november 2009 | The COP15 Summit
COP15 in Copenhagen on December 7–18 is probably the most important environmental meeting the world has ever seen. What conclusions can the global meetings industry draw? Are there Danish experiences that give Return On Investment?
“We compile a special report for all interested parties in the meetings industry,” says Jan-Christoph Napierski from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responsible for ensuring that environmental issues are kept in focus during COP15. ”We have a long way to go, but are receiving some good suggestions on how we can step up the pace and achieve more rapid results.”
Jan-Christoph Napierski, 32, comes from German Solingen between Düsseldorf and Cologne. As a child he often visited his cousin in Denmark. His interest for the country grew, which led to him learning Danish by himself when he was 15, to eventually begin studying History and Politics at Duisburg University. Ten years ago he received a scholarship as a guest student at Århus University. He has since worked at the Danish Embassy in Berlin and the European Parliament in Brussels.
Today Jan-Christoph Napierski is the first German to work at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 80 years. He is employed to help organise the climate summit, COP15, and has the task of ensuring that the meeting is as sustainable as possible. Not as a theoretical model but with practical, tangible and visible measures to be documented to enable future meetings to use COP15 as a model for the lowest world standard for green meetings. Since June last year, Jan-Christoph Napierski has worked with the sustainability side of the project, and he points to the excellent opportunities afforded by COP15.
“With regard to the green issue, COP15 can be the most important conference in the world. One of the first people I spoke with at the beginning of the project was Ole Sorang, Marketing Director at Rezidor Hotels and former member of MPI’s global Board. He quickly helped me to focus on the vital issues. When we looked back on previous UN summits on climate and environment, COP11 in Canada became our role model.”
The Canadians produced a good final report that took environmental and sustainability issues much further than before. Jan-Christoph Napierski and his colleagues discovered that a special format is required for a meeting of this magnitude, as well as a strong environmental commitment.
It is not clear how many people are expected in Copenhagen, but estimates fall between 12 and 15 thousand. One organiser reckons with 18,000 delegates, plus 2,500 to 3,000 international journalists, other estimates point to 12,000 or fewer. Anybody with any experience of planning meetings knows that it is not easy to plan a meeting without the exact figure. There is a big difference between 12 and 15 thousand.
Even if environmental and climate issues are top of the agenda, security issues have top priority. It comes as no surprise that the combination of security and logistics provokes discussion.
“For security reasons we have special limousines for the VIPs and perhaps the VVIPs who are attending. No vehicles are normally allowed to drive up to the entrance of the congress hall, but presidents, prime ministers and other high-ranking people must, for obvious reasons. For the majority of delegates, however, public transport and small cars must suffice.”
“With regard to the green issue, COP15 can be the most important conference in the world.”
The main goal of COP15 is clear. Host country Denmark has to ensure that everything functions with regard to reception, transport, security, accommodation, food, coffee breaks, that the service is top class and that all logistics flow unhindered. Poland implemented COP14 and wields a great influence up until the meeting is implemented in Copenhagen.
It is also the first time the English Events Sustainability Management standard BS 8901 is being used, a standard that could become an ISO standard for all countries. It was developed for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and is being considered for use during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is responsible for approving accreditation to the climate meeting in Copenhagen. All the countries’ governments must give authorisation for people wishing to take part, but the UNFCCC has the final say in who comes. A country’s top politicians could well decide to take part in the climate meeting, thus increasing the number of other officials and security people, and more politicians is a guarantee for more journalists from the large TV channels and newspapers.
“There are three important priorities. First security followed by the outcome of the conference. Then we need to present new energy technology, new cars and wind power developments. We also want to demonstrate new green technology. But if we are to show cars then we need to get them to Copenhagen, which could pose an environmental problem. There will also be an expo at the Bella Center, the facility we will be using throughout the meeting. There is already a wind generator there which furniture giant Ikea has purchased and which will be moved in a year’s time. This is an important symbol of the future.
“The aim is to create a green conference with innovative measures at a high a level as possible, but within our special framework. Emanating from sustainability, we shall implement a meeting with a good balance between economy, environment and social aspects.”
There are seven important areas from an organiser’s sustainability perspective: the congress and expo centre, transport, accommodation, procurement/sponsoring, climate compensation, networking opportunities and communication.
Jan-Christoph Napierski explains that two years ago when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began negotiating over the location of the COP15 meeting, the Bella Center representatives said that large environmental initiatives were not particularly important as there was no facility anywhere in Denmark that could arrange an event of that magnitude. The congress and expo centre was convinced that this was a decisive argument. They already made money and were successful.
“We asked them to let a consultant with a greater insight look into what could be done to create even better prerequisites, and to put forward a proposal for investment projects that would give Return On Investment in just a few months.”
