Super Bowl Sunday, resplendent with fast food, beer, pyrotechnics and aging rock starts, is one of the sport’s calendars most extravagant events. In recent years, however, the Super Bowl has been making an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and Super Bowl XLVI was the greenest to date. The Super Bowl host committee worked hard to reduce emissions and green the surrounding communities in an effort to reduce its monumental environmental impact.
If this sounds like a tall order for an event that has to light up an enormous stadium with a rollback roof, provide food and drink and sports paraphernalia that fans can wave around before throwing in the bin, then you are right. To offset emissions from the enormous amount of electricity the stadium utilizes, 15 000 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates were provided by Green Mountain Energy Company, a nearby wind farm and one of the nation’s oldest green energy providers. This is enough energy to power 25 million flat screen TVs for the duration of the game or allow 53.3 million households to microwave themselves a bowl of Queso cheese dip in preparation for the big game. The energy certificates will save 29 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.
Not only will green energy power everything in the stadium from the lights to the scoreboard, but carbon offset measures will be taken to mitigate the emissions created by flying and driving the teams and support staff out to the event. The Green Mountain Energy Company is doing its bit too by donating a solar array to a local household in the Near East Side Legacy Project which aims to uplift this central city neighbourhood. “Green Mountain Energy Company has helped us reduce the overall environmental impact of Super Bowl activities,” said NFL Environmental Program Director Jack Groh. “Together, we have been able to expand the way we address greenhouse gas emissions and leave a permanent benefit to the host community.”
Ongoing efforts will see the planting of 1, 700 trees in urban areas in and around Indianapolis. This will help to reduce air pollution in the cities. Pepsi Cola is providing specially designed recycling bins at the venue to help recycle as much of the waste generated by the event as possible. Food recovery company, Second Helpings, will work to recover tens of thousands of pounds of leftover food from Super Bowl venues. The food is then re-prepared and distributed to over 60 social service organizations that use it to feed the hungry.
Tom Szaky of Treehugger calls the move to green the Super Bowl a “pleasant surprise”. He goes on to say: “I am an eco-skeptic, but I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this is something the NFL probably isn’t doing to gain new viewers. I suspect they’re doing it out of a larger sense of corporate responsibility.” Szaky also mentions the upcoming elections and the environmental impact these ‘ Super Bowl ‘ events have, making a call for all who have large events to follow the exemplary lead that Super Bowl XVLI has set.
Withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol not Canada’s finest hour
The immanent end of the Kyoto protocol necessitated the drafting of a new agreement that many hoped would promote more immediate action on climate change. Last year’s UN summit in Cancun had bred hopes of a new era of international collaboration on climate change as world powers agreed that keeping global warming below 2°C was imperative and, with time running out (a reduction by 2020 is necessary to avert a 2°C increase), it finally seemed as though the world was intent on meaningful action. In Cancun, the powers that be architectured a global emissions monitoring system and forged a commitment to help developing countries with climate change. The Durban climate change summit was meant to bolster the terms agreed upon in Cancun and forge a legally binding agreement. In a dramatic conclusion to the Durban meeting, world leaders from 194 countries hammered out an agreement a full 36 hours after the summit was scheduled to end.
Spearheaded by the EU, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action will see major world powers collaborating in a legally binding agreement that will extend the mandate of the Kyoto protocol. The agreement reinforces their commitment to the prevention of climate change through emissions reduction initiatives. The signatories also agreed to draft a legally binding protocol by 2015 which will be enacted by 2020; a move seen as too little too late by some, and hailed as a breakthrough by others. The platform also committed to raising $100 billion by 2020 to help developing countries with their bids to prevent climate change. The platform extended the current Kyoto protocol to 2017.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director of business, echoed most big business sentiments when she extolled the agreement as a success. “Tangible progress towards a global deal in the form of a roadmap and the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is a great result and shows that the UN process is not dead in the water,” she said. “However, this isn’t a deal itself and must be used as the base camp for the mountain we’re still to climb. We need to keep the momentum going and ensure this roadmap results in something concrete. Businesses have not slowed their pace in managing their emissions, developing new low-carbon products, and investing in new sources of low-carbon energy – we need the same level of ambition from our politicians.” The perceived success of the summit by big business is mostly due to the fact that business leaders do not expect the platform to result in any concrete change to their operations.
Others cite the platform’s lack of resolve and firm action as proof that it did not go far enough. Many environmental groups declared that the summit fell short of actions that will result in meaningful change. The continued reticence of India and China to commit to legally binding protocols is the major hurdle in the bid to prevent climate change. The US and EU suggested that China and India be removed from the list of developing countries, given their volume of GHG emissions and the size of their economies. These suggestions were resisted with the officials of both countries urging the west to fully implement existing agreements in their own countries before any new legally binding protocols were created.
Many environmental groups and those in the scientific community counter that the glacial pace of reform renders climate change inevitable: “This empty shell of a plan leaves the planet hurtling towards catastrophic climate change. If Durban is to be a historic stepping stone towards success, the world must urgently agree to ambitious targets to slash emissions,” said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth.
The Durban summit was not Canada’s finest hour
The government’s continued support of the lucrative oil sands initiative in Alberta makes the restrictions of the Kyoto protocol too expensive to comply with. As a result, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto protocol in a bid to save $14 billion in penalties for failing to meet emissions targets.