Saturday, January 30, 2010

Far From Climate Neutral

The Province of British Columbia is still claiming that the 2010 Games will be "climate neutral."

But the reality seems far from that.

First there is the question of what the actual emission from the games will be.  VANOC commissioned the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) to do the calculations.  They came out with a total of over 328,000 tonnes.  But the actual number is certainly higher.

Although DSF tried to verify as many of the number as possible some of the estimates that they used came directory from the IOC and they were not able to independently verify their accuracy.  There were also several categories where they were not able to produce any estimates (for example, fugitive refrigerant emissions, test events and Athletes and Team Officials shipping) so these emissions were not included in the total.

But even if you take the 328,000 figure VANOC is far from neutralizing those emissions. Only about 118,000 tonnes have been offset so far.

And as the Olympics approach there are some unexpected emission sources.  At Cypress Bowl straw, wood chips and snow are having to be shipped in.  And it seems that the emissions from electrical use will be higher than expected as VANOC opts to use diesel generators instead of BC Hydro's cleaner power.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are the 2010 Olympics sponsored by Climate Criminals?

When the 2010 Winter Olympics start in Vancouver, BC in just a couple of weeks the athletes and spectators will be joined by organizations with some of the worst records on climate change.

General Motors is a national partner for the games, and one of the leading corporate opponents of effective action on climate change. Only two years ago, a vice-chairman of GM called global warming a "total crock of shit." GM is supplying a large fleet of vehicles for the games, many of which are gas-guzzling SUVs.

Petro-Canada, another National Olympic Partner, is the retail arm of the largest extractor of Oil Sands bitumen. The Oil Sands are Canada's biggest ghg emissions point source.

RBC (the Royal Bank of Canada) in addition to being a prominent Olympic sponsor is the largest commercial bank funder of the Oil Sands. TransCanada pipelines, whose pipelines connect to the Oil Sands, is also an official supplier.

The government of British Columbia is the main funder and promoter of the games. They kicked off a massive plan to add over 1,000 km of new highway lanes (an increase of over 2,000,000 annual tonnes of CO2e emissions) with the Sea-to-Sky Highway expans
ion for the Olympics. These plans include the controversial Gateway Program. It continues to heavily subsidize the oil and gas industry which resulted in it being the only Canadian province to see ghg emissions from industrial sources increase in 2008.

The Federal government of Canada which consistently earned "Fossil Awards" at the most recent international climate talks also is a major funder for the Olympics.

A coalition of environmental activists led by is calling on climate change activists to join the convergence at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More on the Generator Issue

Global TV did a segment on their evening news hour about the diesel generator issue.  Their piece raised a few interesting issues:
- BC Hydro could not offer an explanation as to why VANOC needed so many diesel generators.
- The number of generators used in Vancouver is only half that used in Beijing even though the summer Olympics were much larger.  And VANOC is paying the generator supplier Aggrecko $30 million as opposed to the $40 million paid in Beijing.
- Generators are running 24 hours a day outside BC place stadium although it is still weeks to go before the games.

As I mentioned on the Global TV segment the generators produce 30 times the green house gas emissions of BC Hydro power.  Aggrecko claims to be supplying 34 MW of power. If all these generators are running for all 17 days of the games that would generate over 11,000 tonnnes of CO2e ghg emissions.  However, as we are seeing some, if not most, of the generators are running well before the games even start.  So we can expect that the total emissions will be much higher than the 2,000 tonnes that BC Hydro estimated.

The generators also produce other forms of pollution including diesel particulate and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Operation of diesel generators have been linked to increased cancer risks (see:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Olympics bring dirty power to Vancouver

Large events like the Olympics often require temporary structures and temporary power for those structures.  This was certainly the case at the Torino Olympics where over 500 generators burnt around 8,000,000 litres of fuel.

BC Hydro and VANOC promised that the 2010 Olympics would be different - it would be using BC Hydro's clean power sources and reduce GHG emissions by 90%.  But, apparently they weren't able to completely give up on the generators. 

Aggreko, the official supplier of diesel pollution for the games, is bragging that they will be supplying 34 MW of generators and 31 MW of electric heat. Which based on my calculations is more than 10% of the amount used in Torino (so much for the 90% reduction).

One might expect that most of this generation was in the remote mountain venues.  But the diesel generator pictured here is just one of several found at the Athlete's Village in the heart of Vancouver.  And this is not a back-up generator.  It appears to be running 24/7.

And VANOC and the City of Vancouver were thoughtful enough to re-route a popular bike route to run right past this pollution source.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Green Building Cover-up

In Vancouver Review writer Trevor Boddy points out that VANOC will be covering up one of the green design features of the Olympic Oval in Richmond.  Apparently 20 million extra was spent to add daylighting to the north side of the Oval and save on energy use.  But during the Olympics VANOC is demanding that these windows be covered up with black plastic.  Boddy suspects that the real reason is that VANOC is afraid of ambush marketing appearing on the northern horizon.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lanes not Trains

Several years ago the Province of British Columbia missed an important opportunity to promote sustainable transportation when they rejected plans for improved passenger train service along the Whistler / Vancouver corridor and cancelled the existing passenger train service. Instead they invested huge sums in widening the highway along the same route in anticipation of the Olympics.

Now it has come to light that VANOC (the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee) shares the same preference for higher emission transportation.  VANOC was offered the use of passenger trains for the use during the Olympic period but opted not to use them.

Although the difference in ghg emissions between the buses that VANOC will use and train is not that significant, the infrastructure implications are much greater.   If VANOC has chose to use trains it would have sent important signal about sustainable transportation.  And it would have removed part of the justification for a highway expansions project that will leave a huge legacy of increased green house gas emissions.

Another Olympic Bike Lane Failure

Cyclists are expressing concern about another bike lane affected by Olympic construction.  Barrier installation has started along Pacific and Expo bike lanes near BC Place in Vancouver.  The barriers include metal brackets which extend over the bike lanes and might create a hazard.  The brackets are pained grey and difficult to see at night.  Initially there was little or no warning for cyclists approaching the structures.  After complaints from cyclists it seems that the visibility of the new barriers has been improved.