Paris Olympics climate action criticized as falling short of sustainability targets


To mitigate global warming, the Paris Olympics has set ambitious carbon reduction goals. However, the non-profit organization Carbon Market Watch argues that its carbon footprint remains excessively high, making it difficult to be sustainable.

(Photo: iStock)

According to Carbon Market Watch and the French civil society group éclaircies, if the Paris Olympics were to fully implement the proposed carbon reduction measures, it would at most reduce its carbon footprint by 30%.

Paris is the first host city to announce a carbon budget, setting an emissions target of 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, which is roughly half of the emissions from the 2012 London Olympics (3.3 million tons) and the 2016 Rio Olympics (3.6 million tons).

Carbon Market Watch believes that the organizer has not disclosed the methodology and details of carbon footprint calculations, making it difficult to compare the carbon reduction efforts of each Olympic Games.

The report highlights that the primary sources of carbon emissions for the Paris Olympics are construction and transportation, accounting for 32% and 40%, respectively. Despite implementing numerous carbon reduction measures such as building reuse and offering vegetarian options for spectators, the largest source of carbon emissions is air travel, a problem that cannot be solved in the short to medium term.

Benja Faecks, a global carbon market policy expert at Carbon Market Watch, believes that the green transition promised by the Paris Olympics is limited in effect. He suggests rethinking the entire Olympic model to meet the requirement of keeping global warming within 1.5°C.

César Dugast, co-founder of éclaircies, stated that the current format of the Olympics, with elite athletes congregating in a single city, coupled with intense transportation networks and purpose-built infrastructure, makes it difficult for the Olympics to achieve sustainability.

The report recommends that since the number of spectators determines the infrastructure and food requirements of the Olympics, especially the demand for international air travel, dispersing the Olympic audience is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. It suggests considering hosting different events in different countries to reduce the number of flights.

Gilles Dufrasne, Carbon Market Watch policy lead, believes that the IOC should take more proactive measures, such as rejecting sponsors that harm the environment, preventing the Olympics from becoming a platform for promoting harmful products, and providing more incentives for green businesses to participate.

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