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UN environmental efforts for ‘green’ 2008 Olympics in Beijing move ahead

UN environmental efforts for ‘green’ 2008 Olympics in Beijing move ahead

Achim Steiner (L) and IOC President Jacques Rogge
Pursuing efforts to promote eco-friendly sports, the heads of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today reviewed plans to ensure that environmental concerns figure as a major priority for next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, from cutting pollution to landscaping.

IOC President Jacques Rogge welcomed UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner’s offer to conduct an environmental audit of the Games, and the two men, meeting at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, also discussed how best to help Vancouver, Canada, to implement its environmental programme for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

UNEP, which has worked with the IOC since 1994, believes that sport and mass spectator events can act as an important vehicle for galvanizing global interest and action for sustainable development.

In 2005, UNEP signed an agreement with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) to make the event the greenest ever, from cutting air, water and noise pollution to transportation, landscaping and disposal of solid waste.

A key part of the agreement involves public awareness campaigns and UNEP hopes to leave a lasting legacy in China and beyond on the links between mass participation events and a healthy environment.

The green plans for Beijing are part of a growing commitment by Olympic organizers to put sport at the forefront of environmental planning and awareness.

A similar agreement with the organizers of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, achieved new records in the quest for environmental sustainability in mass sports, with 70 per cent of the greenhouse gases generated offset by investments in forestry, energy efficiency and renewable energy schemes both at home and abroad.

The organizers calculated that the 16-day event would generate the equivalent of just over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide with the main sources coming from transport and the operation of the venues. Much of this was offset by ‘credits’ in line with the international climate change treaty, such as those purchased from cleaner energy projects in Eritrea, Mexico and Sri Lanka. A tree planting project in Kenya also contributed.

Other eco-friendly steps included water-saving measures, soil and land use rehabilitation, and waste management. UNEP efforts do not stop at the Olympics. The agency reached a similar agreement with the International Football Federation (FIFA) for last summer’s World Cup in Germany, the “green Goal” project, which more than compensated for the greenhouse gases it emitted through clean energy schemes both at home and abroad.