Sustainable meeting arrangements during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU significantly reduced emissions

Publication date 17.12.2019 9.22
Press release

The sustainable solutions adopted for meetings held during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union have helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 30% compared to the average meeting arrangements during Council presidencies.

The most effective solutions included centralising meetings in Helsinki, deciding not to hand out gifts and avoiding producing materials only for the Presidency.

The Prime Minister’s Office commissioned an assessment to compare the meeting arrangements of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU with so-called average meeting arrangements that do not take into account the sustainability dimension. 

“Sustainability was a key theme for Finland’s Presidency, and we decided to take it on board also in the context of meeting arrangements. We wanted to boldly try out new ways of running a hospitable and well-functioning presidency in an ecologically sustainable way. The assessment shows that even small acts have had an impact on the climate,” said Anja Laisi, Head of the Secretariat for Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Key ingredients: circular economy, no-gifts policy and centralised meetings

No traditional presidency gifts have been handed out to meeting participants during the Finnish Presidency. Instead, the money reserved for the gifts will be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from flights to presidency meetings in Helsinki and Brussels.

Concentrating all meetings held in Finland to Helsinki has meant lower emissions associated with travelling to meetings. In addition, the Finnish Presidency encouraged meeting participants to use public transport whenever possible. The buses used to transport meeting participants ran on renewable diesel, which produces less emissions than conventional diesel.

During the Presidency, efforts have also been made to avoid single-use items. For example, the wood and plywood products and textiles used in interior decorations and venue signage will be reused at other events after the Presidency, and some of the items will be donated to recycling and upcycling workshops run by the City of Helsinki. The aim in the meeting arrangements was to favour digital solutions over paper and plastic.

Keeping number of meetings down has significant impact on emissions

As a whole, Finland has managed to reduce the carbon footprint of the Presidency by as much as 70%, by reducing the number of meetings compared to previous presidencies. Some 130 meetings have been arranged during Finland’s Presidency, and usually there may be more than twice as many. Fewer meetings equals less emissions caused by travel, transport, accommodation, food and the production of meeting materials.

The calculations on emissions of the Finnish Presidency were prepared by Gaia Consulting based on estimates of emission levels. Accurate data were not available on all emission sources, and some of the calculations were supported by assumptions such as concerning the use of public transport.

Inquiries: Anja Laisi, Head of the Secretariat for Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, tel. +358 50 443 2641

Calculation of greenhouse gas emissions during Finland’s Presidency

Questions and answers

Sustainable meeting arrangements

Offsetting air travel emissions