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ICCA Resource

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Volume 22 - September 2008

What about the airline carbon footprint when talking green meetings?

The general greening trend and greening of meetings is spreading and it's time also to include the air travel when thinking on how to reduce or balance the carbon footprint in connection with an international meeting.

Although greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable effects of airline operation it is actually "only" 2-3% of the CO2 emissions and the world's total climate change impact - road traffic is 13%. Airline traffic is in general growing but airlines are working on reducing CO2 emissions in many different ways.

Scandinavian Airlines has the industry's most efficient fuel saving program with a target of saving 6-7% in 2010. Activities include "green approach" potential saving every landing approx. 350 kg CO2.  "Fly slower" where tests show reduced speed from 860 km to 780 amounts to reduced CO2 by 420 kg on a Bergen–Oslo flight. Instructions for flight deck with reduced speed procedures are currently being rolled out for the entire route network. At SAS Flight dispatch the weather is being studied and route planning and fuelling optimized accordingly, in May the reduced fuel and Carbon emission equal 27 one-way flights Copenhagen-Stockholm. Also the continuous pressure on EU to establish the Single European Sky with 12% potential reduction and of course the voluntary Carbon offset program for passengers.

Never the less some organisers are starting to face the fact that potential delegates and participants are reluctant to travel by air in order to go to the specific conference or meeting. Not because they are afraid of flying, but merely due to consideration for the environment. True - some airlines offer carbon offset for the individual traveller, whether he/she is going on business trip, leisure or attending an event. But are many really using this option?  It's quite anonymyos and it is "just" up to the individual passenger's conscience. Having said that, it is a fact that more and more companies and organisations include the carbon offset in their travel policy, for instance through a corporate travel agreement.

But in connection with a congress or event, you as the organiser would not know how many actually balanced their air travel. And though environmental conscience people could claim that your meeting is a bad idea for the nature, it's better if the delegates stay home!  Your "green report" or similar for the meeting would not include the travel to the event, but only start when the participants has arrived.
So why not include the airline carbon offset payment already in the registration process?
Or in another way make it easy and measurable?  This is why SAS in partnership with the CarbonNeutral Company has developed a Carbon Offset program that clearly connects the offset to the international event.
Either the individual delegates pay themselves, or you as the organiser register the flight used and maybe you have a company sponsoring the CO2 offset. This way you would be able to visualize the carbon footprint caused by the participant travel to the event. You can communicate the value of the compensation and even what it is being used for, i.e. to a portfolio of wind projects. 

So the future for cooperation with an official airline might not "just" be about discounts for delegates and support tickets, but also looking into partnership in relation to the environment.

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