2010 Olympics can be carbon neutral

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Courtesy of GLOBE Foundation

The 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games could achieve carbon neutrality through a comprehensive greenhouse gas management plan that includes the use of carbon offsets, notes the David Suzuki Foundation in a report released on January 24.

The report, Meeting the Challenge: A Carbon Neutral 2010 Winter Games Discussion Paper, was commissioned by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), the organization responsible for organizing the Vancouver Olympics, as part of its pledge to be a carbon neutral in 2010.

'Vancouver 2010 committed during the bid to try to reduce the impact of climate change,' said Linda Coady, Vice President, Sustainability, for VANOC. 'VANOC invested in research with the David Suzuki Foundation for advice from a recognized independent environmental expert. We’re pleased with the body of knowledge on climate change included in the report and look forward to working with the Suzuki Foundation and others on a climate change program for the Games.'

VANOC has taken previous steps to reduce the environmental impacts of the games. So far the committee has built its Olympic facilities to achieve a minimum of LEED silver standards, utilized renewable energy and focused on the use of public transit for the duration of the games.

However according to the foundation there are several emissions associated with the games that are unavoidable, such as emissions from local transportation, energy consumption at the events and air travel of visitors and athletes.

According to the report to successfully undertake a carbon neutral program VANOC will require a comprehensive greenhouse gas management plan. Key elements of this plan would include:

- Determining emissions scope,
- Develop an implementation plan with targets and timelines,
- Conducting a greenhouse gas emissions inventory,
- Engaging partners and sponsors,
- A policy for procuring carbon neutral or low carbon products and services,
- Reduction strategies,
- Procurement of renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets,
- Reporting requirements to ensure transparency,
- Account for travel and vehicle emissions
- A communications strategy with a strong public engagement component.

The report suggests that the procurement of carbon offsets would be the best way to achieve the committee’s pledge of carbon neutrality. Carbon offsets allow greenhouse gas emitters to ‘pay for their pollution’ by funding green projects - such as renewable energy - that reduce or prevent GHG emissions.

'VANOC is already making efforts to first reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its activities,' said Paul Lingl, report co-author and a climate change specialist with the Suzuki Foundation. 'To compensate for the emissions that remain, VANOC can use high-quality offsets.'

Beginning with the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and supported by developing Olympic policy and practice, greenhouse gas management for Olympic Games has come to be understood in the context of a ‘carbon neutral’ strategy. In practice this means measuring and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the Games, and then balancing remaining emissions with reductions elsewhere with offsets. The result is zero net greenhouse gas emissions.

The Foundation would like to see VANOC purchase offsets that meet internationally recognized standards, such as the Gold Standard, the most widely endorsed offset quality standard. According to the report, a combination of high-quality carbon offsets sourced both locally and globally would send a powerful message that global warming requires a local, regional and global approach.

The Suzuki Foundation is calling on VANOC to build on the success of Salt Lake and Torino.

The outcome of the carbon neutral plan is expected to have lasting, positive implications in Vancouver. Public transportation improvements and the LEED certified Olympic village will remain in use after the games are completed.

The games will also serve as a model for sustainable development on a world stage. 'We’re excited that VANOC is willing to accept the challenge of taking responsibility for the Games’ impact on climate change,' said Mr. Lingl. 'Imagine three billion people from around the world tuning in to see innovative and concrete solutions to global warming at work.'

Carbon offsets will be featured in a session at GLOBE 2008, the 10th Biennial Conference and Trade Fair on Business and the Environment, held at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre from March 12 to 14, 2008. More information about the event can be found at the Globe2008 website.

A comprehensive look at carbon offsets is available in a previous GLOBE-Net article which can be found here.

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