My Four Environmental Predictions for 2021

After a year like 2020, trying to predict what the future will bring for 2021, is always going to be fraught objective.

The environment has taken a “back seat” to health concerns, and rightly so to combat and manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will 2021 be different?

I thought in this article that I would look at four key drivers, which will affect environmental management and sustainability work over the next 12 month & try to predict the issues that will affect each of us in the year ahead.

Here are my four attempts to predict the environmental and sustainability future for 2021…

Post-COVID-19 Recovery

In 2020, COVID-19 touched everyone’s lives. I remember coming back from an ISO Working Group in Singapore and talking to someone connecting from China, who had said that the situation was worse and was likely to lead to

After two UK Lockdowns and numerous strategies from the UK Government, we are in a situation of a new variant and increasing infection rates as we start January 2021. However, there are positive signs for the vaccination programme, which started in December 2020, being rolled out over the coming months.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that many of us can work from home and lead a less carbon-intensive lifestyle through less travelling, whether commuting to work or international business flights.

There is an opportunity to capitalise on benefits to ensure that we come out of the pandemic with more resilient and sustainable working practices and personal lifestyles. Campaigns such as #BuildBckBetterUK are aiming to do just that & even the US President-elect, Joe Biden, uses the call to “Ready to build back better for all Americans”.

Post-Brexit Legislation

At 23:00 Hrs GMT / 00:00 CET, the United Kingdom fully left the European Union after the referendum in 2016, many political debates and a one-year transition. Whichever side of the polarising debate on whether to “leave” or “remain”, “the deal has been done”.

Now, the United Kingdom has a period of finding its own feet within the current mixture of European Union Directive and Regulations & domestic legislation.

None more so that in the environmental field, where existing body of UK legislation is amended to reflect the new legal status of the UK outside of the EU.

And new legislative infrastructures, such as the Office of Environmental Protection, introduced through the Environmental Protection Bill, and setup as a new, independent, public body which will be legally separate from the Crown.

This new, independent statutory body will have the principal objective of contributing to environmental protection and the improvement of the natural environment. It will provide the necessary legal authority to implement long-term environmental governance & provide scrutiny and advice on the implementation of environmental law as well as other powers.

Climate Change

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made a number of positive presentations on how the UK Government will respond to the climate emergency with clear indications that the UK will take leadership on this growing global issue.

In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden has signalled his intentions to place Climate Change Champions across his administration. With a Democrat majority in the lower House of Representatives and on-going elections for the Senate could lead to equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats with the Democratic Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris with the deciding vote.

Later in November, the UN Climate Change Conference will be held in Glasgow and will provide an opportunity for all nations to come together with a positive appetite for change & to build on the Paris Agreement.

International Standards

In amongst the global issues covered in the first three drivers for change in 2021, my final contribution is the important work developed and delivered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

This organisation has over the past twenty-five years delivered International Standards to support environmental management starting with ISO 14001:1996, which provides a framework for organisations to manage their environmental impacts and compliance & now in its latest edition, ISO 14001:2015.

A look at the work ahead for the next year and beyond shows that there is work to develop many more International Standards to support environmental management and protection, such as:

Environmental Management System support
ISO/WD 14002-2 Environmental management systems — Guidelines for using ISO 14001 to address environmental aspects and conditions within an environmental topic area — Part 2: Water

  • Environmental Due Diligence Assessment & water statement verification and validation
  • ISO/AWI 14015 Environmental management — Environmental Due Diligence Assessment (revision of ISO 14015:2001)
  • ISO/CD 14017 Environmental management – Requirements with guidance for verification and validation of water statements

    A comprehensive revision of ecolabelling standards within the ISO 14020 series
  • ISO/CD 14020 Environmental labels and declarations — General principles
  • ISO 14021:2016/DAMD 1 Environmental labels and declarations — Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling) — Amendment 1: Carbon footprint, carbon neutral
  • ISO/WD TS 14029 Mutual recognition agreements between Type III Environmental Declaration (EPD) Programme Operators — Principles and procedures

    Evaluation standards for Environmental performance and environmental technology
  • ISO/FDIS 14031 Environmental management — Environmental performance evaluation — Guidelines
  • ISO/CD TR 14035 Environmental technology verification — ETV – Guidance to implement ISO 14034

    A whole suite of standards on Green Debit Instruments in the ISO 14030 series
  • ISO/DIS 14030-1 Environmental performance evaluation — Green debt instruments — Part 1: Process for green bonds
  • ISO/DIS 14030-2 Environmental performance evaluation — Green debt instruments — Part 2: Process for green loans
  • ISO/DIS 14030-3 Environmental performance evaluation — Green debt instruments — Part 3: Taxonomy
  • ISO/DIS 14030-4 Environmental performance evaluation — Green debt instruments — Part 4: Verification
  • ISO/AWI 14100 Green Finance: Assessment of Green Financial Projects

    Lifecycle standards
  • ISO/WD TR 14055-2 Environmental management — Guidelines for establishing good practices for combatting land degradation and desertification — Part 2: Regional case studies
  • ISO/WD TS 14074 Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Principles, requirements and guidelines for normalization, weighting and interpretation

    Greenhouse gas standards on carbon neutrality, assessment of climate change impacts, risk assessments & other GHG related issues
  • ISO/WD 14068 Greenhouse gas management and related activities — Carbon neutrality
  • ISO/CD TR 14069 Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for organizations — Guidance for the application of ISO 14064-1
  • ISO/AWI 14082 Radiative Forcing Management— Guidance for the quantification and reporting of radiative forcing-based climate footprints and mitigation efforts
  • ISO/WD 14083 Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions arising from operations of transport chains
  • ISO/FDIS 14091 Adaptation to climate change — Guidelines on vulnerability, impacts and risk assessment
  • ISO/WD 14093 Mechanism for financing local adaptation to climate change: Performance-based climate resilience grants
  • ISO/FDIS 14097 Framework including principles and requirements for assessing and reporting investments and financing activities related to climate change
  • ISO/FDIS 19694-1 Stationary source emissions — Determination of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in energy-intensive industries — Part 1: General aspects

I hope that these four areas and my attempts to predict the environmental and sustainability future for 2021 will help you to provide focus for your work over the coming year.

If you think I have got is all wrong or maybe  called it correctly, please leave a comment in the box below.

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