The GSB Interview: Giulia Carbone, Limiting the Sports Industry’s Impacts on Biodiversity Loss

The past 10 years has seen a boom in new stadium and arena construction in North America and beyond. Readers of GreenSportsBlog know that the sports facilities industry has done a strong job in making sustainability a priority, from construction (i.e. LEED certification) to operations (i.e. zero-waste games) and much more. But what about the effects of stadium and arena construction and operations, as well as the conduct of mega-events like the Olympics, on biodiversity — i.e. animal and plant life? That is a topic we have not touched on — until today.

Giulia Carbone is Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the GSB Interview, and on World Biodiversity Day, Giulia delves into what is being done to limit the sports industry’s impacts on biodiversity loss.

 

GreenSportsBlog: We need to give more oxygen to the effects of sports on biodiversity so, Giulia, I am so glad we are talking with you! How did you get into the intersection of sports and biodiversity?

Giulia Carbone: Well Lew, from the time I was a girl in Torino…

GSB: Are you a Juventus or Torino F.C. fan?

Giulia: Oh, Torino ABSOLUTELY! Anyway, during my youth, I always loved nature and the also felt that it was only fair that people, no matter their circumstances, needed to have access to it and co-exist with it. Then I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara

GSB: UCSB — the Gauchos!

 

Carbone1

Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN (Photo credit: IUCN)

 

Giulia: Best. School. EVER! I focused on the environment, especially marine issues, and the coexistence of people and the environment. That held true when I started my work life in London, focusing on marine issues. Then I worked with UN Environment for eight years on tourism and the environment.

GSB: What did you work on for UNEP? When was this?

Giulia: I started at UNEP in 1999, and focused on environmental initiatives for tour operators. Our approach was to bring together like-minded operators and give them the tools and the vision to integrate effective supply chain management, eco-friendly destinations and other protocols.

GSB: What tour operators took the lead back then on the environment?

Giulia: Tui, a German tourism company now headquartered in the UK — was really aggressive. They wanted to set the agenda for the tourism sector on supply chain and other sustainability elements and were successful, at least to an extent.

GSB: That’s terrific. What did you do next?

Giulia: I moved to Switzerland, near Geneva, and, in 2003, and started working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

GSB: What is the IUCN? It seems like something I should’ve heard about.

Giulia: You should have! It’s been around for 70 years, since 1948. It’s a membership organization that includes governments, NGOs large and small and, unlike the UN, groups of indigenous peoples. Today, it is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. We have a Congress every four years, and, just like for the Olympic Games, there are bids and organizing committees. The host of our June 2020 Congress is going to be in Marseilles, France; in 2016, we met in Hawai’i, and before that in 2012, we convened in South Korea.

GSB: What does IUCN do?

Giulia: Programmatically, we work in a number of critical conservation issues related to water, forests and oceans, dry lands and more. Where possible, we also engage with corporations to show them that leading on the environment, and taking biodiversity conservation into account in their planning and operation, is actually good business. At the beginning of my time at IUCN, my work focused solely on tourism. But then I branched out to the extractive and energy sectors…

GSB: Energy? Mining?…That sounds like a BIG conservation challenge.

Giulia: Yes, but to our way of thinking, it is crucial for mining and energy companies to figure out how they can operate successfully in ways that limit biodiversity loss. As part of this work, we have also focused on the role that biodiversity offsets can play in conservation.

GSB: I imagine IUCN has taken some criticisms from others in the environmental movement for working with companies seen as bad actors…or worse.

Giulia: There is some of that for sure but we believe that collaborating with companies like Rio Tinto in the mining world and Shell in the energy world is important and necessary. They know that their opeations have environmental impacts and they are interested in working with us to improve things. Another example was with LafargeHolcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, who owned hundreds of quarries at the time. In just four years of working with IUCN, biodiversity indicators were put in place, employees were trained to respect and account for biodiversity, standards were adopted — and biodiversity became recognized as an important risk factor, something that had value in being managed.

GSB: That’s hard to believe and yet I believe it. Amazing… So now sports? Why did IUCN decide to get involved with sports in the first place?

