Welcome to the peak season of net zero events!
Scrolling through press releases about how the event sector is acting on climate change in the lead-up to COP27, it is indeed a time to celebrate pledges and progress. It’s also a time to update our understanding of the climate challenge we face as multiple progress reports are rapidly released in the coming weeks.
And what a challenge it is. UNEP’s recently released Emissions Gap Report sums it up: “Only an urgent, system wide transformation can avoid climate disaster.”
So are we on-track to contribute in the event sector? When you piece together that per capita emissions should be approximately 2.3t CO2 per year by 2030 to be on track for a 1.5C world, and attending a single international event can emit as much or more than that, the gap is obvious.
Events can be a powerful tool to build a climate-safe world. After all, they can help us learn about and reflect on our shared challenges, provide space for talking about difficult transitions and create connections and collaborations that enable us to act in ways that create a better future for all. But only if we’re intentional about crafting such experiences and delivering them in a low-carbon way.
So as I watch with interest who is making net zero announcements over the next few weeks, perhaps more than anything else I’ll be paying attention to who is silent. Which event businesses aren’t making announcements? For it’s those whose aren’t in the ring that are sending a loud message about their (in)ability or (un)willingness to meet the future.
And as I read through net zero event announcements by those who ARE preparing, hats off to you for stepping up to the plate.
Here are a few things I’ll be watching for and reflecting on:
- Is analysis from outside of the event sector referenced so that the credibility of pledges and progress can be assessed?
- Are all major sources of emissions being counted, including travel?
- Are total emissions actually being reduced, or is the focus on being carbon efficient as total emissions climb?
- Are the targets and timelines to achieve reductions ambitious?
- Is there an acceptance of the need to scale back large events that rely on long-haul air travel until such time that aviation is able to decarbonise?
- Is there a sense of fairness and equity in terms of who benefits?
- Is there awareness about how event sponsor and client partnerships can either support or delay climate action?
- Are carbon offsets playing an outsized role that enable events to delay harder choices to reduce, offloading the burden of action to others?
- Do affiliations with third parties and credible campaigns exist that monitor for greenwashing?
What will you be watching for?