How Consensus-Based Standards can Help Communities Build Resiliency and Adapt to Climate Change

10 billion. The cost in Canadian dollars of the 2016 Fort McMurray Fire1, which burned almost 600,000 hectares2.

85. The number of confirmed deaths in California’s deadliest wildfire in the state’s recorded history3.

274 million. The amount in Canadian dollars spent on firefighters to combat wildfires in British Columbia in 20184.

129. The number of deaths caused by Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea5.

12,000. The number of properties affected in 2018 by New Brunswick’s worst flood in over a decade, with hundreds of people still waiting to return to their homes6.

50 million. The cost of damage in Canadian dollars to Northwest Territories’ public infrastructure as a result of thawing permafrost7.

1 billion. The minimum annual amount of catastrophic insurable losses in Canada as a result of flooding. This cost is significantly higher than the $200-500 million annual average before 20098.

These recent cases in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean demonstrate the significant cost – human and financial – of a changing climate. Around the world, countries are experiencing damaging droughts, more frequent natural disasters, and sea-level rise. As climate impacts become increasingly more severe, critical infrastructure is less likely to be able to withstand such forces, putting the health and safety of millions of people at risk, and potentially stunting global development.

As the effects of climate change are being felt globally, 194 states and the European Union have signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to limit the rise in global tempratures to well below 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels, and endeavor to limit them even more to 1.5 degrees Celcius. This agreement has fueled national governments to develop their own climate change mitigation action plans and legislation to enable a more sustainable future.

In Canada, this has resulted in the creation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change which outlines an approach to pricing carbon pollution and reducing carbon emissions across all sectors of the economy. The framework also aims to drive innovation and growth through various incentive programs for clean technology development and adoption.

A growing number of scientists agree that climate change is irreversible and that its impacts are accelerating – making adaptation, not just mitigation, a necessary endeavor9.

Adapting to the changing climate is where standards are playing a major role. As the Pan-Canadian Framework also includes actions to advance adaptation and resiliency to climate impacts, it relies on national consensus-based standards and guidelines for building and maintaining resilient infrastructure that can better support the safety and prosperity of our communities.

Where Standards can Complement Policy and Fill Gaps

Leveraging International Standards as a Starting Point

A National Push for Standards that Build Resilient Infrastructure

Beyond Infrastructure Resiliency

Moving Towards a More Sustainable Future

How Canada and the World are Currently Addressing Climate Change

Building on the foundation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, negotiators from nearly 200 countries recently gathered for the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Poland to adopt the Katowice Climate Package, which outlines principles and guidelines that will help national governments implement the Paris Agreement. The measures contained in the package, which will start to be implemented in 2020, include requirements for reporting emissions and efforts to reduce them, as well as commitment from wealthy countries to provide financial assistance to poorer countries in support of their emission-reduction efforts10. The 2019 COP event will focus on how to create a global emissions trading system.11

Although these initiatives are still under development, many countries have already introduced various policies and programs to help reduce GHG emissions. Carbon pricing is among the most common measures being implemented right now. Carbon pricing involves establishing clear economic signals to polluters, who then decide whether to reduce or eliminate their polluting activity, or continue polluting at a price. Carbon pricing systems may include simplistic carbon-tax models or more complex systems such as cap and trade, where carbon markets are established and limits are placed on industrial facilities releases. Currently the Canadian Federal government’s plan includes a multi-tiered approach; with both a tax on fuels being put in place and an output based cap and trade system for industrial facilities being established. Revenue generated from carbon pricing programs are usually used to stimulate the development and adoption of clean technology and market innovation. According to the World Bank, there are over 52 carbon pricing initiatives implemented or scheduled to be implemented in over 46 countries12. Together, these initiatives represent 20 percent of global GHG emissions13.

Many Canadian provinces have developed their own climate change strategies that reflect their particular experiences, with nine out of 10 provinces adopting specific GHG reduction targets14. With the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act receiving Royal Assent on June 21, 2018, provinces that have yet to develop carbon pricing policies are now being supported by Federal regulations under the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, signaling that all Canadian Provinces now have carbon pricing in place, despite disagreement and legal action being taken by some provinces.

