What are sustainable meetings and what you can do

The EMS’s Sustainable Meetings Policy was first adopted in 2015; it covers mobility, venue and accommodation, organization and arrangement of services, catering, and communication. Please see the full details at: https://www.emetsoc.org/events/ems-annual-meetings/future-venues/ems-sustainable-meetings-policy/

For the EMS2023, we have compiled a report on how the implementation actually meets these requirements we set out in the Sustainable Meetings Policy. The main challenge is to get the actual data on electricity consumption, waste, etc from the venue and the caterers, and also to know exactly how onsite attendees travel to the meeting; in addition the electricity consumption for the servers, all the online services provided through zoom and streaming, and the usage of the devices and online connections by the online participants can only be estimated.

  • For a summary of the report from the EMS2023 see below.

In addition, an emissions report by atmosfair based on the type of building, numbers of participants, from where the participants come, how many did travel by train, and how long they did stay was produced. The not unexpected result is, the vast majority of the emissions is created through the travel of the attendees (ca. 760,000kg CO2) plus their accommodation (ca. 89,500kg CO2 – something often overlooked) and services provided there. The remainder is roughly half due to the energy and material used at the conference venue (5,000kg CO2), and half through provision of catering (6,500kg CO2).

Thus we strongly encourage all our participants

  1. to travel by train whenever feasible – for a report on the 28-hour travel by Rasmus Benestad from Oslo to Bratislava for the EMS2023 see this news post: https://www.emetsoc.org/a-28-hour-train-ride-from-oslo-to-the-ems2023 and
  2. choose a “green”, “eco-friendly”, emissions-reduced accommodation, possibly in walking distance to the venue.

Please see the Travel to Barcelona and the Mobility in Barcelona websites.

EMS and net zero pledge

At the last EMS General Assembly the EMS Members discussed and agreed that the EMS should aim at becoming a net-zero organization: it was unanimously agreed that the EMS should make such a pledge.

The main priority will be to reduce emissions due to the conference, and align the continuous reduction with the Paris agreement. Concentration will be on the direct effects due to the organization of the conference, but we strongly encourage participants to save emissions through eco-friendly travel and accommodation. Compensation is only the last option, and it is important that a serious scheme is used for this. Details will be discussed at the EMS Council Session in March 2024.

Climate-neutral Europe

With this year’s conference focus on The role of weather and climate research in the achievement of a climate-neutral Europe we are also addressing the critical role of weather and climate research in shaping policies, strategies, and technologies that will pave the way towards a climate-neutral Europe.

Summary report on implementation/achievement of sustainable meeting objectives:

  • Mobility and carbon footprint: Personal travel of attendees is the largest contribution to the carbon footprint of the conference; through the website we encouraged onsite attendees to travel by train and provide links to useful train booking sites; in the past compensating emissions was offered within the registration, but as many institutions now compensate for travels of their staff, we ask attendees whether they do compensate: about 20% of EMS2023 onsite attendees did offset their travel-related emissions. As a further measure, online participation as part of a hybrid conference concept is now offered as a standard of EMS Annual Meetings: 17% attended online in 2023. However, no data exist to measure the effect of the online servers on the emissions budget.
  • Venue and accommodation: To find a central venue in the vicinity of accommodation and services for participants is not always easy, when the budget of the EMS is quite limited. It worked out well for the EMS2022 in Bonn, and also for the event 2024 in Barcelona, but the venue in Bratislava was 2km off centre. However, the public transport worked well and was inexpensive. About accommodation (eco-friendly, sustainable) no data are available. For the venue itself: most venues now have some sort of sustainability policy in place, but not always working to the same standards. Many still do not really measure and monitore consumption, the event-sprecific break-down often is a challenge, and this is true also of the Bratislava University venue. Thus mostly we needed to rely on estimates rather than hard data from the venue to calculate the emissions report.
  • Organization and arrangement of services: The full conference programme is provided in digital form online and through an app for use on mobile devices. Printed material is kept to a minimum, recycled material used when possible. There is no programme book anymore (though some pax still complain about this), floor plans, daily programmes, overviews are all provided online also as pdfs. Name badges come without plastic covers and made from recycled material; lanyard recycling is not done due to hygiene reasons. The banner in 2023 was produced from recycled material as a meshy grid that needs even less material; the option to produce a banner that can be used for a number of consecutive years has been discussed: apart from the fact that the host logos would then not be on the banner, the installation and sizes of banners at each venue are different so this is in most cases no option.
  • Catering:
    • Regional supply, vegetarian: Locally produced food was provided, local tap water used instead of bottled water in most cases. Vegetarian options were chosen throughout – some participants complained that no non-vegetarian options were available.
    • Cutlery & dishes: China and other re-usable material was used for food and drinks.
    • Left-overs: In Bonn, food banks were called each evening and picked up left-over food; this option was not available in Bratislava, any left overs from breaks and other events were brought into the main hall for people to pick up.
  • Communication: Informing participants in advance on the aims to minimize impact has been addressed purely in the past; emphasis was put on encouragement to take trains and reduce impact through travels, but it has hardly been put into context. Feedback on environment-friendly practices at the conference has however been encouraged.