The 2024 Olympics still far from ecological gold medal, according to carbon experts

The 2024 Olympics still far from ecological gold medal, according to carbon experts

“Appropriate” but still “insufficient” efforts: less than 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games, the impact of Paris-2024 on the planet is “too important” for them to be ecologically “sustainable” , estimates the NGO Carbon Market Watch, which calls for a “radical” reform.

Originally, the Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Cojo) promised a Paris Games “with a neutral contribution to the climate“, that is to say without net greenhouse gas emissions.

But in the face of criticism, communication has changed and mentions carbon pollution half as much as during previous Olympics. Even if “our ambition remains intact“, Georgina Grenon, director of environmental excellence for Paris 2024, assured AFP on Monday after the report was published.

We are really very happy that Paris-2024 (…) has renounced” its initial assertion, affirms to AFP Benja Faecks, expert from Carbon Market Watch, and “we welcome the fact that they have established a budget carbon before the event“, despite doubts about the “legitimacy” of the calculation displayed.

Paris-2024 forecasts the emission of some 1.58 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, or less than half of the 3.5 million tonnes on average from the London (2012) and Rio (2016) Games.

But the objective “seems at first sight ambitious” and “difficult to verify”, warns the NGO.

For her, the organizers' climate strategy remains “incomplete” and “lacks transparency”: “no methodology or details regarding the method of calculation have been revealed“, explains the organization in a report.

The organizers “deserve to be commended” for their attempt to green an event of such scale but, “despite marginal improvements”, the carbon footprint of the Games “remains too high to be sustainable”.

It’s “encouraging” but “we need to do more,” summarizes Gilles Dufrasne, one of the leaders of Carbon Market Watch.

If Ms Grenon “is delighted” that the NGO has “welcomed the efforts”, she regrets certain “inaccuracies on information which is nevertheless public”.

Especially since, for her, “I don't think we can talk about only marginal improvements” and that the method followed is that – public – of the International Olympic Committee.

Air transport

By sector, Carbon Market Watch predicts that the main greenhouse gas emissions will come from transport (around 40%) and construction (32%). The rest is distributed between food (1%), non-food purchases, such as “goodies” (20%) and energy consumption (8%).

For its part, Cojo estimates that emissions will be divided into three thirds: one for travel (and 25% of the total for spectator trips alone), another for construction (including 25% for permanent ones) and a final for Games operations (accommodation, security, catering, etc.) – with “not even 1%” for energy consumption, specifies Ms. Grenon.

“Efforts” have been made to limit emissions from construction – 95% of infrastructure is already existing or temporary – or thanks to vegetarian menus, but “the organizers have their hands tied when it comes to tackling largest sources of emissions,” the report notes.

This is the case for the air transport of athletes and spectators, whose emissions, as they currently stand, “cannot be significantly reduced”.

Radical redesign

Carbon Market Watch also highlights “inconsistencies”, particularly in the choice of sponsors: “the absence of climate criteria “imposed on partners” is a missed opportunity (…) to influence large companies“.

Finally, the NGO considers “opaque” the organizers' promises to compensate for unavoidable emissions with carbon credits.

Everything will be public in due form at the right time“, Mrs. Grenon promised.

The use of carbon creditsis problematic in all cases“, believes Ms. Faecks: because on the one hand this implies allowing ourselves to “exceed the limits” and on the other hand because “high quality carbon credits are lacking”.

Can we still organize the Games at a time of global warming?

It is clear that the Olympics cannot be truly compatible with respecting the barrier of 1.5 degrees of warming.“, the most ambitious objective of the Paris agreements,”unless we radically rethink” their organization, estimates Carbon Market Watch.

Rather than bringing together athletes and spectators from all over the world in the same place, the NGO suggests that for each discipline the competition takes place in a different city with access reserved for local populations: athletics in Mexico, aquatic sports in Buenos Aires, combat sports in Seoul, cycling in Ankara,…

In addition to reducing the carbon footprint, “the other advantage would be to increase the accessibility of the Games“, visible on site to more people, argues Carbon Market Watch.