Cool your jets Gianni, we’ve just gone green

November 4 – FIFA has committed to new climate change targets at the COP26 climate conference, committing to reduce their carbon emissions and reach NetZero by 2040.  Those pledges collide with FIFA’s plans for a biennial World Cup and the carbon footprint of the organisation’s own supremo Gianni Infantino. 

“This is a critical moment,” said FIFA president Infantino in a video message to delegates in Glasgow, Scotland.  “The change in weather patterns is impacting the environment and its rich biodiversity, food security and access to freshwater, as well as the health and well-being of individuals.”

“FIFA has developed a comprehensive climate strategy and is committed to investing substantial resources that will allow FIFA and football to reach the ambitious and necessary objectives of the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework.”

The world governing body sent FIFA Council member and former president of the Sierra Leone FA Isha Johansen as keynote speaker to Scotland, but the global governing body’s proposal to stage the World Cup, in its expanded 48-team format, every two years clash with the new commitments which include the target of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. Following the last FIFA Council in October, Infantino, however, watered down his biennial revolution, seeking a global consensus on the proposal by December.

In power since 2016, Infantino has developed a reputation for globetrotting and use of private jets on a schedule that has seen him courting heads of states and attending major finals around the world.

That is not unusual for FIFA presidents, but Infantino barely scaled back his travels during the global health crisis. He toured Africa to support South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s campaign for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and frequented World Cup hosts Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He crisscrossed the rest of the world to attend both the final of the Copa America in Rio de Janeiro and Euro 2020 in London, days after attending the Concacaf Congress in Miami.

His many travels also came at a moment when FIFA intensified and reinforced their collaboration with the World Health Organisation as the world struggled with the pandemic. In October 2020, Infantino tested positive for the coronavirus.

FIFA’s new commitments will need to come with serious implementation. The English Premier League and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) also signed up to the Sports for Climate Action Framework pledges.

UEFA, however, didn’t enter the UN’s existing Race to Zero campaign, a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives. Last summer, Nyon was heavily criticised for staging Euro 2020 across ten countries in Europe, with venues stretching from Bilbao to Saint Petersburg and Baku, the tournament format a brainchild of former UEFA president and disgraced football official Michel Platini.

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