Global meetings industry aims for ‘net zero’ pledge before COP26

The international meetings industry could be weeks away from agreeing an historic pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as the world wakes up to the threat of climate change.

The Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) is hosting a new initiative – Net Zero Carbon Events – to connect the events industry to the growing movement to radically reduce emissions.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is supporting the initiative.

In November 2021, world leaders will meet in Glasgow at COP26 to demonstrate how their countries will achieve the 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

Ahead of this meeting, for profit and non-profit organizations from across all sectors are setting forth their own pathways towards this goal – and the ultimate goal of net zero by 2050.

In a statement JMIC said it aimed to ‘link all stakeholders in the corporate, professional, academic and destination communities world-wide that have committed to engagement in what is one of the biggest collective challenges we all face today, and to invite those that have not done so yet to join’.

The Net Zero Carbon Events initiative aims to:

  • Jointly communicate our industry’s commitment to tackling climate change and driving towards net zero by 2050
  • Develop common methodologies for measuring the industry’s direct, indirect and supply chain greenhouse gas emissions
  • Construct an industry-wide roadmap towards net zero by 2050, and emissions reductions by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement, with support and guidance on key issues
  • Foster collaboration with suppliers and customers to ensure alignment and common approaches
  • Establish common mechanisms for reporting progress and sharing best practice


The initial objective for this initiative is to align industry support and advance the creation of a Net Zero Pledge for the Events Industry for launch at the time of the COP26 (Oct 31 – Nov 12).

The pledge will set out the process organisations should undertake to set a pathway towards net zero by 2050, with emissions reductions by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement.

This will include measuring direct, indirect and supply chain greenhouse gas emissions; working towards an industry roadmap; and transparent and regular reporting and communications.

The industry roadmap which will be worked on over the following months will identify the commitments required for the reduction and neutralization of event related GHG emissions.

It will highlight those to be addressed both by the industry itself, including the value chain leading up to event delivery, as well as those to be addressed in collaboration with other related sectors such as hospitality and transportation that are an integral part of the overall event experience. It will include some “level settings”, to adapt to the reality of each region and/or size of organization.

James Rees, JMIC President, said: “Events drive industries and societies. They shape conversations, foster innovation and generate business. They are key to human collaboration. This holds true for every subject – including sustainability and climate change. 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 minimise our impact on climate change. We are inviting organisations from across the events industry – venues, organisers, exhibitors and suppliers – to join this collaborative effort to drive the events sector towards net zero.”

Anbu Varathan, UFI President, said: “UFI is committed to driving and supporting sustainable development among our global membership and the exhibition industry at large. This collaborative and inclusive initiative that covers the whole event industry is a new important step and we look forward to identifying the commitments required for the reduction and neutralization of event-related GHG emissions.”

Achieving net zero will be complex. The meetings or ‘business events industry’ is a sprawling sector with a wide supply chain fall under various other sectors from aviation to hospitality. One of the issues will be working out who counts – or is responsible for – which emissions. Do the emissions related to a delegate flying long-haul belong to the aviation or meetings and events?

The new initiative arises from the work of an organizing task force initiated by JMIC members UFI, AIPC and ICCA joined by representatives of Emerald Expositions (US), Freeman (US), HKCEC (China), Informa (UK), Javits Center (US), MCI (Switzerland), Messe München (Germany), RX (UK) and Scottish Event Campus (UK) and it was born from a discussion with the UNFCCC secretariat — United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat — which is also supporting the initiative.

What is net zero?

Net Zero refers to a balance between man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their removal from the atmosphere. To achieve this balance, GHG emissions must be reduced and the non-avoided ones must be compensated or “neutralized” through the use of long-term carbon capture solutions.

What is the Paris agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. The Agreement set a long-term temperature goal to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably limit the increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F). In order to achieve this there is a recognition that global carbon emissions need to be reduced by 50 per cent by 2030 from a 2018 baseline and for net zero emissions to be achieved by the second half of the century.

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