Leeds Beckett academic’s research looks at the economic impact of UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26)

The School of Events, Tourism & Hospitality Management’s Professor Emma Wood has been working with Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Fiscal Policy team to estimate the potential economic impact, for Glasgow and for Scotland more widely, of hosting COP26 in November. Here she talks about her research.


The approach we have taken to measure the direct economic impacts of COP26 is to estimate the public and visitor expenditure, sponsorship funding, and exhibitor expenditure associated with the conference. We have estimated this using information provided by the Office for National Statistics and the Scottish Government, and analysed how much additional economic activity is expected to be generated compared to a baseline scenario where the event does not take place. This has involved consideration of data about both the indirect effects (revenue generated in the supply chains and supporting businesses to the event) and induced effects (direct income produced by the event, attendees etc.). This has been estimated by looking at research about similar conferences, discussions with those involved in the event and additional information from the Scottish Government. This quantitative data has then been supplemented by interviews with a variety of stakeholders from the previous UN climate change conferences. 

The SEC in Glasgow where the conference will take place

It must also be noted that any study being undertaken before an event has its challenges and this has been exacerbated by the unknowns created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Alternative scenarios on the numbers visiting Glasgow are therefore being built into the modelling approach.

So far, our research has also pointed to the fact that the costs of safely hosting heads-of-state and the accompanying entourages, businesses and activists are great in terms of security and logistics, however there are also benefits that accrue from this additional spend in the local economy both via the organizer (the UK government) and from the additional visitors to the region. This expenditure also induces additional activity which increases the economic benefit in terms of stimulating demand in supply industries and through job creation.

It is ironic, for a climate conference, that greater travel to Glasgow will increase the economic benefit to the region but fewer visitors will be more environmentally beneficial. However, the importance of the long-term climate change commitments hoping to be reached at the conference far outweigh both the short-term environmental impacts and the costs of hosting. The anticipated economic benefits accrued will be an additional bonus to the economy of Glasgow and the wider region in a difficult year.

The report will be completed for the Cabinet Office later this year with the purpose of supporting the government and the events industry in understanding the economic implications of hosting supranational conferences in the future.

Professor Emma Wood

Professor / School Of Events, Tourism And Hospitality Management

Emma Wood is Professor in Events and Experiential Marketing and Research Lead for the UK Centre for Event Management at Leeds Beckett University. Emma specialises in the impact of events on social change within communities and on shared memory creation.

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