The London Declaration is a landmark agreement signed by numerous countries to address the global challenge of climate change. Its primary goal is to establish international standards related to climate change and integrate climate-related language into existing international standards. This article will delve into the significance of the London Declaration, its importance in fostering global climate action, and the pros and cons of incorporating climate change language into international standards.
I. What is the London Declaration?
“Approved in September 2021, the London Declaration to combat climate change through standards defines ISO’s commitment to achieve the climate agenda by 2050.” – ISO
The London Declaration is a historic international accord that seeks to unite the global community in combating climate change. This agreement recognizes the urgent need for nations to come together to create, adopt, and implement comprehensive measures that address the growing threat of climate change. The London Declaration aims to achieve this by:
- Establishing international standards on climate change: The declaration calls for the creation of globally recognized standards that provide a framework for addressing climate change. These standards would encompass mitigation, adaptation, and finance measures, ensuring a comprehensive approach to the issue.
- Incorporating climate change language into existing international standards: The declaration also emphasizes the need to integrate climate change considerations into existing international standards, such as trade, human rights, and security. By incorporating climate change language into these standards, the London Declaration seeks to ensure that the global response to climate change is holistic and encompasses various aspects of human activity.
II. The Importance of Creating International Standards on Climate Change
“International Standards play a crucial role in underpinning the global economy, creating trust on all aspects of international trade. ISO has a number of standards that are essential in supporting the climate agenda; they help adapt to climate change, quantify greenhouse gas emissions and promote the dissemination of good practices in environmental management. The science is clear: the need for urgent measures to reduce emissions and help adapt to climate change is overwhelming.” – ISO
Developing international standards on climate change is essential for several reasons:
- Global coordination: Climate change is a borderless issue, and its effects are felt worldwide. International standards provide a common framework for countries to address this issue collectively, facilitating collaboration and coordination.
- Enhanced credibility: International standards lend credibility to national and regional climate change policies, as they demonstrate a commitment to a global effort. This credibility can help to secure financing, support, and technology transfer from other nations and organizations.
- Harmonization of policies: With international standards in place, countries can harmonize their policies, regulations, and incentives, reducing inefficiencies and discrepancies that may arise from differing approaches to climate change.
Late last year, ISO launched the first globally agreed Net Zero Guidelines, which we wrote extensively about in a previous article. Launched at COP27, the Net Zero guidelines seek to tackle a major roadblock for a world where greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and balanced by attempting to remedy the fragmented net zero governance landscape. This landmark publication provides much-needed guidance and clarifies key concepts and terminology around Net Zero, as competing approaches and concepts for net zero only serve to sow confusion.
In little over a year, 1200 organizations and experts from more than 100 countries produced the document through ISO’s International Workshop Agreement process that provides clear, harmonized definitions and guidance, agreed upon through a collaborative and consensus-based process; the resulting Guidelines provide a common reference for collective efforts, offering a global basis for harmonizing, understanding and planning for net zero for actors at the state, regional, city, and organizational level and lay out the foundation for accountability and reporting.
“This is something…perhaps the best document you will ever need to read. If you’re in the media, the press, in government, in policy, in corporations, a chief executive, a mayor of a city, this is the one document that you need. Because you can use this, it’s a reference document. It’s not setting targets, it’s not telling you what to do or when to do it, it’s helping us all have a common language for how we’re going to make progress for our transition plans, with our reporting, with our delivery of the net zero ambition. So it’s an ambitious document. It takes science into account. It addresses the challenges of fair transition, and we look forward really very much to seeing it taken up anew around the world by policymakers, governments, industry, and civil society, and I think that we should be really proud of that achievement to position ourselves at the leading edge of global cooperation in tackling the climate change agenda.” – Scott Steedman, CBE Director, Standards at the BSI, COP27 ISO Net Zero Guidelines Launch Press Conference
While this workshop agreement, IWA42, is a landmark achievement and may become an International Standard at some point, the introduction of this document is not enough to satisfy the dictates of the London Agreement. Not only will this and other standards be created in the coming years as the international community continues to rally around the most critical challenge of our lifetime, the Declaration really requires that we look to existing standards to see how any future revisions may be utilized to steer firms toward a more sustainable future.
III. The Pros and Cons of Incorporating Climate Change Language into Existing International Standards
“Without up-to-date International Standards, industry and other stakeholders will be unable to achieve what is necessary. ISO hereby commits to work with its members, stakeholders and partners to ensure that International Standards and publications accelerate the successful achievement of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience.” – ISO
The precepts of the London Declaration are of course noble – the goal not only worthwhile but necessary – but the strategy to achieve the goal will inevitably have implications. ISO lists in its actions in response to the signing of the London Declaration “[ISO will] foster the active consideration of climate science and associated transitions in the development of all new and revised International Standards and publications,” (emphasis ours) which includes standards that would otherwise have nothing to do with global climate change. The argument is that global climate change is a problem too pervasive to not be included, the goal too lofty and necessary to not take every step possible to raise awareness and promote action, even at the expense of the integrity of the existing standards in which language around climate change might be injected.
- Holistic approach: Incorporating climate change language into existing international standards ensures that climate change is considered across various sectors and disciplines. This approach acknowledges the interconnected nature of global issues and promotes integrated solutions.
- Raising awareness: Including climate change language in various international standards raises awareness about the urgency of the issue and emphasizes the need for action across all sectors.
- Encouraging innovation: By incorporating climate change considerations into international standards, governments and businesses may be encouraged to innovate and develop new technologies and processes that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
- Resistance from stakeholders: Some stakeholders may resist the inclusion of climate change language in international standards that are not directly related to environmental issues, arguing that this could dilute the focus of those standards.
- Over-regulation: Incorporating climate change language into various international standards may lead to concerns about over-regulation and the potential for unintended consequences that could hinder economic growth or innovation.
- Implementation challenges: Ensuring that climate change language is effectively integrated into international standards and enforced uniformly across different countries may prove to be a significant challenge, given the varying levels of commitment and resources among nations.
The London Declaration represents a crucial step towards uniting the world in addressing climate change. By establishing international standards and incorporating climate change language into existing standards, the agreement fosters a comprehensive and coordinated global response to this pressing issue. While there are both pros and cons to this approach, the urgency of climate change necessitates bold action and collaboration among the international community. That said, the implications of the London Declaration and the response from the international community will have negative implications, as well. We are risking the dilution of international norms and loss of integrity of established international standards for what is otherwise a noble – perhaps paramount – goal. While we at Isometric Consulting Group do not pretend to have a better answer, we can’t help but wonder whether there are alternatives and whether the current course is worth the cost.