Extinguishing Emissions?

A review of the approach taken to carbon measurement and management across the London 2012 programme.

December 2009

Tags: carbon

The report commends the groundbreaking work done so far on carbon management and calls for London 2012 to continue this work in taking responsibility, reducing emissions as much as possible and mitigating the remaining emissions:

Key Findings

  • Preparing for and staging the Olympic and Paralympic Games will lead to an increase in the UK’s contribution to global carbon emissions
  • Since 2006, the Commission has urged the Key Stakeholders to treat carbon management as a strategic issue and to define, measure, reduce and mitigate the negative impacts in an open and transparent way.
  • London 2012 has produced a groundbreaking carbon management study
  • The Commission calls on London 2012 to continue to measure its carbon footprint – including actual “as built” footprints
  • London 2012 needs to take responsibility for reducing emissions as far as possible
  • A strong and quantifiable programme is needed to mitigate remaining emissions


Measuring the carbon footprint

  • Full details of the carbon footprint calculations and underlying assumptions should be published by autumn 2009, ahead of the Copenhagen summit.
  • Emissions should be counted when they happen, and not amortised over the life of legacy facilities, deferring responsibility for mitigation to future generations.
  • The calculations and underlying assumptions should be adequate for the purpose of developing a strategy. Emphasis should now move on to avoiding emissions and mitigating the residual footprint.
  • The reference footprint should be recalculated and published on a regular basis. Assumptions should be explicitly stated to ensure openness and transparency.
  • The ODA should calculate embodied emissions based on “as built” data for at least one, and preferably more, significant permanent venues to enable future projects to understand the correlation between “reference” and “as built” emissions. Failure to do this would significantly delay wider understanding of this important issue.

Taking responsibility

  • Each individual Key Stakeholder should be responsible for reducing or avoiding emissions within their area of responsibility. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 has a responsibility to assure this activity.
  • Responsibility for the whole residual footprint should rest with the Olympic Board, who should allocate responsibility for mitigation to the organisation best placed to achieve it. This will not necessarily be the organisation that caused the emissions. The organisations to whom responsibility is allocated could be in wider government; they will not necessarily always be Key Stakeholders.
  • The marginal carbon cost of decisions should be factored into operational decision-making, taking into account life-cycle carbon impacts where possible and in a transparent and open manner.

Mitigation of the residual footprint

  • The residual footprint should be mitigated using a variety of techniques:
  • Gold standard offsets, or other equally robust method, for flights for competitors and officials, in accordance with the bid commitment1, or other equally robust method. If flights are not to be offset, mitigation of these emissions must be achieved using alternative means.
  • Creation of a fund to support carbon reducing projects that also support social/economic objectives locally and around the world. This fund could be supported by commercial partners if appropriate and possibly from a voluntary carbon contribution linked to games and transport tickets. Collection and distribution must be transparent.
  • Mass participation programmes, such as the EDF Energy campaign, where, as far as practical, the results should be quantifiable and additional.
  • Using the legacy of knowledge to reduce carbon in future projects. For example, application of BS8901 for future events, and development of a new standard for managing embodied emissions in construction projects. If this initiative were to be started promptly by Government, it would be possible to launch a new standard to coincide with the Games.
  • LOCOG should encourage the IOC to include carbon footprint measurement and management for future bids and make this part of the decision criteria for host city awards.
  • DCMS should consider carbon footprint measurement and management as part of the bid criteria for other major events.
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