Welcome to a conversation with Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

Date: 04/05/2021


As we all know sustainability is a global challenge and requires a global answer. One of the ways to address this pressing challenge is to bring everyone together to find solutions. In November of this year, COP26 will take place at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, where the world will meet to drive forward a global response to the escalating climate crisis. Sven Bossu, CEO of AIPC got together with Kathleen Warden, the director of conference sales at the SEC to discuss the importance of this event.

What exactly is COP26? 

COP stands for Conference of Parties but it is essentially the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. It’s a two week-long conference and every 5th COP is a major COP – the last one being in 2015 in Paris.  The Glasgow summit this year will be the 26th presentation of a COP.

This is a very important meeting.  Who attends and why is it so important? 

COP26 will be the foremost gathering of leaders, experts and influencers who have it within their power to influence and direct the global approach to climate change. The event brings together under one roof, heads of state, high-level officials, UN leaders and other intergovernmental organizations alongside civil society, business, academia, and international high-profile individuals invested in climate change action. The purpose of COP26 is to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit global warming. The event comes at a time when the impact of rising temperatures is more apparent than ever before, and COVID 19, among many other challenges, has sharpened the focus on the pressing need for a concerted global effort.

Talking about the pandemic, COP26 was scheduled to take place in 2020 and then you had to reschedule the event. How did this impact the Scottish Event Campus and your teams?

Those of us working in events will know from the past year that rescheduling comes with challenges. The SEC is a busy venue and has a very busy tenancy calendar. Moving events at any time is complex. Doing this against the backdrop of a global pandemic and an industry that was dealing with unprecedented disruption, brought additional pressures. However, the response and support that we received from the key stakeholders, our clients and our teams was remarkable. It brought home the power of relationships and the value that they bring.  In this industry, we do nothing in isolation. It is an industry of teamwork, and we were consistently met with a supportive and collaborative attitude across everyone involved, which enabled us to reach the best possible solution for the event. There is clearly widespread support in our industry for COP26 and a deep-rooted recognition of the importance of this summit.

It’s clear that COP26 is of global significance.  What does it mean for our industry?

COP26 speaks to the narrative that events are enablers of social, economic and environmental progress. It is one of the best examples of the powerful impact of events. COP26 brings together people who can make a difference. And that’s what happens at events all around the world – they galvanise minds and catalyse outcomes that drive progressive change. There is something much bigger happening when events take place, and COP26 brings this to life.

COP is taking over your whole campus, and it is a big campus.  Given your location in the heart of the city, how is Glasgow preparing for the event?

Scottish Event Campus

The way it always does – through partnership and collaboration. Glasgow has spade-loads of civic pride. Our city leaders and the citizens of Glasgow always get right behind events. The city is preparing for the event through the ‘Get Ready Glasgow’ initiative which informs and engages people, sharing opportunities on how to get involved.  For example, the volunteer programme ensures a warm and friendly welcome for the delegates – just as we did for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The city has also launched the ‘People Make Glasgow Greener’ campaign to capitalise on the conference to leave a sustainable legacy for the city, supporting the ambition to become one of the most sustainable cities in Europe, and reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

On a more personal note, what are your hopes and aspirations for COP26 and the event industry?

COP26 is on everyone’s radar. It’s constantly in the media and building awareness of the impact of climate change. The need for a greener global economy is ubiquitous. Industries are looking at how they can evolve and operate more sustainably. In step with this, I believe that COP26 will inspire the event industry to do the same.

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