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April 16, 2008

Aileen Reuter:Donít throw stones at the house, Tim, come and help build it

Tim Waygood’s comments on the Eventia One Future initiative are carefully thought out, but they present a narrow view (rather selectively teased from a recent BBC report) of a very complex picture. As one of the team who developed the programme, I’d like to respond to some of his key objections:

Certainly events vary in terms of their carbon impact, so 1% doesn’t pretend to be a precise offset figure for all events. But research has shown that it is the closest general value for event emissions. The Eventia One Future programme is supported by measurement tools that enable users to calculate exactly their events’ carbon impacts if they want to. But that figure of 1% provides an easily identifiable starting point for those wanting a voluntary approved offset option.

High domestic emissions
If energy education had proved to be as successful as Tim Waygood suggests, UK emissions would be declining significantly by now. In fact, domestic carbon emissions continue to be one of the largest sources in the UK, so addressing the issue in our homes is a priority. School education has started to produce results in domestic energy saving – through children’s influence on their parents’ behaviour. Equipping the next generation to be carbon-responsible consumers in one of the highest per capita emitting nations in the world has got to be a sound, if not crucial, investment.

Waygood’s statement that the UK has already committed to substantial carbon reductions is not supported by clear evidence that these targets are likely to be met. UK carbon reduction projects have the advantage of being easily verifiable within an environment that supports long-term viability.
And yes, offsetting in third world countries has its merit, but there are moral and ethical issues about effectively paying people in developing countries to emit less while our own emissions remain high. There’s a strong argument for putting our own house in order first.

Using a code of practice
We entirely agree with his assertion that creating lower carbon events has to be the overriding priority. And this does mean estimating the carbon impact of different options, then using a code of practice that involves managing suppliers to do the same, and offering an offset option that covers the carbon generated. This is what the One Future programme is all about.

Lower carbon event management is being achieved by Eventia members measuring and reducing their own carbon impact, researching and reducing emissions from events themselves, through the delivery of greater information to clients and carbon responsible planning. Members are being supported to adopt best practice themselves as a precursor to rolling this out through the supply chain. Offset is a voluntary part of the programme and all members are clearly advised of the primary need for reduction over offset, which should occupy a secondary or tertiary role in a carbon management programme.

Measure, reduce, offset

Eventia's carbon consultants, The Carbon Consultancy, have consistently advised the need to measure, reduce and offset in that order. The Eventia programme is supported by practical tools and advice to realise the aim of reduced emissions from events.

It’s clear from Tim Waygood’s comments that he is as committed to delivering lower carbon events as we are. This issue is one which is being addressed by the industry as a whole, and Eventia is promoting dialogue and the sharing of best practice to facilitate progress. We invite Tim to contribute his obvious knowledge and enthusiasm to join with us in building a carbon-responsible industry, rather than throwing stones from the sidelines. We should all be on the same side here.

Aileen Reuter is marketing director at Maritz and head of the Eventia CSR Working Party

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