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What we can learn from the sustainable standards at COP 23

It is that time of year again to gear up for the annual Convention of Parties (COP 23) which will bring global leaders and innovators together to discuss the implementation of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year the COP 23 will be held in Bonn, Germany, and will be presided over by the president of Fiji.

Since the thrilling achievement of threshold entry into the Paris Agreement in October of 2016, excitement is high that this year’s COP 23 will hammer out the specific details needed to keep temperature increase at 1.5 degrees or lower. It is particularly relevant to have appointed Fiji to the presidential position as climate change threatens these vulnerable and typically underrepresented island nations most. Their leadership at COP 23 this year will provide critical insight to island nation priorities and perspectives on climate change avoidance and mitigation.

This year’s COP 23 will not only facilitate climate discussions, but also adhere to a variety of sustainable standards to make the conference climate neutral; and they won’t just be purchasing random carbon offsets to do it. Several efficiency standards, sustainable consumption efforts, and renewable energy generation measures are being put in place. These activities are managed by a neutral third party called the Eco-management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Registering with the EMAS helped to provide the framework for achieving a sustainable conference.

Many ‘green’ projects can look good at face value, but end up having a more destructive effect on the environment due to an unforeseen side effect or overlooked factor within the supply chain. The success of a sustainable initiative is very dependent on using expert support in order to be sure all factors have been taken into account before the comprehensive plan was developed.

We can use examples from COP 23 to think about how you might be able to apply the same efforts to your next corporate event. Some of these good examples are detailed here.

Energy and Transportation

The conference is set to generate almost all energy needed from renewable sources. All leftover food, which is being sources from proper seasonal and local food venues, will be utilized for energy generation. In addition, as opposed to building additional buildings, the necessary space for the conference will be provided by energy efficient and inflatable venues.

Transport can be a large source of emissions. Delegates will therefore be moved to and from the conference venues via public and shuttle transports consisting of specially designated electric vehicles. The largest amount of emissions that will result from the conference will be generated by travel to and from Bonn. These difficult-to-mitigate emissions will be covered by carbon-offset bonds.

Carbon offset bonds will be purchased from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The funds given to this program go specifically towards climate mitigation efforts in developing island nations, which are those most vulnerable to climate change.

Virtual Dissemination

Conferences typically generate the large amount of paper marketing, print media coverage, and convention booth give-aways, there is a special emphasis on stopping excessive use of materials that might end up as waste. There are strict measures in place on what is able to be brought in and out of the conference. Media organizations covering the events are beings strongly encouraged to disseminate new stories through virtual outlets as opposed to print articles. In addition, weight limits have been imposed for the materials coming in to the conference for use at convention booths and organization presentations as an effort to discourage excessive use of materials. As an alternative, QR codes are to be used as opposed to traditional flyer or booklet give-aways to provide easy access to additional information via the internet. A reduction in print material helps support responsible consumption initiatives as paper products must still be harvested from natural environments, while virtual outlets can be powered by renewable sources.

What this means for you and your business

We can look at the sustainable examples utilized at large events as a way to test the mitigation and circular options at scale. If such large events are able to wear a badge of carbon neutrality, then it is possible to adapt some if not all of the sustainable measures put in place to be the norm at your organization.

It is increasingly more important to invest in sustainable strategies to create circular resource use and reduce impacts on our environment. Piece by piece sustainable practice will become the new standard, and responsible consumption and efficient use of resources will guarantee a healthy environment for the whole of a sustainable future.

COP 23 - Sustainable Standards

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