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Sector presents Net Zero Carbon Pledge at COP26

Following months of planning, research and consultation, the Net Zero Carbon Pledge, a meetings industry initiative to radically reduce emissions, was presented at COP26 in Glasgow.

Miguel Naranjo, programme officer with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is supporting the initiative, opened the session with a short introduction before handing the floor over to Kai Hattendorf, CEO of UFI and JMIC board member, which is hosting the initiative.

Kai Hattendorf at the pledge presentation session. (Image from Twitter)

“Here we are today at COP with an industry commitment that is the result of a broad cross-industry collaboration,” Hattendorf said. “Over the past months, we’ve brought together a global, inclusive group of actors from across the events sector, to work toward carbon neutrality and zero carbon.”

It’s widely recognised that people have an intrinsic need to come together and the events industry facilitates that. But the events industry also has a duty to commit itself to the target of carbon-neutral and this pledge, signed by AMI publisher Northstar Travel Group, aims to represent and demonstrate the commitment of the events industry community to fight climate change.

“It’s our job to make sure the greenhouses gas emission produced by events likes this becomes smaller and smaller and eventually disappear,” Hattendorf added during the session.

The pledge already has 211 supporting actors and 109 initial signatories, including the COP26 host venue, the Scottish Events Campus.

Kathleen Warden, director of conference sales at Scottish Events Campus, said during the presentation: “I am a passionate event professional, and I see day in, day out, the benefits events bring to society. But there is an inherent tension between what we do as an industry and climate change, and there is a pressing need to address that.

“By pledging to a net-zero carbon future for events, we can galvanise the industry together to take responsibility.”

“This pledge started with like-minded people who saw the need for global collaboration and when we sent out an initial draft, more than 200 stakeholders said they were interested. This sends out a very clear message that our industry is ready to do more.”

Warden explained there are four key pillars to this pledge.

  1. Before the end of 2023, organisations will be asked to publish their pathway to net-zero by 2050 at the latest, earlier if possible. But what does it mean? A clear goal for 50 per cent reduction by 2030, net-zero by 2050, two years to commit to a pathway to do this and public commitment to doing so.
  2. To collaborate with customers, suppliers, and attendees to drive change. See events through the lens of sustainability and be a champion for net-zero events.
  3. To measure and track scope one, two, and three greenhouse gasses, according to industry best practices. “If we don’t measure, we don’t know if we’re making any progress,” Warden added.
  4. To report on progress every two years.

“This is a challenge for our industry but it’s a challenge we can lean into and this roadmap will offer support and guidance,” Warden added. “This pledge, this promise, is the foundation for a lot of challenging work ahead. By working together, we can inspire each other to make this happen and build momentum for change.”

The session heard from leaders of conference centres, event logistic companies and exhibition companies on why their organisations signed up to the pledge.

These stakeholders included Mike Seamen, CEO of Racon Events, who explained that the pledge is “such an overwhelmingly positive statement of intent for the industry that it just felt like something we had to be a part of.

“What we’ve realised over the past few years as we’ve been working on our own net-zero targets, is that we can’t do this alone and working in silos is definitely not the way to go. Being part of this pledge feels like a really big opportunity. We have a moral responsibility to do this. The time for talking is done and the time for action is now.”

You can find out more about the Net Zero Carbon Pledge here.

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