UFI and JMIC Kick Off Events Industry Initiative to Tackle Climate Change

September 2, 2021

As the escalating climate change crisis continues to plague the planet, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) and the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) have teamed up to unite the events industry for a massive push to diminish its carbon footprint.

Today, UFI unveiled the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative, which is hosted by JMIC and supported by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim is to attract and connect major events industry stakeholders around the world, including organizers, planners, exhibitors, venues, destinations and suppliers, to the rapidly growing movement toward net zero emissions by 2050.  

The announcement comes as the consequences of climate change are wreaking havoc around the globe. This summer, record-breaking heat waves have tormented the U.S. and Canada, wildfires have ravaged parts of the western U.S., Siberia and Greece, and floods have devastated areas of China and Germany. During the past week alone, wildfires have been blazing out of control in California, while Hurricane Ida slammed regions of the Gulf Coast, and its remnants caused historic flash floods in the Northeast. The need to address climate change has never seemed greater.

In November 2021, world leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, at COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, to present ways their countries will achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 in order to deliver on the Paris Agreement. In advance of COP26, for profit and nonprofit organizations from across all sectors of the economy are setting forth their own pathways toward the 2030 goal and the ultimate goal of net zero by 2050. For the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative, the objective is to have a pledge ready for COP26. 

According to JMIC President James Rees, the events industry plays a special role in addressing climate change.

“Events shape conversations, foster innovation and generate business,” he said, adding that they are key to human collaboration on every topic, including sustainability and climate change," he said. “We provide the meeting places and marketplaces to work on solutions to the climate crisis, and at the same time, we have a responsibility to minimize our impact on climate change.”

According to UFI President Anbu Varathan, the organization is committed to driving and supporting sustainable development among its 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,” he said.

Drawing up to hundreds—and oftentimes thousands—of people, events can be a colossal contributor to environmental pollution, considering the additional amounts of carbon dioxide related to transportation, meals, accommodations, venues and other factors.  

The Net Zero Carbon Events initiative will work to bring together those who have already committed to helping fight climate change and invite those that have not yet done so to join.  

Following are the goals laid out under the initiative to get to net zero by 2050:

  • Develop common methodologies for measuring the industry’s direct, indirect and supply chain GHG emissions.
     
  • Construct an industry-wide roadmap toward 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 practices.

The initiative already has more than 20 major participants, including organizations such as The Freeman Company, Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and BPA Worldwide, and venues such as Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and New York City’s Javits Center.

According to Jacqueline Tran, energy sustainability manager at Javits Center, participating in the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative is another way the center, a model of sustainability for the events industry and green buildings across New York State and New York City, can lead by example to tackle the climate crisis.   

“Collaboration on the goal of net zero GHG emissions at the industry level can be very impactful,” Tran said. “The Javits Center is excited to partner with show organizers, general contractors, venues and other organizations in the events industry to discover the best path forward to net zero.”

She added, “Initiatives like this can bring together a diverse group of experts and industry leaders to help improve communities across the globe.” 

For BPA Worldwide, its experience providing auditing and assurance services to the events industry has shown that measuring greenhouse gas emissions is an essential risk management strategy, according to Joe Rizzo, director of BPA iCompli Sustainability, a division of BPA Worldwide.

“We know first-hand the challenges with carbon accounting for events and believe we can provide critical support for the initiative,” he said, adding that the accelerating effects of climate change mean that every sector needs to be proactively planning to mitigate their impact. “The events industry is a major driver of business and leisure travel, and event owners are in part responsible for the emissions generated from flights, hotels, meals, venues and so on. In aggregate, these emissions are not insignificant."

To join the Net Zero Carbon Events initiative, go here

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