Sustainability at Tokyo 2020: Climate Change

by Chiara Aruffo

Climate change is one of the five main themes of the Tokyo 2020 sustainability plan ‘Be better, together – For the planet and the people’.

Climate change is definitely a hot topic nowadays and the Games are a great opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. The baseline for the Olympics is the Paris Agreement, which aims at keeping the increase in global average temperatures below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, and pursuing the effort to actually limit it to below 1.5°C.  The motto chosen by Tokyo organisers is Towards Zero Carbon, which underlines the commitment to building a decarbonized society by focusing on energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. In this light, numerous public awareness campaigns have been undertaken and CO2 reduction initiatives have been widely publicized in an effort to encourage active participation.

Carbon footprint and carbon offsetting

carbon footrprint tokyo 2020
Carbon footprint estimates for Tokyo 2020 (Credits: olympics.org).

Carbon footprint allows to measure the total greenhouse gas emissions in terms of CO2 equivalent, in order to quantify the environmental impact of an event, an individual or a product. To date, the organizing committee has released two estimates for the Tokyo Olympics calculated for the Construction, Operations and Spectators categories. The first estimate does not include any reduction measures (3,010,000 t-CO2), while the second includes mitigation actions such as the use of existing structures, the use of renewable energy, etc. lowering the number to 2,730,000 t-CO2. The estimated reduction is therefore 7%, or 279,000 t-CO2. The actual emissions will be communicated after the Games.

Some of the CO2 generated will in any case be offset through a carbon offsetting programme. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Saitama Prefecture received numerous donations of carbon credits from organizations and companies.

Renewable energy and hydrogen

The goal for the Games is to use only electricity produced from renewable sources, through procurement from verified sources and the use of green certificates. As the Japanese government wants these Games to be ‘the Reconstruction Games’, part of the renewable energy will be produced in the Tohoku region (the one of Fukushima).

The Tokyo Olympics are also an opportunity to lay the foundations for a hydrogen-based economy. Hydrogen has been used to power some parts of the journey of the Olympic and Paralympic torches and will be used as a source of energy for some facilities in the Olympic Village. 

With respect to transport, the commitment is to minimize the number of vehicles used during the Games and to adopt hydrogen and hybrid vehicles. Both buses and rescue vehicles will be totally electric.

In previous articles we discussed the Sustainable Development Goals and resource management in the context of Tokyo 2020.

olympic torch hydrogen tokyo 2020
An Olympics toarchbearer holding a Tokyo 2020 toarch during a presentation (Credits: AP Photo).

Cover picture: Toyota.com

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