The COP21 conference in Paris brought home to many in the world just how challenging it will be to meet science-based targets for combatting climate change. Ambition is great, but the hard practicalities of behaviour change have become clear.
At Greening the Islands, we embrace this kind of challenge and it has informed our approach to offsetting the impacts of our activities. Anyone truly committed to building a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations has to start by being responsible for their own role in mitigating impacts. All the more so when our events are held in remote island locations with their own fragile ecosystems.
We therefore engaged Climate Resources Exchange to support us in estimating the carbon footprint of the Greening the Islands Italy conference held at the end of May on the island of La Maddalena, just off the northern tip of Sardinia.
Climate Resources Exchange estimated participants at the two-day event generated just over 38 metric tons of GHG equivalent gases. However, it has been calculated that to meet the global temperature reduction goals set by the COP21, current worldwide emissions need to be over-compensated by a factor of 2.5. So we decided to make the event not just carbon neutral, but actually carbon negative, by offsetting the calculated emissions 2.5 times for a total of 100 tons of carbon.
Is 38 tons – or 0.59 tons a person – a big carbon footprint? Just to put into perspective, 0.59 tons represents about a quarter the annual emissions that every EU citizen should have if we are to meet COP21 goals (around 2 tons).
Where did our carbon footprint come from? It won’t come as a surprise that our island location meant most people arrived by plane. That meant 79% of the footprint is caused by air transportation, much greater than the impact of the 4km boat trip from Palau to La Maddalena. According to Climate Resources Exchange, the rest of the emissions can be attributed to hotel accommodation (8%), promotional activities and materials (7%), food and drinks (4%) as well as power consumption at the conference venue (2%).