Giulia: The impacts of sport on biodiversity are also significant, but the opportunities to address them are equally huge. The sports industry has enormous influence and reach, so just being able to talk about the value of biodiversity and the role that species play with this audience is incredible.

GSB: Absolutely! How did IUCN get started in sports?

Giulia: The IOC approached us about four years ago about one of its bid cities. They were concerned about the bid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That led to conversations about how the IOC could influence sports federations on biodiversity loss. We were engaged to help bid committees and teams on how to limit biodiversity and species loss during venue construction, allocate funds for conservation and protection, and even to educate them on the value of purchasing climate-related offsets.

GSB: Did IUCN work with the summer and winter Olympics bids?

Giulia: Yes, we were involved with the bids for the Olympic Games 2024 and reviewed all the bids from a biodiversity perspective. We are also providing maps of the areas considered to be of high biodiversity value to the potential candidates for the 2026 Winter Olympics. For each of the cities, we have created maps that highlight the location of protected areas, World Heritage sites, Ramsar (intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources) sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas. Additionally, we have provided reports that list all the species of animals and plants that have been classified as threatened or close to extinction, in proximity of these sites. These maps are an amazing tool to help the cities plan better on where to place the venues and new infrastructures, and thus reduce the risk of having an impact on important plants and animals as well as key ecosystems.

GSB: As of now, it looks like there are seven cities considering bids to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, a marked increase as compared to recent cycles. These include Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; a joint Italian bid amongst Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Torino; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Erzurum, Turkey. How does IUCN get the word out about its work in the sports sector?

 

Sion 2026

Sion, Switzerland is one of seven cities looking into bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics

 

Giulia: We just issued the first of a series of reports on Sport and Biodiversity.  It’s an overview for all of the industry’s key constituents…What is the intersection of sports and biodiversity? What are the risks and opportunities? The next report will be more technical than the first one, and it is almost complete. It focuses on how to mitigate biodiversity loss from venue construction. Then, the third one will focus on how to manage impacts on biodiversity in the organization of sporting events, including recommendations for athletes, venue managers and the fans. In the future, we hope to focus on things like Natural Capital Accounting^ and sports; how to manage invasive species; and, how to engage fans on biodiversity and involve the media more in these issues.  We have quite a challenge ahead of us!

 

Sport and Biodiversity

Cover of IUCN’s “Sport and Biodiversity” guide

 

GSB: Who are your audiences for these reports? Sports fans?

Giulia: No, our prime targets are senior level, C-suite executives throughout the sports world, who are not yet convinced biodiversity is an issue they need to be concerned about. We are also targeting those people involved in venue development and planning as well as those organizing sport events.

GSB: Do you have a sense as to what percentage of sports executives fit that “unconvinced” label?

Giulia: Actually, I just attended a very cool meeting on sport and the environment, the Sustainable Innovation in Sport Summit 2018 in Amsterdam, from 2-3 May, and I was very impressed by the level of commitment and involvement of the participants, mostly all representing sport federations, venues and teams. So I think this is a sector that it is already doing a lot of great work and is ready to do more.

GSB: That’s great! I look forward to reading the reports and seeing biodiversity taking its place in Green-Sports fan engagement programs in the not-too-distant future.

 

Natural Capital Accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. 

 


 

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IOC Goes “Greenest” By Awarding Olympics to Paris 2024 and LA 2028

As cosmopolitan metropolises go, Paris and Los Angeles are as different from each other as two cities can be. But from an Olympics point of view, they have much in common. Each city has hosted two Summer Olympic Games (Paris, 1900 and 1924; Los Angeles, 1932 and 1984). Each will officially be awarded the right to host a third Olympics on Monday — Paris in 2024, L.A. in 2028. The latter was the last finalist in the contest for ’24 and, given the strength of its pitch, was awarded the ’28 Games before bidding even began. And each city put forth sustainability plans that will clearly become the gold standard for mega sports events.

Earlier this year, GreenSportsBlog profiled both bids from a variety of sustainability perspectives. Here are some excerpts, with the LA story changed to reflect the switch from 2024 to 2028.

 

PARIS 2024

Paris bid co-president and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said in a January interview that, for his committee, sustainability is at the top of its priority list. “For us it is quite simple. Our vision is the most sustainable Games ever,” Estanguet told the South China Daily, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee looks to make good on that vision by slashing carbon emissions by more than half compared to London 2012 and Rio 2016.

