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ANOC defends offsetting as progress stalls on key sustainability targets

January 11 2024 - News Release News Editorial

The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) insists that offsetting can offer “immediate results” as it ramps up efforts to reduce emissions after revealing that little progress had been made with two of the organisation’s seven sustainability targets.

ANOC defends offsetting as progress stalls on key sustainability targets

ANOC, which represents 206 International Olympic Committee-recognised National Olympic Committees worldwide, offered a refreshingly honest update in its newly published ‘Sustainability Progress Report 2020-2023’.

According to the report, by the end of 2023, solid steps had been taken with three sustainability targets. These involved creating tools and knowledge-sharing opportunities in sustainability, applying sustainability good practices at the ANOC headquarters, and promoting sustainability at all ANOC general assemblies.

However, ANOC admitted that progress towards two other targets had effectively stalled. The ANOC Commissions “have not yet been engaged” with efforts to contribute to the delivery of selected UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with proposals and projects, ANOC stated, while “no actions have taken place” towards supporting NOCs to include SDGs in their strategic plans by 2028.

Additionally, the postponement of the Bali 2023 World Beach Games to this August scuppered hopes of fulfilling the vow to apply good practices, awareness and education at the event last year. It is hoped that sustainability initiatives will be rekindled for this year’s edition.

Meanwhile, there had been some progress towards the target of reducing CO2 equivalent emissions.

ANOC reported an 18.4% cut in emissions from 2019 to 2022 – when it purchased 4,920 equivalent tonnes of carbon credits through initiatives that included a hydropower project and forest preservation activities – against total emissions of 5,231 tonnes. Emissions data from 2023 was not included in the report.

“Offsetting is not the solution, and emission reduction is the priority for effective climate action,” ANOC stated to Global Sustainable Sport. “Nevertheless, at this point, it is important to start moving, and offsetting is a feasible tool available for immediate results. Our investment into offsetting reflects our commitment to minimising our impact on the environment.”

“Offsetting is not the solution, and emission reduction is the priority for effective climate action.” ANOC

ANOC also admitted that focusing on reducing emissions is the most pressing long-term goal.

The organisation has committed to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 versus 2019 as a base year, and to reach net zero by 2040. This target, ANOC insists, will not only be achieved through carbon credit compensation, but also through effective emission reduction.

“We acknowledge that sports events come with a volume of emissions, particularly when they involve athletes travelling from around the world,” ANOC added. 

“Offsetting can make a contribution but it is also critical that we find ways to reduce the total emissions associated with the event. For the ANOC World Beach Games we had a number of initiatives planned including reducing ground transportation, coral reforestation, exclusion of plastic bottles and educational campaigns to contribute to a more sustainable event.”

ANOC’s next General Assembly is due to take place in Cascais in Portugal from October 28 to November 2 this year and the organisation claims to have “shifted [its] approach” to sustainability.

ANOC is due to work with the Portuguese NOC to invest in its Olympic forest and promote the planting of trees. By doing this, it claims that it is acting out its plan of taking “new, effective, and tangible action, with the purchase of carbon credits becoming a secondary alternative”.

Image: International Kiteboarding Association, CC BY-NC-ND


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