Agence France-PresseJuly 16, 2021 10:52:30 IST
The organizers of the Olympics are committed to prioritizing sustainability at the Tokyo Games, trying to show how countries like Japan – the biggest emitter of CO2 – can work for a greener future.
Their initiatives include equipping the Olympic Village with recyclable cardboard beds, using electricity from renewable sources and minimizing waste in competitions.
But like all major global events, Tokyo 2020 will leave an inevitable mark on the planet. Here are some key points to know about its environmental impact:
2.73 million tonnes of carbon dioxide
The latest official estimate of the carbon footprint of the Tokyo Games – more than some countries like Montenegro emit in a year.
It includes 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide generated by the construction or refurbishment of facilities and other infrastructure.
But that doesn’t mean banning foreign viewers to limit the risks of coronavirus infection.
Excluding emissions from their air travel and accommodation, the entire footprint should fall by about 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide, organizers say.
They will publish the final evaluation at the end of the games.
The figure is already lower than the Rio and London Olympics, and Paris has set an even more ambitious target, 1.5 million tonnes, to host the 2024 Games.
Tokyo 2020 also says it plans to “offset” its footprint by buying carbon credits to finance local projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to about 4.38 million tons of carbon dioxide.
But such programs are controversial. Activists accuse the big company of paying a quick fix rather than trying to reform its operations, and some replacement projects have failed.
The organizers of the games have set a goal of using 100 percent renewable electricity at the Olympic venues during the event.
But only 30-35 percent of this power comes directly from green sources, mainly solar energy and biofuels, a Tokyo 2020 spokesman told AFP.
“For places that can’t procure renewable electricity through electricity companies, we’re converting their non-renewable electricity into renewable electricity using green electricity certificates,” the organizers say.
These credits prove that the same amount of clean energy has been fed into the country’s electricity grid or that an equivalent amount has been saved by renovating Tokyo homes to improve their energy efficiency.
Reuse and recycling
Tokyo 2020 says it will “continue to work to ensure that 99 percent of the items purchased for games are reused or recycled,” renting items where possible and selling to those purchased as new.
However, the scope of this objective is limited as it mainly refers to Olympic village furniture as well as office and IT equipment for gaming activities.
Some furniture is specifically designed to be recycled, such as Olympic Village beds made of reinforced cardboard. The medals are made from recycled consumer electronics and the podium is made of old plastic.
Viewers have blocked almost all gaming events – the first to be held almost completely behind closed doors – the mountains of consumer waste usually left by large crowds may not be as worrying.
The organizers have set a goal to use or recycle 65 percent of the waste generated during the event.
There are separate bins for plastic bottles, cans, paper and food waste in the venues and in the Olympic Village. Everything at a later stage is not sorted correctly.
Non-recyclable waste is converted into energy by incineration, according to the organizers, paper has been chosen instead of disposable plastic where possible, for example in canteens.