The Greenest Event of them all, Part 2: Olympic-sized Offsetting

"Sequester Carbon Here"

"Sequester Carbon Here"

Where did the emissions go?  Part of choosing a sustainable legacy for the Games meant choosing a local offset provider that could support BC and Canada in meeting provincial and nation-wide emission reductions.  Choosing a local provider not only means supporting jobs in the Greater Vancouver basin, but also supporting green technology and energy efficiency projects that are developed and implemented close to home.

As part of the traditional role of Olympic Sponsors, the offsets to the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be donated as value-in-kind to VANOC.  Aside from direct investment from the Government and media broadcast revenue, this type of support is the most critical to Olympic events.  Coca-Cola provides the Games with its beverage needs (now including coffee), GM supports with a hybrid fleet of cars and busses, ACER technology is used by the IT department and staff, and so on. 

Part of the difficulty of committing to donate future offsets for the Games comes down to accurately measuring the footprint.  Offsetters has committed to reducing the direct emissions, and will encourage other sponsors to purchase offsets to cover VANOC’s indirect emissions.  Since the largest portion of carbon emissions has yet to occur (traditional GRI principles are designed to measure current emissions when applied to business) it is unclear exactly how many offsets will be needed.  The 2007-2008 Sustainability Report concluded on 110,000 tCO2e direct and 190,000 tCO2e indirect, although VANOC has continuously undertaken energy efficiency improvements and an updated estimate will be provided in the 2009-2010 Sustainability Report to be released this October.  Moreover, accounting for all emissions means anticipating hard-to-measure numbers such as air travel emissions for accredited visitors and staff, and embodied emissions in the construction of existing venues.  Thirdly, as soon as the Games’ are over, media attention will wane and VANOC will close its doors, making it critical to assign responsibility for reductions to a credible 3rd party. 

Offsetters – the chosen supplier – has plans to develop a portfolio of offsets, where offsets come online and will be retired post-2010.  Ensuring the offset portfolio is spread across multiple projects with varying timelines will mitigate some of the risk inherent in long-term projects.  The certification system will either rely on a BC-based system or the International Gold Standard, which the company supports as equally stringent.  Potential projects might include fuel switching (substituting coal/natural gas for biomass waste) energy curtains (installing better insulation in greenhouses), and ground-source heat pumps (substituting natural gas electricity used in heating).

Excerpt from June 9th article in the Vancouver Sun: “Offsetters becomes an official Olympic supplier by providing Vanoc with offset projects that will reduce at least 110,000 tonnes of carbon emissions…[Offsetters president] Tansey said Offsetters has essentially underwritten 110,000 tonnes of offsets for Vanoc and remains “very confident” it can convince Games sponsors and participants to offset the additional 190,000 tonnes.”

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One Response to “The Greenest Event of them all, Part 2: Olympic-sized Offsetting”

  1. yalesustainability Says:

    great post. great picture!


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