Right on target
Right on target for London 2012
When one of the world’s top athletes agreed to take on BP Target Neutral at the track, it wasn’t a gold medal that was at stake but a green one.
Jessica Ennis – Britain’s triple goldwinning medallist in the heptathlon – is used to competing in seven different disciplines. She met her match, though, in a head-to-head driving contest with expert ‘eco-driver’, Anthony Sale, where the goal was to use as little fuel as possible and keep carbon emissions low.
Both contestants drove Jaguar XF 3.0 litre automatics, but Anthony deployed ‘eco-driving’ skills, such as avoiding overrevving and coasting in gear when slowing down without touching the accelerator. The result was that while Jessica managed fuel consumption of 24 miles per gallon, Anthony achieved 38 – and won the challenge.
For Ennis, it was a revelation that when covering an average 19,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) in her car each year, she could be spending as much as $4,700 as opposed to Anthony’s $3,000 – and with an annual carbon footprint two tonnes higher.
The test was designed to highlight not only how emissions can be reduced, but also how those that remain can be offset through BP’s Target Neutral programme. Now in its sixth year, Target Neutral is helping participants and spectators at this summer’s London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games offset their carbon footprint. It forms part of BP’s wider role in helping to develop a legacy beyond the Games, by raising awareness and promoting lower-carbon mobility.
Ennis is one of a number of London 2012 athlete ambassadors, as well as Olympic and Paralympics teams from the Angola, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, UAE, the UK and US, who have been working with BP in its role as both an Official Sustainability Partner and Official Carbon Offset Partner to London 2012.
Gracefully accepting her eco-drive defeat, Ennis has become an enthusiastic supporter of the programme: “My eco-driving test was great fun and I’m naturally very happy to support a way of reducing my carbon footprint and saving money at the same time – something BP Target Neutral calls ‘reduce, replace and neutralise’.
“That means starting to do things like learning to drive more efficiently and replacing fuel with a kind that helps the engine run more efficiently. The remaining carbon emissions I’m responsible for can be offset or ‘neutralised’ using the not-for-profit programme that BP Target Neutral operates.”
Travel is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, with individuals in the UK emitting an average four tonnes per year from their journeys. Yet Ennis’s potential two-tonne saving can come from simple things such as driving differently, ensuring tyres are correctly inflated, reducing use of air-conditioning and using the most efficient fuels and lubricants.
In addition to providing information about more efficient driving, Target Neutral’s website provides tools that calculate an individual’s travel carbon footprint for each journey – whether by bus, train, plane or car – and offers advice on lower-carbon options.
But Target Neutral goes a considerable step farther than measurement and advice, says Andrea Abrahams, its global director: “We have to be realistic. Many journeys are essential, which is why Target Neutral also offers a carbon ‘offset’ option to tackle those hard-to-avoid emissions. Offsetting or ‘neutralising’ carbon involves making a small payment – around £25 per year for the average UK motorist – for those carbon emissions that they cannot easily or costeffectively reduce by themselves. The good news for those travelling to London 2012 is that BP is going to foot the bill.”
Target Neutral uses the funds to support projects around the world that either remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as forestry, or provide lower-carbon energy, such as wind farms, landfill gas power stations and micro hydro-electricity initiatives. Unlike other carbon offset programmes, BP pays for all Target Neutral administrative costs and makes no profit.
As Official Carbon Offset Partner, BP’s Target Neutral has put together a special international portfolio of projects that are being supported to help offset carbon emissions associated with spectator’s travel to the London 2012 Games. There are six projects in the portfolio, one for each continental region participating in the Games, and together they highlight the range of ways in which carbon emissions can be cut.
For example, in the US, Target Neutral funds are supporting the capture of methane from a large dairy cattle operation and using it to generate renewable power for a local town in Wisconsin.
In China, a project is replacing coal power energy generation with clean electricity from biomass. The biomass consists of a range of matter, including rice husk. Previously, this husk was left to decay, but now has a tangible fiscal value for local farmers. The project generates employment as well as power, with 172 jobs created to run the biomass power generation plant and the collection of the rice husk and biomass in Anhui.
