The Olympic Games let host cities present their best self to the world in the hopes of boosting tourism in the years to come.
Gorgeous stadiums are built, transportation systems are modernized, and neighborhoods are overhauled all in service of this dream.
For Tokyo, the 2020 Olympic Games are, in some ways, a break from this model.
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Local officials will still present a tourist-friendly version of the city, but they’re also investing in sustainability initiatives that can be copied by cities everywhere in an effort to transform urban life across the world, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
It will mark the start of the “zero emissions future,” according to an editorial written by the government in Quartz, and highlights the collaborative role cities are playing in the global fight to mitigate climate change.
To bring this idea into the games themselves, Tokyo will be making Olympic medals out of recycled metal reclaimed from old cell phones.
The average cell phone has a trivial amount of gold, silver, and copper, but the city has so far collected 80,000 phones and will be using the pulped material to create 50,000 medals for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to the editorial.
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More significantly, the city plans to accelerate its efforts under the Paris climate agreement, the editorial notes.
That means the city will be cutting its emissions by 30% by 2030 from 2000 levels, pursuing 30% renewable energy by then, and boosting energy efficiency in buildings by 38%.
The city is also building charging stations for electric vehicles throughout its streets.
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In 2010, Tokyo enacted a cap-and-trade program that has become central to cutting emissions.
During the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, the government will use saved-up carbon credits to zero out city-wide emissions for four days.
It’s a stunt, but it shows the potential of cap-and-trade programs and could help other cities imagine a zero-carbon future.
All around the world, cities are leading the way on climate change action by revamping infrastructure, banning gasoline-powered cars and hazardous materials, investing in renewable energy, and spurring companies to adapt to a sustainable future.
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During the 2020 Olympic Games, the world’s attention will be on Tokyo. But by staking its reputation on sustainability, Tokyo will be reflecting that attention back at cities everywhere, spurring leaders to think about how they can foster a zero-emissions future.
Global Citizen campaigns in the United Nations’ Global Goals, which call for a zero-emissions future. You can take action on this issue here.