The climate toll of business conferences
Post-COVID revival of businesses conferences could bring substantial carbon emissions, but planners can curb the impact while still enabling lots of in-person interaction, new analysis shows.
Driving the news: The paper in Nature Communications attempts a holistic look at the resource footprint of conferences, looking at travel and food demands for big in-person events, but also energy needed for remote communications, to name a few big categories.
What they found: Looking at virtual, in-person and hybrid models, they conclude that moving meetings and conventions to all-virtual formats can cut emissions by 94%.
- But it also explores hybrid formats and strategies that curb emissions from travel involving multi-location conference "hubs," careful flight planning and more.
- "[S]patially optimal hubs for the hybrid conferences have the potential to slash carbon footprint and energy use by 60–70% while maintaining <50% of virtual participation," Cornell University researchers write.
Why it matters: They write that the annual impact of the event industry has reached the same order of magnitude as the yearly greenhouse gas emissions of the entire U.S.
- However, that finding relies on an expansive definition of the "global event industry" via the Events Industry Council, which defines "business event" as "10 or more participants for a minimum of four hours in a contracted venue."