Laying a pathway for 2012 beyond Kyoto was central to this year's meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Over a two-week period from 3-14 December 2007 in Bali, Indonesia, more than 12 000 participants from government, intergovernmental organizations, and international NGOs associated with business, academic, environmental and civil society interests converged in Bali to address a most pressing issue of our time – climate change.
The need to act for the sake of future generations has never been clearer, or more urgent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, has highlighted the unequivocal impact that mankind's activities are having on the world's climate in its Summary for Policymakers, a summary from its Fourth Assessment Report (see http://www.ipcc.ch/).
The findings indicate that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from pre-industrial values of about 280 ppm, to 379 ppm in 2005. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650 000 years (180 to 300 ppm).
The report predicts that continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.
With a mandate to address these challenges, the Bali meetings convened the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, the meetings included an extensive array of side events and exhibits that probed topical issues of importance to global climate change.
A central theme was the renewed importance of industry and governments to work towards common solutions and to ensure that voluntary initiatives align with the imperatives of government and society at large. ISO's foundational contribution to such voluntary approaches was highlighted late in the first week by the ISO Deputy Secretary-General, Kevin McKinley, in a special side event session hosted by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The ISO process was promoted as an effective mechanism for developing international consensus amongst countries and stakeholders from civil society, business and other interests – ISO's reach being achieved through its network of national standards institutes from 157 countries, as well as links with more than 600 international and regional organizations collaborating in its programme of more than 3000 committees and working groups.
ISO standards offer practical tools for addressing climate change at four levels:
- Monitoring climate change through technical, basic equipment and measurement standards (e.g., ISO/TC 211 on geomatics, ISO/TC 146/SC5 on meteorology).
- Quantifying GHG emissions and communicating on environmental impacts, including the leading ISO standards ISO 14064 (Parts 1, 2 and 3) and ISO 14065 on GHG accounting, verification, validation and accreditation of bodies carrying out these activities.
- Promoting good practice in environmental management and design, for example achieving broad deployment of organizational commitment to the environment through widespread implementation of ISO 14001, which provides the requirements for environmental management systems-
- Opening markets for energy efficient technologies and renewable sources, including established programmes for hydrogen, nuclear and wind technologies, as well as new standardization work on solid and liquid biofuels, and proposals for standards on improving energy management in organizations.
In particular, ISO, WBCSD and WRI highlighted the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which the organizations have agreed to jointly cooperate on and promote the ISO 14064 standards and the WRI/WBCSD-developed GHG Protocol
In the second week, ISO contributed to discussions concerning a proposed new initiative to fund and encourage small business action on the sustainability agenda. Currently entitled the Sustainability of the Planet foundation, its founders will be seeking to establish the initiative at a global level and to strengthen more formal cooperation with key actors such as ISO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Global Compact, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and WBCSD.
In the final days of the Bali meetings, ISO presented at a special side event organized by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) concerning voluntary carbon markets and the impact of the new Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). The VCS is a recently launched, global carbon offset standard that effectively incorporates exacting principles from the ISO 14064 series and ISO 14065.
Co-developed by the IETA, the Climate Group and WBCSD, the VCS will provide a new and much-needed level of assurance for the certification of voluntary offsets, especially targeted to organizations keen to tackle climate change by going "carbon-neutral". Developers of the VCS estimate that annual transactions in the voluntary carbon market could reach USD 4billion in the next five years and that the VCS will be instrumental to this future growth.
ISO Deputy Secretary-General Kevin McKinley stated: "The success of all emissions trading programmes will be assisted by extensive use and reference to the globally accepted ISO 14064 series and ISO 14065. In fact, truly additional and material reductions in global GHG emissions can only be achieved through the continued convergence of ISO standards and both the voluntary and regulatory GHG emission verification, validation, accreditation and trading regimes.
"This Bali meeting has been especially useful to promote, particularly with key industry and non-governmental partners, the foundational role that ISO standards are playing in contributing to mitigating climate change and to achieving a truly sustainable world."