Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games creating a carbon neutral legacy

A key strategic priority for the Games sustainability ambition is to create a carbon neutral legacy.

For us, this means taking responsibility for the Games climate impact in a credible, holistic manner, embedded in everything we do.  We’re working closely with our partners, suppliers, and stakeholders across the region to reduce our carbon footprint, inspire others to make positive change, and bring environmental and social benefit to the region as part of a lasting legacy.

Birmingham 2022s approach to carbon

Our approach has been developed after analysis of previous Commonwealth Games and applies the International Olympic Committee’s established methodology to measure and manage our carbon footprint. As the Games’ carbon footprint is being measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), this measure also includes the impact of not just carbon dioxide but other greenhouse gases too.

We have worked with third-party experts throughout, to make sure our carbon footprint measurement and management strategy is robust and credible.

Key Principles

  • Embed carbon management as a key strategic objective for delivery of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games
  • As a priority, take steps to reduce the carbon footprint of the Games in line with the greenhouse gas management hierarchy, focusing effort on key hotspots where emissions can be reduced.
  • Use an established methodology and ensure a comprehensive scope
  • Prioritise operational areas of activity that might be considered emission hotspots, and engage with internal teams and suppliers as early as possible
  • Be pro-active around robust and timely data collection and reporting
  • Ensure we communicate and share our learnings in a clear, practical and transparent way
  • Create a carbon neutral legacy, in partnership with Severn Trent, our official Nature and Carbon Neutral Partner, through the planting of 2,022 acres of Commonwealth Forest in the Midlands and, if required, purchasing carbon offsetting credits.

Our journey to date

Working with a third-party carbon accounting consultancy, an initial estimate of our carbon footprint was conducted at the end of 2020 using the best available data at the time (mostly financial and proxy data). Following this, our partnership with Severn Trent was formed and the ambition to create a carbon neutral legacy was set – published in our sustainability pledge in March 2020.

Since then, our focus has been on our emission hotspots, working with all internal teams and our supply chain– using behaviour change, innovation and investment in technology to drive our carbon emissions down. As our planning advanced, we conducted a second carbon baseline at the end of 2021 with better informed data and reassessed our areas of focus. Our final, actual carbon footprint will be calculated post-games, which we will publish in our Post-Games Sustainability report and share our learnings. Once our final carbon footprint is known we will assess if any additional carbon offsetting credits, beyond the Commonwealth Forest, are needed to create our carbon neutral legacy. We will work with suitable 3rd parties to independently verify our overall approach.

Reduction first approach

Following a reduction-first approach means we will focus on reducing the carbon footprint as a first priority. We will do this by prioritising our focus on our emission hotspots, in order to try and reduce the Games carbon footprint in the first instance. This will be an evolving picture right up to Games time, but some key examples include:

Public Transport – Spectator transport contributes over 55% of the Games forecasted carbon footprint (as per the second reference footprint). Therefore, we are actively encouraging spectators to use public transport, by:

  • Ensuring Games tickets include access to public transport in the West Midlands on the day of valid ticket.
  • Having a dedicated journey planner that also informs spectators of the carbon impact of different transport modes.
  • Ensuring public transport is a key part of our transport messaging

Reusing existing venues

  • 14 out of the 16 Games venues are existing facilities, and the Games villages also make use of existing accommodation infrastructure.
  • Alexander Stadium and Sandwell Aquatics Centre are the only venues to be refurbished and newly constructed, respectively, with both these projects aligning to existing needs and regeneration plans.

Transport and Logistics – in the dedicated Games transport plan there is an emphasis on low carbon travel as well as optimising routes. The Games' vehicle fleet will include electric and hydrogen vehicles and as a minimum all our vehicles will be Euro 5/6 - Birmingham Clean Air Zone compliant.

Energy - adopting a ‘grid power first’ approach to venue power, to reduce reliance on additional generators (which have typically been diesel powered at previous events).

Temporary Energy - where temporary power is needed, we are working with our supplier, Aggreko, to integrate the use of green technology including, battery storage across multiple locations and solar arrays at Victoria Park. This technology will help reduce diesel consumption and, therefore, carbon emissions. Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel will also be sourced to power all generators. This HVO fuel is synthesised from 100% renewable materials.

Reducing materials –hiring over buying where we can and driving efficiencies to reduce the amount of new materials used. For example, reducing the total number of signs required at venues and designing signage so that it can be reused at future games and events. We’re also cutting the number of uniforms produced, driving down the amount of single use plastic packaging used and being creative with left over material i.e. making bibs for schools

Prioritising local - working with catering suppliers to cut ‘food miles’ prioritising local workforce and sourcing.

Offsetting to create a lasting legacy

Where there are emissions which cannot be reduced, we have developed an offsetting strategy alongside our Nature and Carbon Neutral Partner Severn Trent which will offset the final carbon footprint of the Games.

This strategy consists of planting of 2,022 acres of new Commonwealth Forest across the Midlands region and will be supplemented, if necessary, by additional credible carbon credits from the voluntary carbon market. The new Commonwealth Forest, over a forecasted period of 35 years, is expected to sequester 240,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which equates to the majority of our forecasted carbon footprint. This strategy, alongside robust measurement and management, will have the effect of leaving a Carbon Neutral Legacy, the first of any Commonwealth Games.

Commonwealth Forest

The principal source of offsets will be through the planting of 2,022 acres of new forest in the Midlands region in partnership with our Nature and Carbon Neutral Partner Severn Trent. Seven Trent’s partnership with the Games is all about making positive impacts on the local communities and the environment in the region they operate and to the lives of everyone they serve. The forest not only offers to rebalance the residual emissions of the Games over time as the trees mature, but it will also offer multiple additional benefits such as increasing biodiversity, reducing flood risk and supporting physical and mental wellbeing by increasing the number of green spaces for everyone to enjoy.

Developing these spaces is no small task, and each area of forest planted will undergo a detailed process of assessment and scrutiny. Severn Trent’s team of Forestry experts will work with the Forestry Commission to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure woodland creation is suitable at these locations and will work with other key stakeholders to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place. To ensure the right standards are met, each part of the forest will be registered with the Woodland Carbon Code (WCC). The WCC is a quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK and generates independently verified carbon units.

If required (depending on the final audited carbon footprint of the Games), additional carbon offset credits will be purchased from the voluntary carbon market. These carbon credits will, at a minimum, meet internationally recognised standards such as Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard. To meet these standards, carbon offset projects need to follow strict requirements and assessment to ensure they are designed, created and managed in a responsible and credible way. If required, our priority would be to explore how we can support carbon offset projects within Commonwealth countries with these additional credits.

Supporting a Legacy

Contribution to the longer-term vision of the region and wider sport sector is also something we are passionate about, and we are keen to share our learnings from these Games to future events. With support from our Games partners, we are also looking at how we can use the Games as an opportunity to inspire others to learn more about climate impact and the actions that can be taken to reduce their own impacts.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the West Midlands Combined Authority are pleased to offer free Carbon Literacy training to anyone across the West Midlands, as part of the Games' sustainability ambition to create a carbon-neutral legacy for the region. The Carbon Literacy training has been developed to empower individuals to make a positive impact on climate change and help to influence others around them to drive action too.

Evolving picture 

We are committed to pushing boundaries and driving emissions down. We know that, despite our best efforts, we will not be able to achieve a perfect outcome in this space. Some things will not be practical or feasible in the context of the event we need to deliver, and there will always be trade-offs to consider given time and resource constraints. But we are committed to learning from our experience and sharing this with others so that even more progress can be achieved at future events.


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