Methods of power generation and the supporting electrical grid also play a significant role in GHG reduction. Canada’s electricity system is one of the cleanest in the world, with 80 percent of electricity being generated from renewable sources and a goal of raising that percentage to 90 in the coming years15.

Where Standards can Complement Policy and Fill Gaps

Climate change is a complex problem, and its effects are far-reaching. Adding to this challenge is the fact that a growing number of climate scientists agree that climate change may be irreversible and that the extreme weather events we are experiencing will continue and will become more severe. The multitude of initiatives within the Pan-Canadian Framework alone reflects the comprehensive approach that must be taken to better protect our natural environment, support the advancement of a low-carbon economy, and improve the resiliency of our infrastructure.

Acting on climate change is a collective responsibility, especially since policy directions can shift after an election or in response to other political issues that may arise. Standards are powerful tools which can both complement policy objectives – as they do in the Pan-Canadian Framework – and fill any gaps. They do so by offering practical and actionable measures that help us adapt to a variety of circumstances.

Standards outline best practices for a variety of complex societal, business, and technical matters with a long-term focus. Developed using a consensus-based approach, standards are published as voluntary documents, establishing requirements that can be adopted into contracts or regulations, or implemented voluntarily. They leverage the collective insights of a wide range of experts and stakeholders with different perspectives. This approach to standards development is why standards are often adopted by industry and government (regardless of the party in power), and since standards are frequently updated based on new data or evolving best practices, they continue to remain relevant because they evolve with our understanding of emerging issues and changing circumstances.

Leveraging International Standards as a Starting Point

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a leader in developing consensus-based standards for the environment and climate change. With a confederation of delegates representing 150 countries, ISO standards reflect the diverse needs, perspectives, and expertise of these countries.

ISO standards can and are often adopted as national standards – with some deviations if necessary – to help countries address their own challenges. This also applies to climate change and sustainability matters. ISO has produced almost 600 environment-related standards, including those that help open world markets for clean energy and energy-efficient technologies, and support climate change adaptation and mitigation16. They also contribute directly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action. Important standards within ISO’s environment portfolio17 include:

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems outlines the requirements for an environmental management system and is a useful best practice tool for companies and organizations of any size. Today, there are more than 300,000 organizations from 171 countries certified to the standard.18

ISO 14064-1 – Greenhouse Gases – Part 1: Specification with Guidance at the Organization Level for Quantification and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals specifies principles and requirements at the organization level for the quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals. It includes requirements for the design, development, management, reporting and verification of an organization’s GHG inventory.

ISO 14064-2 – Greenhouse Gases – Part 2: Specification with Guidance at the Project level for Quantification, Monitoring and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions or Removal Enhancements specifies principles and requirements and provides guidance at the project level for the quantification, monitoring and reporting of activities intended to cause greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions or removal enhancements. It includes requirements for planning a GHG project, identifying and selecting GHG sources, sinks and reservoirs (SSRs) relevant to the project and baseline scenario, monitoring, quantifying, documenting and reporting GHG project performance and managing data quality.

ISO 14064-3 – Greenhouse Gases – Part 3: Specification with Guidance for the Verification and Validation of Greenhouse Gas Statements specifies principles and requirements and provides guidance for verifying and validating greenhouse gas (GHG) statements. It is applicable to organization, project and product GHG statements.

ISO 14065 – Greenhouse Gases – Requirements for Greenhouse Gas Validation and Verification Bodies for Use in Accreditation or Other Forms of Recognition specifies principles and requirements for bodies that undertake validation or verification of greenhouse gas (GHG) assertions.

ISO 14067 – Greenhouse Gases — Carbon Footprint of Products – Requirements and Guidelines for Quantification outlines principles, requirements and guidelines for the quantification and reporting of a product’s carbon footprint, consistent with ISO standards on life cycle assessment.

