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Combating climate change at 2018 FIFA World Cup

26 November 2018


Everyone has been very closely watching the events unfolding at 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia this summer. Perhaps, FIFA is one of the most spectacular sporting events. Fans from around the world look forward to it every 4 years. And very few people realize the huge impact of this event on the environment and, therefore, on overall welfare.

According to preliminary data of Greenhouse Gas Report, emissions from the World Cup in Russia have exceeded 2,1 mln. tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The major part of such emissions is caused by the transport movements of fans. As it happens, each of us can be blamed individually, and at the same time there is no particular person responsible for it. Thus, the responsibility should lie on the shoulders of the organizers.

But unfortunately, today the world of sport is still less involved in the global fight against climate change. But nevertheless, we should note that certain positive developments are observed.

The foundation has been laid in 2016, when FIFA joined the initiative of the UN Secretariat on climate change – “Climate Neutral Now”. “Climate Neutral Now is a global community of organizations committed to ensure climate neutrality by the middle of the 21st century. The initiative was launched in September 2015”.

As the Secretary General of FIFA Fatma Samoura said: “The Earth's climate is changing due to human activity. We need to reduce the emissions that enter the atmosphere. FIFA takes its environmental responsibility very seriously”.

However, it should be also taken into account that it is impossible to completely avoid emissions, especially, when it refers to international sportive events. For such cases there is an emission compensation system. Compensation is understood as balancing of greenhouse emissions in one place by financing emission reduction projects at the same place.

For this purpose a campaign was launched on FIFA website, inviting the ticket holders to sign up on the official website. In turn, FIFA guarantees to compensate for 2,9 tons of carbon emissions for each registered participant. How? It's simple, if it is impossible to reduce emissions, FIFA will invest in the development of certain low-carbon projects.

For instance, biomass is planned to be used instead of fossil fuels in wood processing in the city of Kostroma, Russia, that in turn, will lead to reduction of greenhouse emissions from the plants involved in this industry.

These efforts were appreciated positively by Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who expressed the following opinion: “I commend FIFA for leading by example in reducing the climate impact of the 2018 World Cup and encouraging football fans to act on climate change. Reducing emissions as far as possible and compensating for emissions that cannot be avoided is the best way to score goals for the climate and our common future”.

Thus, FIFA’s management intends to make the activities of this organization completely carbon-neutral by 2050. And that is not all. In addition to FIFA, the Union of European Football Associations, UEFA, also demonstrated its environmental consciousness and invested € 200 000 in construction of a wind farm in New Caledonia.

At the same time, we should realize that compensation for emissions alone is not enough for a complete solution of the climate change problem. Even today, the existing climatic realities require more activity of the sports community. In other words, the global sports community should not stand aside and should not only “compensate” for emissions, but also do everything possible to reduce them and to develop in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

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Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin (CAMP4ASB)

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