In Africa, a Kenyan farmers’ reforestation project in Meru and Nanyuki involves more than 8,000 small-hold farmers in a tree-planting initiative around the slopes of Mount Kenya. These lowcarbon development projects also create additional local environmental, social and economic benefits. This can range from how to harvest seeds from local trees and raise a nursery, to the environmental significance of tree planting to protect against drought and erosion.
Other projects in the portfolio include a green energy landfill gas programme in Turkey, biomass power in Brazil and cyclone-resistant wind farms in New Caledonia in the Pacific.
It’s estimated that carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by London 2012 spectators will be the second largest source of emissions related to the Games and two thirds of these emissions – estimated at more than 400,000 tonnes – will arise from spectator travel to and from Games events.
This is why BP Target Neutral has offered to offset the carbon footprint of all ticketed spectators travelling to London 2012 who participate and sign up with the programme – free of charge. That offsetting programme will be carried out through the 2012 portfolio of projects.
Lord Coe, the chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, has described the initiative as “a fantastic opportunity [for people] to offset their carbon footprint and help London 2012 to inspire positive social, economic and environmental change for the future.”
Abrahams explains how it will work. “We are inviting all spectators travelling to the Games to sign up free of charge on the Target Neutral website. We then calculate their Games travel carbon footprint and organise the equivalent offset funding in support of the 2012 project portfolio. For fun, we have challenged Games ticketholders to set a world record for the most people to have offset their footprint when travelling to a single event. The Games are about setting records and this is also about spreading the word about the role that carbon offsetting can play.”
US Olympic gold medal swimmer Rebecca Soni, who is also a London 2012 athlete ambassador, knows all about setting records. She won a gold medal and set a world record in the 200-metre breaststroke at the Beijing Olympic Games four years ago. She is travelling to London to defend her title this summer and is enthusiastically supporting efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the Games:
“I’m really excited that Team USA and the whole London 2012 Games are focusing on conserving and reducing everything involved in bringing so many people into one place. Making everyone more conscious of that is such a great step. If you are going to London, then sign up for BP Target Neutral to offset your travel – why wouldn’t you?”
The Target Neutral offer isn’t confined to London 2012. Working with BP’s fuels marketing business in the UK, cardholders in the Nectar customer loyalty programme who calculate their carbon footprint and pay to offset it will collect 500 Nectar points, and will also have the chance to win a further 50,000 points.
Meanwhile, BP’s major fuels customers have also shown interest in the programme. For example, BP Target Neutral has signed an agreement with FedEx – the world’s largest global express transportation company – that will offset the carbon footprint associated with shipping 200 million FedEx® Envelopes around the world every year.
Mitch Jackson, vice president for environmental affairs and sustainability at FedEx, said: “We chose BP Target Neutral based on how thoroughly it vets and researches its projects, the added oversight of the independent assurance and advisory panel that monitors Target Neutral and the affordable rate structure.”
Carbon offsetting has had its critics in the past, with concerns raised about whether projects actually meet their objectives and reduce or prevent carbon emissions. Others feel that offsetting distracts from individual responsibility. Today, the sector has matured and changed, as Abraham explains: “Our work is governed by an independent advisory panel of prominent environmental and industry experts that ensures all policies and activities conform to best practice in carbon management. We recognise that offsetting is not the only answer to the challenges of rising carbon emissions – but it is one among many that, as a company, we pursue.”
Jonathon Porritt, the environmentalist, sits on the panel and poses a typically blunt question about offsetting: “When you’ve done everything you can to reduce your own carbon footprint through changing your lifestyle and being super-efficient at home, work and play, what are you going to do about the rest? Ignore it – or deal with it by finding the best possible offset product on the market?”
For individual athletes such as Jessica Ennis and ticket holders who will flood into London for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, an answer is being provided by Target Neutral.