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FIFA World Cup, 2012 Olympics Face Environmental Challenges

Two of the world’s largest sporting events — the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa to be held this week and the 2012 Olympics in London — are facing environmental challenges particularly as they try to offset millions of tons of CO2 emissions, largely due to travel.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is expected to generate more than 2.7 million tons of CO2 emissions, which is eight times more CO2 emissions than the 2006 World Cup held in Germany, according to a recent Feasibility Study for a Carbon Neutral 2010 FIFA World Cup, reports MediaGlobal.

The breakdown:  Nearly 900,000 tons of CO2 emissions will be produced by local transportation, the construction of stadiums and the energy use associated with the football matches and accommodations, while another 1.9 m tons will come from travel, reports The Guardian.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs has made significant efforts to offset the carbon emissions with the support of UN organizations including UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), reports MediaGlobal.

Examples cited in the article include the installation of solar panels on public streetlights, traffic lights, and billboards in the six South African host cities. The combined installations will reduce 244 tonnes of greenhouse gas emission a year, according to UNEP.

Some of the nine host cities for South Africa’s first World Cup also have built new stadiums that feature natural ventilation, rain water capture and energy efficiency.

Two of the biggest projects implemented to offset carbon emissions was the creation of a rapid transit system of buses in some cities and the improvement of infrastructure for pedestrian walkways and bicycle circulation, however, it is unclear whether the wealthier residents will use public transportation, reports The Guardian.

An analysis of the environmental projects will be conducted at the end of the games to determine which ones worked and which ones did not.

In an Ernst and Young report, “Action amid uncertainty – the South African business response to climate change”, all survey participants stated that national policies were critical to guiding and shaping the company’s climate change strategy and policy, reports Engineering News.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs is expected to release the country’s draft climate change policy by July 2010, after which a white paper would be produced by the end of the year for ratification by the Cabinet in early 2011 to make it legally binding, according to the article.

A key finding reveals that 80 percent of the South African companies surveyed plan on increasing spending on climate change initiatives between 2010 and 2012, while 90 percent report that their future investments would target energy-efficient measures.

London is facing similar environmental challenges. Five years ago, when London won the Olympic bid for the 2012 Olympics, the UK government vowed to make the Olympic Park a “blueprint for sustainable living” and make London’ the greenest city in the world, but since that time have only made incremental changes including Hopkins Architects’ lightweight velodrome with natural lighting and ventilation and NORD’s substation, which used demolition scrap, according to Fast Company.

There are plenty of failures including the Olympic Park’s energy hub running on gas instead of biogas and scaled back wind-power projects, according to the article.

In addition, a report released by the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 indicates there is “no comprehensive plan” for new waste management in east London or for Olympic Park’s “blueprint for sustainable living,” reports The Guardian.

While achievements include lower-carbon cement, low-toxin plastics and a zero landfill waste target, the Olympic Park is using lots of steel including the aquatic center and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower in the park.

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