COP17 - a low carbon international event

Introduction and background
Overview of greening COP17
Event greening objectives
Useful resources




South Africa hosted the 17th session of the Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the seventh Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC COP17/CMP7 also known as COP 17). This auspicious event was held in the City of Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa.

COP 17 aimed to establish a firm set of commitments among participating countries to reduce country-level carbon emissions and to agree to the mechanisms that were required to achieve carbon emissions reductions as a global effort to contain the disastrous effects of anthropogenic climate change.

It is estimated that 20,000 representatives from 194 countries in the world will be participating at the event. In addition, up to 30,000 civil society members will be involved in a host of activities, running in parallel with the official COP17 negotiations.

The event will have a carbon footprint and no effort will be spared to reduce event-related emissions as well as promote the reduced use of natural resources. The call for a low-carbon event has given rise to an overall programme, known as ‘Greening COP 17’.


Overview of greening COP 17

The greening of COP17 is a collaborative effort involving practically every role-player in the event itself and activities leading up to the event whether it is organisers, exhibitors, delegates or activists.

The process is a shared one with the eThekwini Municipality taking responsibility for the greening of all elements within the time-frames of the event, within the United Nations precinct and within the City of Durban, with the exception of the Climate Change Response Expo, which is managed by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The municipality is also responsible for determining and offsetting the local carbon footprint of the actual event, excluding international and regional travel.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is responsible for the greening and carbon footprinting of events leading up to the COP17 such as the Climate Change Provincial Summits and UNFCCC secretariat meetings as well as areas or components that require national co-ordination such as Safety and Security and Transportation. In these areas, there is a close working relationship amongst the different spheres of government to ensure the successful execution of the COP17 and supporting events.

The approach to the greening of COP17, from a national perspective, has involved identifying all the relevant role-players to whom greening support can be offered, the development of greening guidelines, and support in applying these greening guidelines.

In addition to this technical greening support, the greening team also monitors greening initiatives that support the vision of a lower-carbon society and economy. Several initiatives will be showcased during the COP 17 to illustrate the transition to more sustainable options which are both desirable and feasible.
The greening initiatives will be documented and well publicised in a detailed report based on Global Reporting Initiative standards.

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Event greening objectives

  • Carbon Mitigation and offsetting:to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where possible through the event greening initiatives. To measure the event’s GHG emissions, including international delegate travel, and mitigate it through local mitigation projects Energy efficiency and renewable energy: to encourage energy efficiency through energy saving technologies, management systems and responsible behaviour. The use of renewable energy sources, as well as the use of natural light and ventilation, should be encouraged in buildings.
  • Waste minimisation and management:to actively reduce the amount of waste generated prior to and during the event. Waste separation should be provided at source to raise awareness and to reduce waste to landfill.
  • Water conservation and demand management:to ensure that water is consumed in a responsible manner. Participants, venues and sub-contractors should be encouraged to implement water conservation principles and protect the country’s natural resources.
  • Sustainable procurement:to ensure that the procurement of goods and services is done in a sustainable manner, including the use of local products that have a minimal negative effect on the environment and to promote social responsibility.
  • Sustainable tourism:to maximise sustainable tourism offerings through encouraging venues and accommodation establishments to comply with (or exceed) minimum environmental standards and the minimum responsible tourism standards.
  • Protecting and enhancing biodiversity:to encourage local environmental protection and enhancement of biodiversity and ecological systems.
  • Sustainable transportation:to supply and encourage the use of public transport (availability, accessibility and efficiency) and non-motorised transportation. Consideration of the affects of transporting thousands of delegates on the environment and local communities (for example, congestion, disruption, emissions and pollution).
  • Local economic development and social cohesion:to promote local economic development and social cohesion and benefits within the host region. A triple bottom line approach should be implemented through responsible spend of government money, as well as using the investment into COP17 for sustained benefit to the host region. The multi-cultural and diverse group of stakeholders should be respected, with special consideration to the host city.
  • Marketing and communications:to ensure that the effective communications and marketing of the greening of the event. Staff, sub-contractors, key suppliers and sponsors need to receive guidance about implementing event greening in a practical manner.
  • Monitor and evaluate:to monitor and evaluate the greening initiatives so that lessons learnt can be captured and improvements made. An open and transparent reporting mechanism should be made available.
  • Leave a positive legacy:to ensure that a lasting legacy is left behind that has a positive impact on the local people and environment, which can be sustained in a practical way.


Useful Resources

COP17 / CMP7 Greening Programme: event sustainability report
Greening legacy publication [2.47 mb]
Climate train report [1.84 mb]
COP 17 DEA greening concept note [626.67 kb]
COP17 DEA event greening guidelines [529.8 kb]
COP17 DEA exhibition greening guidelines [633.54 kb]
COP 17 DEA eco-procurement guidelines [491.55 kb]
COP 17 green passport [2.49 mb]


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