Standards for Building Governance, Trust, and Integrity in Emission Markets Are Ready Made for Copenhagen COP-15 Climate Change Negotiators

International negotiators arrive in Copenhagen the week of December 7 to begin two weeks of hard negotiation on the framework for a “post-Kyoto” agreement on climate change. For at least the last two years this meeting of the fifteenth “Conference of Parties” has been portrayed as Earth’s last chance to strike a deal to control manmade emissions of carbon dioxide and bring the United States into concert with Europe, Japan and other highly industrialized economies that ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The United States is now more willing to participate in a binding international agreement but is still concerned about leaving China, India and other rapidly industrializing countries without defined emissions targets. Recently China surpassed the United as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Leading negotiators have begun to frame COP-15 not as a “make or break” event for climate negotiations but rather the first major step in a two-step process to finalize the framework for a post-Kyoto climate agreement. Redefining expectations in this way takes into account the reality that the U.S. administration is not in a position to endorse a binding treaty until the U.S. Senate has taken up a climate bill that has sufficient votes to be enacted into law. Our largest trading partner, Canada, which did sign the Kyoto Protocol but has not met its targets, is waiting for action in the United States before enforcing greenhouse gas reductions on its large emitters.

The negotiations in Copenhagen are organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement to which the United States is a full party. While the negotiators hunker down in the Bella Center, numerous observers and other interested parties will fill exhibit halls and meeting rooms for the purpose of influencing the debate and demonstrating their capabilities to breathe life into the agreements that are finally agreed to by the member countries.

I will participate in one of the many “side events” as a part of the delegation from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO is an accredited non-governmental observer organization to the UNFCCC. Our session title on 9 December, “Building Governance, Trust & Integrity in the Emissions Market,” highlights the role that international greenhouse gas management standards fulfill. In particular I will explain ISO Technical Committee 207’s standards on quantifying, monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions at the organization and project levels, and ISO’s forthcoming standard on carbon footprinting of products. In addition I will discuss the use of ISO standards for validation and verification of greenhouse gas assertions and explain how an ISO standard establishes a uniform set of requirements for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies and makes possible their oversight by accreditation bodies.

It is critical that mechanisms and institutions exist to ensure the correct accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and emission reductions. And that accreditation bodies monitor validation and verification bodies to ensure that they operate ethically and in accordance with international standards. The United States has already taken a leadership role with the launching in 2008 of a Greenhouse Gas Accreditation Program by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI has now accredited thirteen validation and verification bodies to ISO 14065, and the list continues to grow. I serve on ANSI’s Greenhouse Gas Validation/Verification Body Advisory Committee and believe that ANSI’s professionalism and integrity serves as a model for other accreditation bodies around the world.

“Counting carbon” is not always as simple as we would sometimes like it to be. However, ISO standards–and the many greenhouse gas programs that both adhere to them and supplement them with additional requirements–play an important role in ensuring that carbon quantification takes place that is accurate, consistent, transparent, complete and relevant.

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