Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

VANOC to spectators: please pay for your carbon footprint

Olympics organizers hope Games spectators will pay money to offset their travel emissions. But the company in charge of the program admitted today it’s going to be tough.

“It’s a big challenge getting people to sign up,” said James Tansey, CEO and President of Offsetters Clean Technology Inc. “We can’t force people to offset their emissions.”

Tansey’s firm recently created an online carbon calculator. People travelling to the Games can type in their travel, accommodation and event plans.

The tool calculates their carbon footprint and the amount of money needed to offset it. The price for a family of four taking a flight from Calgary would be about $25.

“If you’re already paying thousands of dollars to come to the Olympics…that’s a relatively small cost,” Tansey said.

The 2010 Olympics will produce 268,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to VANOC estimates. Of those, 118,000 tonnes are linked to the planning and staging of the Games.

The remaining 150,000 tonnes of “indirect” emissions come from such things as a spike in flights to Vancouver.

(B.C.’s annual emissions are nearly 70 million tonnes. But the carbon footprint of the Games is by no means insignificant. It’s roughly equal to putting an extra 53,600 cars on the road for a year.)

Under an offset program, an organization assigns a monetary value to its carbon emissions. It then makes an equivalent investment in green initiatives. In VANOC’s case, those include such things as wind farms in Turkey and New Zealand.

Organizers have partnered with locally-based Offsetters. The firm helps organizations track their emissions and acts as a middleman of sorts for green investment.

VANOC promises all of its “direct” emissions will be balanced by carbon offsets. But what about the rest?

During the 2010 Games, an estimated quarter of a million extra travellers will pass through the Vancouver International Airport. The environmental impact of all those flights mounts quickly.

“It’s a thousand points of light,” VANOC VP of sustainability Linda Coady said. “It’s the little bits that add up.”

Over 89 per cent of “indirect” emissions will come from government delegations, reporters and spectators travelling to Vancouver.

Twenty-five entities ranging from the city of Surrey to Coca-Cola have promised to offset some of the emissions they'll produce in 2010.

But getting normal spectators to fork up extra money will be a tough sell, Pembina Institute director Matt Horne said.

“There’s tons of evidence out there that with a voluntary program you’re not going to get a high degree of compliance,” he said.

Offsetting programs gets organizations thinking proactively about their carbon footprint, Horne said. Yet he feels they’re only a small piece of the climate change solution.

“To have success we have to be reducing emissions not offsetting them,” Horne said.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus