How Utah Olympic bid could bolster shift to clean energy


Salt Lake City is vying to host the Olympic Games in 2030 or 2034, but all host cities must meet the demands of the International Olympic Committee to “run a two-week, snow-based international sporting event and leave the climate better off than before.” It’s hoped this will catalyze the clean energy transition in Utah, where more than 60 percent of the state’s net electricity generation came from coal in 2021. For more read: How Utah Olympic bid could bolster shift to clean energy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mario Molina, president of the climate advocacy group Protect Our Winters, said that an Olympics bid should put pressure not just on the host city, but the state and entire country, to be more aggressive about renewable energy — even with Utah’s current reliance on fossil fuels.
  • According to IOC guidance issued in 2020, organizing committees for each Olympics will be required to minimize and compensate direct and indirect carbon emissions created by the event, as well as implement “lasting zero-carbon solutions for the Olympic Games and beyond.”
  • Salt Lake City has set a goal of achieving net 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
  • A study from the University of Waterloo found that without action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, only one of 21 previous Winter Olympics host cities — Sapporo, Japan, which hosted in 1972 — would have the right climate conditions to hold a safe event by 2080. Even if the goals of the Paris climate accord are met, the report said, only eight of the 21 cities would have the right conditions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Massive world events like the Olympic games can influence change. It is encouraging that the IOC is requiring future host cities to think about the environment and make it a requirement. If Salt Lake City can achieve its decarbonization goals, in cooperation with the state of Utah and other surrounding cities, it can be an example to other cities around the world.