AEG Pushes Its Venues to Reduce Emissions in Line with Paris Climate Agreement

Los Angeles-based AEG is the largest sports and entertainment venue operator in the world, entertaining over 100 million guests annually. On the sports side, AEG is both a venue owner-operator — marquee properties like LA’s Staples Center, London’s O₂ Arena and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas headline its portfolio — as well as a team owner, with LA’s Galaxy, Kings and Lakers among its leading lights.

An early driver of the sports greening movement, the company has accelerated the pace of its sustainability efforts over the past three years, committing to science-based targets in 2016 and to the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework earlier this year.

GreenSportsBlog first spoke with John Marler, the company’s VP of Energy and Environment and newly announced Green Sports Alliance board member, three years ago. We caught up with him recently to delve into AEG’s recent sustainability advances and to get his take on how hard sports can push on climate going forward.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Hi John, it’s great to talk again. AEG adopted “science-based targets” regarding its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions goals in 2016. What are science-based targets in general and how has the company progressed in the first three years since making the commitment?

John Marler: GHG reductions targets adopted by companies are considered science-based if they are aligned with the level of decarbonization necessary to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C as compared to preindustrial levels.

While AEG was not the first company to commit to science-based targets, we were an early adopter back in 2016.

GSB: Why did AEG go all in on science-based targets?

John: We realized that, while the planet doesn’t care if we get things right on GHG emissions reductions, humanity and other life forms certainly will care. Progress has been slow but steady. In 2018, we were able to move closer towards our goal by purchasing additional renewable energy. This allowed us to keep up, emissions-reductions-wise, with the growth in emissions from adding new venues to our roster. Many other companies are in the same boat and are taking a similar approach.

 

MarlerJ2019

John Marler (Photo credit: AEG)

 

GSB: What specific targets are AEG moving towards?

John: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says humanity has until 2030 to reduce GHG emissions by 45 percent versus a 2010 baseline. We’re working towards that goal and also towards being carbon neutral by 2050.

GSB: How far along is AEG in terms of emissions reductions and how have you gotten there?

John: We reduced GHG emissions by 18 percent from 2017 to 2018 and are very close to being on pace to get to the 33 percent reduction level by 2020, putting us on track to get to the “45 percent by 2030” threshold. Our approach for our venues has been to focus on energy efficiency wherever possible and to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs).

We’ve been encouraged by the quality and quantity of the RECs that have become available as more renewable energy generation capacity is being built out. One somewhat paradoxical challenge for us has been our growth. Meaning that the more properties we acquire or build, those added emissions get assigned to our ledger versus our 2010 baseline.

GSB: So that means you’re actually performing better on a per venue basis if total AEG emissions are down vs. 2010 as your portfolio has grown, right? How do on-site renewables fit into this?

John: Solar and wind at sports or entertainment venues are great in that they serve as high profile advertisements for renewable energy. But the amount of emissions reduction we see from on-site renewables at stadiums and arenas is quite small. The truth is, only about 25 percent of venue roofs can even accommodate solar. So on-site renewables alone will not get us close to where we need to get in terms of GHG emissions.

Again, for us, getting to our targets will come from improvements on energy efficiency plus funding new off-site renewable energy by the purchase of RECs. We’re pleased by the technological advancements and thus the price reductions in solar and wind as well as on energy storage. The question is, when we’re talking about climate change globally rather than just in the sports industry, will these advances be fast enough?

 

STAPLES Center solar January 2019

Solar panels atop the roof of the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Photo credit: John Marler)

 

GSB: And will there be the will, from the grassroots and political levels, to make the policy changes necessary to accelerate the adoption of these technologies fast enough? Back to sports for a minute. I think Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of the games themselves — has largely been a success over the past decade or more. LEED certified stadiums and arenas have become the norm. But the sports world cannot rest on those laurels. What do you think the sports greening movement needs to do going forward to maximize GHG reduction impacts?

John: The good thing is that most people in the sports greening movement realize that Green-Sports 1.0 is not nearly enough to get us where we need to be. The real opportunity is for sports venue management — and that means companies like ours — as well as teams, leagues and athletes is to inspire fans to care about climate. For this to happen, sports organizations need to be more public about their greening efforts and encouraging fans to do the same in their own lives. Maybe fans get interested via the plastic ocean waste issue, maybe by trying a plant-based diet. The important thing is they get there.

GSB: How is AEG going about communicating its greening initiatives to its fans?

