Now, you might expect a climate conference like COP26 to be conscious of its own carbon footprint, but the executive summary tells a different story. Over the course of 11 days, the summit produced 102,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
For comparison, that’s the equivalent of 10,000 households and it is also double the number of emissions compared to COP25. Now that’s not to say that the event did not try to be sustainable.
So the real question is how did an 11-day event generate so much carbon? And possibly even more important, is there a way to avoid this in future conferences?
What Was the Biggest Source of Emissions?
This one shouldn’t be a surprise, but emissions from transportations, specifically, aviation.
Between the 120 world leaders, various corporations, and activists, the conference saw guests from all over the globe. Naturally, most of them could only attend by taking a plane, with most world leaders having their own private jet.
Once on the ground, the transportation from and to the conference was actually green. Guests could ride in electric busses and other low-carbon transportation options. And then, attendees would leave the same way they came.
On a plane. And according to Cirium, there were a total of 76 flights just leading up to the event.
Is There Any Other Way?
To be perfectly honest, not really, at least none that are viable to world leaders.
Sure, it’s possible for world leaders to take a zero-emission journey to the conference, but that could take days or even weeks of travel time. It’s not an option for individuals that need to make important decisions on a daily basis.
It’s also not as safe.
The other way that leaders could attend was virtually, but individuals who took part in the conference virtually tend to play a passive role.
This is why nations like China and Russia came under fire for not attending the conference in person. Thus, by attempting to attend in a greener fashion, the productivity of the meeting is diminished greatly.
Really, this says more about the airline industry and its lack of green options.
The UK does have a plan, carbon offsets. By taking part in large projects, it can erase the carbon footprint entirely.
Outside of Aviation, the COP26 Had A Small Carbon Footprint
As we discussed, ground transportation consisted of low-carbon options. Even the catering focused on sustainability with 60% of the menu consisting of plant-based food. And most importantly, it was sourced locally.
Although, there was some backlash for serving meat.
Overall, the conference was pretty sustainable, but the emissions from flights really hurt it.
And if you were to take into consideration the number of emissions that will be prevented by this conference, then it’s one of the greenest conferences in history. That said, it still didn’t get the world back on track to achieve 1.5C.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.