by Chad Kymal
According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, Europe’s climate-monitoring organization, July 2023 was the hottest month since records have been kept. What’s more, it’s increasingly likely that 2023 will be the hottest year in recorded history. These soaring temperatures cause a host of problems for human beings and everything else that lives on the Earth.
The scientific evidence strongly suggests that human activity is a leading driver of the dangerous warming of the planet. As such, broad, forward-thinking initiatives will be required to minimize the harmful effects of carbon emissions—and, as usual, the standards-writing community is front-and-center in tackling this complex and important societal issue.
Let me start by defining some terms. “Net Zero,” according to a recent McKinsey report, is “an ideal state where the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released into the earth’s atmosphere is balanced by the amount of GHGs removed. Decarbonization efforts are needed to reach Net Zero.” It may be a good question why IWA 42, the Net Zero standard from ISO, was not cited. Simply said, there is no general consensus yet on how to best define Net Zero. Interestingly, this was debated for a few hours when ISO 14068, the Carbon Neutral standard, was being written—with no consensus on the definition among the experts who were writing it. More on both standards later in this article.
The concept behind “carbon neutrality” can be considered as a step on the path to Net Zero. ISO 14068, which will be a FDIS soon, defines carbon neutrality as “a condition in which during a specified period there has been no net emission of GHGs (3.2.1) to the atmosphere as the carbon footprint (3.2.4) of the subject (3.4.2) has been counterbalanced by offsetting.” So, in basic terms it means we reduce our emissions through climate action initiatives and/or offsets.
These closely interrelated ideas are being considered not only by management and research firms and international agencies, but also closely examined by most national governments. Concerned nations meet annually at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, and more commonly referred to as COP. COP27 was held in Egypt in November of last year. The 28th COP meeting occurs later this year, Nov. 30–Dec. 12, in Dubai. Learn more about COP28 here.
The International Organization for Standardization is on the case, too. ISO 14068, “Greenhouse gas management and climate change management and related activities—Carbon neutrality” has now entered the final draft international standard stage. ISO’s International Workshop Agreement (IWA) 42, “Net zero guidelines” is intended to provide “guiding principles and recommendations to enable a common, global approach to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions through alignment of voluntary initiatives and adoption of standards, policies, and national and international regulation…. [It] provides guidance on what governance organizations and other organizations can do to effectively contribute to global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C by achieving net zero no later than 2050.” IWA 42, by the way, is available to be downloaded for free by ISO here.
ISO 14068 was written by ISO/TC 207/SC 7, “Greenhouse gas and climate change management and related activities.” I am proud to be a member of this technical committee, working with and learning from many experts in the field. The IWA 42 was written by a large group of experts pulled together by ISO to write and release a standard in time for COP 27 last November. As these standards and frameworks have evolved, it’s become clear that industry needs a great number of auditors to help assess organizational compliance to these protocols. There are precious few courses available to help potential auditors learn about this general area of management systems, aside from those focused on the ISO 14064 standard revolving around the control of greenhouse gas emissions. However, because ISO 14068 is still in the FDIS stage (and IWA 42 is not an auditable program), there is simply no training available at the present time. Yet there needs to be, because carbon neutrality and Net Zero are among the most important controls that industry will have to manage effectively in the coming years.
What’s needed are practical perspectives and deep insights from those working within industry on frameworks for managing, capping, sequestering, and/or eliminating carbon emissions. Some questions to be answered include:
- What type of professional is best suited to receive training as an ISO 14068 auditor?
- How can ISO 14068 and IWA 42 help augment organizational compliance with local, national, and/or regional regulatory and legal requirements?
- What is the body of knowledge necessary to develop robust auditor training courses in this space?
- How can we, as an industry, best communicate the importance of these protocols to those organizations that are not yet working on these issues?
If you wish to be involved in these discussions as we foster the adoption of ISO 14068 and IWA 42 within industry, please drop me a note in the comments section below.
Next time in this column, I’ll be discussing a related topic: the standardization work necessary to assist the automotive industry in moving to more carbon-neutral (hybrid and electric) engines. If you have ideas for forthcoming columns, again, send us a comment.
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