How sports teams can lead the race for climate action

Pictured: Envision Racing's car at COP28, pictured with the iconic 'climate stripes'

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the climate crisis will be part of the mainstream conversation about any of this summer’s sporting fixtures. And yet, on a burning planet, shouldn’t all major sporting events, teams and stars use their profile to drive public action on tackling the emergency that’s threatening their very existence?

Thanks to its millions, if not billions, of fans around the world, sport has unparalleled power and influence to inspire necessary transformational change at scale. Take the Show Racism the Red Card initiative as a case in point. It has enabled top footballers to become anti-racism champions by talking publicly about their own experiences of racism. Targeting young people, the organisation provides educational resources and runs workshops for schools and youth groups – leading a societal shift towards a more diverse and inclusive football culture.

Now it’s time sport turned its attention to the climate emergency. From collapsing marathon runners in the extreme heat during last September’s Sydney Marathon to football teams in England cancelling matches due to a storm this January and then widespread flooding in February, our rapidly changing climate is already negatively impacting sport.

Even worse, some sports may struggle to survive at all as temperatures keep rising, with new research showing that one in eight ski areas will not have any snow by 2100.

In this alarming context, the world of sport must use its power to shout about what’s happening to our planet. Unlike any other human activity, it can inspire a mass public movement for meaningful action.

Back on track

At Envision Racing, we are the reigning world champions of Formula E, the first all-electric FIA World Championship and the first sport to be certified net-zero since inception.

Persuading our fans and the wider public to act on the climate crisis is written into our DNA. Our team exists to inspire and lead an accelerated transition to electric mobility and renewable energy through our ‘Race Against Climate Change’ (RACC) programme. Both on and off the track, we aim to raise awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles powered by clean energy – and the wider context that makes mass electrification so urgent.

We know sport has the power to educate people and influence their actions, which is why environmental education is integral to what we do.

At Envision Racing, we ran a public awareness campaign last year on the issue of e-waste which has been described by the World Health Organisation as the ‘next growing threat to the environment’, and on track to reach a staggering 82 million tonnes per year by 2030. As well as grabbing attention for the topic by creating a full-sized and driveable Formula E car, Recover-E  made from e-waste donated by the public, we’ve also taken steps to ensure this awareness converts to positive action by encouraging people to pledge to reduce their personal e-waste through our online environmental fan engagement platform.

Fortunately, we aren’t alone –  the organisers of the Paris Olympics have set ambitious targets to reduce the Game’s greenhouse gas emissions by half compared with the levels of London in 2012 and Rio in 2016 by having less meat on menus and building fewer venues for the games, for example.

Push for progress

While individual public actions are essential in shifting the dial on climate change, we also know that systemic change has to be instigated at the highest level, so a core part of our RACC programme focuses on facilitating conversations with Governments, policy influencers and big business. Our campaign on e-waste has seen us invited to partner with the World Economic Forum at their 15th Annual Meeting and the UN at COP28 in Dubai, enabling us to showcase sports unique power to accelerate change to an audience of global leaders.

As a team, we’re committed to exploring news ways to operate that reduce our impact on the planet, from the kit we wear to the way we travel throughout the race season. Only by combining strategic partnerships, advocating for change and harnessing the collective power of our global fanbase can we hope to create meaningful, lasting change as a team, a sport and an industry.

In a world plagued by division, sport has the power to bring people together. And we have never needed its unifying capacity more. As our planet hurtles towards irreversible climate tipping points, we need urgent collective action to keep our planet liveable. In the race against climate change, sport now can lead from the front. Its stars, teams and bodies must step up and help create a better tomorrow for everyone, today.

Sylvain Filippi is the managing director of Envision Racing

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