John: MLS’ LA Galaxy’s Protect The Pitch initiative engages fans at Dignity Health Sports Park and on its website. All of our California venues committed to the state’s Clean Air Day. Our AEG #GoGreen site has a carbon calculator, powered by Conservation International, which allows the visitor to determine his/her annual carbon footprint. They can also offset their carbon.

 

Galaxy Protect Pitch

Signage promoting LA Galaxy’s decision to phase out plastic straws as part of its Protect the Pitch initiative (Credit: LA Galaxy)

 

GSB: How does AEG promote #GoGreen to its guests? How is traffic to the site?

John: Sustainability is increasingly informing consumers’ purchasing habits and behaviors. Because everyone plays a role in sustainability, we encourage employees and fans through our social channels to visit AEGGoGreen.com, learn how to lessen their environmental impact and ask others to join the movement by sharing a #GOGREEN Pledge via Facebook and Twitter.

Conserving our planet’s resources is a shared endeavor that not only touches all levels of our organization, but all people in all corners of the globe. Only by working together can we improve the health of our planet.

The program underscores AEG’s belief that it has an opportunity to use the power of sports and music to create significant, positive change in the world.

 

GSB: Finally, AEG’s energy efficiency initiatives, its renewable energy purchases and its communications efforts fit well with the five pillars of the UN’s new Sports For Climate Action framework, something to which the company committed. What is AEG looking for from the framework?

John: One of the underlying principles behind the creation of the Green Sports Alliance is that people care deeply about sports and it’s a great platform to engage with people about a variety of issues. We see the Framework as one of these opportunities – to use the most popular and iconic sports brands in the world to help address climate change.

GSB: Speaking of the Alliance, congratulations John on being named to its Board. You will bring a deep well of venue management and technical experience to the Alliance. As for the Framework, it’s off to a strong start with high profile commitments, including AEG’s. I look forward to talking with you down the road to see how compliance and awareness of the Framework develops.

 

 


 

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Dominic Thiem, World’s 4th Ranked Tennis Player Makes His Mark as Eco-Athlete

Dominic Thiem has steadily moved towards the top of the men’s tennis rankings, currently residing at number four, just below the legendary trio of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Many tennis observers think that 2019 will be the year Austrian breaks through and wins his first Grand Slam tournament.

If so, casual tennis fans will learn what real aficionados already know — that Thiem is an eco-athlete.

 

DOMINIC THIEM WRITES A UNIQUE GREEN-SPORTS STORY — ON CAMERA LENSES

If you are not a serious tennis fan you might not be familiar with Dominic Thiem (pronounced TEAM).

You should be, for both on- and off-court reasons.

Thiem is currently the fourth ranked player in the men’s game, trailing only #1 Novak Djokovic, #2 Rafa Nadal, and #3 Roger Federer. And since the three legends above him are between six and twelve years his senior, Thiem is in a very promising spot.

The first part of 2019 has been very good for the 25-year-old Austrian. He won the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, beating Federer in the final. And last week, he reached the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, defeating Federer in a terrific quarterfinal before falling to eventual champion Djokovic. Thiem has the all-surface game that make him a threat at the three remaining 2019 grand slam championships, starting in two weeks with the French Open at Paris’ Roland Garros.

Off the court, Thiem has become one of men’s tennis’ foremost eco-athletes, along with world #8 Kevin Anderson. Both have honed in on the plastic ocean waste issue.

Thiem supports the work of 4Ocean, a nonprofit founded by two surfers that removes plastics from the oceans and other waterways. It sustains itself by selling bracelets made from that waste. 4Ocean reports that, in just two years, they and their teams of fishermen and others, have removed over four million pounds of trash from the oceans and coastlines.

 

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, the world’s eighth ranked men’s tennis player, sports four bracelets made from ocean waste by 4Oceans (Photo credit: Polygram)

 

In addition to donning the 4Ocean bracelets, Thiem has used a yellow marker to great effect in publicizing his passion for cleaning up the oceans.

 

Dominic Thiem Play Ocean

 

Signing a television camera lens has been a thing for winners of tennis matches for the better part of two decades. The networks almost always give air time to these signatures. Thiem has taken to signing camera lenses around the world with a “Play For the Ocean” message. The image above (Photo credit: Amazon Prime) was taken immediately after he won the championship at Indian Wells.

While we don’t have TV ratings data for either tournament, it’s safe to say that the Play For The Ocean message has reached millions. That number stands to increase dramatically should Thiem make a deep run in Paris.

 

GSB’s Take: Dominic Thiem’s practice of signing “Play For The Ocean” on a TV camera after winning a match — while seeming like a small, cute thing — is actually a big deal.

