As the two-year anniversary of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics approaches (February 12, 2010), we are reminded that the Summer Games are almost upon us. Over one year before the 2012 Games, we looked at what the London Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games (LOCOG) was planning in terms of delivering the first sustainable Games. LOCOG has conveniently packaged its “green promise” in a comprehensive sustainability plan, which has evolved from the original bid proposal and been updated throughout the planning and implementation stages.
What did the organizers promise, and have they stepped up to the plate? Less than six months out from the XXX Olympiad in London, we evaluate progress on three key aspects of London 2012′s sustainability pledge. When we considered the plan’s probability of success in July 2011, we established that two factors would be major determinants: the organizers’ leadership and their ability to see the plan through (for each detailed element to be implemented). Where are we today? Let’s see…
The Promise: Lower carbon emissions and an offset programme
A durable carbon management strategy to minimise the environmental impact of the Games
First, the carbon offset portion of the plan (part of the original bid) has been scrapped. Hmmm, off to a rough start? Last August, LOCOG announced that carbon offsets would no longer be part of the plan. Why? Organizers realized that carbon offsetting might not be truly beneficial to local environmental and economic needs. For example, official offsets would have to be done overseas – so planting more trees in England would not have counted. Should the Games focus on local initiatives only? If the objective is to counter the negative effects of climate change, shouldn’t the contribution to environmental projects abroad be given equal weight and priority? Granted, the true value of carbon offsets is still up for debate – many stating that this just makes pollution expensive, instead of diminishing it. Conversely, maybe the cost of offsetting and saving of £2.7 million tipped the scale in favour of nixing this part of the commitment. Therefore, how can we evaluate this?
Unfortunately, we can’t. Because carbon offsets are sometimes seen as just a way to tax polluters – instead of drivers for environmental change – an organization’s decision not to subscribe to them cannot be appraised as either a ‘’good’’ or a ‘’bad’’ move. However, the very fact that LOCOG changed its tune on this aspect of its sustainability plan is reason to question its commitment.