“Reduced raw material consumption, increased durability and recyclability must become the European standard”

World Standards Day 2022: Series of interviews on climate protection and standardization

Dr. Franziska Brantner is the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
© Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action

The topic of this year's World Standards Day is “SHARED VISION FOR A BETTER World” - a world that is threatened more than ever by climate change. In order to tackle global warming, industry and the economy must undergo a green transformation. In this interview, Dr. Franziska Brantner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, talks about the challenges and opportunities offered by transformation as well as the importance of standards and specifications for climate protection.

The green transformation of industry and the economy is a monumental task. What challenges do you anticipate for companies and which economic opportunities does this also present?

The challenges are indeed huge. Coupled with supply chain issues, material and skilled labour shortages, many industries are still feeling the strain of the Corona pandemic. At the same time, we need to address the transition to a green transformation, which can also put us in a very advantageous position in the medium and long term. To this end, we must press ahead with the ambitious expansion of renewable energies, support sustainable production methods and infrastructures, establish green lead markets and invest in regional value creation.

As agreed in the coalition agreement, Germany should be climate-neutral as early as 2045. With the Easter package and the immediate action programme focusing on climate protection measures for the construction sector, you have adopted the first important measures. What are your other upcoming projects?

In order to become greenhouse gas-neutral by 2045, we must first of all achieve our ambitious climate targets by 2030. With the immediate action energy package, we at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action have already taken a major step forward and are creating the basis for a climate-neutral energy supply by significantly accelerating the expansion of renewable energies. We in the German government must now also succeed in anchoring the necessary measures in the construction, transport, industry and agriculture sectors. Proposals have been made – we must now adopt them as quickly as possible as part of the climate protection immediate action programme.

How can standards and specifications help?

Standards and specifications ensure quality; they facilitate trade and create transparency for all market participants. They play an integral role in establishing climate-friendly products by increasing competitiveness and opening up new markets. It is also important to maintain a balance between regulation and voluntary standards so that innovation is not stifled. Germany is intensively engaged in the development of international standards for climate-friendly raw materials (steel and cement) so that green products are distinguishable, comparable and marketable compared to conventional products.

According to a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the damage caused by extreme weather in Germany in recent years amounts to more than 80 billion euros. What measures towards adapting to the effects of climate change are on the agenda?

The most recent extreme weather events highlight the increasing social and economic consequences and risks posed by climate change. We therefore need to plan ahead and take precautions; the German government is already acting accordingly. In accordance with the coalition agreement, we want to develop the German adaptation strategy further, make it a legally binding obligation with a new Climate Change Act and to create a financing instrument for the German Federal and Länder governments to realize joint climate prevention and adaptation measures.

What role do standards and specifications play here?

Climate adaptation must be considered during the standardization process. If we consider large energy supply or transport infrastructure systems that are designed to be used for a very long time, for example. Here, climate change must be taken into account to maintain safety standards and resilience. The German government and DIN have been working closely together in this area for years. For me, it is important that standards committees increase their level of climatological expertise in the future so that the consequences of climate change are taken into account further.

The EU published a standardization strategy in February 2022 with the aim of ensuring and expanding European influence in international standardization. The involvement of all stakeholders in terms of setting strategic standardization topics is one of the central points here. Which role should climate protection play in this context?

Indeed, the EU's ambitions with regard to a climate-neutral, resilient and circular economy can certainly not be achieved without standards for test methods, management systems or interoperability solutions, for example; such standards are ultimately also of global relevance. This is another reason why the German government strongly welcomes the EU's standardization strategy. Hydrogen, for example, was identified as a key topic. Uniform standards and specifications will be essential for the market ramp-up, especially of green hydrogen. In light of climatic developments, it is also essential standardization processes are accelerated.

Another challenge highlighted in the EU standardization strategy is the recruitment of experts to participate the development of standards. How can politics support these efforts, especially with regard to climate experts?

Particularly in terms of climate protection, it will be necessary for the right experts from the interested parties - including those from the climate sector - to work together in the relevant standardization bodies. I think we need to create greater awareness among all those involved that climate expertise is also necessary in the area of standardization work. We as policymakers can certainly support the dialogue with stakeholders from research, business and the public sector in this regard.

The G7 is going forward with Germany's suggestion to establish a Climate Club by the end of 2022. This highlights the fact that climate protection is reliant on international cooperation. How should this cooperation be brought to life?

The Climate Club can help to raise the level of ambition internationally in the area of climate protection and close the gap in achieving the 1.5°C target. Particularly in the industrial sector, close cooperation between ambitious climate partners can unlock additional potential; for example, by creating international markets for raw materials produced with almost zero emissions or by transforming production processes to make them more climate-friendly. Here, global standards and specifications, e.g. ISO/IEC, form an essential basis for classifying products or processes in terms of their carbon footprint, making them comparable, and in turn establishing genuine "green" production as a standard investment decision.

The topic of this year's World Standards Day is “SHARED VISION FOR A BETTER WORLD”. What is your personal vision for the future?

If we want to successfully shape the green transformation according to our liberal democratic values, it is key that we as Europeans work together to ensure that reduced raw material consumption, increased durability and recyclability become the European standard. We also need to work together with the rest of the world on a new basis of sustainability, resilience and efficiency. This not only fosters innovation and boosts our competitiveness, but also helps us safeguard our prosperity and social security.

Personal Information

Dr. Franziska Brantner is the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. She is also the Special representative of the German government for the Implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Germany (D-EITI).

World Standards Day 2022: Interviews on climate protection and standardization

The international standards organizations ISO, IEC and ITU and their national members, such as DIN and DKE in Germany, will be celebrating World Standards Day on the 14th of October - highlighting the importance of standards and specifications. The topic for World Standards Day 2022 is “SHARED VISION FOR A BETTER WORLD” and will focus on the importance of standardization to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, with particular emphasis on climate protection. In a series of interviews with interesting personalities from industry, science and politics, the three standards organizations DIN, DKE and VDI would like to jointly highlight the tasks ahead for business and society in the fight against climate change on World Standards Day. In each interview, we talk about the challenges facing their respective industry, the opportunities offered by green transformation and discuss solutions such as standards and specifications.