Heather Conn Blogs

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How green are London’s 2012 Olympic Games?

In all of the 2012 Olympics media coverage so far, I have heard nothing on TV or in print about the environmental impact of the Games. The construction and operations of the London Games, combined with the associated travel of athletes from 200+ countries, are expected to generate more than two million tons of carbon dioxide, according to University of B.C. associate professor James Tansey.

He’s executive director of the ISIS Research Centre at the university’s Sauder School of Business. The centre focuses on using business tools to create a low-carbon economy. Tansey was involved with the organizing committee of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which were the first Games to be carbon neutral.


Tansey’s company Offsetters partnered with the 2012 Canadian Olympic team to offset its travel to London. The team is offsetting around 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is roughly the same volume as 300 Olympic-size swimming pools. The team’s related carbon credits are invested in four organizations: two landfill gas ventures in Canada, a bio-gas project in Thailand, and a wind farm in Turkey.


Some people think that carbon offsets are little more than scams, allowing people to continue to pollute, then appease their guilt by investing in dubious projects branded “green.” Like any businesses, the standards and ethics of carbon-offset companies vary dramatically.


You can find out more about carbon offsets from the downloadable guide Purchasing Carbon Offsets, prepared by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute. A few questions to consider regarding carbon offsets include:

  •  Have your carbon offsets been certified to a recognized standard?
  • How do you ensure that the greenhouse gas reductions that your carbon offsets represent are quantified accurately?
  • Are 100 per cent of your offsets validated and verified by accredited third parties?


As the David Suzuki Foundation points out on its website: “[V]oluntary offset programs should not be seen as a substitute for comprehensive government regulations to reduce greenhouse gases.” The Foundation calls them a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on climate change.


Find out more at Go Carbon Neutral on the David Suzuki Foundation website.



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August 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm Comments (0)