An environment-friendly team, an otherworldly fluorescent green jersey to match the otherworldly T20 talents of Chris Gayle and a green revolution of a different kind. The Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Go Green initiative and their proclamation of becoming the first carbon-neutral cricket franchise in the world was one of the few feel-good stories of a controversy-plagued IPL V. However, there could be more bad news in store after global carbon credit experts cast doubts on RCB’s claim.
After examining the list of measures taken by RCB, an industry leader in the sourcing and provision of carbon credits, Carbon Neutral Investments, said, while the franchise had been proactive in their sustainability programme, to call them carbon neutral would be a stretch.
CNI’s Head of UK Operations, Edward Carlton, told HT, “With regards to the measures taken, even though some can be seen to reduce the carbon footprint of the team, there will ultimately always be a residual footprint which could only be eradicated via offsetting.”
The efforts RCB has taken — getting fans to plant saplings, using solar heaters, selling CFL lamps, encouraging use of public transport and car-pooling for matches — have been encouraging. They even got their carbon credits verified by audit company Det Norske Veritas. The company even claims it calculated the residual carbon footprint, and the above measures were enough to offset it. "A residual carbon footprint was taken into account to come to the greenhouse gas inventory of RCB. Residual carbon footprint was offset through fan-driven initiatives. Individual fans took up small lifestyle changes (eg. switching to solar water heater, switching to car-pooling, switching to CFLs etc.) and the emission reduction from this was pledged to RCB,” said an RCB official. However, he failed to furnish numbers to back up the claim.
The residual footprint of any sports team’s day-to-day activities (powering a venue, travelling, maintaining grounds) includes heavy amounts of energy consumption, and RCB’s claim of offsetting the entire amount without purchasing any carbon credits has raised eyebrows.
“It would be inappropriate to categorically say either way without fully investigating all the efficiency measures and conducting a full footprint audit. What can be said is that it is extremely difficult to totally offset through efficiency initiatives and even supplementary activities such as tree planting. It would be inappropriate to give a definitive answer but I would be very surprised if RCB manage to achieve full neutrality without some element of carbon offsetting via carbon credits,” said Carlton. CNI helped F1 teams McLaren and Sauber achieve carbon neutrality mainly through carbon offsetting, which basically means investing in environment-friendly projects and procuring carbon credits to offset their emissions, which were also calculated by the firm.
How to offset
McLaren and Sauber have both made the switch to environment-friendly technology in their offices and energy-saving measures. McLaren made CO2 savings by implementing a number of state-of-the-art technologies, including programming its factory’s air-conditioning system to only function in areas where staff work at that point and developing a new type of low-energy lamp to illuminate car parks and access roads. Sauber's main building in Hinwil, Switzerland, has been supplied by district heating for 20 years now, and the wind tunnel since 2004. For a number of years, 50 per cent of electricity has been drawn from renewable energy sources.
In addition to these initiatives, Sauber and McLaren have both invested in wind farms in Gujarat through CNI to procure carbon credits. They have also invested in hydro-electric projects in Brazil and China. It's a trend which is popular with any sports franchise that wishes to become carbon neutral. When NBA franchise New Jersey Nets went down the green road, they adopted the usual measures but also got carbon credits to offset thousands of tonnes of emissions. They invested in a waste heat energy recovery centre in Kotmar, Chhattisgarh, and a solar water heating system in Karnataka.
RCB officials maintain they have procured wind through the green tariff programme of BESCOM, but again failed to give any details.