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FALSE START FOR GREEN OLYMPICS

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AGENDA

London's 2012 Olympics are being heralded as potentially the greenest show on earth.

But the revelation that funds intended to combat the capital's carbon dioxide emissions have been siphoned off to finance the Games has left the Olympics' environmental credo withering at the edges.

Plans for a £6 million 'revolving fund' for investment in renewables and energy efficiency were aborted earlier this year by the London Climate Change Agency (LCCA) - part financed by the London Development Agency (LDA) - due to 'funding pressure from the Olympics'.

'Since we won the Olympics the LDA has had a bit of a cash shortfall for the first couple of years, ' LCCA chief development officer Allan Jones told the London Assembly.

At face value, the disappearance of £6 million into the 2012 money pit isn't going to make or break the capital's emissions targets. It's too late anyway. Last week London Mayor Ken Livingstone confessed the capital will miss its 2010 goal for CO 2 gases.

This comes a few months after Livingstone was forced to admit London will not come close to hitting key targets for zero-carbon developments in the capital (AJ 17.11.05).

But the loss of the LCCA's fund suggests the Olympic vision - far from being the world's first carbon-neutral Games - may be increasing London's CO 2 count by default.

There is concern that the revolving fund is only the thin edge of the wedge and that the Olympics will continue squeezing green resources.

'It's very worrying that even the modest proposal of a £6 million revolving fund for renewables has been dropped due to funding pressures from the Olympics, ' said Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly member. 'There is also a real risk of less funding and fewer staff being available to support other green initiatives.'

The funding debacle is exacerbated by fears the Games will not be the carbon-neutral exemplar Livingstone is hoping for. For example, a year after being awarded the Games, there is still no indication which renewable technologies will be used to power Zaha Hadid's Aquatics Centre.

Johnson this week called on Livingstone to clarify what proportion of the Aquatic Centre's heating will be supplied by on-site renewables.

Livingstone said: 'As the project progresses, the architect will be expected to work within the framework of Olympic Delivery Authority sustainability policy, which seeks to secure carbon efficiency and the provision of a new combined heat and power and renewable-energy infrastructure for the park.'

This has not satisfied the Green Party, which insists energy-efficient design should be integrated from the outset, not bolted on at the last minute.

Johnson said: 'We might not get the promised on-site renewables needed for the greenest Olympics ever.'

As Olympics fever heats up, so the issue of sustainable development may slip from the top of the LDA's agenda. For the time being initiatives such as zero-carbon development remain intact, but for how long?

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