Soon, the British Standards Institute will release a standard on ‘Carbon Neutral’ events. That is, if your event does not follow and document key processes outlined in the standard, it cannot be deemed ‘carbon neutral’.
The pursuit of a standard which requires a commitment to reduced emissions is appropriate, but the Carbon Neutral “brand” needs to go.
Like a sassy ad for cigarettes, the current (pre-standard) ‘carbon neutral’ brand promotes unhealthy actions. Event owners can now budget to offset varying degrees of carbon emissions and market the event with something that looks like responsible action although no effort to reduce event related emissions was planned.
Similarly, ‘carbon neutral’ smacks of the disigenuous. ‘Neutral’ becomes re-defined by arbitrary parameters. Did the measurement consider the emissions resulting from the production of the 20,000 square meters of carpet that will be landfilled or incinerated? Probably not. Still, the attractive ‘carbon neutral’ label is awarded.
Granted, an investment in offsetting represents a still new and positive shift in how event owners account for the impact their meeting has on the climate. Further, the ‘carbon neutral’ standard, once released, will result in everybody using the same terminology and definitions.
Still, offsetting was never intended to be the solution, but one part of a multi-facted approach with emissions reduction requiring the most focus. Even then, our response without a major effort to safely sequester carbon will prove inadequate to achieve the 350ppm to keep our familiar climate in balance.
Offsetting is not enough and ‘Carbon Neutral’ labeled events must not become the goal. Event planners and owners must do more.
One of the lessons from COP15 is the need for all actors to immediately commit to reducing emissions. The meetings industry, like other industries, must measure their Greenhouse Gas emissions and collaborate with respective stakeholders to set agressive goals to reduce total emissions while pursuing effective carbon sequestration, investment in–and efficient usage of– non-nuclear renewable energies in an effort to become ‘Climate responsble’.
Now, that’s a worthy label by any standard.