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Event organisers today are increasingly committed to sustainability, recognising the environmental impact of their activities. 

A critical component of organising an environmentally responsible event is understanding and managing its carbon footprint. 

Under the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard for Events, calculating emissions is the first crucial step towards achieving carbon neutrality.

Why Calculate Emissions?

Calculating emissions for an event helps organisers identify the major sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with their event. 

This is not just about accountability; it’s about opening opportunities for significant improvements in energy efficiency, waste management, and overall environmental stewardship. 

By understanding where emissions come from, organisers can make informed decisions to reduce their impact.

Scope of Emissions

Emissions are typically categorised into three scopes:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as generators and company vehicles.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, heat, or steam used by the event.
  • Scope 3: All other indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the event, including attendee travel, waste disposal, and the sourcing of materials and services.

For events, Scope 3 emissions often represent the largest source of GHG emissions, given the extensive logistics involved in transporting attendees, catering services, and more.

Steps to Calculate Emissions

Define the Emissions Boundary: Identify all the activities associated with the event that could generate GHG emissions. This includes everything from the event setup, operations, to the dismantling phase. Deciding on the boundary is crucial as it sets the scope for what emissions will be counted.

Collect Data: Gather data on all identified emission sources. This could include electricity consumption records, fuel usage for transportation, and data on waste generation. For large events, significant emissions sources might include attendee travel which can be estimated through surveys or ticket sales data.

Calculate Emissions: Use relevant emission factors to convert activity data (like liters of fuel or kWh of electricity used) into tons of CO2 equivalent. Emission factors are typically provided by national environmental agencies or can be sourced from recognised international databases.

Address Uncertainties: Where data is not available, make conservative estimates to ensure the calculated emissions do not underestimate the actual impact. This might involve using default values or estimations based on similar events or industry standards.

Tools and Resources

Several tools and software are available to assist in the accurate calculation of carbon emissions. 

For example, the GHG Protocol offers comprehensive guidelines and calculators that many organisations use to ensure consistent and credible emission reporting.

Additionally, Climate Active provides specific guidance and resources tailored to the unique needs of different types of events, from music festivals to professional conferences.

Options for Emission Analysis

  • Pre-Event Analysis
    Purpose: To forecast potential emissions and plan intervention strategies in advance. This analysis is crucial for setting a baseline and organising logistics that minimise environmental impact.
    Merits:some text
    • Proactive Planning: Allows organisers to identify and implement emission reduction measures beforehand, such as selecting sustainable suppliers or optimising event layout for energy efficiency.
    • Budgeting for Offsets: Helps estimate the cost and quantity of carbon offsets needed, facilitating financial planning.
    • Stakeholder Engagement: Demonstrates commitment to sustainability, potentially enhancing sponsorship and attendance from environmentally conscious stakeholders.
  • Post-Event Analysis
    Purpose: To assess actual emissions after the event, providing a basis for reporting and verification of carbon neutrality claims.
    Merits:some text
    • Accuracy: Offers precise measurement of emissions based on actual event data, ensuring accurate offsetting.
    • Performance Evaluation: Enables organisers to assess the effectiveness of the emission reduction strategies employed and make informed adjustments for future events.
    • Regulatory and Public Reporting: Essential for compliance with environmental standards and for transparent communication with stakeholders and certification bodies.
  • Combining Both Analyses
    Purpose: To leverage the full benefits of both approaches, ensuring comprehensive emission management.
    Merits:some text
    • Comprehensive Management: Provides a complete view of the event's environmental impact from planning through execution.
    • Continuous Improvement: Facilitates learning and improvement over time, enhancing the sustainability profile of successive events.
    • Enhanced Credibility: Demonstrates a thorough commitment to sustainability, which can boost the event's reputation and appeal.

Scope of Emissions

When conducting any form of emissions analysis, it’s crucial to define the emissions boundary clearly. This boundary should include all direct and indirect emissions sources associated with the event, such as:

  • Energy consumption (electricity, heating, cooling)
  • Transportation (attendee and staff travel, freight)
  • Waste generation and disposal
  • Water usage (if significant)
  • Any other sources specific to the event or venue

The specific inclusion of emissions sources within the boundary should be guided by relevance to the event’s operational control and environmental impact. It's important to note that additional sources may be included based on the unique aspects of each event and should be identified during the boundary setting phase.

After Calculation: Next Steps

Once the emissions are calculated, the next steps include implementing strategies to reduce these emissions and offsetting any remaining emissions through credible carbon offset projects. The ultimate goal is not just to neutralise the carbon footprint but to minimise it as much as possible through innovative solutions and sustainable event management practices.


Understanding and calculating the carbon emissions of events is fundamental for any organisation looking to host environmentally responsible and sustainable events. By adhering to the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard, event organisers can contribute positively to the global efforts against climate change, enhancing their reputation and demonstrating leadership in sustainability.

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