Our window for staying within the best case 1.5°C global warming limit is rapidly narrowing. Evidence within the report suggests that our greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and begin to fall thereafter. If this imminent milestone is not met in time, then it is almost inevitable that we will overshoot our 1.5°C trajectories in the short term. However, if emissions reductions are seriously ramped up globally in the following years, we still have a chance to course-correct.
Renewable energy – is an obvious solution
Governments continue to grant planning permission for an unacceptable number of gas installations and coal-fired power plants, jeopardising the stability of our global climate. Meanwhile, the prices of key renewable energy technologies have nosedived over the past decade by up to 85%, in many instances making them more cost-effective than established fossil fuel generation. The report explains that the only rational course of action to stay within 1.5°C is to phase out coal use as soon as possible. Yet despite the explicit financial and environmental benefits – it is predicted an enhanced renewables strategy could account for half of our 2030 emissions targets – investments in solar, wind and hydroelectric power remain way short of the sixfold target that has been recommended in a report to avert climate disaster.
Capturing carbon – Negative emissions technology
The Earth already possesses its own, increasingly depleted, natural carbon-capturing capabilities in forests, oceans, soils and peatlands. However, the IPCC has made clear that we cannot tree-plant our way out of impending catastrophe. In order to meet our temperature goals, the preservation of these natural carbon stores, in addition to net-zero reduction policies, may not be enough to achieve our 1.5-degree world. The implementation of supplementary mass-scale carbon removal technology is now looking to be another solution that will be required to put us on the right pathway. Expensive carbon capture and storage (CCS) has already been used on a limited scale to liquefy CO2 from fossil fuel power plants for underground storage, but ‘direct air capture’ tech – largely still in the R&D stage – could now also be necessary.
Lifestyle changes – be the change you want to see
Obscene inequalities in levels of consumption persist, with the top (wealthiest) 1% of GHG emitters responsible for 70 times more pollution than people in the bottom 50%. This report marked the first comprehensive integration of social sciences into the IPCC process, raising the fundamental topic of ‘demand management’ – i.e. reducing our demand for energy-intensive goods and services. Three of the most significant impact reduction pathways lie in air travel, energy use in buildings, and the consumption of beef. Sweeping and lasting behavioural changes in these, amongst other categories, are projected to result in a 40-70% reduction in emissions.
Mitigation in the events industry – we can be part of the solution
The title and focus of this report are mitigation strategies and we couldn’t analyse the report without providing some initial and obvious recommendations for action that we could take within the event industry.
Renewable energy, making the switch
This is the biggest single change you can make to reduce your operational energy-related emissions and, where practicable, should be one of your organisation’s first steps in your journey towards net zero. For those in shared office buildings and with no direct control of energy contracts, open a dialogue with neighbouring businesses under the same landlord and build a coalition to advocate for the switch. Calculate and demonstrate emissions savings to the key stakeholders involved.
Prioritising venues with renewable energy is critical to lowering event-related emissions. Venues that match 100% of their gas and electricity usage matched by a renewable energy supplier such as Ecotricity or Good Energy is the easiest way to immediately improve the sustainability performance of our events. If you cannot secure a venue on a renewable tariff, at least start measuring your energy-related emissions through an event carbon footprint platform like TRACE you can offset those emissions in the first instance and set goals for reduction for future events.
Offsetting, investing in the future
Tree-planting is promoted as a simple, relatively inexpensive, solution to climate change, but research suggests there may not be enough room to plant all the trees proposed to incorporate climate pledges. Devote some time to researching alternative offsetting schemes, including investment in renewable energy technologies which help to replace fossil fuels in developing countries. At the same time, research local renewable energy organisations and consider how you could facilitate the transition to cleaner energy for both your local community and company employees. British housing is also among the worst insulated in Europe – with the average home losing three degrees Celsius of indoor temperature after five hours. Consider offsetting investments that aim to help remedy this issue which the government has consistently avoided addressing.
Fight or flight?
The world’s travel corridors have opened up and events are once again being delivered at a global scale. What if the preference for the event location was based on the audience? Where is your audience located? Poll your audience and review past registration data, if your audience is based in EMEA why host the event in Las Vegas? Could the event be delivered virtual or hybrid to limit audience travel-related emissions to your event?
Beef and other red meats
If your team has taken any of the isla training courses you’ll have heard them hammering home the astonishing impacts of beef on the environment, through inefficient land and water use and excessive methane emissions. Beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more GHG emissions per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins such as beans. Clients, venues and suppliers are often unaware of the stark discrepancies in emissions between red meat ingredients and plant-based alternatives. isla recognise the different levels of control their members will have over event catering provisions, but encourage all to increasingly assert their influence on menu ingredients. For those in direct control of catering, isla recommend you begin setting phased targets for decreasing the volume of red meat in menus and increasing plant-based options. For those dealing with in-house venue caterers, subcontracting your catering services or obligated to work with established/favoured client contractors, open a dialogue on the subject, request lower impact alternatives from their supply chain, then calculate and demonstrate those emissions savings to the key stakeholders involved.