21 Sep 20

Formula E: achieving net zero carbon footprint

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship has become the first global sport to be certified with a net zero carbon footprint from inception, investing in certified climate-protecting projects in all race markets to offset emissions from all six seasons of electric racing.

Following the recommended approach set out by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Formula E has followed three key steps to achieve carbon neutrality: effective measurement of carbon output, prioritising reducing of the championship footprint and offsetting remaining unavoidable emissions.

Measure

Since its inaugural season, Formula E has worked with the carbon footprint experts Quantis to carry out a lifecycle assessment which is used to monitor and calculate the championship’s carbon footprint.

A lifecycle assessment is a tool used to holistically assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of the entire championship and Formula E have continuously monitored these impacts over each of our seasons to-date to understand where there are opportunities to make real improvements in our operations and planning.

The latest complete dataset, as of Season 5, places Formula E's CO2 footprint at 72% freight, 14% freight, 14% staff, 6% spectators, 4% food, 4% operations and 1% in the manufacture of the race cars (percentages rounded, and supplied by Quantis). Consistently across the first five seasons, the largest contributor to emissions has been from freight and transportation between race locations.

Proportional emissions remain similar across seasons, with the exception of Season 6, which has been impacted by the on-going pandemic, meaning that half of the campaign was completed in a single location, at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport.

Reduce

Formula E has built a Sustainability Programme based on three pillars; delivering sustainable events, making a meaningful positive impact in each host city, and using our global platform to promote electric cars and the part they’ll play in addressing air pollution.

From optimising transportation and logistics to extending end-of-life options for lithium-ion battery cells and cutting out single-use plastics on site, the championship’s drive for sustainable practices has led to Formula E becoming the first and only category in racing to receive third-party ISO 20121 certification – the international standard for sustainability in events.

“Formula E was created with the primary purpose to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and promote sustainable practice, raising awareness of the benefits to driving electric and how clean mobility can counteract climate change," said Julia Palle, Sustainability Director at Formula E, on the renewal of ISO 20121 certification for 2020.

"We deliver events with sustainability at the forefront of our mind and the certification shows our commitment to this cause and acts as a reminder of what we have achieved and also our ambition to continue to innovate in this area.”

We report and evaluate our progress annually and use recognitions to reinforce and legitimise our efforts. Read Formula E's sustainability reports, certifications and recognitions

In six seasons of racing to-date, hand-in-hand with lessening its overall use of resources and drive for sustainability, Formula E has worked tirelessly to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Working closely with Quantis to assess the series' impact and direct its focus, and given that almost three-quarters of Formula E’s emissions continue to come from transportation of freight to and from events across the six campaigns, efforts have been steered towards the largest contributor to the championship's overall footprint in a number of ways:

  1. Optimising the calendar to allow for multiple sea-freight sets to cover various continents
  2. Using a multi-modal approach with rail and road preferred over air freight to reduce emissions
  3. Only race-critical items are freighted to reduce weight, utilising more efficient packing
  4. Freight inventory audits are carried out to identify what non-essential freight items can be removed to reduce weight and also what can be sourced locally


Alongside efforts to reduce emissions in freight and transportation, a number of initiatives have been enacted to reduce total footprint across staff and spectator travel, event impact and operations.

Formula E works directly with all suppliers to ensure products are low impact. This can mean the sourcing of local food produce and beverages, and ensuring that exhibitors at our events adhere to a sustainable approach in their procurement processes as well as the construction, operation and content of their booths.

When it comes to travel, events run under a no-parking policy to encourage the use of public, sustainable and shared transportation. With staff travel accounting for 14% of the championship’s total footprint, event attendance is limited only to those who are required on-site for race-related duties and rail is prioritised for European travel where possible.

As part of the push for on-going ISO 20121 certification, waste management is key. Reductions have been made to waste on-site by phasing out certain materials such as single-use plastics and introducing reusable water pouches and hydration stations - saving 200,000 plastic bottles and 10km of non-PVC recyclable trackside branding.