 

estanguet

Tony Estanguet, head of Paris 2024 Bid Committee (Photo credit: Paris 2024)

 

The bid committee says it will produce an estimated 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, down 55 per cent from the roughly 3.4 million tonnes created by the Rio and the London Games. Here are some of the key ways Paris plans to meet those aggressive targets:

  • Rely on existing venues and temporary structures. The only major new venue scheduled to be constructed is an aquatics center. 

 

stade-de-france

Stade de France, site of the Opening Ceremonies of Paris 2024 should that city win the right to host the Olympics. It is one of many already-existing structures, the use of which will keep carbon emissions low. (Photo credit: Stade de France)

 

  • Build the aquatics center as well as the temporary facilities with low carbon materials.
  • Following in the footsteps of EURO 2016 (hosted by France), greatly restrict private car parking at the Olympic venues. This will lead 100 percent of fans to use public or shared transit. You read that right: 100 percent of spectators will take public or shared transit. Metro, commuter rail, bus transit, bicycles and car sharing will predominate.
  • House 85 per cent of athletes  within 30 minutes of their competition venues, limiting their travel-related footprint.
  • Use existing infrastructure. According to Estanguet, “We have all the infrastructure – roads, hotels, airports – already in place. That allows us to claim we will be the most sustainable Games ever.”

To the Paris 2024 committee, embedding the notion of a sustainable Olympics in the minds of Parisians and people across France will be critical. And we’re talking financial as well as environmental sustainability —a smaller environmental footprint will lead to reduced costs. Thus, the greenness and efficiency of the bid will be promoted widely, and in a variety of ways. “During the seven years [between bid selection and the Opening Ceremonies], we want to educate people on sustainability,” said Estanguet.

Environmental and financial sustainability are two keystones of Agenda 2020, a process instituted by the IOC three years ago for bids starting with the 2024 cycle. The IOC is convinced, and I concur, that the Olympics simply have to get simpler, greener, and leaner so they remain an attractive proposition for future hosts. This is especially the case after a slew of candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games (Krakow, Oslo and Stockholm) and 2024 Summer Games (Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome) withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing and putting on such an ambitious, sprawling event. 

 

LOS ANGELES, FORMERLY 2024, NOW 2028

The greenest sports venue and/or Olympic and Paralympic Village is the one you don’t have to build.

That has been and is the mantra of LA 2028, the newly renamed committee (formerly LA 2024, of course) managing the recently announced Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team.

 

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OLYMPICS VENUES ARE THE ONES YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD

When the LA 2028 bid committee first began planning the Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it, like pretty much every other Olympic bid in recent memory, was looking at massive redevelopment alternatives. Thus, it made sense to recruit Brence Culp as its sustainability director. You see, Ms. Culp had been in charge of many big redevelopment and urban renewal projects as the second in command to the CEO of Los Angeles County (appointed, not a political position) for five years. Prior to that, she worked at a redevelopment agency in LA.

 

Brence Culp LA 2024

Brence Culp, Sustainability Director, LA 2028. (Photo credit: LA 2028)

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2028. The bid committee team visited the UCLA and USC campuses. “Before we got to the campuses, we thought ‘oh, the dorms and the food will not be up to par’,” recalled Ms. Culp. “But, both UCLA and USC were absolutely stunning, from the dorms to the recreation facilities to the landscaping. The food was fantastic. So, it turned out the most sustainable Village and Media Center were the ones we already had!” In the LA 2028 bid plan, UCLA will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village and USC, near the downtown venue cluster, will host the Media Center.

Now don’t get the idea that, because she is not supervising a big urban redevelopment project, Brence Culp is at all disappointed. Far from it.

“Sustainability is core to our bid and our DNA,” declared Ms. Culp, “Gene Sykes, LA 2028’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principles of sustainable environmental and financial stewardship, as well as social inclusion are baked in to everything we do. When we, (LA) Mayor Garcetti and our sustainability consultants, AECOM, looked at, oh, two dozen urban redevelopment sites for the Village, we kept on coming back to UCLA and USC^. Great for the athletes and media. Sustainable from an environmental and financial sense. Innovative in that we don’t have to build something new and shiny.”

