Renewables Update

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Sustainability in Japanese

24 April 2014 Teruyuki Ohno, Executive Director, Japan Renewable Energy Foundation

Since the 1994 International Olympic Committee (IOC) declaration at the Centennial Olympic Congress in Paris to make the environment, the third pillar of the Olympic spirit, in addition to the existing pillars of sport and culture, the relationship between the Olympic Games and the environment has been clearly recognized. In line with this environment-conscious stance by the IOC, the 2000 Sydney Olympics introduced the idea of the “Green Games.” However, it was the 2012 London Olympics that upheld the principle of a sustainable Olympics as a main concept right from the bidding stage.

Following the Games, in December 2012, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) published the London 2012 Post Games Sustainability Report, in which the LOCOG states that the London Olympics turned out to be the “most sustainable Games” in modern times. Facts cited as reasons for this included a 28% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions directly attributable to operations for the Games as compared to standard cases, and the achievement of the goal of reducing landfill waste to zero through efforts such as reusing waste produced during the period of the Games.

The bidding file of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games proposes positive goals for the promotion of energy saving and renewable energy use, with the aim of surpassing the preceding efforts in London. Given that the Tokyo Olympics will take place eight years after the London Games and that we have and will continue to experience rapid evolutions in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in these years, it will be technologically feasible enough to accomplish the aggressive goals set out in the bidding file. Rather, the key to this accomplishment lies in whether the importance of sustainability as a goal for the Olympics can be clearly recognized and positioned in the upcoming preparatory process.

The sustainability goal is important for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for two special reasons. The first is that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is intended to demonstrate to the world the recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In this regard, Japan should present to the world that it has the post-Fukushima nuclear disaster problems under control, and has realized the building of safe and sustainable energy systems, including in terms of the energy supply-demand situation. The second reason is that 2020 is the year when a new international framework for addressing global warming will come into effect. While discussions over climate change issues have taken a back seat in Japan, disasters caused by abnormal weather are becoming more severe by the year. Tokyo has introduced the world’s first cap-and-trade emissions trading system at the city level. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics should also serve as an opportunity to unveil Japan’s internationally leading efforts in the field of climate change.