Building Back Better

Building Back Better: How Associations Can Drive Forward Carbon Reduction

16th December 2021

Climate change is on the current global agenda, and associations are playing a leading role in driving the conversation and promoting change. For example, new CSR commitments from both conferences and venues are using events as a way to reduce carbon emissions from both the types of materials used and from the transport that would carry them.

Words Lane Nieset

As part of Boardroom’s Building Back Better series, we’ll look at how these initiates extend beyond the conference and into communities to lead by example and show how associations can be key in creating and supporting initiatives to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions.

Race to zero

When the pandemic began, the immediate halt of many activities resulted in a brief decrease in carbon emissions, but concentrations of greenhouse gases reached record highs in 2020. One of the warmest years on record, the global average temperature was about 1.2°C above the 1850–1900 baseline. As a result—and as part of the SDG dedicated to climate action—the Race to Zero global campaign was launched in June 2020 on World Environment Day. The coalition of leading net zero initiatives represents 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 of the biggest investors, and 622 Higher Education Institutions, each contributing their own plan to halve emissions by 2030 and speed along the shift toward a 1.5C aligned trajectory. As the United Nations Climate Change explains on the campaign siteThese ‘real economy’ actors join 120 countries in the largest ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. Collectively these actors now cover nearly 25% global CO2 emissions and over 50% GDP.”

The goal with Race to Zero is to inspire other businesses, associations, organizations and regional governments to take more action against climate change and invest in a clean economic recovery post-pandemic. As UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa explained“Race to Zero must help spur strong enhanced national climate action plans—or NDCs—due this year. Race to Zero is not a campaign of the future, but a campaign of today. That’s why all members are demonstrating how they’re already in the race to zero, by publishing immediate plans by UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and setting interim targets in 2025 and 2030.”

Cities like Freetown and Bogota have already pledged commitments to tackle air pollution and become zero carbon by 2050, while in Japan, local governments have set net zero targets that will cover 64 million people, which is more than half of the country’s population. Companies in some of the most impacted sectors, like aviation, shipping, rail and power generation, are also stepping on board with solutions to decarbonize power and contribute toward a more resilient and zero carbon economy. 

Carbon-free events

Following COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, the Joint Meetings Industry Council announced a new initiative: net zero carbon events. Aligning with the commitments of the Paris Agreement, every stakeholder in the events sector has pledged to halve CO2 emissions by 2030. “Through this joint commitment to the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge to halve CO2 emissions over the next decade, key stakeholders in the events industry are affirming their commitment to a speedy transition towards a more sustainable events model,” says Pablo Nakhlé Cerruti, CEO of Viparis. “For Viparis, reducing the environmental impact of its sector—as well as those of its clients, partners and service providers—underpins our strategic development and modernization projects.”

Viparis, which hosts events at nine locations in the Greater Paris region, including Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, has been monitoring its CO2 emissions for the past five years and has developed a CSR strategy dubbed “Better Events 2030” that aims to reduce the carbon footprint by working closely with the entire value chain of partners and service providers. For example, GL events, an events solutions and services provider, is leasing 8,000 sqm in Hall 8 at Viparis’s Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition complex to store equipment for stands for Première Vision Paris trade shows, which will, in effect, eliminate the need to dispatch more than 500 HGVs during the show’s two annual events, thereby saving 82 tons of CO2 per year—equal to the average French household’s gas consumption over a 32-year period.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, a new business event, the 2035 Agri-Food-Tech Oceania Summit, launched at APEC 2021 CEO Summit in Auckland in November 2021 to address the world’s agrifood climate challenge. The Summit, slated for April 2022, will showcase local solutions for global climate impact to give farmers and growers the tools they need to reach net emissions targets by 2035, and includes partnerships with the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Australian Agritech Association, and AgriFutures Australiawith its evokeAG platform

As Ken Pereira, manager of Auckland Convention Bureau (ACB), puts it: “In addition to the strategic benefits this conference will bring to the agrifood industry, it will also benefit our local hospitality and accommodation sector. We are proud to support an event that brings together experts working to address climate change.”           

These are just a few of the ways that planners, venues, convention bureaus and associations are working together on a 360-approach to combat carbon emissions using events as both an example and catalyst to spark real change and speed along the global goal for a greener future.

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