Monday, February 06, 2006

Climate change: Green Week is first Commission event to go‘climate neutral’

The European Commission has taken action to ensure that its major annual environmental conference, Green Week, does not contribute to climate change. According to estimates, Green Week 2005 generated emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases equivalent to 139 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). The main source of emissions was the travel activities of conference participants. The Commission has now offset these by buying emission allowances for the same amount of CO2 under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The allowances will be cancelled so they cannot be used in the future. This makes Green Week 2005, held in Brussels last June with climate change as its key theme, the first 'climate neutral' event organised by the Commission. The Commission intends to do the same for Green Week 2006, which will be held from 30 May-2 June and will focus on protecting biological diversity.

By making Green Week climate-neutral the Commission is showing that it practices what it preaches when it comes to leading the fight against climate change. The Commission encourages the other EU institutions as well as event organisers in the public and private sectors around Europe to adopt this practice systematically. It welcomes that the organisers of this summer's World Cup soccer tournament in Germany also intend to make this event climate-neutral.

Estimating emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are not measured directly at source but estimated from fuel consumption and use of other resources on the basis of well-established methodologies and mathematical formulae known as conversion factors. The Commission's Directorate-General for Environment, which organises Green Week, contracted consultants[1] to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the lighting and heating/air conditioning used for Green Week 2005, the waste generated by it and the travel and accommodation for speakers and exhibitors paid for by the Commission.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from these areas were estimated at the equivalent of 139 tonnes of CO2. Half of the total – 70 tonnes – was due to emissions from air travel by speakers and exhibitors. The next biggest emissions source was electricity consumption at the Green Week venue, which emitted 44 tonnes, followed by hotel accommodation with 15 tonnes. Waste accounted for one tonne of emissions.

Emissions due to travel by visitors other than speakers and exhibitors were not included in the total since these participants were invited to make their travel climate-neutral on a voluntary basis.

Buying and cancelling emission allowances

Having established the level of emissions from Green Week 2005, the Commission then contracted an intermediary[2] to buy emission allowances for 139 tonnes of CO2 on its behalf. This was done on the international carbon market that has developed as a result of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Though the ETS targets large emitters in the power and heat generation industry and certain energy-intensive industrial sectors, capping their emissions by giving them a limited number of annual emission allowances, anyone is free to buy or sell these allowances in the market. The 139 allowances were bought for the Commission on 19 January at the prevailing market rate. Including transaction costs, the cost of the operation was 3,500 euros.

The allowances will shortly be cancelled, ensuring that 139 tonnes of CO2 are taken out of the carbon market permanently. The Commission's small purchase has not had any noticeable effect on the market, which in its first year has seen over 250 million trades in emission allowances, worth around 5 billion euros.

The Commission considered using other methods of offsetting emissions, including investment in emission-saving projects in developing countries through the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), but decided to buy ETS emission allowances because it was the simplest option in administrative terms.

More information about the ETS can be found at:

More information about Green Week 2006 is at:


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