A healthy environment is an essential component to our overall well-being and economic prosperity and the urgency for action regarding climate change is widely felt. It is affecting every country around the world, disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme. Closer to home, the recent report on Canada’s Changing Climate indicates that our country’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average. To ensure that the next generation has a chance for a healthy future, we need to accelerate our pace, and standardization can play a key role in the solution.
Over the past years, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) has intensified its efforts in this area. To date, there are two streams we have been focusing on: reducing the impact and costs associated with climate change and extreme weather events, and supporting organizations in their quest to find solutions to minimize our environmental footprint to ensure a sustainable future.
The importance of the work of SCC cannot be overstated – well informed standards that reflect the discipline of SCC are key to adapting to current and future challenges posed by climate change. – Blair Feltmate
As suggested by Dr. Blair Feltmate, Head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo, “The importance of the work of SCC cannot be overstated – well informed standards that reflect the discipline of SCC are key to adapting to current and future challenges posed by climate change. Direction presented by the SCC is perceived by virtually all stakeholders across Canada as the “gold standard”, which facilitates the timely uptake of measures to mitigate future climate risk.”
Reducing the Impact of Climate Change
In 2016, SCC launched the five-year Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program to support government efforts to respond to climate change. Our role is to help Canadians adapt by facilitating the development of better standards and guidance. We work with a with a wide range of stakeholders in the standardization network to ensure climate change adaptation and resilience are reflected in current building codes, guidelines and standards. Over the past five years, we have gained recognition for our work. For instance, major Canadian cities are now adding standards for flood resilient design to their municipal plans, and towns and Conservation Authorities are relying on standards and guidance to improve stormwater management.
Different communities have different needs, and, in Canada’s North, the need to address the challenges of climate change could not be clearer. Since 2011, SCC has been working with communities, standards development organizations, and experts from across northern Canada to support the development of standards that consider climate change impacts in northern infrastructure design, planning and management. Under our Northern Infrastructure Standardization Initiative, we have been funding standards development projects such as a standard that provides tools to create more resilient communities through drainage system planning. By following this standard, northern communities have been able to ensure they are doing everything they can to keep their communities safe from the threat of climate change. Another project we worked on is guidance for geotechnical studies in the north where permafrost conditions are changing. This important work has helped several communities decide on the best sites to build new housing. Using the standard, technical advisors and contractors are working with communities to more confidently move forward on these critical projects. Over 170 engineers, planners, and community staff are now trained to advise communities on how to deal with the effects of permafrost thaw.
Although we have seen some very promising results, we have only dealt with a fraction of what is needed to build a resilient future. There is much more to do. We need to standardize flood mapping in this country, because homes are still being built where they shouldn’t be with dire consequences for communities. We need standards to protect Canadians from sweltering in heat waves, and we need standards to fill critical gaps where communities meet forests, so that lives and property can be saved when wildfires hit. These are only a few examples.
By planning ahead and working together, we can take concrete steps to mitigate and prevent these losses in the future. Standards need to be a central part of the plan and we will continue our concerted efforts with our partners and stakeholders.
Building a Sustainable Future
We not only have to work on reducing the impacts of climate change on our lives today, we also need to ensure that we are finding ways to minimize our environmental footprint. As Canada’s leading accreditation organization, our first environmental program was the accreditation of certifications bodies certifying , which began in 1996. An environmental management system verifies the impact of an organization’s activities on the environment. Such systems help organizations establish environmental goals and targets, and evaluate how well they are being achieved.
SCC has also offered accreditation for greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies for many years. There are provincially mandated emissions reporting and cap-and-trade programs, and a federal output-based pricing program to help reduce emissions. Those tools are supported by the work of verification and validation bodies, .
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions produced by human activity. In 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) implemented new measures for emissions reporting and triannual offset reporting for the aviation industry. Working closely with Transport Canada, SCC has implemented a subprogram to support Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) program, based on an ISO standard. This program aims to offset international aviation carbon emissions and stabilize their levels. Although we have seen a reduction in air traffic due to the pandemic, we have to continue our efforts to find long-term solutions.
On an international level, SCC makes sure that Canada is involved in important conversations about the environment and sustainability via the technical committees (TC) established by ISO and IEC. These include longstanding committees such as ISO/TC 207 Environmental Management. Since 1993, ISO/TC 207 has been a leader in the development of standards in the field of environmental management systems and tools in support of sustainable development around the world. Canada has held the leadership position for this Committee since its inception. Today, the work of the committee is led by one of our technical experts, Sheila Leggett.
SCC is also part of other international committees such as the new working groups relating to the circular economy, sustainable finance and the sharing economy. We support the involvement of Canadians on many other committees that may not have a specific environmental aim, but whose work contributes to one or more of the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals – enabling wider access to clean water or sanitary facilities, for instance.
Through our Innovation Initiative, we connect directly with clean tech companies, like Terragon, to develop customized standardization strategies and examine funding possibilities to support their projects. Terragon, who has developed a micro-gasification system to use household waste and convert it to energy, is just one of many companies with emerging technologies that need standardization help to commercialize. We are supporting innovators and organizations in understanding what standardization can do for them, how you take an idea to market, and why a standardization strategy is as important as intellectual property protection. We help clean tech innovators through standardization which includes increasing participation and leadership on technical committees, supporting the development of new standards and developing conformity assessment programs based on existing standards. To make sure the marketplace is ready for clean tech and understands its value, we’re also promoting the value of standards and conformity assessment to policy makers, particularly for buildings, transportation, and industry. We need to continue to build Canada’s long-term competitiveness with clean growth.
Accelerating the Pace
SCC is committed to playing its part to keep our planet healthy and beautiful by supporting and encouraging Canadians and businesses to continue to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support clean tech innovators through standardization activities that foster commercialization and market access, and helping communities adapt and prepare against the threat of extreme weather.
Creating standards that incorporate climate risks will not only ensure the resilience of infrastructure over the long term but could also help address the root cause of the problem. Changing how we build infrastructure—by using lower-carbon energy sources and making better design and operational choices—could decrease the need for costly maintenance and repairs and reduce future greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change. We also have to look at our transit system. Our recent collaboration with Metrolinx to establish a Canadian Independent Safety Assessor program for Railway Systems is also a great example where standardization can play a role in ensuring Canadians can benefit from safer and cleaner transit technologies.
Climate change and sustainability will continue to be a key focus of our corporate strategy in the years to come. Taking steps to ensure Canada’s infrastructure can withstand the impacts of a changing climate is crucial to our nation’s future. We will continue our efforts to ensure standards are included in codes, regulations, as well as financing and procurement policies, which are powerful mechanisms to ensure they are followed. We will also continue to promote the participation of Canadians and organizations in voluntary standards activities and adoption. Ultimately, our goal is to help protect all Canadians and provide them with peace of mind that their homes, communities and overall environment will be safe and resilient in the years ahead.