And LA 2028 doesn’t have to build new and shiny sports venues. The area boasts a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of stadia and arenas from which to choose, including:

  • Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
  • LA Coliseum (USC football and host of Olympic Track and Field as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 1932 and 1984 as well as Super Bowls I and VII)

 

Coliseum 2024

Artist’s rendering of the renovated LA Coliseum. (Credit: LA 2028)

 

Since the venues are largely in place, the sustainability team’s initiatives focus on making them greener. Exhibit A is the StubHub Center.

Per Ms. Culp, “Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center is going ‘all in’ on sustainability as it will be the location of LA 2028’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation. AEG is implementing robust water efficiency strategies, including use of municipal greywater for irrigation. They also built and manage an on site garden that includes a large chicken coop and a greenhouse. StubHub Center’s chef uses the garden’s fruits and vegetables in meals prepared for staff, athletes and other guests. AEG also came up with an innovative way to harvest honey from relocated beehives found on site –located safely away from spectators! Leading up to the Games, we will actively explore ways to enhance AEG’s current practices, including onsite solar.”

 

MASS TRANSIT RAMPING UP IN LA IN TIME FOR 2028

Moving from chickens and bees to pachyderms, the big elephant in the room, sustainability-wise, is transportation. LA is a sprawling area—Paris’ geographic footprint is significantly smaller—and its mass transit offerings have been, relatively speaking, limited. But that is changing fast, to the benefit of LA 2028 attendees and the environment.

“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2028 Opening Ceremonies,” offered Ms. Culp, “And leading up to the Games, LA 2028 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”

 

FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN

As with Paris 2024, an important facet of LA 2028’s sustainability equation is financial. It stands to reason if an Olympic host committee can use existing athletic venues and existing structures for an Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it will save money. But how much? Well, LA 2028’s budget is projected to be $5.3 billion as compared to Paris’ projection of $9.3 billion. Both sound like lots of dough but consider that Rio 2016 spent $12 billion and Tokyo 2020 is looking at $30 billion. Russia spent $50 billion to put on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ($50 billion??? On a Winter Olympics, which is a much smaller enterprise than its summer cousin?? That’s insane.) London 2012, considered the sustainability gold standard among Olympics, spent about $12 billion. So both LA 2028 and Paris 2024 are demonstrating that sustainability is not good Olympics business, it is great Olympics business.

Despite its lean budget and its reliance on existing structures, LA 2028 is not skimping on sustainable innovation. “One of our priorities is bringing together folks who are advancing sustainable practices through sport. Thus, we have allocated $25 million in seed funding for high impact, sustainability-focused projects with our partners,” Ms. Culp said, “The goal is to leave a positive long-term legacy for the community.”

 

WILL FANS KNOW THE LA 2028 SUSTAINABILITY STORY?

This wouldn’t be a GreenSportsBlog column on the sustainability impacts of a mega-sports event if we didn’t delve into how LA 2028 plans to communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans at the Games and to the potentially billions who will be watching on TV, online and who knows how else in seven years time. Rio set the marker, with its Opening Ceremonies vignette on climate change that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

While there are no firm fan-focused sustainability communications plans in place, Ms. Culp is confident “the more sustainable we make our Games, the more that broadcasters and other media will pick that up. And we will have plenty of eye-catching, sustainability stories, accented with a distinctly diverse and innovative LA flavor from which the media will be able to choose: From the aforementioned region-changing mass transit expansion to the use of locally sourced food to the use of recycled construction materials, and much more.”

 

LA 2028’S SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY GOES BEYOND VENUES AND MASS TRANSIT

A recurring theme to our conservation was this: Go big on environmental sustainability and innovation, add a diverse and vibrant culture and you have Los Angeles—and LA 2028. “I tell you, wherever I go throughout the area, people across the demographic spectra—gender, age, income, race—are very excited about the bid, with public support running at 88 percent,” said Ms. Culp. “It is almost impossible these days to get people in a mega city to row together in the same direction. We know that our emphasis on sustainability in our bid has helped to make this happen.”

 


 

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