Green Olympics? Lessons from Beijing

Feature story - August 7, 2008
All eyes are on Beijing as we tune in to the summer Olympics to see who will get the gold. Leading up to the Olympics, China made big promises to clean up Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. How well did they do? Greenpeace’s new Olympic report has the answers.

China has launched impressive green policies in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but has also missed crucial opportunities to kick start ambitious environmental initiatives across the city, says Greenpeace China in its new report 'China after the Olympics: Lessons from Beijing'.

Download the full report here

"We are glad to see the achievements the city has made so far. It has made public transport more convenient, upgraded home heating methods, reduced, to some degree, its reliance on fossil fuel, and improved water treatment," Greenpeace China's Campaign Director, Lo Sze Ping, said.

But Beijing missed the opportunity to adopt the world's best environmental practices. It could have more aggressively enforced pollution controls on industry, pursued a zero-waste policy, adopted Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on all new construction and comprehensive water conservation policies.

Greenpeace praises Beijing for:

•    Using state-of-the-art renewable energy saving technologies in the Olympic Village.

•    Setting new vehicle emissions to the very stringent EURO IV standard ahead of schedule.

•    Building five new subway lines to encourage public transportation.

•    Launching a fleet of 3,759 buses running on compressed natural gas.

•    Helping 32,000 households to convert from coal heating systems to electric heating systems.

•    Establishing the Guanting wind power station, Beijing's first wind power generation station capable of generating 100 million kWh of electricity a year.

•    Improving its wastewater treatment plants, sewage and water reuse systems. 

Greenpeace is disappointed that Beijing:

•    Did not make environmentally-friendly policies for the Games in the areas of procurement and construction binding.

•    Did not apply water saving technologies across the city.

•    Built more landfill sites and incinerators instead of pursuing a zero-waste policy.

•    Did not introduce an internationally recognizable timber procurement policy, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard, for the construction material used during the Games.

•    Did not eradicate climate-damaging HFC technology in some Olympic facilities.

•    Did not make environmental data and certification of Olympic venues fully transparent.

Beijing after Sydney and Athens

Beijing did more than Athens and should be commended for using the Olympic Games to improve city infrastructure and using leading energy-saving technologies in venues.

But because of poor transparency and engagement with third party stakeholders, Beijing did not match the comprehensive approach of the Sydney government before and during the 2000 Sydney Games.

Green legacy of the Beijing Olympics

Overall, Greenpeace believes that the Beijing municipal government has created a positive legacy for the capital.

As a developing country, China faces serious environmental challenges associated with its rapid growth and huge population.

Greenpeace hopes that the green initiatives Beijing employed in preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games will spread to other Chinese cities.