, which trade equally on capital markets even though they may have different greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts when their whole life impacts are considered.

The UNFCCC is closely involved in the ISO's work on next generation climate standards, according to Feldman. He said that the ISO and UNFCCC are working in parallel on issues around monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

MRV is one of the issues being debated at the Paris talks so that countries' action on climate change is transparent. The principle of a regular stocktake of countries' performance is generally accepted, though details on how this would work are yet to be agreed. A global deal could include plans for countries to report on both mitigation and adaptation and possibly finance, according to David Waskow, director of the World Resources Institute climate change initiative.

IEMA has been running a climate change campaign, #IEMANoCOPOut.

As part of the campaign, it ran a series of seven webinars with high-level speakers. Bill Donovan of the Environment Agency joined Nick Blyth to talk about adaptation.


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