Climate change: What you can do to make a difference

The South African government is preparing to introduce carbon later this year, with the aim of reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon tax will penalise companies and individuals that emit high levels of carbon, and should motivate the switch to clean energy.

Carbon emissions are produced from a variety of sources, although the most common sources are burning coal, oil, and natural gas to generate energy for power and transportation. According to Franz Rentel, Country Director at Climate Neutral Group, electricity emissions are higher in South Africa than the rest of the world because our power stations use coal to generate electricity. Rentel recently spoke about how to organise a carbon neutral event at the Meetings Africa Green Training organised by the Event Greening Forum (EGF).

The global meetings, events and conference sector makes a big impact on climate change, with more than 70% of an event’s carbon emissions produced by transportation. Although it is difficult to eliminate carbon emissions from an event completely, there are four steps one should bear in mind during the preparations for an event:

Set goals and targets

Before the event, set climate goals. Find out what you want to achieve by asking questions like: Do you want to see an increase in carpooling to the event or the use of direct flights? Will you opt for digital platforms for marketing collateral rather than paper? How do you plan to manage the waste at the event? Once the goals have been defined, one needs management’s buy-in. This is key to ensuring a successful low carbon event.

Gain insight

Collect data before, during and after the event. This will provide meaningful insight into the event’s carbon footprint. It will enable one to set benchmarks and will highlight what areas need greater attention going forward.

Take action

Once the carbon footprint of the event has been determined, establish which carbon offset programme(s) will be supported.  There are a variety of projects that can be used, including tree planting, buying carbon credits, and supporting a local community project like Wonderbag or Cookstoves.

Communicate

Communication is vital during the entire process. It is not just about educating suppliers and delegates beforehand, but about ensuring that the green message is communicated until completion of the project. In addition, one should share insights and challenges so others can learn from your experience and incorporate this information into their events.

There has been a recent shift, with organisers, venues and suppliers recognising that events do not have to make a large negative impact on the environment. They can play a positive role by becoming low-carbon or even carbon neutral.

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