ISO 14080 – Greenhouse Gas Management and Related Activities– Framework and Principles for Methodologies on Climate Actions helps organizations develop consistent, comparable and improved methodologies to fight climate change based on guiding principles that consider existing climate change policies and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

ISO 14030 – Green Bonds — Environmental Performance of Nominated Projects and Assets currently under development, will address the lack of uniform eligibility rules and varying definitions of “green” that have restrained growth in the use of bonds. The standard will outline eligibility requirements and define procedures for evaluating the environmental performance of green bonds. It will also provide requirements for monitoring and disclosing their performance and offer guidance on assurance methods.

ISO 14090 – Adaptation to Climate Change — Principles, Requirements and Guidelines helps organizations of all kinds establish a framework to help them prepare for changes in weather patterns and implement adaptation measures.

ISO 14091 – Adaptation to Climate Change — Vulnerability, Impacts and Risk Assessment will complement ISO 14090 by providing guidance on assessing the risks related to the impacts of climate change, present and future. It will also describe how to understand vulnerability and how to develop and implement a sound risk assessment.

A National Push for Standards that Build Resilient Infrastructure

As an accredited standards development organization, Canadian Standards Association operating as (“CSA Group”) develops codes and standards that incorporate technical excellence, best practices, and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders – primarily for the Canadian market. These standards, which outline the minimum requirements to which products, processes, or systems must conform, are then voluntarily adopted by governments, industry, or referenced in regulations. Developed away from the political arena, standards offer government and industry a more objective option for addressing some of today’s most pressing isues. The consensus-based process offers governments a trusted resource that can serve regulatory needs and save valuable time and other resources that would be required to create entirely new regulations.

For a century, CSA Group has developed standards to address the needs of residential, commercial, industrial and civil infrastructure sectors – from the houses and high-rises people live and work in, to the communication towers and bridges that ensure safe and reliable movement of people, products and information. . The majority of these standards are referenced in national, provincial, and municipal building codes. While these standards have supported the safety and prosperity of our communities until now, our current buildings, systems and infrastructure have been designed based on historical climate data and may not be able to withstand increasingly damaging extreme weather events being predicted in the years ahead.

Recognizing that adaptation requires building resiliency into our infrastructure, the National Research Council of Canada, together with funding support from Infrastructure Canada, launched the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure Initiative to help meet the goals of the Pan-Canadian Framework. The initiative includes updating building codes, specifications, guidelines and assessment tools to help keep Canadians safe and our infrastructure resilient to the changing environment. Similarly, the Standards Council of Canada’s Infrastructure Program has supported development of standards that take into account the impacts of climate change, including in Canada’s North.

As part of both programs, CSA Group has lead the development of a number of climate change adaptation standards projects, with many key publications completed in 2019. Aiming to address infrastructure vulnerabilities to climate change, this important and timely effort will support the resilient design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure systems across Canada. The following are key areas where work is being done:

Electricity systems – With the Conference Board of Canada estimating that approximately $347.5 billion will need to be invested in electricity infrastructure to maintain the system reliability we have today19, climate change considerations will need to be incorporated into electrical standards. On behalf of CSA Group, Mantle314 (formerly Zizzo Strategy) developed a report to identify the top risks and impacts related to climate change, gaps in current applicable codes and standards, best practices in adaptation in the electricity sector, and potential actions for consideration in future updates to the Canadian Electrical Code Parts I, II, and III. Some of the recommendations included emergency response guidance, better weather and loading maps to help inform updates to equipment requirements, guidelines for exposed installations, region-specific compliance paths to acknowledge different regional experiences with extreme weather, and coordination with other codes and organizations to help ensure all infrastructure – not just electrical – is resilient against a changing climate.20

Bridges – Most bridge failures are caused by scour, where swiftly moving water removes sediment from around bridge structural supports to weaken or destroy their foundations. Increased flooding and long-term river flow changes caused by climate change are expected to increase the frequency of scour. The latest version of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code (CSA S6-18) introduces general design requirements to address scour and other regional and micro climate changes that influence environmental exposure and deterioration conditions. The code also includes requirements for permafrost foundations and buried structures in cold regions. Further to this work, a comprehensive assessment of CC adaptation issues impacting CSA S6 is now underway. The project involves a series of cross-Canada workshops and research, and will provide recommendations for the 2024 edition of CSA S6.

