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Forests will rise around Birmingham to make Commonwealth Games 2022 carbon neutral | Sport

Thousands of acres of forest will be created in and around Birmingham under plans to make the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the city carbon neutral.

In an announcement to mark 500 days to the start of the Games, organisers pledged carbon-offsetting initiatives including the creation of 2,022 acres of forest and 72 mini-forests, each the size of a tennis court, to be created in urban areas across the West Midlands.

Each mini-forest will be linked to one of the nations and territories competing at the Games, to be held between 28 July and 8 August next year. It will be the first time the games are set to be carbon neutral.

The 2,022 acres of forest will feature native species and will be designed to help local people connect with nature.

Ian Reid, the CEO of Birmingham 2022, said: “We’re really proud to be announcing this. We have a responsibility, we’re putting on a significant international event and the eyes of the world will be on us. We’re also in one of the youngest cities in Europe, and in particular the younger generation would expect us to be doing as much as we possibly can to be sustainable.”

Dame Louise Martin, the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said the plans were “a historic moment for Commonwealth sport”, adding: “It reinforces our commitment to ensure that the Games leaves a positive social and environmental legacy for generations to come.”

The event’s sustainability pledge will be delivered in conjunction with the water company Severn Trent.

Reid said the primary goal was to reduce carbon where possible and offset what remains. “We’re trying to make sure this is a public transport games, so we will incentivise people to take public transport and we will make it difficult for people to take cars.”

They also plan to use cleaner, more efficient generators, supply a cleaner bus fleet and develop a car fleet containing hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as reducing the use of single-use plastic water bottles. Detailed plans for when and where the forests will be created, and how long it will take for full carbon neutrality, will be published in due course, Reid said.

About 4,500 athletes travel from the Commonwealth nations to the Games every four years, with next year’s event featuring 286 sessions, 19 sports and 283 medal events across 11 days, the biggest programme in the Games’ history.

In January, Birmingham city council’s leader, Ian Ward, said “we can’t be certain” that the Games will go ahead next year because of the coronavirus pandemic but ongoing projects would leave “a very strong legacy” even if they could not take place. However, Reid insisted that “we’re planning for the Games to go ahead and go ahead with full stadiums”.

“The government’s roadmap has crowds getting back into stadiums this summer so our full expectation is that lessons will be learned throughout that period and we will be in a very positive position come next year.”

The West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, has said the event will be crucial for post-pandemic recovery in the region, where an estimated 100,000 jobs have been lost since March 2020. Reid said the Games would provide up to 30,000 jobs as well as volunteer roles.

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