COP26: Fifa signs up to new UN climate targets for sport despite proposing biennial World Cup

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World football governing body Fifa has agreed to new climate change targets at the COP26 climate conference, despite considering plans for a biennial World Cup.

The targets were unveiled as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and include reaching net zero by 2040 and a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.

Other signatories include the International Olympic Committee, the Premier League, BBC Sport and Formula E.

Net zero is when a business or a country achieves an overall balance between the amount of carbon it is emitting and the carbon that it removes from the atmosphere.

European football governing body Uefa has also signed up to the overarching targets but, along with Formula 1, it is not on the list of organisations entering the UN’s existing Race to Zero campaign,a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives.

In the summer, Uefa faced criticism for the scheduling of Euro 2020 across 11 countries and the introduction of the Europa Conference League this season increased number of continental club group games by 20%.

This formed part of a growing sense in football that certain organisations and actions were at odds with the principles they had signed up to.

Fifa, while contemplating proposals to host a World Cup every two years, has also scheduled an expansion to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament in the USA and Canada – both of which will guarantee an increase in carbon emissions.

But Fifa president Gianni Infantino stressed his organisation’s commitment to the UN’s net-zero aim, including for future tournaments.

“Climate change is affecting lives of entire communities,” he said. “Football is not immune to significant changes around the world with grassroots and elite football being affected.

“Our climate strategy lays out our plan to protect our planet and beautiful game by reducing emissions and tackling climate change.”

On signing up for the Race to Zero campaign, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League is demonstrating its commitment to a more sustainable future.

“Like all sports, football has the power to unite people and we hope that through our work and public commitment to climate change goals, we will also encourage football fans around the world to consider how they can reduce their own carbon footprint.”

What has been pledged?

The Sports for Climate Action Framework was launched three years ago in Poland but had no specific targets, instead committing signatories to five key principles including reducing overall climate impact and promoting greater environmental responsibility.

This mirrored the approach of the wider challenge of getting stakeholders to the negotiating table and therefore it did not build in transparency or accountability.

Wednesday’s announcement means that all signatories to the original framework will need to recommit – and as part of the commitment, they agree to submit plans for concrete actions they will take to meet the targets, and to report annually on overall progress.

Sports for Climate Action Framework targets
A 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030
Net zero by 2040
Annual reporting of progress and footprint data

The pledge was made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, where a number of leading figures are discussing sport’s role in supporting the aims of the Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty signed in December 2015.

Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations’ climate change executive secretary, said: “Since we launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework, more than 280 sports organisations have committed to the overarching objectives of aligning sport with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The sector eagerly took up the challenge, but also told us that they want to do more and to do it faster.”

The IOC was among the first to sign up to the new measures, with President Thomas Bach saying last week: “The climate crisis is arguably the biggest challenge humanity is facing.

“By further reducing our carbon emissions, we strengthen our contribution to the realisation of the Paris Agreement, follow the latest science on climate change, and contribute better to this global effort.

“We urge all other sports organisations to follow suit.”

BBC

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