Additionally, race tyres are 100% recyclable and the series has a comprehensive battery recycling programme in-place. Formula E has also educated around waste recycling to reduce what we send to landfill, using Recycling Rangers in high footfall areas to maximise recycling.

Offset

Ultimately, the championship's footprint reduction initiatives help ensure that Formula E is able to operate at the lowest possible unavoidable emissions level.

The series has then directed efforts towards offsetting these emissions with sustainable projects that will not only benefit the local economies and people in the locations we race in around the world, but also help to bring down global CO2 emissions – making a broader, positive change.

These unavoidable emissions from the past six seasons have now been certified as offset through investment in Gold Standard and Verified Carbon Standard UN projects in-line with the UNFCCC’s Clean Development Mechanism.

From biogas energy generation in China to landfill gas energy generation in Mexico and wind power energy generation in Morocco, the offsetting projects Formula E has partnered with are carefully selected based on their social or ecological benefits, and on their location, all of which are situated in regions that we’ve raced in, from Season 1 to-date.

Each with a strong social and economic benefit for local communities, the projects not only offset but also complement our legacy programme, aligning with the series’ #PostivelyCharged commitment to create better futures through racing.

On the Chinese island of Hainan – home to the Sanya E-Prix in 2019 – a rural methane recovery and combustion project aims to help farmers to transition from fossil fuel use to renewable biogas.

Targeting 20 townships in the Chinese province, the project has helped to build 15,555 methane digesters in which organic matter, including manure and waste, is anaerobically degraded into methane gas through microbial action. Saving 53,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, the project is just one of nine projects helping to offset Formula E’s unavoidable emissions from the past six seasons. 

In Mexico, one of the longest standing Formula E host nations, landfill sites emit large volumes of greenhouse gases and other organic compounds which pollute the air.

By capturing and combusting the methane in the landfill gas, electricity can be produced that feeds into the national power grid where it’s used as an alternative source of cheap, indigenous, stable and renewable energy that will reduce dependence on grid power. Saving 170,499 tonnes of CO2 per year, the project also has a social benefit, providing employment to local people, who are required to operate and maintain the system.

A fixture on the Formula E calendar since Season 3, Morocco is host to a wind farm in its Tangier-Tetouan region of the country. Forty wind turbines generate around 296,100MWh/year of electricity, substituting the power currently supplied by fossil fuel-dominated plants feeding the national grid with clean, sustainable energy.

Saving 34,439 tonnes of CO2 per year, the project contributes towards the objectives of Morocco’s national strategy for renewable energy development, which is targeting the development of 2,000MW of installed wind capacity by 2020.

Formula E has also invested in Guarantees of Origins – renewable energy certificates in Europe, with the continent having hosted a number of events in the championship’s six-season history. These certificates prove that a given share of energy was produced from renewable sources.

In other former and current Formula E host nations, we have engaged with additional wind energy projects in both Argentina and Uruguay, as well as landfill gas energy production projects in Chile, Malaysia and the USA. Together, these projects offset all of our unavoidable emissions from the past six seasons, resulting in compensation of over 150,000 t CO2 equivalent.

Project certifications

With all projects certified according to the strict requirements of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and/or the Gold Standard (GS), each also follows the regulations outlined in the Kyoto Protocol by the UN Climate Change Secretariat.

Their impact reaches far beyond the environmental benefit, with each contributing to society through a mixture of local employment, local air quality or infrastructure development, they advance the work of Formula E’s purpose to leave behind a positive legacy in its race host nations and beyond.

Now with a certified net zero carbon footprint, the all-electric championship will storm into its seventh season in 2021. Primed for an all-new campaign of city street racing, Formula E’s battle for clean air continues, charged with renewed confidence.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship becomes the first sport series with a certified net zero carbon footprint from inception