London 2012 race to sustainability finish-line
In 2005, the framework for the first sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games, Towards a One Planet Olympics, was put together by WWF, London 2012 and BioRegional: http://l2012.cm/MgJUP9. It formed part of London’s bid to host the Games and set out to create a legacy for sport, the environment and people, while respecting the planet’s ecological limits.
So, how has it performed? We’re still waiting for the full post-Games report to be delivered after the Paralympics but a pre-Games report, published just before the start of the Games, makes interesting reading.
The framework was, of course, a massively ambitious project, but then the whole Games were. So far, there appear to have been some real successes, including the lowering of the Games’ embodied carbon footprint. Half of the total carbon emissions of the Games was due to construction of the venues and a lot of thought went into the use of low impact materials, design of lightweight structures and how to get maximum use from temporary buildings. The figures for carbon reduction show, among other things, that the stadium is delivering 38% less embodied carbon than the original design promised, so a big tick in the box here.
A huge disappointment however, is the project’s failure to deliver its target of 20% of energy from onsite renewable sources – you might be forgiven for thinking this should be easier to achieve than the carbon targets. Central to the plan was an onsite wind turbine and a combined heat and power (CHP) energy centre running on renewable fuel. But, the wind turbine was never built, reportedly because of changes in health and safety legislation – with four years’ warning and wind turbines popping up across the country, you would imagine the government could have foreseen and overcome this obstacle.
A great British success story in renewable energy and CHP development is the British Sugar Wissington factory, which generates enough energy for 100,000 homes and fuels the country’s biggest single tomato glasshouse, Cornerways Nursery http://bit.ly/OYY6XM. I can’t help thinking that if LOCOG had called on the experience and commitment of British Sugar, or any other of the growing number of corporations now generating their own renewable energy, the energy centre would have been up and running well ahead of the Games.
Waste was another focus for Towards a One Planet Olympics and targets for reuse and recycling have been achieved but, so far, five additional legacy targets, which set out to extend zero waste policies across East London and increase the market for recycled products, have not. We wait to see what the final sustainability report for the Games shows and whether any progress has been made in recent weeks.