Buildings – The current version of CSA S478 – Guideline on Durability in Buildings makes recommendations on assessing environmental conditions and deterioration of building components as a result of environmental mechanisms, as well as specific recommendions on the building envelope. The upcoming edition converts these recommendations into requirements, reflecting climate change adaptation projections to give designers better direction to account for future climate conditions. The guideline addresses these specific issues: durability and quality assurance through the building life cycle; predicted serve life of components and assemblies; design service life of buildings and their components; the investigation of deterioration and associated costs; repair and renovation; the assessment of environmental conditions; deterioration mechanisms for building materials and their control; and the building envelope.

Residential basements – To help reduce the risk of flooding in residential homes, CSA Z800 – Guideline on Basement Flood Protection and Risk Reduction outlines measures that can be taken in existing, new, rebuilt and renovated houses in rural and urban settings under the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) Part 9. The guideline also serves as the basis for the curriculum of a new training course for Canada’s 40,000 home inspectors, which will ultimately help buyers make informed decisions and consider implementing flood prevention measures. Flood hazards addressed by the guideline include overland flooding, storm and sanitary sewer backwater, infiltration flooding, plumbing and drainage failures, as well as flooding associated with the improper installation of basement flood risk-reduction technologies.

Fenestration – As fenestration products have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years, standards need to provide energy performance and installation requirements that reflect both current and future climate conditions. New provisions in four fenestration standards (the CSA A440 Series) will guide manufacturers, building designers, installers, and policy makers on how to account for future climate conditions in current fenestration projects and decision-making processes. This will include re-assessing wind and water performance values.

Green infrastructure for surface water – Two new standards have been released to minimize the risk of community flooding and surface water degradation from changes in rainfall patterns and extreme rainfall due to climate change. As urbanization and intensification increase impermeable surface area and excess run-off, which damages infrastructure and harms water quality, CSA W200 and W201 provide a comprehensive scope for the design and construction of bioretention infrastructure to reduce the impact of storms and and extreme rainfall on watersheds and communities. They address roles and responsibilities, site planning and constraints, background investigations, cold climate suitability, various configurations and sizing of systems, plant material specifications, as well as operations and maintenance considerations for design.

Northern Infrastructure – Canada’s North is experiencing an accelerated change in climate, with a 3.5°C increase in average temperature since in the beginning of the 20th Century. This, in combination with remoteness, inaccessibility, and aging infrastructure, means that the quality of life in Northern Communities is facing some of the greatest climate change impacts in the country. With the support of SCC, CSA Group is working to strengthen the resilience of Northern communities, tackling standards topics such as wastewater treatment lagoon and wetland systems, foundation types for buildings in permafrost, fire resilient building design and materials, techniques for dealing with high winds as it pertains to Northern infrastructure, and erosion protection in permafrost.

Wastewater treatment plants – Critical components of our public infrastructure, these facilities must be able to survive more frequent and damaging extreme weather events, and recover any treatment capacity lost. CSA S900.1 – Climate Change Adaptation for Wastewater Treatment Plants provides owners of these facilities with a comprehensive resource for design, operation, and retrofit criteria that can be implemented to increase the resilience of such plants.

Incorporating climate change considerations into standards and guidelines will help guide how infrastructure is designed and built to withstand more frequent and severe weather events, and support the safety and well-being of Canadians for many years to come.

Beyond Infrastructure Resiliency

Building resiliency into our communities and adapting to climate change requires special attention on matters beyond boosting the strength of our infrastructure. For example, using more renewable energy has significant potential to help countries curb emissions, especially as the technology evolves and becomes less expensive. CSA Group has developed standards in this space, such as the Canada/US binational CSA/ANSI C450 Photovoltaic (PV) module testing for quality assurance programs, the industry-leading bi-national standards for ground source heat pumps (ANSI/CSA/IGSHPA C448), electric vehicle charging and alternative fuels.

