The effects of climate change on food safety, animal and plant health risks are a relatively new area of study. However, the evidence from recent studies is clear: climate change is one of several global change factors that are contributing to increased and new food safety, animal, and plant risks and finally for what we mean by actual civilisation.
Along with other policy measures, standards can have significant impact on climate change adaptation depending on how they are used and by whom they are mandated.
Standardisation and Technological Advances to Mitigate Climate Change
Standards can help achieve the climate changes policy goals because they are meant to clarify commonly accepted definitions, provide methods for measuring and testing and open markets to the safe use of new technologies. This is needed, for example in the case of electricity grids with decentral power producing units, charging stations for electricity as well as for the implementation of sector integration (electricity, gas, building, industry), the use of natural gas grids for renewable and decarbonised gases or new kinds of alternative fuels as well as the safe recycling of materials.
At the international level, the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) has several standards that play an essential role in the climate agenda, helping to monitor climate change, quantify greenhouse gas emissions and promote good practice in environmental management.
One notable example is the ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental management systems, which details practical tools for organisations to manage the impact of their activities on the environment. This suite of standards, which includes one of ISO’s most widely used standards – ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems – Requirements with guidance for use, covers overall frameworks, audits, communications, labelling, life-cycle analysis and methods to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Aligned with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol and compatible with most GHG programmes, the ISO 14064 series gives specifications for the quantification, monitoring, and validation/verification of greenhouse gas emissions, while ISO 14067 specifies the principles, requirements and guidelines for quantifying and reporting the carbon footprint of products. Other standards in this area include ISO 14080, which gives organisations a framework to develop consistent, comparable, and improved methodologies in the fight against climate change, and ISO Guide 84 (2020), provides guidelines for addressing climate change in standards, aimed at those involved in standards development.
Moreover, in 2019 ISO 14090: Adaptation to climate change — Principles, Requirements and Guidelines was approved. The document specifies principles, requirements, and guidelines for adaptation to climate change with focus on understanding impacts and uncertainties and how these can be used to inform decisions.
Addressing Climate Change through European Standardisation Efforts
In regard to Europe, the CEN-CENELEC developed and approved the GUIDE 32- Guide for Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Standards (this guide was the bases for ISO Guide 84 too) in 2016. This guide provides guidance on addressing aspects of climate change adaptation in European standardisation documents applicable to product (including design), service, infrastructure, and testing standards. It is intended to be applicable to both ‘climate-influenced products’ and ‘climate resilience products.’ It is primarily intended for standard writers and aims to enable them to:
- Identify relevant climate impacts
- Include climate change adaptation considerations in new or revised standardisation documents
This was not the first step on behalf of the European Standardisation Organisation. Starting in 2014 the EC, in response to the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change, they requested CEN/CENELEC to contribute to building and maintaining a more climate resilient infrastructure throughout the EU by examining standards in priority sectors:
- Transport infrastructure;
- Energy infrastructure;
- Buildings/ construction
At the European level, work on standards integrating climate change formally started with the set-up of the Adaptation to Climate Change Coordination Group (ACC-CG) in early 2015. The standardisation approach at the European level is sectoral, with elements of horizontal coordination (such as GUIDE 32). The work of the Coordination Group is part of one of the cornerstones of Europe’s adaptation strategy: enhancing resilience of key infrastructures to the effects of a changing climate.
A Dire Situation and Solutions for a Better World
Around the world, countries are experiencing damaging droughts, more frequent natural disasters, and sea-level rise. As climate impacts become increasingly more severe, critical infrastructure is less likely to be able to withstand such forces, putting the health and safety of millions of people at risk, and potentially stunting global development.
A growing number of scientists agree that climate change is irreversible and that its impacts are accelerating – making adaptation, not just mitigation, a necessary endeavour.
Adapting to the changing climate is where standards are playing a major role. As the European Green Deal, the Pan-Canadian Framework and others relies on national/regional consensus-based standards and guidelines for building and maintaining resilient infrastructure that can better support the safety and prosperity of our communities.
Authored by Dr. Speranta Stomff
Head of Project Management
ASRO – Romanian Standards Association