Hospitality Industry
4 min read

Sustainably speaking: My journey to COP27

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27, took place from 7-18 November 2022. Sponsored by EHL and nominated by CarbonCare InnoLab (CCIL), I was grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this large annual climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.


"We are the future of our society"

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Incorporating sustainability into different aspects of life is no longer an option, it is a universal go

al to build a better future for our generation and the next. This year, we finally saw more youth voices being heard at this international climate change conference, as seen in the first-ever Children and Youth Pavilion in the blue zone.

But how can we bring climate issues to a wider audience? Everyone can be part of the change regardless of their occupations and focuses. We are the future of our society, and climate education is the key to pushing forward the importance of addressing the long-term environmental problem while balancing profitability concerns.

 

Bringing up local environmental problems

Hospitality_Insights_EHL_Sustainably_Yours_001What brings me to COP? My journey started last summer when I joined the Climate Advocacy Training for Youth programme organised by CCIL. I co-founded Re-Market, a climate advocacy group with the aim of minimizing plastic packaging in Hong Kong supermarkets, and our team organised a press conference to announce customers’ perceptions towards this topic from over 4000 replies.

While I was exposed to local environmental problems, I was eager to take a global level perspective. My motivation to broaden my horizons and network brought me to a bigger stage of climate negotiation - COP27. As one of the eight Hong Kong Youth Delegates selected by CCIL, we submitted a Hong Kong Youth Statement on Climate Actions to the Environment and Ecology Bureau with a focus on five main topics:

  • Adaptation,
  • Energy Transition,
  • Climate Budgeting and Finance,
  • Governance,
  • Youth Engagement and Inclusion.
Raising awareness towards local issues is the first step, but I am also keen to explore how overseas best practices could be applied to Hong Kong.

 

Going global

COP27, the two-week conference where climate enthusiasts and national leaders gathered, was an intensive yet rewarding trip. Collaborating with other international youth organisations, my sharing of Hong Kong’s heat wave on 14 November kickstarted my adventure at COP. I spoke as a youth panellist at “Voices of APAC Youth, Indigenous Groups & Local Communities”, bringing up climate justice in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hong Kong is certainly not the most vulnerable community compared to countries such as Fiji or Indonesia, but 35 degrees celsius for weeks last summer was a red flag for us to take immediate action. We grew up experiencing the impact of climate disasters, and it was eye-opening to see how the other seven speakers spoke up to bring forward solutions for their hometowns.Direct Entry & Transfers  Complete your Bachelor at EHL  EHL offers direct entry / transfer into its Bachelor in International  Hospitality Management  Discover

COP27 Blue Zone: the platform to get perspectives challenged and enriched

My journey continued with a bilateral meeting with Alok Sharma, the President of COP26. As a member of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, I took part 

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in drafting the Global Youth Statement. It was an amazing conversation about the progress of COP27, and we handed over the Global Youth Statement to express the expectations and demands of the younger generations.

Youth voices should not be neglected, and I was delighted to see how Alok Sharma demonstrated how we could be part of the climate conversation. It is clear that youths have an increasing engagement at COP, as seen in the first-ever Children and Youth Pavilion this year. What we are hoping is that this is not only a gesture but long-term inclusiveness of the new generation.

With a strong focus on the intersection of business and climate actions, I spent half of my time at the business pavilion in the blue zone. It was insightful to see how corporates are moving from internal sustainability initiatives to engaging upstream and downstream stakeholders. An impressive one was the talk on Exponential Climate Action in Supply Chains to Halve Emissions by 2030, covering the challenges of interacting with farmers and fishermen since they have no education on carbon accounting, not to mention how they would know the emission level of their farming activities.

I took the opportunity to chat with Mr Owen Bethell, the Environmental Impact Lead of Nestle on sustainable packaging, to build up my knowledge on Re-Market. It was intriguing to understand the current obstacles faced by multinational consumer packaged goods brands, but at the same time also led me to think about how I could personally participate in pushing forward a circular economy.

 

Helena Gualinga: the girl who shared her story

My COP journey ended with a speech by Helena Gualinga, a 20-year-old Ecuadorian. “This is a COP that should have happened 30 years ago. I want to see reparation, not compensation” I could feel how frustrated and desperate she was, just to create a future for the place where she was born and raised.

Finally, we are seeing a big step forward in climate justice. For the first time, the Loss and Damage Fund was established as a financial support for vulnerable nations to recover from climate catastrophes. This used to be a topic that rich countries were reluctant to touch on since it relates to their responsibility and financial commitments. Pakistan's flooding and wildfires in Europe, these results of climate change left them no choice but to take action.

 

Sustainability in the hospitality industry: Where are we at?

While progress was seen for climate justice, the fossil fuel result was a let down. No attempt to phase out fossil fuels this year, yet scientists are warning about the increasing global emission level. As a hospitality student, I am acutely aware of the energy shift and how the hospitality industry could play a part in driving a sustainable economy.

From the installation of smart energy facilities during hotel construction to applying energy-saving measures when operating a hotel, this investment is vital to bring long-term financial and societal benefits. We did see hospitality groups committing to sustainable tourism, such as Accor and Airbnb who submitted their Science Based Target Initiative and established their roadmap to keeping 1.5 alive.

Commitment is the first step, but I also saw potential challenges in achieving net zero in the hospitality industry. Scope 3 emission is the most difficult one to calculate in terms of a company’s carbon emission level since both upstream and downstream stakeholders’ emissions would need to be taken into account. From amenities suppliers to tourists, the company’s attempt to engage multiple stakeholders is essential to address the longstanding data inadequacy issue.

 

Our planet, our future: Join the transformation

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It is undeniable that the hospitality industry is aware of the importance of conducting sustainability transformation, but we are still far from net zero when compared to other industries. EHL students are the future leaders in the hospitality industry, how can you play a part in accelerating this transition? From food waste management in the F&B sector to sustainable sourcing practices in hotel operations, ESG can be incorporated into our management style. I look forward to seeing the sustainable transformation of the hospitality industry.

 

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