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Towards a net zero IETF

6 May 2022

Introducing a new project to measure and potentially offset IETF carbon emissions.

At the recent IETF 113 meeting, the IETF Administration LLC (IETF LLC) presented at the SHMOO working group on its work so far to measure the carbon emissions of the IETF and possible future work on offsetting.  In particular it sought guidance on whether or not community consensus was required to start this work, and what the role was for the community.  The feedback from the community was that no consensus was needed to start the work, it was unlikely that any RFCs would need to be produced to guide the IETF LLC, and the IETF LLC should just get on with it making sure to keep the community involved.

With that feedback we have now begun a project to look at how we might measure and offset the carbon emissions of the IETF and potentially reach the level of a net zero emitter.  This blog post sets out a plan for this including how we intend to involve the community. 

Discussions about reducing our emissions, such as by reducing the number of in person meetings, are out of scope for this project as those should be community led discussions.


In early 2020 the IETF LLC commissioned a consultancy to estimate the carbon emissions from the previous six IETF meetings (IETF 101 to IETF 106) including travel, venue and hotel emissions.  The raw data for this calculation, was put together as follows::

  • The number of participants per country as published in Datatracker
  • Assume travel from capital city of each country and economy flights
  • Event venue emissions based on area
  • Hotel emissions based on estimated room nights 

The calculation used the following international standards:

  • Emission factors are from the GHG Protocol’s Emission Factors for Cross-Sector Tools.
  • Assumptions about energy use at venues and hotels are based on Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data

From this, the consultants provided the following estimates of our carbon emissions (CO2e stands for CO2 Equivalent which is a standard measure for the impact of different greenhouse gases):

Table of estimated emissions
All figures in metric tons of CO2e London
Air travel emissions 3,508 2,859 5,328 4,111 2,974 6,408
Event venue emissions 1.0 0.5 0.8 1.5 0.5 0.9
Hotel stay emissions 30 18 27 35 19 24
Total emissions 3,539 2,877 5,356 4,147 2,993 6,433

The total estimated emissions over two years were 25,346 metric tons CO2e.

Outline plan

This project will be split into two interrelated sub-projects that will be worked on at the same time

  1. Measurement.  The goal here is to develop as accurate as possible a calculation of IETF carbon emissions.  Initially this will focus on emissions from IETF meetings, moving on to include the emissions throughout the year from our IT services and activities.
  2. Offsetting.  The goal here is to see if we can develop an offsetting strategy that has broad community support and if that is possible, to identify and buy into offset programs in line with that strategy.

In preparation for this project, we have engaged a new consultancy to support us with their expertise.  Both emissions measurement and offsetting are developing rapidly, particularly around global standards, and we believe that good expert advice is crucial to the success of this project.

The next steps will be to ask our consultants to prepare some community workshops to help bring us all up to speed on this complex subject.  These will be announced in the coming weeks with discussion expected to take place on the admin-discuss mailing list.

If you have any questions or comments then please feel free to reach out to me directly.

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