Support for ISO's development of international standards to tackle climate change has come in the build-up to COP15, the UN Climate Change Conference, in a recent speech by the Swedish Minister for Trade.

Ewa Björling is Sweden's
Minister for Trade, Ministry
for Foreign Affairs

Ewa Björling was speaking at a conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on "Climate change, trade and standardization – in a development perspective", organized by the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS – ISO member for the country).

"The general view that international standards can promote trade is empirically supported," the Minister said. "The OECD, among others, has shown that about 80 % of all trade is affected by standards. Consequently, it should be more efficient if we have one internationally agreed standard, rather than many differing standards

"These facts can also be applied to international climate standards. International standards in the climate area should in the same way be used as a 'common language', and in that way act as a catalyst for trade.

"Climate standards could help to spread climate friendly knowledge and technology, support innovation, enhance knowledge in climate friendly technology, increase market opportunities and, in the long run, boost economic growth and welfare."

The Minister referred to the "explosion" of carbon-related product and service activities in the market-place with some 200 initiatives worldwide for different types of climate labelling and climate declarations schemes, initiated by government agencies, multinational and national corporations, business organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

The problem, said the Minister, was how to ensure that this multiplication of schemes did not created technical barriers to trade, particularly for developing countries and for small and medium-sized enterprises.

"The harmonisation of existing national standards, certification and labelling schemes, or the development of new international schemes, can contribute to avoiding unnecessary trade restrictions," Ms. Björling declared, adding: "Thus, international standards can be thought of as providing a common language for traders. The benefits that are derived are significant. International standards facilitate trade and improve efficiency in production."

Ms. Björling concluded by saying that the Swedish Government intended to support developing countries that wish to participate in the development of the ISO standard on carbon footprints of products – the future ISO 14067.

ISO 14067, now under development, for measuring the carbon footprint of products, is one of several ISO standards directly related to climate change. It will complement the already published standards ISO 14064 and ISO 14065, which provide an internationally agreed framework for measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, verifying claims made about them, and accrediting the bodies which carry out such activities.

Overall, ISO has more than 500 International Standards directly related to environmental subjects and many more that can help in reducing environmental impacts. Offering business, government and society a complete portfolio of practical tools for tackling environmental challenges, they range from standards for sampling, testing and analytical methods, through environmental management and environmental aspects of product design, to ship recycling.

Other examples of ISO standards that can assist mitigate the effects of climate change include the ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental management, developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, which is firmly established as the global benchmark for good practice in this area. ISO 14001, which provides the requirements for environmental management systems (EMS), contributes to any organization's objectives to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner. Up to the end of December 2008, more than 188 800 ISO 14001 certificates of conformity had been issued to private and public sector organizations in 155 countries and economies.

ISO's proactive stance on energy and climate change matters has resulted in the initiation of ISO work on energy management systems (the future ISO 50001) and the examination of new opportunities in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

ISO will be presenting its standards on climate change, energy and the environment, as support to multi-lateral agreements, at an event on 12 December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, within the framework of COP15, the 15th conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, being held on 7-18 December in Copenhagen.