November 3 – FIFA’s claim that the Qatar World Cup will be carbon neutral has been rubbished by leading climate experts as dangerous and misleading while environment activists have filed complaints with advertising regulators in several European countries over alleged “greenwashing”.
FIFA says the tournament will have a footprint of 3.6 million tonnes of equivalent carbon waste, which will be offset by a number of initiatives.
But Mike Berners-Lee of Lancaster University was quoted by the BBC: “We did a little digging into FIFA’s carbon footprint estimate and we think it’s way over 10 million tonnes – so three times that, at least,”
“‘Carbon neutral’ is a dodgy term. The offset scheme the World Cup has chosen doesn’t remove carbon from the atmosphere, so it’s a bogus term. It’s very misleading to call this a carbon neutral World Cup. They’re not even removing carbon to compensate.”
Berners-Lee believes FIFA has “hideously underestimated” its carbon footprint, and that it “doesn’t really work to claim you haven’t had a carbon impact”.
“The World Cup is very important and it is bound to have a carbon footprint. We should try to keep that as low as possible right now. You might want to move the World Cup around the world to show support for all the footballing nations, but Qatar isn’t one of those.
“An example is that FIFA assumed all those [aeroplane] journeys are going to be one-way tickets, which is a complete nonsense of an assumption.”
Climate scientist professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University added: “There will be a direct human cost to this tournament. This is a huge amount of emissions for one sporting event. It’s these emissions that will have an impact around the world.”
“These big events, whether the World Cup or any other sporting or music event, to claim events are carbon neutral is deeply misleading and incredibly dangerous and is making the situation worse rather then better.”
“FIFA… just did the usual thing: let’s go to a fantastic venue and let’s just have a few offset credits to cover it. No innovation, no real thinking, no leadership; at every level FIFA has failed.”
In France, the association Notre Affaire A Tous said it had turned to the advertising standards body over “greenwashing” by FIFA.
“Similar complaints for misleading advertising were submitted in Britain, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands to challenge the carbon neutrality claims concerning the organisation of the Qatar World Cup,” the group said.
“Who can honestly believe that the construction of air-conditioned stadiums in the middle of a desert can be carbon neutral?” declared Notre Affaire A Tous’s executive officer, Jeremie Suissa. “Football fans should be able to enjoy their sport without being taken hostage by FIFA’s drastic choices.”
FIFA responded by saying in a statement: “FIFA is fully aware that climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time and believes it requires each of us to take immediate and sustainable climate action.
“For the very first time, FIFA and the host country Qatar have pledged to deliver a fully carbon neutral World Cup. A comprehensive set of initiatives have been implemented to mitigate the tournament-related emissions, including energy-efficient stadiums and green-building certification of their design, construction and operations, low-emission transportation, and sustainable waste management practices.
“All remaining emissions will be offset through investing in internationally recognised and certified carbon credits. This is done on a voluntary basis, leading the way in the sports industry. More can be done and will be done, as FIFA has pledged through the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework and its own Climate Strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.”
But even some players have got involved and have urged FIFA to scrap its claim and concentrate on reducing CO2 emissions.
Norwegian international Morten Thorsby of Bundesliga high-fliers Union Berlin represents those questioning FIFA’s claim of carbon neutrality.
“This tournament is an absolute disaster in terms of its environmental footprint,” Thorsby said in an open letter. “They’ve been building infrastructure only for this event, which is never a good thing.”
Signatories of the letter include Thorsby – who recently won a BBC Green Sport Award for his climate awareness campaigning – Wycombe Wanderers’ David Wheeler in England and female players Elin Landstrom of Roma and Zoe Morse from Chicago Red Stars in the US.
“Climate change is the opponent we must tackle – and we’re already deep into extra time,” says their open letter. “Whatever shirt we wear or chant we sing, we’ve got everything to gain from taking action. But, instead of taking this golden chance, FIFA’s currently set itself up to miss its best shot at goal.
“The tournament has been labelled as the first ‘fully carbon neutral FIFA World Cup tournament’, meaning its overall impact on the planet should be zero.”
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