VCUs and the Olympics: Past, Present, and Future
The Olympics are a celebration of athleticism, human potential, and global sportsmanship. They also lead to a whole lot of GHG emissions, which come from the construction of new venues and facilities, travel to and from the games by both teams and spectators, and the ongoing emissions related to the rigorous training athletes undertake to reach Olympic potential. Fortunately, Olympics officials are now contracting to offset many of the emissions that the games generate. For the last two Summer Olympics, offsetting included VCS Program projects and VCUs.
For the London Olympics in 2012, BP Target Neutral offset the emissions of all transport services provided by the Olympics, totalling almost 100 thousand tonnes of CO2e. They selected one project from each of the six inhabited continents from which to purchase credits. All projects had to adhere to ICROA standards and the final selection was made by an independent panel of environmental NGOs. Out of the six projects chosen, half were VCS projects, including the Tongcheng Kaidi Biomass Power Project and the Arrozal, GGP and Sul America Ceramics Fuel Switching Project.
Approximately 250,000 VCUs were also used by BP Target Neutral to offset the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The projects that generated those VCUs included the Surui Forest Carbon Project and the Purus Project, which are validated under both the VCS and CCB Standards.
VCS credits were also a part of offsetting this summer’s Olympics in Rio. As one of the main sponsors of the Olympics, Dow Chemical was responsible for managing the environmental footprint of the games. Dow committed to issuing and retiring carbon credits from the Santa Vitória Cogeneration Project to offset part of the Olympics’ carbon footprint.* This was the only project used to offset emissions from the games, making the VCS Program the only carbon standard used in offsetting the Rio Olympics. The Santa Vitória Cogeneration Project is a sugarcane bagasse plant that produces energy for Dow’s sugarcane-to-ethanol operations in Brazil.
VCS looks forward to helping offset more Olympics to come. However, as a rotating periodic event that represents massive infrastructure commitments from countries, the Olympics (and similar events) is a special case. More permanent recurring sporting events also present great opportunities for smaller-scale offsetting.
Sports league and stadiums are already doing a lot to reduce their internal emissions, from changing the cleaning supplies they use, to installing solar panels, to offering more environmentally sustainable paper products. Still, even local sporting events generate emissions, such as those from spectator travel, that are challenging to address. Offsetting from big events like the Olympics provides a fertile learning ground for other sports providers looking to do more about their carbon footprints. For instance, the offsetting work done by BP Target Neutral for the London Olympics and Rio World Cup included awareness raising with spectators about their own emissions. Lessons learned from that work could be built upon for future efforts.
In short, offsetting presents a great opportunity to further tackle sporting event emissions, giving us even more to celebrate.
* To address other emissions not offset by the Santa Marta Vitoria Cogeneration Project, Dow implemented several projects on their own using their own accounting procedures and methodology.
Form Assurance of Games Travel Offset Scheme, Summary Report prepared for the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, by Thomson Reuters Point Carbon
Sustainability Report, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, FIFA
Carbon Footprint Management Report Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games, October 2014, Dow and Abraça Sustainability
Verified Carbon Standard
The VCS Program is the world’s leading voluntary program for the certification of GHG emission reduction projects