When the inspection was completed the congress centre’s management team decided to invest €3 million. They would not only comb home the money in a very short time, they would also be able to show that it created several way of saving money. In addition, carbon dioxide emissions could be cut by 20 per cent from 2007 up to today.
Clear leadership goals were also drawn up at the Bella Center, which proved to be one of the crucial success factors in the improvement and change work. As an example, Jan-Christoph Napierski takes up the negotiations that ensured that Bella Center Catering only serves fair trade labelled coffee. Their argument was crystal clear: ‘Our machines can’t cope with this coffee so we can’t serve it.’
“But we turned it around and now the centre not only gets better PR, they also sell more coffee.”
Another discussion that cropped up was whether or not the centre would sell bottled water. Consideration was taken to the transport, collection of bottles and jobs generated by the handling of glass bottles and bottled water was dropped in favour of tap water stations.
“The congress centre previously had a long contract with a bottled water supplier that they quickly cancelled when they realised the gain in offering tap water instead. The centre not only saves money, it makes more while doing something good for the environment. Sometimes we need help to create a waste management system. The City of Copenhagen’s own experts have told the centre management that it is not advice they are giving but a direct order to carry out the changes that we propose.”
“The aim is to create a green conference with innovative measures at a high a level as possible, but within our special framework.”
Jan-Christoph Napierski takes the lighting at the centre as another example. Stage spotlights were needed because the old style lights generated too much heat. Today there are LED spotlights with 80–90 per cent lower energy consumption. This in turn facilitates much thinner cables, which saves a lot of money, not to mention an improved working environment for those who work with the lighting. But the Bella Center could not afford to buy new lighting, the new LED spotlights are very expensive. The solution was to hire lighting from the German manufacturer. The hire cost is covered by the amount of energy saved.
‘Nobody talks about things they don’t see’ is an expression sometimes used in environmental contexts. Jan-Christoph Napierski takes the Bella Center’s heating and ventilation plant as an example. All heating is done through a pump that nobody can see.
“We have a project in which we are making the entire heating system web-based. The centre has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent, which is good, but the control must be even better. We need environmental certification for the entire plant, and that’s underway. The target is Green Key certification. It is possible thanks to a very good network that includes Copenhagen University.”
According to Jan-Christoph Napierski, 20 per cent of the delegates will in all probability stay in Malmö and Lund, two Swedish towns. There are sufficient hotel rooms in Copenhagen, but most hotels in Malmö and Lund are cheaper and the Öresund Bridge brings the congress centre closer time wise. The project group is collaborating with Horesta (hotel and restaurant owners’ organisation), Visit Denmark, Wonderful Copenhagen, The City of Copenhagen, and the professional congress organiser MCI Group. It is vital to motivate as many hotels as possible to achieve environmental certification prior to the meeting.
“We have worked closely with hotel owners and organisations. We had a good start with a few noteworthy interested parties, which paved the way for more speedy progress. We have also had some good support from the media, who had noticed the progress being made.”
Jan-Christoph Napierski says that the financial downturn has actually helped their work. Like the Bella Center they discovered that money can be saved by making the right investments. Last year there were 1,800 environmentally certified hotel rooms in Copenhagen. Recent weeks has seen more added to the list. Today there are 7,100 rooms in greater Copenhagen while Swedish towns Malmö and Lund together offer 1,400 environmentally certified rooms. According to Jan-Christoph Napierski, the rapid progress is largely due to excellent networking.
Getting to and from the congress centre and hotels also requires crossborder collaboration.
“We are collaborating with rail and bus companies in greater Copenhagen and the southern Swedish region of Skåne over free public transport. For security reasons we cannot allow all the taxis and buses to drive right up to the entrance. If we look at the Copenhagen rush hour, it’s perhaps an hour and a half in the morning and just as long in the afternoon. A part of our plan is to get all the taxi drivers to drive people to the nearest underground station instead. Then it is never more than 20 minutes to the Bella Center. Naturally we drive presidents, prime ministers and other high ranking delegates up to the entrance, but most other ministers can take public transport.”
Using the green cars that are available is a matter of course considering the context. Biogas, second generation ethanol, hydrogen, hybrids run on electricity and second generation biodiesel. This also concerns the armoured vehicles that are used for security reasons. As a separate area, companies who are willing could put green cars at the delegates’ disposal. The aim is to focus as much as possible on the positive things that are happening in the area of sustainable transport. So far there are over 50 cars in the show case arrangement. This is probably the first time this has taken place at this level during an international summit. With regard to sponsorship, all work has been in compliance with the UN Global Impact. Suppliers wishing to take part in the project must support the ten principles of the UN Global Impact. The organiser has been criticised for this decision, sometimes heavily. ‘You can’t do this to sponsors’ or ‘You’ll never attract any sponsors if you force this onto them’. But it was quite the opposite. Many companies were encouraged to read up on the ten principles and sign the contract in order to take part. And they now have the incentive to take new steps to work even more on sustainability issues.
