Planning & Promotion

Is The Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge Enough?

Eventually Learning Team
With climate change sitting on top of the global tourism agenda, a fair share of whose burden is borne by the event industry, it brings to light the need for renewed and post-haste actions. It is in response to the pledges made by various governing bodies, associations and businesses related to event industry at the UNCC COP26, the 26th year of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties which was held in Glasgow last year. It was the first-time ever that the event industry made an appearance or came together to address the emergency that the whole world faces today; a little too late, a little too guilty.

The pledge to commit to net-zero by 2050 serves us little to no purpose. We need to be doing that yesterday. The Climate Crisis Advisory Group has reiterated warnings that net zero targets are no longer adequate to avoid large-scale global disaster, and urges net negative strategies. To understand the significant and critical nature of Net Zero pledges, let’s look at what Net Zero is.

What is Net Zero?

Net zero refers to a state in which the GHGs going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere.

The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of GHGs in the second half of this century’.

What does the Event Industry need to do? And WHY!?

With transport being the first and food being the second largest source of emissions in the US, the conduct of the event industry ought to come under its own, vehement scrutiny. (Source: theclimatecenter.org) The recent COVID pandemic has brought us face-to-face with the fact that at the end of the day, people need people and no matter the degrees of advancement in technology, there is no greater value than the face value in events.

Now, imagine, people not being able to travel for an event because the transport system is disrupted, or there is a shortfall of food resources and clean drinking water due to droughts and disrupted supply chains. There is only so much money can buy and only so much technology can cover up for our ruptures. In this context, it puts extra responsibility on the event professionals to reimagine their event objectives and align them with critical climate change ambitions.

The Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative

The Net Zero Carbon Events pledge manifested by Joint Meetings Industry Council and endorsed by UNFCCC, represents combined interests of the majority of stakeholders in the event industry like UFI, AIPC, ICCA joined by representatives from Emerald Expositions, Freeman (US), Informa (UK), HKCEC and others. According to the Net Zero Carbon Events website, the pledge aims to:
  1. Map the road ahead to achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest in line with the requirements of Paris Agreement to reduce GHGs emissions by 50% by 2030, by the end of 2023.
  2. Collaborate with partners, suppliers and customers to drive change across the value chain
  3. Measure and track our Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions according to industry best practices
  4. Report on our progress at least every two years
James Rees, JMIC president, says: “The events industry has a special role to play in tackling climate change. We provide the meeting places and market places to work on solutions to the climate crisis. At the same time, we have a responsibility to minimize our impact on climate change.” (Source: Exhibition World UK)

Pledged in 2021, this initiative, as it is referred to on the website, fails to address the immediacy and puts pressure on our moral culpability. To stand true to the special role that James Rees mentions, we must be ready to align our event objectives around the more crucial, nay critical climate change goals.

Aligning Smart Event Objectives Around Climate Change

In the bid to redefine the efforts of the industry, we would need ideas that help us, not just in the long run but also the short run. A few of the ideas that we believe would bring it home are discussed below:
  1. Build your event and develop your event objectives around the ideas that prioritize the climate and environment.
  2. Finding profitability in sustainability has put us in dire straits and keeping not just sustainable but radical protective ambitions and intentions would serve us all better.
  3. Inclusion of attendees as active members can be sought to amplify the efforts of other stakeholders. Crowdfunding can be done to increase accountability and reduce wastages.
  4. Reduce, Remove and Repair.
  5. Phase out your initiatives and communicate intentions to the stakeholders. This will drive the message home.
  6. Develop a smart events sustainability policy and monitor adherence.
In the end, it comes down to what we do and not what we think we want to do. It is unfortunate that at this juncture, we don’t have the leisure of sitting and discussing things. Net Zero Carbon Events is a brilliant step in the right direction but look around and ask yourself, is it enough?

There is only one answer to it and it rhymes with ‘go’.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can net zero be achieved?

This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed. To reach net zero, emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be cut.

Why is net zero important?

Net zero is important as it's the best way we can tackle climate change by reducing global warming. What we do in the next decade to limit emissions will be critical to the future, which is why every country, sector, industry and each one of us must work together to find ways to cut the carbon we produce.

How can governments, communities and individuals reduce demand and be more efficient in consuming transport energy?

The circular economy, the shared economy, and digitalization trends can support systemic changes that lead to reductions in demand for transport services or expands the use of more efficient transport modes.

What needs to happen for a low carbon industry transition?

Broad and sequential policy strategies for industrial development and decarbonization that pursue several mitigation options at the same time are more likely to result in resource-efficient and cost effective emission reductions.

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