What about events & greenhouse gas emissions?

Uncategorized May 26, 2022

The events sector is finally paying attention and seriously addressing our obligation to play a role in climate action.

To align with global ambitions, most events organisations agree these two goals are critical:

  • 50% reduction in GHGs by 2030
  • Global net zero emissions by 2040 (some say 2050!)

Events immediately need a roadmap to achieve these ambition reductions, (that's more than 5% a year if you haven't started yet!).

And as industry, we need to look to our supply chain, venues, destinations, transport and energy sectors to forecast how we collectively will get to net zero emissions.

This is an exciting project to tackle and one that's in development, so watch this space.

Measuring is your first, quick step you need to take.

As an event organiser, the identifying what GHGs might be created because of your event needs to be done immediately. We all know we should measure fuel, travel, power.

But how deep do we go on Scope 3 emissions — do we include food & beverage, hotel nights, waste, embodied GHGs in materials and equipment?

Tools are in development to help you, some already exist. But the approaches taken vary. The most important thing is to clearly define what you should be measuring, and ensure you don't go to light on, too deep that it becomes unmanageable to measure, or too generic that your numbers don't really mean anything....

Oh dear, it's already too hard. So sorry.

But who owns the GHG impacts? Is it all my event's responsibility?

Once you know what could and should be measured, you then need to draw some boundaries on who has responsibility for those GHG emissions - it's your responsibility as an event owner or organiser to make sure GHGs are reduced/avoided/minimised regardless of who's in financial and operational control. If your event caused it's creation, that's your responsibility to effect good practice. But it's not necessarily your financial responsibility, for example, to pay for carbon offsets or invest in supply chain insetting.

So what approach do you take?

Within our industry, there’s differing opinions, interpretations and understandings of what is the event organiser’s responsibility to 'balance' after all reductions are possible.

What do we about attendee impacts? Should this be shared? Should attendees be engaged to contribute and take action for their own impacts? Should those flying across the world to attend a sports event be engaged to offset, or have it automatically included as part of the ticket, or should the event be a generous host and cover that for people? Or should we not be promoting offsetting at all - guilt free flying? A tricky one from all angles.

Should professional participants such as musicians or sports teams take ownership of their GHG impacts, or should the event organiser pay for everything? Or do they share the impact? Where to you draw the line — pre-event team preparation, travel to the event, travelling on to the next event?

Should sponsors take responsibility for their hospitality guest’s impacts? What about their activations and installations? Staff travel to the event?

For events like the mega-events, where does built infrastructure come into the equation. Should this be bundled in with event operations? Do you do a pro-rata approach based on the use-case of the venue that it was built for and a prediction of onwards use? Should it be weighted more heavily to the igniting event (world cup, olympics etc)?

We need a commonly agreed approach to make things simpler and harmonious across our industry.

The event industry needs to establish common approaches to GHG measurement — what’s in and what’s out, under which circumstances, how to share your justification for inclusions and exclusions and what you should and shouldn’t claim.

The GHG Protocol gives great guidance for Scope 3 emissions, but it still needs to be translated for our sector, with its myriad of stakeholders, event scenarios and ownership models.

To kick off the conversation, I propose a first draft of 'decision filters' which may help define and justify your approach to GHG measurement.

Which tool or approach can I use today?

There are some tools available that might fit your circumstances.

The challenge is without a common set of criteria and with varying approaches, there’s no consistency between these tools, making comparisons impossible.

But that’s ok if you find tool that works for you, you stick with it, and you don’t try and compare your event to other’s unless you’re using the same approach.

The MyClimate calculator is quite good — if you’re in Europe and you’ve got a simple set of circumstances regarding stakeholders. Trace by ISLA could be an option for you.

The Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green tool is very possible to work for you, if you’re a one-location music festival or venue, and based in the UK.

UNFCCC is producing a calculator that will be good for conferences. Net Zero Carbon Events is an industry pledge towards net zero emissions.

The Festival Fuel Tool and the Travel Calculator by Equilibrium could help you for these impact areas.

Sports have convened within UNFCCC and formed the Sports for Climate Action framework. The programme considers reductions, measurement and climate advocacy Signatories commit to 50% reduction by 2030 and the programme is part of the Race to Zero.

Vision: 2025 have launched an industry consultation for a Green Code of Conduct, to provide clear minimum environmental standards for all UK outdoor events.This includes targets and harmony in measurement. See the work in progress

In Australia there is a standard and certification for achieving and claiming carbon neutrality for organisations and events: Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for Events.

Want to learn more?

If you want to get into the detail of what and how to measure, check out our Climate Responsible Events course at www.ise.world/courses.

You can also download a 2022 Sustainable Events Roundup here, which I'm sure you'll find super helpful and it's jam packed full of links to sustainable events industry, tools and programmes.

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