Interview and COP21


'COP', the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, came together in 2015 in Paris with the aim of reaching a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change in order to keep Global Warming below the 2°C threshold.


Positive Impact at COP21

We visited COP21 and were inspired by the sustainable initiatives in place. Not only did they encourage people to act sustainably, they explained WHY it is important which helps create more sustainable attitudes and behaviours.  

ISO 20121 is the international sustainability event standard developed at the London 2012 games - hence the '20121'. COP21 was an ISO 20121 certified event; an amazing milestone and example of leadership when it comes to sustainability!

For more information on ISO 20121 and guidance on how to be certified, email us at



Interview with Suzanne Burke


We had the pleasure of chatting to Suzanne Burke, the president of a sustainability consultancy called Avila which specialises in global sustainable event planning integration and education. As a volunteer with Climate Reality Leadership Corps, she has over 20 years' experience in environmental and meeting planning disciplines. We asked Suzanne about her opinions on the COP21 and what we can expect to come from it...

For the first time in over 20 years of UN Negotiations, COP21 will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. Why do you think it has taken so long for the COP to put this at the top of the agenda?

Actually, I would say that there has truly been a tremendous effort on the part of many global governments since the 1992 Rio summit, to achieve this goal;  but there has not been enough universal support to make it a reality until this year.  This year, is the first time many believe, after 20 years of ongoing negotiations, that we will actually achieve a legally binding universal agreement.

One reason for this belief is that for the first time, countries are being asked to step forward with their own plans and pledges to achieve carbon goals instead of being dictated the goals they must reach. Another reason is that poorer countries are projected to obtain financial assistance from wealthier nations to help achieve their goals.

How will COP 21 provide greater understanding about the need for sustainable development compared to previous COP conferences?

I think that the visibility of the COP21 Paris summit, especially with the world’s eyes on Paris in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, will provide a significant opportunity for greater understanding of the need for sustainable development.  

I believe this year’s summit will have more global media attention and social media coverage than any of the past conferences and this will go a long way in spreading the word about the urgency of climate change issues, and motivating people to a deeper engagement in contributing to the solutions needed.

Would you say legally binding agreements are the most effective way to incorporate sustainability into everyday life?

The legally binding international agreement at the COP21 summit will incorporate the carbon reduction pledges offered by each nation.  Therefore, each nation will have to determine the best way to achieve those commitments.  There will definitely be regulations in place to govern industries and commercial sectors, which will eventually flow down to affect how business-as-usual is conducted.

So to answer your question, in the context of the international stage, the legal agreement is of paramount importance, but how it flows down will depend on the circumstances in each country.

Following COP 21, do you think there will be a significant shift in event organizers’ attitudes or do you feel that people are already implementing more sustainable practices?

I dearly hope that there will be a significant shift in event organizer’s attitudes, and more importantly, actions, to implement more sustainable practices.  The international ISO 20121 standard was published over 3 years ago, and I am sad to say that I see little evidence of widespread implementation.  This is also true for the APEX/ASTM standards, published around the same time;  however, I am involved in facilitating their adoption and see some renewed interest in the weeks leading up to COP21. I think 2016 will be the year that event organizers will rally around supporting the standards and begin an accelerated approach to catching up where other industries have been leading for years.

In an ideal world, what would you like to see as the main result from COP 21?

In an ideal world, everyone will make it their business to understand and work toward all of the SDGs; Sustainable Development Goals.  Climate related issues are only one of 17 major areas covered by the goals.  Our planet has a limited capacity to support life as we know it.  Global population is exploding while droughts and floods are ruining food supply.  Poverty and health issues are preventing children from going to school and adults from going to work in many parts of the world so economies are floundering; especially where half the population, the female gender, is not given the opportunity to contribute.  Many societal and environmental issues are included in the Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted at COP21 and the world will be a better place if the agreements result in progress on each and every goal.


COP21 Presentation Slides

Our wonderful MD, Fiona Pelham, was a moderator at the COP21 side event on tourism and carbon. The talks looked into the contributions the tourism sector has on the climate and sustainable development. Download the slides from the links below: