‘A Green Games for a Blue Planet’ was Brazil’s pledge back in 2009 when bidding to host the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which is due to start tomorrow. But how is the country shaping up under a climate of political and economic unrest?
A suspended president, protests against corruption and poverty on the streets and the ongoing threat of the zika virus, are all contributing to concerns that Brazil will not be able to deliver on its environmental pledge.
Brazil is nearly as large as the U.S. and currently uses renewable energy to make about 85 percent of its electricity (compared to 13 percent in the U.S). It holds nearly 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest and long-term, has set environmental goals to stop deforestation and reduce carbon emissions 37 percent of 2005 levels by 2025. So you would have thought that they would be well placed to host a ‘Green Games’
However, reports reveal that standards are falling way below the ambitious targets set back in 2009, due in the main to a combination of social, political, environmental and health challenges which have proved too difficult to rectify for one summer event.
Guanabara Bay, one of the venues for the sailing and windsurfing is so polluted that some countries are debating whether it is safe to let their athletes compete.
The recent droughts across the country threaten the production of hydropower, which make up the vast majority of the renewable energy sources. If they fail then more diesel generators will be used, contributing to an increase in air pollution, which is already at dangerously high levels according to Rio state’s environmental protection agency, Inea.
One of the few success stories, so far is the “Olympic Truce” agreed in the traditional spirit of the games, in which Morro dos Prazeres, a hilltop shanty community once blighted by gun violence, is celebrating 63 days without armed confrontations between police and gangs. This is due to cooperation and internal dialogue by the community itself to stop this conflict to celebrate a peaceful Olympic games.
After the games are over and countries have dispersed, the legacy must be to improve environmental standards across Brazil and truly move towards its 2025 targets.