The business travel industry, being a significant contributor to carbon emissions, should take on a larger role in accelerating decarbonisation efforts
Having evolved through various epochs over 4.5 billion years, humanity now lives in the “Anthropocene”, a term determined by our ability to affect Earth geologically on a global scale, not just locally and regionally.
Sadly, such amazing ability has proven mostly detrimental to the Earth and its non-human inhabitants, with a rapid build-up of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) through industrialisation and urbanisation happening in tandem with the Earth’s depleted ability to absorb these GHGs due to large-scale deforestation, ocean warming, and acidification that impairs the ability of sea organisms like phytoplankton and coral to sequester carbon.
News reports highlight the increasing frequency of floods, droughts, wildfires and extreme heat sweeping the globe, which are set to worsen unless global warming is kept to no more than 1.5°C as called for in the Paris Agreement. According to the United Nations, this means GHG emissions need to be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050. Frighteningly, with targets not being met to date, these goals seem out of reach.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the number of weather-related disasters driven by climate change has increased by a factor of five between 1970 to 2019. During this period, there were more than 11,000 reported disasters attributed to these hazards globally, with over two million deaths and more than US$3.6 trillion in losses.
As an industry whose reason for being stems from bringing people together, it makes sense that the business events industry should be at the forefront of addressing the climate challenge, not least of all by dealing with its own GHG emissions. We are also an aggregator industry that brings together specialist providers for our travel, F&B, accommodations, audiovisual and other events needs.
This is no easy task of course. As much as events can be designed to be more sustainable through redesign, reduction, reuse and recycling, there will always be an associated carbon footprint that is correlated to the factors of production required. In the same logic as how we work with expert providers in other fields, working with carbon experts could make the most sense for our industry.
Initiatives targeting the business events industry to create greater awareness about sustainable event planning, as well as provide a practical last-mile means of offsetting carbon should be encouraged and supported.
This implies better cross-industry collaboration between industry stakeholders who understand the unique challenges of our industry, and can communicate better with carbon market experts to jointly create carbon offset solutions that can be applied with pragmatism for our industry.
Solutions include platforms that democratise decarbonisation, making it easy for anyone with access to the Internet a means of supporting genuine, verified carbon offset projects at scale, and thus contribute towards collective mitigation of the climate crisis.
It is more than symbolic that an industry that brings people together should exercise the power to restore balance to our Earth, helping to avert a future of worsening climate disasters that threaten human progress, and ultimately, our very existence. With the reach and power our industry holds with multiple stakeholders, it is time we can do more to mitigate the climate crisis together.
Editor’s note: Daniel Chua will be presenting more about this topic during the How MICE Can Decarbonise session at the upcoming IT&CM Asia, happening from September 26-28, 2023, in Bangkok.
Daniel Chua is a business events industry veteran of 20 years and co-founder of MICEcarbon, a platform enabling decarbonisation of the MICE industry. A sustainability advocate, he serves on the Singapore Tourism Board’s Sustainability Committee, and was the inaugural chair of his Town Council’s Greener Environment committee.