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Looking into the first carbon neutral Commonwealth Games

– 4 min read

Ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games 2022, taking place in Birmingham, Unlock Next Gen’s Greg Milburn discusses the intriguing initiatives and steps being taken to deliver the first carbon neutral games.

There’s not long to go now until Birmingham hosts the 2022 Commonwealth Games!

The action-packed games will take place from 28 July to 8 August and are expected to transform the local area as well as the environment. The vision is to enhance Birmingham and improve residents' lives by bringing people together, boosting health, transforming wellbeing, and helping the region to grow and thrive, using the games as a catalyst for social, economic, and environmental transformation.

In addition to the achievements and fantastic work of the incredible athletes, the legacy of this year’s games will also include the valuable opportunities created for the people of Birmingham. The pandemic has played a key role in the rise of socio-economic concerns inside communities, but by utilising the games to create jobs and bring more diversity to the area, the local environment can once again prosper.

How will the Commonwealth Games be carbon neutral?

Birmingham has set the specific objective of hosting the most environmentally friendly Commonwealth Games yet, with a carbon-neutral design that takes a comprehensive approach to the games' environmental impact before, during, and after the events.

The carbon footprint of the games includes all the activities associated with the preparation and operation of the games, such as temporary infrastructure, technology equipment, international travel of athletes and teams, transportation, energy use, merchandise, catering, and waste.

“The only competition should be between athletes, not between us and our ” – Organisers of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

To deliver a carbon neutral event, there are four steps being taken to manage and measure its carbon footprint, including:

1. Understand – assessing the likelihood of carbon impact from the games.

2. Reduction – prioritising and focusing on significant areas in which carbon reductions can be made.

3. Measure Final footprint – completing a final assessment of carbon footprint of the games.

4. Offset – making sure emissions are offset where possible and highlighting other ways to reduce emissions.

The main focus has been on the carbon hotspots of the games, using behaviour changes, innovation, and investment in technology to drive carbon emissions down. The true carbon footprint of the games will be assessed with a post-games sustainability report to identity if any further carbon offsetting measures are required.

What is the top priority?

‘Reduction first’ is a key approach being adopted to reduce the games’ carbon emissions. Some top examples of how this will be achieved include:

  • Free use of public transport will be available to those with tickets, and attendees will also be educated on the impacts of different forms of transport.
  • By using existing venues in Birmingham, there is no need to build new sites and will therefore cut the creation of emissions caused by delivering new buildings.
  • A green vehicle fleet will be used, reducing the amount of harmful fuel being used.
  • Using grid power to minimise reliance on generators, which are typically fuel powered.
  • Where temporary energy is needed, organisers will work with Aggreko – which uses the latest fuel and storage solutions to provide bespoke electricity, heating and cooling options – to maximise the use of green technologies, including hydrotreated vegetable oil fuel for generators.
  • By adopting the reuse and recycle approach, as well as hiring products and materials instead of buying, the amount of waste produced will be drastically cut down compared to other events. For example, reducing the number of uniforms produced to also reduce the amount of plastic packaging. New materials used, such as signs, will also be repurposed and reused where possible.
  • Working to hire local people for a wide range of roles will help to reduce the need to hire teams from further away, helping to reduce travel, shipment of materials and more.
  • Organisers have pledged to expand greenspaces, aiming to plant 2,002 acres of forest and 72 tiny forests to offset emissions, enhance biodiversity, reduce flood risk, and support physical and mental wellbeing.

High hopes for the games

By collaborating with the community and eco-minded teams, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are set to be the most climate-focused games to date.

"Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint" – Organisers of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

Historically, the legacy of any games is often focused on furthering economic development and regeneration to the area. But will the environmental impacts be as positive? By investing a significant amount of time and resources into delivering a carbon neutral event, this will no doubt set the stage for future Commonwealth Games to come – and we at Unlock Next Gen are excited to see such major steps being taken towards creating a greener future for our planet.

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