Clear the air

Nigel Carter, chairman of the BSI Greenhouse Gas Management Technical Committee, analyses a standard being introduced to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Whether you subscribe to the view that climate change is a natural phenomenon is irrelevant, the reality is that climate change is manmade and something must be done... and done now.

Of course, the list of greenhouse gas emissions itself is not entirely without controversy. Those gases or groups of gases currently attributed with causing the greatest damage by the United Nations Framework on Climate Change are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perflurocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. Each gas is allocated a global warming potential (GWP) and with carbon dioxide as one, sulphur hexafluoride is the most damaging per unit of mass with a GWP of 23,900.

Organisations are increasingly being asked to measure and reduce GHG emissions to help address the issue of climate change and, alarmingly, very few are being told how.

Reducing greenhouse gases

The introduction of the Kyoto Protocol to international law on 16 February this year further reinforced this reality. The protocol aims for a reduction in GHG emissions to 5% below 1990 levels without mention of approach or management.

With the USA and Australia the only significantly industrialised nations outside the conditions of the protocol, it is clear how important the development of an international standard is.

The USA, for instance, is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels for its transportation and industrial energy and while it has initiatives of its own, these fall well short of the global community's expectations for curbing GHG emissions.

However, the enthusiasm of the Kyoto signatories and the European Union has not, so far, been matched by an internationally acceptable certification process for trading and reporting GHG emission reduction and removals.

Standard consultation in progress

Encouragingly, accurately measuring, reporting and validating these GHG emissions and removals is now to become easier for organisations, with three parts of an international standard now out for consultation by the British Standards Institution (BSI).

Amanda Tucker, committee manager of BSI British Standards, says: "Environmental management is increasingly forming part of business strategy and this standard has been developed to help organisations manage their efforts in relation to GHG emissions. It will also address the growing requirement for an international standard in the market for emissions trading."

ISO standard 14064 parts 1-3 provides guidance at both the organisation and project levels for the design, compilation, maintenance and reporting of GHG inventories, the planning and monitoring of project performance, as well as guidance for those managing validation or certification of GHG assertions. "Reducing GHG emissions is at the top of every agenda. BSI is now helping to address the question of how this can be achieved," Tucker adds.

The UK is represented in the development of this standard by BSI. It is an active participant in the International Organisation for Standardisation's Climate Change Working Group, under the International Environmental Management Technical Committee (ISO/TC207/WG5), responsible for the development of ISO 14064.

Greenhouse gas emission boundaries

ISO 14064-1 Specification with Guidance at the Organisation Level for the Quantification and Reporting of Emissions and Removals from Organisations operates at the organisation or company level and details principles and requirements for designing, developing, managing and reporting GHG inventories.

Part one covers determining GHG emission boundaries, quantifying an organisations GHG emissions and removals and identifying specific company actions or activities aimed at improving GHG management. It also includes requirements and guidance on inventory quality management, reporting, internal auditing and the organisation's responsibilities in verification activities.

The development of part one is largely dependent on the GHG protocol, so it is fairly straightforward. It aims to provide assistance to organisations for the creation and management of their GHG inventories to meet their GHG emission quantification and removal targets.

Determining project baselines

ISO 14064-2 Specification with Guidance at the Project Level for Quantification, Monitoring and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions or Removal Enhancements focuses on GHG projects or project-based activities designed to reduce GHG emissions or increase GHG removals.

Part two covers principles and requirements for determining project baselines and for monitoring, quantifying and reporting project performance relative to the baseline and provides the basis for GHG projects to be validated and verified. The development of part two is a little more complex due to its dependence on two events:

  • the development of the GHG Protocol Project Module; and
  • the development of project protocols by the Conference of the Parties (COP), the supreme body of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and, effectively, the association of the governments that are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • ISO 14064 part two, the GHG Project Accounting Module and the COP Protocols have been developed more or less in parallel. In particular, the collaboration of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resource Institute in the development of the standard has ensured a commonality of language and a considerable synthesis between the documents.

    Validating and verifying assertions

    ISO 14064-3 Specification with Guidance for the Validation and Verification of Assertions Details Principles and Requirements for Verifying GHG Inventories and Validating or Verifying GHG Projects describes the process for GHG-related validation or verification. It specifies components such as validation or verification planning, assessment procedures and the evaluation of organisation or project GHG assertions.

    This third part of ISO 14064 can be used by organisations or independent parties to validate or verify GHG assertions.

    "ISO 14064 has been developed to provide credibility, consistency and transparency internationally for quantifying, monitoring and reporting GHG emissions. Backed by experience of the UK's own emissions trading scheme, BSI's involvement is vital to ensure UK interests and concerns are well represented," said Tucker.

    The standard does not seek to prescribe measurement protocols, which are deeply imbued in most cases, in existing sectoral practice, and which would therefore be impractical to consolidate with the standard. Nor does the standard seek to pre-empt or supersede the requirements of regional, national or regulatory standards to which organisations might be subject.

    It aims to assist organisations in addressing the issue of measuring and reporting their GHG emissions and removals. In addition, apart from a desire to provide speed to market for the standard, there was a global commitment to ensure best practice was captured in the document.

    To ensure this was this case, several items were used as reference points for the development of the standard including the Green House Gas Protocol, developed by the WBCSD and the WRI; a draft Australian Standard for Carbon Accounting; the Netherlands' Joint Implementation Guidelines; the UK ETS Reporting Protocol; the California Climate Action Registry General Reporting Protocol and others from the USA and the rest of the world.

    Standard is now open for public comment

    ISO 14064 is currently at the Draft International Standard stage and has been published as a Draft for Public Comment in the UK. The intention is to publish a full international standard in late 2006.

    "We hope the standard will be welcomed by the international community and we're looking forward to their feedback," Tucker added.

    A companion standard is also in draft, ISO 14065 Specification for Validation and Verification Bodies for use in Accreditation and other forms of Recognition. This is an important, complementary document, addressing the difficult question of who verifies the verifiers. It is anticipated this document will be fast-tracked and published within a similar time scale to that of ISO 14064.

    On this basis, ISO and its 148 member countries will have developed a suite of standards to address the problems of the global reporting and trading of GHG emission reductions and removals, supported by the rigour of an appropriate level of validation and/or verification.

    Note: 148 countries, including France, Germany, Canada, the US and Malaysia, contributed to the development of ISO 14064; UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is the over-arching document supporting the climate change initiatives; IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is the body developing protocols for the management of GHG reductions and removals. It was established in 1988 jointly by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme.

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