Tennis is one of the world’s five most popular spectator sports so having a Top Five player make a clear, positive statement on behalf of environmental action can seep into fan consciousness. By signing “Play For The Ocean” every time he wins a match, Thiem is building frequency for his message. This is crucial for building awareness “Play For The Ocean” among tennis fans, which will ultimately help the message break through.

Hopefully, we’re not that far away from Thiem or another top player writing something like “Price Carbon” or “Act On Climate” on a camera lens after every win.

 


 

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Two More UN Sports for Climate Action Signees: U of Colorado Athletics and AEG

The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework has had a great month, USA-sports-wise. After gaining commitments from the New York Yankees and the NBA, the Framework added the University of Colorado’s athletics department, on of the leaders at the intersection of Green & College Sports, and AEG, the world’s #1 sports and entertainment venue owner/manager.

 

U OF COLORADO BECOMES FIRST COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT TO SIGN ON TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK

The University of Colorado Buffaloes last week became the first college/university athletics department in the USA to commit to the UN’s Sports For Climate Action agreement and its two main objectives:

  1. Achieve a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change
  2. Leverage sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.

GreenSportsBlog readers will not be surprised.

The Buffaloes have been Green-College Sports trail blazers for more than a decade, dating back to the 2008 launch of the groundbreaking Ralphie’s Green Stampede sports-sustainability program. Since then, CU Athletics:

  • Became the first major college sports program to implement a zero waste program at all of its game day venues.
  • Earned LEED Platinum certification in 2016 for a major athletics facilities upgrade thanks in part to a net-zero-energy Indoor Practice Facility that boasts an 850-kilowatt rooftop solar array. Its basketball and volleyball practice facility was also built to LEED Platinum standards.
  • Pushed to reduce the use of pesticides on turf fields.

 

Folsom Field

Aerial view of Folsom Field (r), home of University of Colorado Buffaloes football; Franklin Field, and the solar-powered Indoor Practice Facility in the foreground. (Photo credit: University of Colorado Athletics)

 

“We’re thrilled to be an early adopter of the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said CU Athletic Director Rick George. “This is consistent with the leadership and excellence expected by CU Boulder students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans as we confront the critical issue of climate change.”

Dave Newport, Director of CU’s Environmental Center, sees the Athletics Department’s decision to join the Framework as just one more example of college sports’ unique ability to accelerate the Green-Sports movement’s impact.

“All college sports are the ‘front porch of the university’ as the saying goes,” Newport noted. “When a college sports team goes big on green, they elevate and leverage that college’s or university’s very considerable educational, research, and cultural climate impacts.”

 

Dave Newport

Dave Newport, Director of the Environmental Center at University of Colorado, Boulder (Photo credit: Dave Newport)

 

GSB’s Take: Hopefully, CU Athletics’ decision to sign on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework will lead other already-greening college athletics departments to do the same. College sports, with its many millions of fans, and universities more broadly, with their many thousands of students studying climate change and other environmental topics, form an ideal petri dish for Green-Sports innovation. I’m sure CU Athletics will benefit from being part of Sports for Climate Action, and Sports for Climate Action will certainly benefit from having CU Athletics on board.

 

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT GIANT AEG ALSO JOINS “SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION” ROSTER

The impact of getting the commitment of AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment organization, to sign on to Sports For Climate Action, is much bigger than signing up one company.

That is because these AEG-owned teams also signed on, becoming the first in their respective leagues to do so:

And the company’s Amgen Tour of California — the state’s premiere bike race on the UCI World Tour and — also committed to the Framework, as did AEG Rugby.

“AEG is proud to support the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said John Marler, Vice President of Energy and Environment, AEG. “Given our recently adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal – which aligns with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – this is a natural next step for our sports teams that will complement our existing efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and to raise awareness about this critical global challenge.”

 

Marler

John Marler, AEG’s Vice President of Energy and Environment (Photo credit: AEG)

 

UN Head of Global Climate Action, Niclas Svenningsen happily welcomed AEG to the fold, noting that the company “has built significant global trust and moral leadership, and – because sports touch on every cross-section of society – drives positive change throughout the world.”

 

GSB’s Take: The most important nugget in the AEG-Sports For Climate Action story for me is the company’s decision to tie its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions goals to those of the Paris Climate Agreement’s target.

To be clear, if companies and governments only achieve the Paris targets, the world still will not have gotten to the levels of GHG reductions necessary.

But Paris is an important starting goal. The hope is that AEG and many other companies in all industries will not only make their Paris-based targets, but blow by them.

 


 

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