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Making Sustainable Summit Sustainable

COP, or Conference of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Parties, is one of the world’s largest panels on sustainability. As an international event hosting tens of thousands of global guests, COP could become an “unsustainable sustainable event.” According to the Washington Post, last year’s COP in Scotland had a carbon footprint of more than 100,000 tonnes. Knowing this, the organizer of this year’s COP, or COP27, in Egypt has taken measures to ensure that emission remains low.


Like many COP events in the past, COP27 commits to using recycled materials and green technology, such as electric vehicles, low-water-usage sanitary equipment, and state-of-the-art waste management systems. However, what this year’s organizing team goes beyond is their commitment to making sure that the entire ecosystem of the event—caterers, hotels, and transportation—is sustainable. Of all hotels serving COP participants, 22 have obtained a green star certificate—certifying their low carbon footprint operations, with 64 more hotels in the process of getting one. In terms of transportation, apart from electric cars used to transport delegates around the venue, 260 electric and natural gas buses are being used to serve long-distance transit. On top of these actions, the Egyptian government even constructed three new solar power plants with a capacity of 15 MW to power the entire conference.


It is undeniable that many COP participants must fly in. Historically, this was one of the predominant contributors to the former COP’s carbon footprint. As such, this year’s COP organizer has partnered with various airlines to ensure that carbon-offsetting programs are available for the attending delegates to purchase. Apart from that, carbon emission from each flight is made public to facilitate the offsetting measurement. Besides these official initiatives, a team of researchers from University College London has created an open-sourced COP Carbon Calculator. In it, various transit methods to the COP’s venue in Egypt are compared to give audiences the option of the most convenient and carbon-optimum route.


This unprecedentedly stringent standard of the current COP will serve as a model for more event organizations. Various conferences, panels, and events are held worldwide every month. Therefore, careful attention must be made to every key detail. Everything from infrastructure to utility equipment should be energy-saving, and power should come from as many renewable sources as possible. Apart from that, transportation must be considered. If these standards are followed, businesses or governmental bodies holding the conference could garner more favorable opinions of their operations from today’s more environmentally conscious public, resulting in more acceptance and even financial support.

Sustainable conferences are commendable initiatives. However, as carbon emission is inevitable, ways to reduce footprints must be explored so that the “how” the message is sent goes congruently with the message sent by the event. After all, it is essential to practice what one preaches and set the standard for GREATer ways of holding conferences in the future to come.

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