2010 Olympics blowing too much smoke: athletes – Inside the 2010 Olympics, Jeff Lee

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2010 Olympics blowing too much smoke: athletes – Inside the 2010 Olympics (old link) By Jeff Lee  02-05-2009

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On the heels of its latest Sustainability report in which it outlined some of the reporting and tracking it is doing, the Vancouver Organizing Committee is getting a bit of a razz from Canadian athletes – including more than 70 top Olympic and national team athletes – who say it’s not doing enough.

On Thursday the athletes, through the David Suzuki Foundation, sent a letter to Vanoc CEO John Furlong saying the committee needs to stop studying and start acting on promises to make the 2010 Games totally carbon neutral.

What’s worth noting in this complicated story is that it turns out that for all its good efforts at being environmentally friendly, Vanoc is getting criticism for just how far it is willing – or actually not willing – to go.

The foundation did a report for Vanoc two years ago called “Meeting The Challenge” that showed the Games will produce 328,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and that the cost of offsetting that is in the range of $5 million. The tonnage includes all the gases produced from air travel generated by spectators, officials and media, the so-called “indirect” costs. That’s what being truly “carbon neutral” means, they say.

It turns out that Vanoc says it will offset the “direct” costs of the Games, including all the carbon diozide created by its travel, including  sending executive team members to places like Europe and China. But it doesn’t intend to offset the indirect carbon generation created by spectators and the like.

It also says that its’ efforts go far beyond what other organizing committees have done in the past. Linda Coady, Vanoc’s vice-president of sustainability, said in an email last night that Vanoc is still working out a “carbon management program” and that details will be released at the World Conference on Sport and Environment in late March. That event is sponsored by the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Coady says Vanoc put out an initial public forecast of indirect emissions but hasn’t begun formally reporting on them yet in their annual sustainability report. Here’s what Coady says in her email statement to me:

“The David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) has provided VANOC with advice on the carbon plan for the 2010 Games and their “Play it Cool” program and we value their input. We currently track and report our carbon footprint – both direct Games-based emissions and indirect emissions from air travel, based on advice provided by the DSF and other environmental organizations. VANOC’s commitment is to take responsibility for offsetting our direct emissions from the Games. We also agree that offsets used to neutralize the carbon footprint of the Games have to be highly credible. We plan to release further details on our carbon management program for the 2010 Games at the World Conference on Sport and Environment, March 29-31 in Vancouver. The IOC has convened this event in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).”

Regardless, that seems not to be adequate for athletes like snowboarder Justin Lamoureux, right, who points out that if he and 500 NHL hockey players and soccer associations and others can offset their carbon footprints by buying gold-standard offsets at places like planetair.ca, so can Vanoc.

You can see Vanoc’s sustainability efforts here (and download the latest .pdf report here.)

The athletes’ letter is here. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Green Is The New Gold page is here.

The foundation has also linked a useful page on demystifying how to go carbon-neutral and just who in the sporting world is doing it. (And they’re clearly hoping to add Vanoc to that list, too.)