World Health Day: Showcasing climate solutions
07 Apr 2022 – To celebrate World Health Day, which this year focuses on keeping people and the planet healthy, we look at how past and future Games are helping create healthier environments for their hosts, boosting physical activity, showcasing climate solutions and promoting sustainable transport.
Some 13 million people die each year through environmental causes, including the climate crisis, says the World Health Organization, which leads the World Health Day celebrations on 7 April each year. More than 90 per cent of people breathe the unhealthy air that comes from the burning of fossil fuels, for example, while deadly weather events, such as floods, droughts and wildfires, are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. That is why the climate crisis is also a health crisis.
The IOC is committed to becoming a climate-positive organisation by cutting emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, compensating more than 100 per cent of its residual emissions, and using its influence to create long-lasting climate solutions. Olympic hosts also use the planning and staging of the Games as a catalyst for their sustainable development and an opportunity to showcase innovative solutions.
As part of its ambition to create a “hydrogen society”, Japan used the Tokyo 2020 Games to showcase several new technologies. The Tokyo Olympic fleet included some 500 hydrogen cars and 100 hydrogen buses, for example – an early step in a national vision to have 800,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2030. When using hydrogen that is produced with renewable energy, such vehicles emit only water vapour and warm air.
Tokyo 2020 also showcased new solutions for adapting to the effects of climate change, such as solar-blocking paint and design technologies for cooler buildings. The solar-blocking paint was originally developed to keep NASA astronauts cool in their spacecraft. More than 100km of road surfaces were coated, helping reduce temperatures by 8°C. The technology had never been used before on the scale of Tokyo 2020.
Beijing 2022 was the first-ever Olympic Games at which all venues were powered by renewable energy. Accelerated by the Games, the Zhangbei flexible direct current grid project uses wind and solar energy sources to transfer electricity from the Zhangjiakou competition zone to Beijing. Beyond powering the Games, it supplies about 10 per cent of Beijing’s electricity consumption and boosts the city’s use of clean energy. The Zhangbei grid is the first of its kind to use direct current, making it better suited for long-distance transmission than those grids that use alternating current.
The Beijing Games showcased several other new solutions. Natural CO2 refrigeration systems were used at four Beijing 2022 ice venues – the first time this low climate impact technology was used in China and at the Olympic Winter Games. Its use reduced carbon emissions from the cooling process to nearly zero, cutting heat waste and energy consumption. Meanwhile, fuel-efficient vehicles accounted for 85 per cent of all those used, and included hydrogen, electric and natural gas-powered vehicles.
The Olympic Games Paris 2024 are set to encourage energy conservation, innovation and creativity, ushering in a new era for the Olympic Games. Besides halving emissions compared with past Games, Paris 2024 will compensate more than 100 per cent of its residual emissions and use the Games’ influence to develop long-term carbon compensation projects and create climate action amongst its stakeholders.
Sustainability has always been an integral element of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Ninety-five per cent of the proposed Games venues are already built, or set to be temporary. The use of 100 per cent renewable energy, sustainably-sourced food, sustainable transport and biodiversity protection are also among Paris 2024’s priorities.
How the Olympic Games help keep host communities – and our planet – healthy
In Part I of our series to celebrate World Health Day on April 7 – which this year focuses on keeping people and the planet healthy – we look at how past and future Games are helping create healthier environments for their host communities by boosting physical activity.