FIFA vows to deliver carbon-neutral 2022 World Cup
FIFA and the State of Qatar have jointly launched a sustainability strategy for the 2022 World Cup, headlined by a commitment to deliver carbon-neutrality across the event's operations.
The 22-point strategy states that carbon-neutrality will be reached “before the tournament kicks off” and that FIFA will apply for ISO 20121:2012 and the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard certifications ahead of time.
It commits FIFA and its partners across Qatar to design and construct sites in ways which minimise their energy, resource and carbon impact across both operations and embodied materials. While it stops short of committing to any certification for sites, it binds all constructors to sourcing local materials and talent.
As for operational emissions from the tournament itself, FIFA and the State of Qatar have pledged to “measure, mitigate and offset” all emissions related to match-day events. This includes energy-related emissions for sites as well as team transport emissions.
The bodies have not confirmed the extent of their plans for offsetting or provided details about their plans to “mitigate” emissions, such as which technologies and systems they will invest in to decarbonise the event’s most-emitting activities, and when emissions benefits of these investments will be realised.
FIFA first promised a carbon-neutral World Cup for the 2006 tournament. Since then, the event’s footprint has grown considerably – the 2018 World Cup in Russia generated 2.17 million tonnes of emissions, of which 98.6% were classed within Scope 3 (indirect) emissions.
At every iteration since 2006, international travel has accounted for the greatest proportion of the World Cup’s Scope 3 emissions. In 2018, the proportion stood at 57%.
In 2014, the Brazilian Government’s launch of an offsetting scheme to reduce emissions from travel using a voluntary cancellation of carbon credits drew much excitement. But it was later denounced as “hot air” by the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a bid to address the challenge differently, FIFA began offering free carbon offsetting to ticket holders for the 2018 event, incentivising uptake with a prize draw for tickets to the final. While this ultimately generated more impact than the 2014 project, the scheme was capped at 34,500 fans out of the three million who attended.
Broader commitments for the beautiful game
Away from carbon, the sustainability strategy for the tournament outlines environmental targets across air pollution, waste generation and water use.
On air pollution, the strategy promises training sites for staff, which will offer practical advice on minimising the air pollution impacts of construction and site operation. It also binds FIFA to working with local public transport providers in order to maximise efficiencies and reduce particulate emissions.
The waste pledge is somewhat less concrete – it simply states that event operators will “minimise waste sent to landfill”, without setting a percentage target or outlining where and how diverted waste will be processed.
The water pledge is similarly non-numerical and not time-bound. “[We will] minimise water use during the construction and operation of FIFA World Cup 2022 sites and promote water conservation in related sectors,” it states.
Environmental targets form one pillar of a wider five-pronged approach, also covering social sustainability, human impact, governance and economic targets.
“The FIFA World Cup offers us a unique opportunity to bring about positive change – one that FIFA and Qatar cannot, and will not, let slip away,” FIFA’s secretary-general Fatma Samoura said.
FIFA and the State of Qatar claim the strategy, in its entirety, is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. Targets are matched up to one or more of the SDGs on the strategy document, with the exception of SDGs 1, No Poverty; 2, Zero Hunger; 5, Gender Equality and 14, Life Below Water.
With recent research revealing that as much as $12trn and 380 million jobs could be generated by 2030 if the SDGs are placed at the heart of global economic strategies, FIFA is not alone in using the Global Goals as a framework. As of May 2019, 193 countries, more than 10,000 companies and investors with more than $4trn in assets have pledged their support to the SDGs.
But concerns persist as to whether corporate strategies which purport to support SDG progress are fully aligned with the framework’s sub-targets, not just its overarching goals.