Can New Carbon Guidelines Really Transform Events?

smoke coming out of factory photo

Skift Take

The UN-backed Race to Zero campaign has updated its inclusion criteria to ensure members reduce and ultimately end all support for unabated fossil fuels. With organizations setting ambitious carbon reduction targets for their business travel and the purchasing of goods and services, there could be a significant impact on events.

The UN-backed Race to Zero is a campaign focused on supporting member organizations to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Members commit to meeting criteria that make their carbon reduction efforts credible and aligned with the global goal of halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Criteria has been updated following consultation with over 200 experts and civil society groups. All new members have to commit to the new criteria, and existing members have one year to fall in line.

The updates make it clear that members must reduce, and ultimately end, all support for unabated fossil fuels, including new coal projects. Nigel Topping and Mahmoud Mohieldin, high-level climate champions for COP26 & COP27, are confident that the new criteria will clearly identify gaps and single out member organizations looking for loopholes. Those who fall short will be removed from the Race to Zero.

Race to Zero members include all three major U.S. airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines — but only one major hotel chain — Marriott International. In addition, financial institutions including BlackRock, Moody’s, and Goldman Sachs are also members, as are Apple, Cisco, HP, GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, McDonald’s, General Motors, and Tesla.

Over 170 event industry enterprises have joined the Race to Zero via the Positive Impact Race to Zero Accelerator Programme. “This shift has been coming over the last five years — the narrative for human engagement and collaboration is changing,” said Positive Impact Events CEO Fiona Pelham.

The direct and indirect impact of companies tackling Scope 3 emissions has the potential to transform the event industry. A reduction in business travel is the obvious place to start, but the entire value chain of suppliers is taken into consideration when calculating Scope 3 emissions and everything related to hosting business events falls into this category.

Clear Current Consulting principal Shawna McKinley highlighted some of the updates to the criteria that may impact events:

  • Prioritizing actions to reduce emissions in the most emissions-intensive business activities, including events and travel.
  • Pledging to phase down fossil fuels which have implications for any events hosted or sponsored by any organization linked to fossil fuels, be they producers or financers.
  • Advocating for low-carbon practices from supplier partners, including those in the event sector.

There is confidence among those working on the campaign that the updated criteria will make it clear which members have exemplary approaches to net zero and which do not.

In September, Race to Zero is setting up an independent compliance mechanism that will hold members accountable to their targets. This is the missing piece that will track the real results of the campaign.