London Marathon organizers will start paying to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere while aiming to reach net zero by 2030.
With a ‘climate levy’ of £26 on all international participants, London Marathon Events (LME) will pay carbon removal company CUR8 to remove 280 tonnes of CO2 from the air, increasing this amount every year.
LME, which organizes other sporting events such as the Brighton Marathon and Swim Serpentine, said it aims to save around 800 tonnes of carbon a year through distance and emissions reductions.
These include using electric vehicles, switching from diesel to hydrogen-treated vegetable oil generators and encouraging participants to use public transport.
The company is aiming to expand both mining and reductions to push its 2040 net zero target to 2030 instead.
Kate Chapman, head of sustainability at LME, said: “If we look at where we are now after 17 years, it just seems far too long – we need to be more ambitious.”
“Of course we have to do everything we can to reduce these emissions. We don’t want a large portion of residual emissions left over that we then pay to eliminate so we can credibly call ourselves a net zero company.
“But the fact that we can then do something has helped us be more ambitious.”
There were around 9,920 LME participants in 2022, with 95% of total emissions coming from their travel, although this is mostly not included in the net zero calculation.
Instead, LME uses the “fairly blunt instrument” of the climate levy, which Ms Chapman said is taken as an average across the various distances and travel methods international participants use to take part.
The company he paid for, CUR8, uses various methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, such as improving soils, growing forests and producing biochar.
It is also working with a company in the US that is due to commission a direct air capture plant from next year that can remove a tonne of CO2 per minute, but is almost unaffordable for many companies, costing around £1,000 per tonne.
The amazing sci-fi hope is that by 2050 we’ll have done that and actually started taking back more than we spend
Mark Stevenson, one of CUR8’s co-founders, said he founded the company after seeing many climate change programs fall short of expectations.
He said CUR8, which will also remove carbon on behalf of The 1975 and other bands, is doing due diligence to ensure its partners are removing carbon in a science-based way that can be credibly measured and audited, which is also legal and that can be scaled to meet global demand.
“At the moment we are not telling anyone that we can achieve net zero because the language is evolving,” he said.
“What we’re saying is that you can claim that on your path to net zero, you’re removing this amount of carbon.
“If Kate and other customers don’t commit to this journey, there will be no investment in the infrastructure that will allow them to buy this amount of stuff in 10 years.
“That’s why it becomes normal when iconic organizations that people recognize every day, like London Marathon Events, O2, 1975 and the other bands I talk to, and hopefully you just put all the money into OS.
“Then the amazing science fiction hope is that by 2050 we’ve done that and we’ve actually started taking back more than we spend, that they can get the parts per million down again.”