Walking the Talk with a Carbon Neutral ADB Annual Meeting

ADB aims to reduce GHG emissions from transportation through carpooling and use of public transport in Frankfurt.
ADB aims to reduce GHG emissions from transportation through carpooling and use of public transport in Frankfurt.

By Woochong Um

ADB aims is extend sustainability actions to annual meetings, starting with this year’s event in Frankfurt.

We must walk the talk on sustainability. It is with that ethos in mind that ADB’s Annual Meeting next week in Frankfurt, Germany will be carbon neutral.

This year’s gathering of ADB’s Board of Governors from our 67 member countries, top government officials, development experts, academics and journalists will take place on 2-5 May in Messe Frankfurt, a modern set of exhibition and conference facilities that will host 3,000+ delegates to discuss development and, yes, sustainability in Asia and the Pacific.

All the electricity required to light up the venue, operate conference equipment like computers, and so on will be met from renewable energy sources. We will also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with transportation by setting up carpooling systems and taking advantage of Frankfurt’s efficient and extensive bus, underground and train systems. Conveniently for us, just next to Messe Frankfurt are U-bahn (underground metro) stations, with a tram stop and the main train station nearby. Delegates will be staying in nearby hotels, too, which means that they can just walk to events. And food and beverages in the venue will be locally sourced, so lunchtime will also have a minimal carbon footprint.

Of course, it may not be possible to avoid all GHG emissions related to the meeting. Delegates on the ground are flying in from various parts of the world, including many experts from ADB itself. So we will offset any unavoidable GHG emissions by purchasing Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) issued by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change under the Clean Development Mechanism and make this a carbon neutral meeting.

‘Carbon neutral’ means that GHG emissions caused by the event will be offset by GHG emissions reduced elsewhere by, for example, purchasing offset credits, such as CERs generated by a renewable energy plant.

ADB is working to help its developing member countries mobilize much-needed carbon finance through pre-purchase of CERs by its $115 million Future Carbon Fund, the main vehicle providing carbon finance under its Carbon Market Program. The Future Carbon Fund is purchasing more than 10 million CERs from a portfolio of high-quality GHG emission reduction projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management and transport hosted in 12 developing member countries across Asia and the Pacific.  

Our efforts in Frankfurt speak to the theme for our 49th Annual Meeting - Cooperating for Sustainability. Seminars will address the various perspectives of sustainability, including building ‘smart’ cities and climate resilience. The Government of Germany will also set up a large exhibit inside Messe Frankfurt called City of Sustainability, showcasing solutions to some of these issues as Germany sees it.

All this comes against the backdrop of an Asia-Pacific region that has achieved rapid economic growth in recent years, generating one-third of global output. However, that growth is often not distributed equitably, and comes with heavy environmental costs. The region is also facing major challenges from climate change. As ADB works toward an Asia and the Pacific free of poverty, we are pursuing three strategic development agendas: inclusive economic growth, regional integration, and environmentally sustainable growth.

On the latter, we are providing a significant amount of funding. By 2020, we will double our annual climate finance from the current $3 billion to $6 billion per year. Of this, $4 billion will be for climate change mitigation and $2 billion for adaptation. 

We are also walking the talk in-house, through a GHG reduction program that conserves essential resources in ADB headquarters and field offices. For example, ADB headquarters has an on-site solar generation facility to power our offices, and we meet any additional requirement by sourcing geothermal energy. In short, our energy use is 100% renewable. We are further reducing our carbon footprint by increasingly using video conferencing instead of business travel. Likewise, used paper is recycled in all offices. We have waste management and recycling programs, treat our wastewater treatment before discharge, and harvest rainwater for watering plants and cleaning. 

In recognition of these efforts, ADB headquarters building was awarded in 2011 the gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the US Green Building Council. We are proud of that, and glad that we can extend our sustainability actions to our annual meetings.