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RTL Today: Concerns over the environmental cost of Beijing’s ‘green Olympics.

RTL Today: Concerns over the environmental cost of Beijing’s ‘green Olympics.

China wants the Beijing Winter Olympics to show its green credentials, but there are environmental concerns about relying upon artificial snow in one country’s driest regions.

It is difficult to verify Beijing’s claims about the Games. They begin on February 4. Environmentalists told AFP that they fear a backlash from authorities if Beijing examines their green targets.

This is what our knowledge says:

What is China promising? –

China has committed to using only wind, solar, and hydro energy to power the Games — despite its dependence on coal for nearly two-thirds.

One of the three Olympic centers, Zhangjiakou has built wind farms that cover hundreds of acres. These farms can produce 14,000,000 kilowatts of power, similar to what Singapore can produce.

Authorities have also covered mountain-sides in solar panels that they claim will generate seven million more kilowatts.

The Beijing Olympics organising committee stated to AFP that China built a dedicated power plant that collects renewable energy, stores it, then transmits it to all venues.

It said that this would ensure an uninterrupted power supply.

China’s economy has been dependent on coal-fueled growth for decades and is still building more coal-fired power stations than all of the rest of the globe.

– Will smog impact the Games? –

To clear Beijing’s famously cloudy skies before the Olympics, 25 million northern Chinese households had their coal stoves replaced with gas or electricity. Tens of thousands more factories were also fined after exceeding emission limits.

Steel plants in Beijing were also ordered to reduce production by half

According to the environment ministry, the number of polluted days in China’s capital fell to 10 in 2020, compared to 43 in 2015. However, the city’s air quality continues to exceed World Health Organization standards.

Greenpeace’s 2015 assessment stated that the “biggest lesson” from the 2008 Olympic Games (also held in Beijing )…) was the realization that moving dirty industries from Beijing into neighboring provinces will not result in lasting improvements to air quality.

Transport? –

According to state news agency Xinhua 655 hydrogen buses are expected to be used to transport officials and athletes during the Winter Games.

Organisers claim that 85 percent will use hydrogen or electricity for the Games.

Because only domestic spectators will have the right to attend the pandemic, and even those numbers seem very small, it is likely that flight emissions will be lower than the average Olympics.

The coronavirus has also significantly reduced the number international flights to China.

Where will snow come? –

The man-made snow will play a major role in the events that took place in the dry mountains of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, north of Beijing.

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Since the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid (New York), artificial snow has been used in various degrees.

According to China’s national economic planner, artificial snow will require approximately 49 million gallons water to make.

According to a member from the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, the water would be drawn from Zhanjiakou reservoirs. However, it would only account for less than 1% of the city’s water supply, according to state-run Global Times.

According to snow-makers, the water used for making snow does not contain any chemical additives. The water melts naturally and will re-enter the earth.

– Are winter sports viable? –

Beijing is extremely water-stressed. It consumes 185 cubic meters of water per capita per year for its 21,000,000 inhabitants. This is less that a fifth of the UN standards.

China was awarded the bid to host the Olympics. One of the main propaganda lines was that it would “300 million people on ice”

However, environmentalists believe that promoting winter sports that depend on artificial snow and ice could lead to more water problems.

Carmen de Jong from the University of Strasbourg said that it was unsustainable to have Games in a location or region without snow. It is energy- and water-intensive, damages soil health, and causes erosion.

“To create events that are not dependent on the primary resource is not only unsustainable but also irresponsible.”

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