diamond geezer

 Sunday, February 12, 2012

London 2012  Olympic update
  Target Carbon Neutral

Are you travelling to the Olympics? And, if so, are you aware of the planet-destroying emissions that your journey will create? Just by visiting the Olympics you'll be making an additional trip to normal, there and back, belching carbon into the atmosphere and hastening the end of civilisation as we know it. How can you possibly live with this on your conscience?

So let's hear it for BP, the Tier One Olympic Sustainability Partner, who've put together a foolproof scheme to offset your Games-related carbon emissions? You travel to the Olympic Park, or Weymouth, or wherever, and they make sure a tree is planted in Chile, or Norway, or somewhere, or something similar. And it's free! Remember to tick the right box on the application form, and they won't even spam your inbox with BP-related marketing emails.

Even better, you'll be a record breaker. BP's intention is to beat the record for "the most number of people who participate to offset carbon emissions associated with travel to and from a global sporting event". There's a complex mouthful. And what do you know, they achieved this record as soon as the first person signed up, because previously the record didn't exist. When you sign up with BP, all you're doing is boosting the numbers to give future Games a bigger target to beat. And thus far that's 8152, or a mere 0.1% of the potential spectator audience, so there's some considerable way to go.

Except how does BP's Olympic carbon offset scheme work? You'd expect them to have prepared some detailed process which analyses where you live, where your Olympic events are and how you intend to travel to them. Not so. Instead there are only a few simple stages. First you enter your name, or sign in via Facebook. If you're not British you state which country you're coming from. Then you tick a box to say you really are going to the Olympics, and how many people are in your party. And that's it, so it's all a bit rubbish really.

BP commissioned a report to calculate the average emissions for someone travelling to the Games from each of 40 countries around the world. From Germany that's half a tonne, while from the USA it's nearly five. But for the United Kingdom, the designated average emission is only 21kg. And BP apply this average of 21kg no matter where in the UK you live, or how you travel, or how many times you visit.


For example, I don't know about you, but I have tickets to the women's basketball in the Olympic Park. I'll be walking there from home, because it's only about a mile, plus additional distance brought about by necessary security detours. My trip to the women's basketball therefore requires no carbon offset whatsoever, but BP insist on assuming I'll cause 21kg-worth of atmospheric damage. Equally I might pop down to Weymouth later to watch some sailing, taking the train down from Waterloo. Except that'll apparently emit 26kg of carbon, which is more than BP's average allows, but stuff that, because this isn't about accuracy.

According to BP's Carbon Neutral calculator, this is how far 21kg of carbon gets you:
220 mile return trip by coach (eg Middlesbrough to London)
100 mile return trip by rail (eg Birmingham to London)
• Stanmore to Stratford and back five times (Jubilee line)
38 mile return trip by car (eg Aylesbury to Stratford)
Heathrow to London City Airport by air (were that possible)

Even if that's not the journey you're making, BP assumes that it is. And then it offsets your carbon.
"We will purchase verified carbon emission reductions of CO2 at least equal to the tonnage of CO2 that the spectator emissions calculator indicates need to be purchased in order to offset your London 2012 Travel Carbon Footprint."
And to offset 21kg of carbon costs precisely 11p. If all 8 million spectators signed up at these rates, BP would have to pay nearly £900,000. As it is, with only 8152 spectators signed up since September, their bill is nearer £900.

As the Official Carbon Offset Partner to the London 2012 Games, BP are making all the right noises about their planet-saving credentials. But in reality this is token gesture marketing, piggybacking the Olympics in an attempt to appear corporately caring. And if you're not going to the Games then smile, because you've already saved the planet, and you just saved BP elevenpence.

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