Becoming more energy efficient is another growing priority for nearly all sectors in the economy. CSA Group is a leading provider of energy efficiency testing in North America for many types of appliances and other products. A new technical committee will look to develop standards on energy consuming systems in buildings. This will help in confirming building energy efficiency as a whole, which means testing and certification could evolve from evaluating the individual components and systems within the building to the actual entity.

Consumers are also becoming more conscious of how their purchases affect the environment, and are looking to manufacturers and service providers to provide objective, verifiable environmental information for their products or services. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), based on CSA -ISO 14025 Environmental Labels and Declarations – Type III Environmental Declarations – Principles and Procedures, are one way that this information can be communicated over a product’s life cycle. Delivering this information in an easy-to-understand and consistent format on the CSA Group registries helps level the playing field in the industry and build consumer confidence.

CSA Group also recognizes that workers are increasingly exposed to harsh environmental conditions as a result of climate change. That is why one of CSA Group’s latest standards addresses work in extreme conditions to help protect these workers.

Moving Towards a More Sustainable Future

Climate change is a complex issue, and it affects nearly every aspect of our lives. By developing and adopting standards for climate change adaptation, we are more likely to avoid the high costs associated with repairing damages caused by extreme weather as well as liability concerns, injuries and loss of life. Building resilient infrastructure and ensuring those requirements are captured in new and updated standards will go a long way towards protecting the safety and well-being of human life as well as local communities and the economy. Standards help meet policy direction, and address knowledge gaps through consensus-based, best practice measures for organizations of all types. And as we continue to learn more about the climate change issues impacting the Canadian landscape, standards can be further updated in future cycles to help Canadians adapt,thrive and build a sustainable future for all.

1Bob Weber, “Fort McMurray wildfire financial impact reaches almost $10B, study says”, The Canadian Press, 17, 2017. Retrieved from:

2“Fort McMurray wildfire now considered under control”, CBC News, Jul. 05, 2016. Retrieved from:

3Rich McKay, “California wildfire death toll revised to 85 – down from 88, due to DNA tests”,Reuters, Dec. 4, 2018. Retrieved from:

4Bethany Lindsay, “How B.C. budgets for wildfires: ‘Choose an arbitrary number. Put it in the books’”, CBC News, Aug. 21, 2018. Retrieved from:

5Jennifer Kay, “Hurricane Center Updates Irma Death Toll in US, Caribbean”, Associated Press, Mar. 12, 2018. Retrieved from:

6“N.B. hires consultant to review response to historic 2018 flooding”, The Canadian Press, Nov. 23, 2018. Retrieved from:

7Randi Beers, “Thawing permafrost causes $51M in damages every year to N.W.T. public infrastructure: study”, CBC News, Nov. 20, 2017. Retrieved from:

8Lyle Adriano, “IBC: Natural infrastructure is needed in order to mitigate rising flood costs”, Insurance Business Canada, Sep. 19, 2018. Retrieved from:

9Joby Warrick and Chris Mooney, “Effects of climate change ‘irreversible,’ U.N. panel warns in report”, The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2014. Retrieved from:

10United Nations, New Era of Global Climate Action To Begin Under Paris Climate Change Agreement, Dec. 15, 2018. Retrieved from:


12Word Bank (2018), Carbon Pricing Dashboard. Retrieved from:


14Center for Climate Change and Energy Solutions, Canadian Province Climate Policy Maps. Retrieved from:


16ISO (2018), ISO and Climate Change. Retrieved from:

17Ibid (for the identification and description of the relevant standards listed).

18ISO, ISO 14000 family – Environmental management. Retrieved from:

19Conference Board of Canada (2012), Shedding Light on the Economic Impact of Investing in Electricity Infrastructure. Retrieved from:

20CSA Group (2018), Development of Climate Change Adaptation Solutions Within the Framework of the CSA Group Canadian Electrical Code Parts I, II and III. Retrieved from