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London Olympics Drops Carbon Offset Pledge

Organizers of the London 2012 Olympic Games have dropped plans to offset the event’s carbon emissions, blaming requirements that such offset projects would have been located abroad.

The London Olympics’ pledge to offset its emissions was part of the bid that helped it beat off competition from eight other potential host cities.

But David Stubbs, the head of sustainability at the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), has said in an interview that offset projects would have taken place away from Britain.

“Officially, if you want to go down certified carbon-offsetting all projects have to be overseas, so if we plant a lot of trees in [English county] Essex that just doesn’t count,” Stubbs told Bloomberg. “Because the Games are in the U.K., we wanted to maximize the Games locally. Doing formal offsetting would be diverting things,” he added.

The committee is now aiming to reduce some emissions at source, and instead of buying formal carbon credits, LOCOG has appointed BP Plc’s Target Neutral unit to offset the 34,000 tons of CO2 that travellers to the games are expected to generate. Target Neutral will also offset the emissions from 5,000 official Games vehicles, and will advise visitors on how to reduce their carbon footprint, Bloomberg reported.

“We never said we would have a total offsetting program. It’s a wider approach to compensate for residual emissions,” Stubbs said, according to Bloomberg.

LOCOG had estimated earlier that the construction of the Olympic site – Europe’s largest urban renewal project – the staging of the games and the transportation of staff, athletes and visitors would generate 3.4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Bloomberg.

By eliminating the Games-wide offsetting, LOCOG may avoid costs of up to 2.7 million pounds ($4.4 million), Bloomberg estimated, using prices  quoted by brokers MF Global.

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5 thoughts on “London Olympics Drops Carbon Offset Pledge

  1. While this does seem like it could be an excuse to get around original promises, the local vs international offsetting is to my mind an important issue. I tried to get local (ie within the UK) offsetting considered some years ago. I would have thought for an event like the olpympics, with such strong legacy implications/potential that finding ways of reducing emissions (and perhaps working on a range of social issues at the same time?) within the UK, would have been perfect. Unfortunatley there aren’t many (if any?) offsetting programs which accredit these sorts of project as ‘official’.

  2. While I applaud their efforts to reduce carbon, I wonder if part of the reason is also the cost?

    There ought to be lots of projects they could do/invest in to offset their own carbon locally. Why can’t they identify projects in renewable energy, methane recycling (such as food waste to energy), and energy efficiency? Reforestation may be less relevant in the UK, but all these other options ought to be available…

  3. Personally I feel this is a money issue and the lack of local projects should not have prevented the London Olympics being carbon-neutral through the purchase of internationally developed carbon credits. Afterall, global climate change is a global problem, and I think that the LOCOG missed a great opportunity to show visitors to London, especially from developing countries, that Europe cares. At the moment, they will see another example of the developed nations telling them what to do to reduce their carbon footprint, while themselves doing nothing. There are many offsets generated around the world in a very ethical way that also bring co-benefits to developing nations. Personally I feel it is an opportunity that has been missed, but of course a lot of the billions spent on the Olympics would have been needed for the corporate and political VIP areas.

  4. With Russia violating its Olympic “no waste” pledge with landfill dumping in a karst area and London backing out of its “carbon neutral” games, it seems all parties (IOC, Sochi and London) are green washing at the expense of a warmer more polluted planet.

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