Exacting standards

28th September 2023

In the first of a two-part series, John Dora provides an update on ISO 14090:2019 Adaptation to climate change

This article covers what’s new since 2019, how ISO 14090 and its framework is being supported by new standards on, for example, vulnerability, impact and risk assessment, adaptation pathways and how ISO has a strategy for further adaptation standards. This links to work that has been carried out in Europe - within CEN/ Cenelec, the pan-European Standards Bodies of which BSI is a member, and concludes with case studies showing how many organisations, from the rail industry to National Trust, and other sectors (including policy in low-income countries, and Canadian First Nation) have been using the ISO 14090 framework to improve their own and society’s resilience to the urgent challenges of adaptation.

In a follow-up article I will point to a major initiative that will be good news for IEMA members - how the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency regulatory teams are promoting lighter regulation for those organisations that adopt ISO 14090's international best-practice.

What’s new?

ISO 14090 has been well received, indeed with good feedback from across the world, and is gaining more traction as the climate changes rapidly. I chair ISO’s strategy group which aims to publicise existing standards and develop new ones. New standards since 2019 include:

  • ISO 14091: 2021 Adaptation to climate change — Guidelines on vulnerability, impacts and risk assessment
  • ISO 14092: 2020 Adaptation to climate change — Requirements and guidance on adaptation planning for local governments and communities
  • ISO 14093: 2022 Mechanism for financing local adaptation to climate change — Performance-based climate resilience grants — Requirements and guidelines
  • BS 8631:2021 Adaptation to climate change - Using adaptation pathways for decision making

The ISO strategy prioritises the following areas:

  • Identifying uncertainties: we see the need for guidance on how to deal with uncertainty in climate risks assessment and adaptation
  • Risk assessment: examples of risk assessments and the key ingredients that make them robust
  • Threshold analysis: guidance on what these are in terms of e.g., tipping points, and how to address these
  • Developing adaptive capacities: how an organisation might improve its adaptive capacity and/ or case studies of how others have
  • Preparing a climate change risk assessment: to include relationships between asset management, climate risks assessment and adaptation to climate change.

ISO is also active in signposting its offering in the adaptation space, and at time of publication of this article, a new ISO brochure showing the ISO standards as mentioned should be available.

Lastly, of note is that early in 2021, ISO published a white paper on how ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems can be supported by ISO 14090 [1].

Who’s been using ISO 14090?

We have seen interesting and varied uses of ISO 14090, and IEMA offers accredited training on it. As well as being used to aid the drafting of an adaptation plan – its initial purpose – the standard has been used to gauge adaptation activity against international best practice; to frame research into transport policy; and as part of general guidelines on adaptation (see left for more).

Some examples of initiatives :

International transport policy guidance:

Adaptation for Transport Resilience to Climate Change: A policy guide for low-income countries

  • To assist public and private providers of transport in African and South Asian LICs to increase the resilience of road, rail and urban transport infrastructure and services
  • Joint production for IMC Worldwide by University of Birmingham, TRL and funded by UK Aid
  • Used ISO 14090 framework as core structure in analysing capability of existing policies – highly praised by Project Advisory Group\

UK Rail Regulator

  • Used ISO 14090 framework to gauge Network Rail’s Weather Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation plans and strategies against international best practice
  • Regulator required analyses of operator plans
  • Lessons learned include aligning metrics to suit the system
  • i.e., with the movement of people and freight rather than against timetables

UIC – International Union of Railways

  • Global organisation for railways
  • 200 members in 95 countries
  • Published ‘RailAdapt’ in 2017
  • Made use of ISO 14090 as source material
  • Strong on adaptive capacity recommendations

First Nations Infrastructure Resilience Toolkit (FN-IRT)

  • For the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation
  • The climate risk assessment module is also based on the www.PIEVC.ca Protocol and is also called the FN-PIEVC
  • PIEVC also refers to ISO 14090

In Conclusion

It is four years since ISO 14090 was published and since then, as demonstrated, many organisations have benefitted from its structured though flexible framework for adaptation to climate change. New standards supporting this standard are evolving, through the ISO adaptation strategy and in other standardisation bodies. Experience in its application is, encouragingly, leading to wide uptake across global organisations and institutions in many, diverse sectors.

[1] https://committee.iso.org/site...

John Dora is a director at Climate Sense (www.climatesense.global) and a Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Birmingham. He chaired the team that drafted ISO 14090 and is a recognised international expert on adaptation.

Image credit: Shutterstock


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