The chief executive of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham has announced a “carbon-neutral” sustainability strategy – including plans to create 72 new urban forests in the West Midlands.
With 500 days to go until the start of the Games, organisers said the tennis court-sized mini forests and a further 2,022 acres of new woodland would help local people reconnect with nature and offset the event’s carbon footprint.
The Games’ chief Ian Reid said the plans – with Severn Trent becoming the Official Nature and Carbon-Neutral Supporter of Birmingham 2022 – would help deliver the first carbon-neutral Commonwealth Games.
Mr Reid told the PA news agency: “We are delighted to announce with 500 days to go to the Games, that we’re making a significant sustainability pledge.
“We’ve already put a huge amount of work into understanding what our likely carbon footprint is going to be.
“Severn Trent are coming on board into the Games family and they’ll be helping us with a significant and credible local offsetting programme for the carbon that remains in terms of that footprint.
“They’re already looking into a big Commonwealth forest that will be planted in the West Midlands, as well as what we are calling 72 ‘mini forests’ – and linking them up to every competing nation within the Commonwealth.
Mr Reid added that “things worth doing are never easy” but said the strategy was “absolutely the right thing to do”.
“These 72 mini forests will allow us to bring some greenery, some open space… right across the West Midlands,” he said.
“That’s part of the real benefit of this – bringing nature into a lot of city centre sites.
“Our commitment to become the first carbon-neutral Games is a significant one, and this marks just the start of our journey to make these Commonwealth Games the most sustainable to date.”
Birmingham 2022’s newly-published sustainability strategy envisages the use of native species to create the new forests.
Mr Reid added: “We have always had strong ambitions to set new standards in all we do with these Commonwealth Games and make significant progress in areas that matter.
“Our plan not only outlines how we will continue to support the regionwide economic recovery, but also demonstrates how we will leave a credible piece of social and environmental legacy.”
The primary goal of the strategy is to reduce carbon at every possible opportunity, while offsetting what remains.
The Games’ organisers also hope to change the way the region thinks about sustainable travel, and are working with experts on maximising the use of cleaner generators.
The three-site campus village model planned for the Games will see some athletes staying close to their training and competition sites, further reducing travel and carbon emissions.
Severn Trent said the partnership would build on the company’s existing work to create new green urban spaces, enhance biodiversity, and promote plastic-free thinking.
The president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Dame Louise Martin, described the plans as a historic moment for Commonwealth Sport.
Dame Louise said: “It reinforces our commitment to ensure that the Games leaves a positive social and environmental legacy for generations to come.
“The creation of 2,022 acres of forest, as well as 72 new urban forests in the West Midlands, is an inspired initiative that will provide numerous benefits for the local community.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, stressed that radical steps were necessary to tackle the climate emergency and reach the region’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2041.
“Today’s announcement about the Commonwealth Games being the first ever carbon-neutral games is exactly that, and the organisers alongside Severn Trent deserve enormous praise for such a bold and courageous move that sets a precedent right across the globe,” Mr Street said.