COP26: Planning a Major International Summit

2021 saw two major summits take place in the UK, The recent COP26 and the G7 Summit earlier in the year. Iventis explores what’s involved in planning major summits.

COP26 Venue
COP26 was one of the largest summits ever held in the UK.

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) took place over two weeks in November at the SEC in Glasgow. It brought together world leaders, climate experts and campaigners in the most significant meeting since the 2016 ‘Paris Agreement’ at COP21 as leaders committed to further climate change action.

Originally due to take place in 2020, it was one of the most significant events of the year and one of the largest summits the UK has ever hosted. The world’s attention was on the City of Glasgow and the decisions and commitments made.

Such events take months of planning and a high degree of co-ordination by multiple stakeholders

Such events take months of planning and a high degree of co-ordination by multiple stakeholders, under challenging timescales. The Iventis platform, which supported COP26, is designed to support exactly this type of event, enabling rapid planning and collaboration between planners.

To understand the complexity of what’s involved, we look at how Iventis was used to help co-ordinate this and other major international summits like the G7.

Context

The primary venue for COP26 was the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow. This is an established venue in a city well used to hosting major events, such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2018 European Championships and the upcoming Cycling World Championships in 2023.

Organisers could closely control the main venue, but an event on this scale has a far wider operational impact. The greatest challenges to face a city hosting such an event are typically related to security, transport and city operations in the more complex spaces outside the core ‘blue zone’.

It was these aspects for which Iventis was used by the myriad of stakeholders to support their planning. Such short-term events rely on close collaboration between not only the event organisers, but other agencies such as transport authorities, local government, the police and other blue light services. Due to the short-term nature, these agencies would need to temporarily increase their capabilities through the use of specialist contractors and consultants to help plan and deliver the event.

This is similar to other summits such as the G7, which took place at the spectacular Carbis Bay hotel in Cornwall. While providing an iconic location for the world’s leaders and media, it presented major operational challenges which had to be solved by multiple stakeholders in a short planning window.

Planning

Typically, major summits have around 12 months of planning. In some circumstances, this can be significantly shorter such as the 2021 G7 which had only 6 months to prepare. COP26 was delayed by a year due to the COVID pandemic, affording organisers some additional time but also introduced significant uncertainty over COVID related measures.

COP26 Transport
Iventis was used by Transport Scotland and it's partners to help plan the event.

Due to the nature of COP26, organisers would naturally want to encourage the use of public and sustainable modes of transport. But with 40,000 delegates alongside thousands of media and members of the public and volunteers descending on the city, this required additional services. Dedicated and enhance shuttle services were provided within the city and to key locations including Glasgow Airport. Planners were able to plot the location of hotels and accommodation across the city, and further afield such as Edinburgh, to ensure there was adequate transport provision. Cycling and walking would be encouraged where possible, with planners using Iventis to calculate walking times to the venue.

COP26 TDS
Sustainability was an important factor for the provision of transport to the event.

The event itself required a range of road closures, diversions and screening/checkpoints for security and demand management purposes. This would have an impact on existing and proposed services, as well as general traffic within the city. Planners were able to overlay the location of closures and traffic modelling data to understand the impact on their plans.

As well as the main venue, a series of associated events were taking place which planners needed to consider such as the ‘Green Zone’ at the Glasgow Science Museum. The sheer volume of staff required to deliver the event, including 10,000 police officers, creates its own challenges such as providing welfare, transport and accommodation.

By using Iventis, planners were able to develop routes, drop-off points, operational spaces and staffing within the wider context of the event.

Testing and Readiness

For an event of such importance and operational complexity, testing and readiness were key to the success. This is particularly true when there is so much dependency and collaboration required between stakeholders – who may not be used to working together.

Planners were able to use Iventis to walk through operational plans at every level of detail.

Planners were able to use Iventis to walk through operational plans at every level of detail. This could help ensure a clear, shared understanding of plans across agencies. Scenarios could be tested and prepared for through desktop exercises, brought to life through interactive plans.

As well as the organisers, the general public needed to be prepared and made aware of the inevitable disruption. A comprehensive traffic management plan was in place, and communicated to attendees, the public and business through travel demand management (TDM).

COP26 Station
The event would have a major impact on the city, requiring close collaboration between stakeholders.

Operations

In several events including COP26 and Dubai Expo 2020, Iventis has increasingly been used beyond the planning phase into operations itself. Major summits have a changing schedule each day which can significantly impact operations. There may be separate events, protests or key arrivals/departures which need to be considered.

Transport Scotland was able to provide day-by-day plans which were used in its operations centre to provide situational awareness as the event developed.

Transport Scotland was able to provide day-by-day plans which were used in its operations centre to provide situational awareness as the event developed. It was also able to respond to last minute issues, such as a potential rail strike.

Transport Scotland’s Events Resilience Manager, David Laing, said: “Creating and delivering the Transport Plan for COP26 was extremely challenging. The event brought Heads of State, VVIP’s, VIP’s, delegates, media and environmental campaigners from across the world together in Glasgow.

“During the planning phase, Iventis enabled Transport Scotland and Partners to build a rich, detailed picture of the Transport Plan in an easy to use and understand format. Partners used Iventis to build, and share, rich, detailed plans with their delivery partners. This enabled the group to build a single accessible, detailed, current, set of plans for all partners to learn and further develop their own plans from.

“During the event itself, the Transport Team used day-by-day plans on Iventis to review the plans for each day, highlighting any changes or particular areas to focus on. With so many partners involved and the vast amount of information for COP26, Iventis enabled the team to bring together all plans in an easy to use, efficient and effective manner helping deliver a successful event.”

COP26 Station
For 2 weeks, 40,000 delegates as well as media, police and activists decended on the city.

Iventis’ Role

Planning and managing events on the scale of G7 or COP26 requires the efforts of hundreds of planners across several organisations for many months. Plans are constantly changing, but each team or stakeholder is often dependent on others plans. Ensuring everyone has access to the latest information is therefore incredibly challenging – arguably even more so than a major sports event with a single, centralised organising committee.

These events also impact a far wider area than their main venue. Operations can spread many miles to neighbouring cities, transport hubs and road networks. Transport, security, accommodation, protests, media hubs are just some of the considerations to be made. Planning across a city or county is extremely difficult without a consolidated, central mapping system like Iventis.

Planners can capture all this information and more. We encourage collaboration by providing controlled access to everyone who needs the plans, and any edits are shared in real-time.

Get in touch to find out how Iventis can support your event or venue planning.

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