What if? COP26 could have been a first for digital events.

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Looking at the most discussed (and arguably most important) international summit of current times, we can't help but think: What if?

Here's how society could benefit from a real COP26 digital or hybrid event:

  • COP26 would be inclusive: Accessible for everyone, independent of timezones, budgets, or travel (... in private planes during a global pandemic).
  • COP26 would reach a broader audience and allow participation beyond merely consuming content: Imagine contributions of bright minds and collaborations around the world on one of the most challenging topics that humans are facing.
  • “COP26 Digital” would stop around 60 tonnes of yearly CO2 emissions from ever happening: After all, the event is about reducing the carbon footprint and making pledges for a more sustainable future… isn’t it?

 

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COP26
Source: UNFCCC flickr


Digitalization gone wrong: What’s going on with COP26 instead?

For these past few days, the world has been following the discussions about and around COP26. However, there are some things which especially members of the digital event industry started to notice quickly: There are a lot of things about this event which seem to be going wrong in the background.

Instead of being able to focus on the international sustainability debate, many people become distracted by what is basically a demonstration of how NOT to use digital event solutions.

COP26 and its predecessors generally produce 53,374 tonnes of CO2 on average (most of it caused by air travel) – of course going digital is a great idea. It should make the event more accessible to international participants and reduce the need for travel.

SHOULD is the operating word here. This is what happened instead:

Most digital streams of events can only be attended online by participants who are actually present and count as “Blue Zone registered participants” (which means even online participants still need to travel and can only attend online streams of sessions if they can’t make it to the conference room for any reason).

There are “backdoor streams” which allow people to watch the Blue Zone sessions for free, however they are only offered by second parties and not officially advertized by the COP26 website and channels.

People that had to travel faced huge delays because of the current weather conditions and there were not enough accommodations available for the expected amount of participants, causing an “accommodation crisis” despite a “bespoke booking process.”

There are streams for the general public – the so-called “Green Zone sessions” which can be watched live or on-demand on youtube. However, those sessions do not offer the in-depth insights which are reserved to the exclusive Blue Zone sessions and aren’t visited very well. This may also be owed to the fact that youtube isn’t a very interactive streaming platform and the sessions aren’t widely advertised (which is a shame for an international conference of this magnitude).

 

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Glasgow Science Centre
Glasgow Science Center, Source: Fredrika Carlsson Unsplash

 

The idea of digitalization and a hybrid approach that combines a physical conference with a virtual event platform and live streams is simple: Accessibility and inclusivity. 

We do this every day. Our customers use virtual events to increase their reach, make their content available internationally, and save costs while approaching carbon neutrality.

There isn’t much of that here, even though the COP26 organizators explain their commitment to offering a sustainable event. The section about their “Carbon Management Plan” was not added to their website until November 5, 2021. The newly added PDF lists initiatives to avoid, reduce, replace, and offset carbon emissions that leave much to be desired and have already been proven to not work out ideally for this year’s COP (as explained above).

In an ideal world, MEETYOO would organize a truly sustainable (and carbon neutral) digital version of COP27 next year. We could help the government make it available to everybody (we can host up to 50k users at the same time on secure servers located in Germany) and leverage interactive engagement opportunities of our digital platform. 

We need to practice what we preach and actually reduce travel and CO2 emissions. Let’s work together and secure a greener future. 

 

Sources:

COP26: An inclusive COP26 
COP26: Sustainability
COP26: Carbon Management Plan
The Guardian: Scottish campaigners condemn COP26 as 'the most exclusionary ever' 
The Scotsman: COP26: Thousands of delegates yet to secure rooms with Glasgow summit facing 'accommodation crisis'
Independent: COP26 CO2 footprint

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