N Munal Meitei
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 20 has drawn some attention from the environmental groups. It’s claimed to be the first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup hosted by a country. Qatar, a country of 11,571 km² with a population of 29.3 lakhs (2021) is much smaller than Manipur in terms of area and population.
Seven out of the eight venues are new stadiums costing $6.5 billion claimed to build according to ambitious eco-construction and eco-operating standards. The Supreme Organizing Committee claims that 79% of solid waste from stadium construction sites was either recycled or reused and the stadiums are all energy-efficient.
Almost for a month, 32 teams will represent, arguably the ‘holy grail’ of footballing tournaments. In its 92-year history, every event was pale by environmental costs. The 2016 Olympics in Rio emitted 4.5 million tons and the 2018 World Cup in Russia released more than 2 million tons of CO‚ . Qatar will emit some 3.6 million tons of CO‚ that’s roughly equal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s annual emissions.
Most of those greenhouse gases will come from flights, floodlights and accommodation for more than 2.45 million visitors, as well as on construction of new stadiums among other infrastructures. 1300 flights will take off during the FIFA Cup daily. Some 51% of emissions will come from transport including the shuttle flights set to ferry spectators into the desert city each day because of a shortage of accommodation in Qatar, from neighboring countries, including Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Only about 200,000 of the planned 1.8 million tons of credits have been issued. They all come from renewable energy projects in Serbia, Turkey and India that are actually excluded from the global carbon market.
Water use is another problem which Qatar expected to increase 80% during this Cup amidst the country's already water scarce situations. The tournament’s pristine pitches from North America and the 136 practice fields reportedly require around 10,000 liters of water in winter and 50,000 liters in summer daily. Most of Qatar’s fresh water comes from desalination plants using fossil fuels. The plants also release salty, hot brine that is toxic to marine life when back into the sea.
Waste is also another problem. About 60% of the waste generated during the event will be recycled, while 40% will be turned into energy. But burning waste for energy is the worst for the environment. While the carbon footprint of 64 soccer matches played over a single month’s time might appear trifling, to hoodwink people while instead doing little.
Annual carbon footprint of English Premier League players, estimated at 29 tonnes of CO‚ which is nearly three times the annual carbon footprint of UK citizens and far exceeds the global target of two tonnes per person, set to meet the commitments of COP21- Paris Agreement.
FIFA was one of the first international sports federations to commit to the United Nations for a Climate Action Framework by developing its own climate strategy.FIFA has established several initiatives with three main objectives: 1) making soccer ready for climate action, 2) protecting iconic tournaments from the negative impacts of climate change and 3) ensuring the development of resilient soccer.
The World Cup is the world’s most popular sporting event which has the highest emissions. Apart from the environmental impact,FIFA World Cup and ecology is not always obvious. Like any human activity, sport takes place in a physical environment. Thus, the World Cup can contribute a lot to protect the environment.
To this end, the FIFA World Cup’s ‘Green Goal’ needs to have more meaningful action for a green environment. FIFA countries should make maximum investments to improve environmental quality. Football players and Athletes are the most influential people on the planet who can act as ambassadors on the myriad of social causes including the environment.
It is important to note that all aspects of sport should link with the natural environment. Therefore, with the development of sports and football, we should improve and safeguard our environment for a green and beautiful planet.
The writer is environmentalist and he can be reached at [email protected]