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London Olympics abandon carbon offsetting

Whistler Mayor says offsets contributed to making 2010 a “green Games”



Organizers of the London 2012 Olympic Games have abandoned carbon offsetting, a tactic that Whistler's mayor said was key to making the resort's own event a green Games.

Bloomberg reported August 31 that the London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG) dropped its plan to cut carbon emissions using offsets, a tool that allows individuals or organizations to put money into initiatives that reduce carbon emissions in other projects in order to make up for their own.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed would not comment on the decision by London 2012 organizers not to go ahead with carbon offsetting, but he said it played an important role here in creating what's been referred to as the "greenest Games."

"I would say it's a very important part," he said. "I think what's important about the Vancouver 2010 approach is that it does set a compelling case and a best practice for responsibility around energy and carbon for hosting the Olympics, and not just the Olympics, but events in general.

"I think it's been acknowledged as a leader. Some of the highlights are about a 15 to 18 per cent reduction in carbon from the business's usual case, which is in my mind evidence of how taking responsibility for carbon drives innovation in reduction, just by the process of accounting and being conscious of it."

The decision to abandon carbon offsetting marked a significant break with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which marketed itself as a "carbon neutral Games" as it mitigated its carbon emissions by partnering with Offsetters, a Vancouver-based carbon offset firm.

As part of that initiative, the Resort Municipality of Whistler voluntarily offset its Games-time carbon emissions as well as all carbon emissions associated with its planning and preparation for the Games, according to a February 2010 news release.

Speaking to Bloomberg, David Stubbs, London 2012's head of sustainability, said organizers wanted to take the approximately $4.4 million it would have taken to carry out the carbon offsetting program and put it towards initiatives closer to home.

"Officially, if you want to go down certified carbon-offsetting all projects have to be overseas," he said.

"Because the Games are in the UK, we wanted to maximize the Games locally. Doing formal offsetting would be diverting things."

The London 2012 Sustainability Plan, written in 2009, states that carbon offsetting has been part of the Games since the original bid, specifically with regard to offsetting international travel of athletes and officials attending the Games.

Organizers looked into various ways to offset emissions but ultimately decided against carbon offsetting, opting instead to deliver a "sustainable legacy" and to promote local benefits in 2012's host communities.

Offsetting isn't the only area where organizers felt they wouldn't meet expectations. They also stated in the sustainability plan that a goal to meet 20 per cent of Games-time electricity requirements from new, local renewable-energy sources would be "unlikely to be met in full."

Organizers nevertheless pledged to do further studies and discuss with partners how best to address that "challenging commitment."



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