Standards in support of the Green Deal: Climate ambition | Agoria

Standards in support of the Green Deal: Climate ambition

Published on 12/04/21 by Dirk De Moor
Through the Green Deal, the European Commission has set a series of ambitious goals to transition towards a fully green economy and reach the global climate target of net zero by 2050. To reach these objectives, all actors involved will have to rethink the way to produce and consume, the way our infrastructures work, the use of resources and the functioning of transportation systems.

CEN and CENELEC, as two of the officially recognised European Standardization Organizations (ESOs), know that European Standards (ENs) have a key role to play in making the Green Deal reality. This role, acknowledged by the European Green Deal itself, is presented in the newly-published position paper “Standards in support of the European Green Deal Commitments”.

Standards have the potential to support a wealth of policy initiatives related to many sectors ranging from climate mitigation and circular economy, to biodiversity preservation and a toxic-free environment. In order to achieve EU’s objectives of decarbonization and circular economy, the way we design and develop products, processes and services will need to be re-thought. Similarly, the content of standards might need to be adapted and further developed to support this endeavor.

In 4 articles based on the CEN-CENELEC position paper, the contribution of standards to the 4 most relevant goals for our sectors will be highlighted:

  • Climate ambition
  • Clean, affordable, resilient and secure energy
  • Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy
  • Sustainable and smart mobility

Climate ambition

Several aspects of the climate ambition are covered by standards, either already existing or being developed, and often already used in support of EU policy (e.g. EU ETS Emissions Trading System, EU Climate Adaptation Strategy).

Many companies and banks already provide information on the CO2 footprint of their products and investments. For the sake of transparency and comparability, it is important that standardized methodologies are used.

Standards on carbon quantification are specifications providing crucial guidance to public and private organizations on the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals (at the organization level and project level) as well as verification and validation of greenhouse gas statements. Since 2018, EN ISO 14067 “Greenhouse gases - Carbon footprint of products - Requirements and guidelines for quantification” assists organizations to perform and report a carbon footprint for products and the EN 19694 “Stationary source emissions - Determination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in energy-intensive industries “ series in the determination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in energy- intensive industries such as the iron and steel industry, the cement industry, the aluminium industry, the lime and ferroalloy industry.

Carbon footprint of buildings is part of the environmental performance assessment as covered by CEN/TC 350 “Sustainability of construction works” standards, EN 15804+A2 “Sustainability of construction works - Environmental product declarations - Core rules for the product category of construction products” for construction products and EN 15978 “Sustainability of construction works - Assessment of environmental performance of buildings - Calculation method” for buildings, expressed as “Global Warming Potential” GWP-indicator, as defined in EN ISO 14067. Further work on the assessment of methane emissions in the gas transmission and distribution infrastructure is under its initial developments in CEN/TC 234 'Gas infrastructure'.

Many organizations are also assessing and reporting their ‘water footprint’. This can improve the efficiency of water use and decisions on equitable water allocations to consumers and the environment and are important aspects of adapting to climate change. EN ISO 14046 specifies principles, requirements and guidelines related to water footprint assessment of products, processes and organizations based on life cycle assessment (LCA).

A more general approach has been followed by development of standards, which focus on the cost of using or impacting the natural environment and ISO standards may also be of use in conjunction with the intended carbon border taxation.

The ISO 14030 “Environmental performance evaluation — Green debt instruments“family of standards is being developed and will be relevant to stimulate climate-proof debt instruments. Moreover, standards are currently being developed defining a framework and principles for assessing and reporting investments and financing activities related to climate change, as well as assessing projects, assets and activities seeking green finance.

Finally, standards on Sustainable Finance are being developed that include terms and definitions and a framework with principles and guidelines for implementation (ISO/TC 322 'Sustainable finance'). A small number of financial institutions are already calculating their impact on biodiversity, including the potential impact on biodiversity of the ways in which water systems are managed, or their social impact and want to assess how their investments can contribute to biodiversity. Here too a standardized methodology might be beneficial.

At EU-wide level, CEN is involved in the Environmental Footprint initiative, and closely follows the applicability of the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) of verification, reporting and validation of energy efficiency and carbon footprint. The EMAS Regulation, reproducing sections of EN ISO 14001, helps organizations to publish their carbon footprint in a transparent, verifiable and third party verified manner and thus provides the prerequisite for demonstrating compliance with policies and strategies at corporate and societal level.

CEN members also influence international standards in ISO on adaptation to climate change, sustainability criteria for bioenergy and with regards to carbon footprint (EN ISO 14064), and related verification standards (EN ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 17029) as well as energy efficiency and energy management (ISO 50001) and energy auditing (ISO 50002/EN 16247).

EN ISO 14090 series provide guidance and technical specification including for climate adaptation planning and vulnerability assessment. This includes the integration of adaptation within or across organizations, understanding impacts and uncertainties and how these can be used to inform solutions to enhance resilience in any organizational unit or sector e.g in cities, infrastructure systems like transport, agriculture and health. The EN ISO 14090 suggests looking at the ‘organization’ as a system of systems, with interdependencies stretching past the usual management chain and, for example, suggests thinking about the future resilience of supply chains.

Standards focusing on “Resilience” also include climate factors and provide standards on integrated management and resilience indicators (ISO/TC 268 'Sustainable cities and communities', CEN/TC 465 ‘Sustainable and Smart Cities and Communities').

European Standards play a vital role in increasing society’s resilience to climate change. A key element in the present EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is ensuring a more resilient infrastructure. The work of the CEN CENELEC Coordination Group on Climate Change Adaptation (ACC CG) and related TC’s in the energy, construction and transport sectors aim at revising infrastructural standards and play a key role in realizing this element of the EU Strategy. Recently, new activities have been added. The ACC-CG will support in standardizing adaptation measures (e.g.: green roofs) which will help in accelerating the performance and use of these measures. Furthermore, action start towards inclusion on future climatic information in construction standards, helping to make constructions across Europe more resilient to climate change.

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