Collaboration, commitment and consistency emerged as key themes when the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative launched its Roadmap at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Hundreds of events professionals around the world watched and listened to the presentations and panel sessions. These highlighted the progress of the initiative since its launch in 2021, how the industry can move forward effectively using the Roadmap and how action areas and workstreams on topics such as travel, accommodation, energy, waste and measurement are the next steps. The Roadmap is available as a Full Report with comprehensive information on how to implement action to achieve Net Zero, and as an Executive Summary.
In panel discussions about implementation, the need for structure, standardised measurement and to ‘start now’ figured prominently. Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI and JMIC board member declared “Measurement is key – without it, you can’t track progress. The challenge in our sector is that every event is different. It’s essential to take a united approach.” Edwin Van der Vennet of the Sustainability Committees of IFES, EDPA and UFI said “It’s essential to start now – and start simple. There are no secrets, it’s simply about getting started.”
The Roadmap creates a common framework for all event industry stakeholders to meet the net zero goal. It provides a pathway for individual organisations as well as industry-wide action areas. The action areas have been identified where collaborative effort is needed along with a framework for measuring and evaluating progress.
Commenting on the value of the Roadmap, Helen Sheppard, head of sustainability at RX said it “prompts us to question how we do business from the big – such as delegate travel – to the small – such as badging. Education is key to supporting the changes we need to implement.”
Several of the panel members, including Derar Al Manaseer, director – strategy & investment ADNEC and Senthil Gopinath, CEO ICCA agreed that “the Roadmap is a gift to the industry.”
The event opened with Miguel Alejandro Naranjo Gonzalez and Ina Parvanova of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) congratulating the industry on developing the Roadmap, particularly that such a wide range of stakeholders had been involved. After James Rees, JMIC president, expressed how JMIC was proud to be a unifying body for the industry in taking on the challenge of climate change. Kai Hattendorf reported that more than 400 organisations had signed the Pledge launched at COP26.
During a series of contributions by leaders of organisations committed to supporting the initiative, Monica Lee Muller, managing director of Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre said “Sustainability is the company’s guiding principle, and the concept is now deep rooted in our process and daily routines. Being part of NZCE is a natural step for us.” Alan Steel, CEO of the JAVITS Center confirmed that it’s okay to start small and work towards larger goals. Bob Priest-Heck, CEO of Freeman observed that “Our eco system is complex and we need to work together to make real change happen. We need to reach outside our industry and connect with aligned sectors such as travel.”
Charlie McCurdy, CEO of Informa Markets reminded everyone that “Collectively, we bring together one and a half billion business decision-makers every year across virtually all industries around the world. Our events have an estimated total economic impact per year of 1.5 trillion US dollars. The exhibition industry is a catalyst for change.”
On progress so far and looking ahead to next year, Kai Hattendorf commented; “This is the biggest, most inclusive action ever from our industry. At COP26 we just got started, with our pledge, and a huge amount of momentum. Now, at COP27, we’re launching the Roadmap.“By COP28, we will have models for implementation, successful pilots to announce and share, and we will have companies beginning to report their progress into the framework.”
In conclusion, James Rees said: “Addressing this fundamental sustainability challenge is a global and united effort – and we need to drive consistency across our industry. Net Zero Carbon Events is here to bring people together and affect real change.
“The Roadmap will support and guide organisations through this process of achieving Net Zero linked to our target, and it is an ambitious target but it is one we really must meet. We have no choice. We have to act and we have to do so now. So, sign up to the initiative, become part of the Roadmap.
“I’m very positive about the future.”