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Sochi, Dow Meet Carbon Neutrality Goals – Though Questions Linger

SochiThe Sochi Olympics has met its goal to fully mitigate the direct carbon footprint of the games, estimated at up to 360,000 tons CO2e, the committee announced yesterday.

The footprint includes sports venue operations, travel and accommodation for athletes, staff and volunteers, and Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee activities going back to 2007. The committee said its “official carbon partner,” Dow, cut more than 500,000 tons of GHGs starting in March 2013 by implementing energy-efficient technologies in infrastructure, industry and agriculture across Russia.

The partners did not say what certifications, if any, these offsets had achieved.

The committee said it also voluntarily offset GHGs associated with spectator and media travel, though the retirement of carbon credits from environmental projects in Russia, Brazil and South Korea, and one at a Dow manufacturing plant in the US. (In an earlier announcement, Dow said these projects would developed to international standards, and recognized under the International Carbon Offset and Reduction Alliance Code of Practice.)

But Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Allen Hershkowitch told Mashable that the Russian government had not publicly addressed all potential GHG sources, such as refrigerant leakage and waste output. He said the government has also not discussed chemicals used to clean facilities, or the types of fuel used for construction vehicles or snow-making equipment.

In October, the AP reported that Russia was dumping waste from Sochi construction projects, breaking a zero waste pledge the country made as a central pillar of its Olympic bid.

The games start this Friday.

According to a study out last month, just six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to host the Games by the end of this century if climate projections prove accurate.

Takeaway: The Sochi Winter Games and partner Dow Chemical met their goals for offsetting travel and sports venue operations, although critics have raised questions about precisely what the footprint includes.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

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