Environment News Service (ENS)

Environment News Service (ENS)

Vancouver Vows Carbon Neutral 2010 Winter Olympics


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

NEW YORK, New York, November 1, 2007 (ENS) - Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olypmic Games to be held north of Vancouver at Whistler Mountain, British Columbia pledged Monday to minimize the environmental footprints of the events before, during and after the Games. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games has set a goal of holding a carbon-neutral set of events that will result in no net emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, VANOC, and the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, signed a memo of understanding, MoU, at the United Nations headquarters in New York to work together to enhance environmental performance and increase public awareness of the importance of environmental protection and sustainable development.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, 'Through the Olympic movement, we can further sustainable development by holding green Games and boosting global interest in the environment. UNEP welcomes VANOC's goal of carbon neutral Games and is proud to be a partner is this important endeavor.'

UNEP may advise VANOC on environmental issues, including greenhouse gas emissions, ozone-friendly chemicals, waste management and green procurement, Steiner said. UNEP and VANOC pledged to work together to inspire action on national and international environmental goals.

In recent years, there has been an increasing awareness that environmental and sustainability considerations should be at the heart of the Olympic project. All Olympic Games are now expected to leave a sustainable legacy and promote environmental awareness.

'We are delighted that UNEP and VANOC have been able to continue the great spirit of collaboration that has existed for several Games now by signing this MoU,' said Pal Schmitt, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's Sport and Environment Commission.

'The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games are making great strides in the field of sustainable development and this new relationship with the UNEP will undoubtedly provide further opportunities to inspire sustainable actions around the world.'

'The Olympic and Paralympic Games represent a unique opportunity to produce lasting benefits, both locally and globally,' said VANOC chief executive John Furlong. 'Today, as we come together in a spirit of cooperation with UNEP, we are well on our way to fulfilling the goal of meeting our commitment of hosting sustainable Games, of raising awareness about the environment and inspiring greater commitment to environmental protection around the world.'

Under the MoU, VANOC will support and participate in World Environment Day and a global forum on sport and the environment.

Under this MoU, VANOC has the opportunity to participate in world youth conferences organized by UNEP. In 2007, VANOC sent two indigenous Inuit youth from northern Canada to the 2007 TUNZA International Youth Conference in Germany - a youth forum held every two years that brings together young environmentalists from all over the world to share experiences on the environment. There, the young people discussed environmental issues such as the need to address climate change in their community.

VANOC has been tracking and reporting on its environmental performance with the publication of its first Sustainability Report in June 2007, available online at: vancouver2010.com. The next version of the report, which is based on the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines, will be available in the first quarter of 2008.

The agreement between UNEP and VANOC comes several days after the 7th World Conference on Sport and Environment, which took place in Beijing on October 25 to 27.

In Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge confirmed that VANOC will host the next World Conference on Sport and the Environment in the spring of 2009. This will be the first time the international conference will be hosted by a Canadian city.

'We are delighted to host such an important conference that will showcase the progress being made by the Olympic Movement in the field of sustainable development,' said Furlong. 'I am confident that we will draw a record attendance and build on the intense and growing interest in sustainability here in BC, throughout Canada and worldwide. All of the participants and presenters will contribute to a compelling forum for global sustainable sport experiences and expertise.'

Critics of VANOC's environmental performance say the organizers got off to a poor start by building a four lane highway across irreplaceable wetlands and forest lands to ease the long drive from Vancouver north to Whistler Mountain where the Alpine Skiing events will take place.

In the summer of 2006, police arrested 23 protesters and dismantled a highway construction blockade in West Vancouver's Eagleridge Bluffs, ending a demonstration against the highway that lasted for 39 days.

Coalition to Save Eagleridge Bluffs president Dennis Perry was among those jailed for protesting. 'What we're saying is do not put this disastrous overland highway route through,' he declared. 'It could not be more destructive if it were planned to be.'

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