Can Paris 2024 deliver a ‘climate positive’ Olympics?

Protesters raised concerns about the environmental impact of the 2024 Paris Olympics at the organizing committee’s headquarters in Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

Organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics say they plan to make the Games the world’s first “climate-positive” sporting event, a boast experts claim is “misleading”.

“We want to show that we can do these Games with half the emissions,” said Georgina Grenon, Paris 2024’s director of environmental excellence, with 500 days to go before the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza kicks off in the French capital.

“Within the limit of what is technically possible in 2024, we will have made every effort to cut, cut, cut.”

But for Lindsay Otis Nilles of Carbon Market Watch, “saying that an event has a positive impact on the climate is misleading.

“The event itself produces greenhouse gases that are harmful to the climate. Financial support of the organizers for external projects does not change that.”

Paris organizers say their calculations are based on reducing greenhouse gases and offsetting residual emissions linked to the event, in addition to funding projects to offset the effects of pollution.

Organizers insist they can halve CO2 emissions from the estimated 3.5 million metric tons produced during the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.

The construction footprint is limited thanks to a 95% reliance on existing spaces.

Most of the pollution will be associated with travel, with 25 percent of total emissions from spectator transit alone, and operations, including accommodation, security and catering.

“Emissions Offset”

Organizers have also favored the use of electricity from renewable sources, with most venues close to public transport, and serving spectators “low-carbon” dishes with less meat in the venues.

“Offsetting even more CO2 broadcasts from the ones we are going to broadcast, we will become the first major sporting event with a positive contribution to the climate,” said the organizers.

Environmental compensation includes financing the planting of trees to absorb carbon dioxide and projects to preserve and restore forests and oceans.

But these ventures across five continents, including providing more efficient cooking equipment in Africa, where kindling is still often used, are difficult to verify and have been criticized by UN experts.

Sports ecology expert Madeleine Orr, a professor at Britain’s Loughborough University, praised the efforts being made, but remains cautious when talking about “sustainable” games.

“All sporting events have an impact. The most sustainable sporting event is the one that doesn’t,” he said.

“There is also the challenge of travel – for athletes and spectators – which is really out of the hands of the organisers.

“We are waiting for the transport sector, mainly the airlines, to sort out electric travel options.

“So for now, hedging is an acceptable option. I think the organizers of Paris 2024 have the right idea here.”

Orr added: “My concern is when absolutist language is used, such as ‘more sustainable event’ or even just ‘sustainable Olympics’, because even if they do everything right, a major international event cannot be completely sustainable , because some product emissions and waste are unavoidable, and we know that offset programs are imperfect.

“So there’s always the danger of overstating achievements. That said, I’d always prefer them to try!”

“Smaller Games”

However, the question remains how to go further to reduce the carbon footprint of future Olympics with Los Angeles hosting the 2028 edition.

In a study published in the American journal Nature In 2021, experts claim three things could make the Games more environmentally friendly. drastically reducing the size of the event, rotating Games between the same cities and implementing independent sustainability standards.

Orr also supports the idea of ​​smaller Games, with fewer spectators traveling by plane.

“In the future, it is possible to reduce the size and scope of the event, which also opens the doors to using smaller facilities and fewer hotels, producing less waste, etc., without eroding the athlete experience or the media spectacle of information that can be produced and broadcast on televisions around the world,” he said.

“People loved watching Tokyo and Beijing, even without fans. We can run more sustainable Games.”

© 2023 AFP

Reference: Can Paris 2024 deliver a ‘climate positive’ Olympics? (2023, March 13) retrieved March 13, 2023 from

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