“We have received economic support to the tune of millions from our sponsors. This shows that good leadership, even with a higher risk factor, can sometimes pay off and even be a great success.”
One example, which could be construed as being trivial, is that COP15 will not be giving an official bag to delegates or a classic Danish souvenir. According to Jan-Christoph Napierski, there are surveys that show that 90 per cent of such promotion material is left behind in the hotel rooms when delegates leave.
“This is a total waste of resources. Naturally it was a tough decision for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take. By tradition we want to give guests a present as a reminder of the meeting. ’We must give them something surely?’ was the classic response. But we save between 600–700 thousand Euro by not buying those products.”
But the money is being put to good use anyway because the Ministry has decided to offer eleven scholarships to people from different parts of the world. As well as being invited to the grand opening, they get two years’ studies in Denmark leading to a Masters degree. The issue went right to the top of the organisation committee before being given the green light.
“This is a good model that can be used in other contexts, for example by the Meetings Professional International network and other organisations and companies.”
“We will communicate our experiences to the meetings organisers of the world.”
High demands are being put on meals at the summit, higher than ever before. A minimum of 65 per cent of all food served at the centre must be biodynamic. Any food left over will be distributed among homeless people and go to producing the biogas used by the VIP limousines.
The catering contract was put out on tender due to its financial size. Once again the organiser came across companies that pleaded ‘mission impossible, nobody can make money from serving so much biodynamic food’.
“By the end of the tendering process we had four companies that filled the criteria with the centre’s own catering business finally winning the contract. We’d already got into fair trade labelled coffee and tea, now it was the turn of chocolate. All dairy products like milk, sugar and yogurt must be ecologically produced. And, of course, no green washing. Everything you see are products for a more sustainable society.”
With regard to climate compensation, there is more than one problem to deal with. How do you calculate greenhouse gases and their impact when there are around a hundred different measuring models are in use? Another issue is how to calculate the carbon emissions of those who fly to Copenhagen. This is due to all the factors involved, for instance, what sort of plane is it? What route do you take? How straight can you fly to the destination? What sort of fuel does the plane use? How high does it fly? Something that is usually determined by the length of the journey. Which multiple factors should be used with regard to how high the plane flies? The UNFCCC calculates with a multiple factor of 2.7 for high altitude flying.
Scandinavian Airlines Systems, SAS, a project partner, is applying a new approach to direct landing that gives three to five per cent lower emissions in combination with a small extra wing that lowers fuel consumption. Several airlines are well down the road in testing alternative fuels. A specially chartered Train to Copenhagen will depart from Brussels on December 5, and the passengers will get special treatment when they arrive at Huvudbangården station in Copenhagen. Over 1,000 delegates are expected to take up the offer of the International Union of Railways.
According to Jan-Christoph Napierski, the project group has had great success with regard to networking.
“We had a special Hotel Task Force that achieved rapid results with environmental certification. We study the results from other conferences and issues surrounding the certification of certain companies before compiling our report. Our findings are drawn up in a report compiled by the City of Copenhagen, Visit Denmark, Wonderful Copenhagen, Novo Nordisk and the MCI Group. It shows, among other things, good results through strong networking. It is clear that the climate summit leads to results that can be used for a long time. We see than Copenhagen as a city becomes a stronger brand as an environmentally aware and environmentally developed congress and meetings city. Things are much easier when more hotels become environmentally certified and when congress and meetings organisers put together programmes with a sustainability perspective. The conclusion is, if you have partners who are environmentally certified then it is easier to bring along those who haven’t come as far.”
Communicating the efforts that are being made with regard to sustainability is vital. Jan-Christoph Napierski says that none of the work they do would have any significance if it were not made public. Delegates involved in the practicalities of reaching a higher level in the joint environmental work are all informed. There is a website to be developed, transports to show, all the delegates have to be motivated and inspired. On top of this comes liaison with the world media, and meeting others interested in the COP15 work through communication channels like Twitter, Google, YouTube and Facebook.
“Imagine being able to inform 15,000 people that they can drink water from any tap they wish. The water is clean and fresh with no chlorine or other chemicals; not only in Copenhagen but throughout Denmark. We will show journalists the good examples and we will tell the story of Denmark as a green country. We will involve opinion-formers prior to the summit. It’s vital that everybody who attends the summit is fully prepared.”
The communication plan also states that, as organiser, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is prepared to find even better solutions for COP16. Furthermore, Denmark is once again EU Presidency country in the first half of 2012.
“We will communicate our experiences to the meetings organisers of the world. We will discuss with the UN, who could use our material as a source of inspiration. We will talk of our conclusions on the importance of good leadership, networking, communication and transparency so that everybody can see what we have done and are doing. We will compile a special report that targets all those with an interest in the global meetings industry. COP15 is the beginning of a long process that will never end.”