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Is Football Climate Friendly? - Ubaid Ur Rehman

The impact of sports on climate is complex and difficult to measure. Sport’s contribution to environmentaldeterioration comes from the channels such as associated travel, construction of infrastructure, and intensive energy use. Over the years, fans and organizations have realized that the impact of sports on climate change is considerable, and like all other areas of green, objectives have to be introduced. Football is inevitably the most famous sport around the globe. Given the game's popularity, the corporate sector has not failed to capitalize on it. Billions of dollars have been poured into the game regarding sponsorships, media, and marketing. Moreover, Football's enormous following around the globe provides a strong platform to raise awareness and act as an example for other organizations in the sports sector. FIFA, the organization responsible for governing and developing Football around the globe, was the first sportsorganization to commit to UNFCCC “Climate Neutral Now” campaign in 2016. Moreover, FIFA pledged support for the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework in 2018, an initiative to reduce environmental pollution and become greenhouse gas emission neutral by 2050. More recently, FIFA presented its climate strategy in November 2021 during the COP26 conference held in the UK. According to the report, FIFA’s vision is to be climate neutral by 2040 while also raising awareness regarding climate change and related actions. The report lays down four foundational aspects of the strategy, which encompass a global approach for the organization, its stakeholders, sports organizations, and the citizens of the global world. The initiatives aim to educate the fans, adapt the regulations and activities targeted towards sustainable practices, reduce the carbon emissions of the game, and support and invest in the development of technologies and practices that arebeneficial for the climate. Moreover, looking at the efforts done by FIFA in the past decade, we can say that the organization is moving in the right direction. Efforts have been made previously for the world cups by FIFA. To counter the carbon emission of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, FIFA sponsored certified low-carbon projects in Russia and abroad. Similarly, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, FIFA synergized with Coca-Cola and local waste management authorities to implement a recycling program that collected 445 tonnes of recyclable waste during all the matches. For the upcoming world cup in Qatar,Much of the focus has been on reducing carbon emissions from operational activities. State-of-the-art cooling technology in the stadium has been installed to reduce carbon emissions by 45%. It is approximated that total greenhouse gas emissions would amount to 3.63 metric tonnes, the majority of which comes from transportation andinfrastructure. Sustainable building certification achieved for all FIFA World Cup 2022 stadiums.

FIFA will publish the ex-post Greenhouse Gas Accounting report for the 2022 World Cup in 2023. The ex-post report will identify what goals have been achieved and the areas that need improvement. This report would play animportant role in beefing up the measures for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which is slotted be to be organized in Australia and New Zealand.

Despite the efforts made by FIFA for the world cups, I think there need to be further initiatives taken at the grassroots level, such as during the domestic leagues. FIFA and the UN should give much more incentives. Fundsshould be directed towards university research centers working on sustainable technologies to developing sports technology. Moreover, tax incentives should be provided to the clubs that adapt green practice, similar to the tax incentives provided for development programs for the players and the community. Although an unpopular andprobably less profitable practice, some football matches could be scheduled during the day to reduce energyconsumption and light pollution. Moreover, popular players should be ambassadors for sustainability awareness programs as they tend to have a huge attentive audience, especially on social media platforms.

To conclude, sports have been an important channel for communication at the mass level. Football is considered the first sport to take sustainability and climate-change initiatives and incorporate them within the game. However, as we all know, it is a long journey, and the stakeholders have to come together to overcome the challenges toachieve the common goal of a clean and better environment.


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