The Qatar World Cup is failing to live up to promises on reducing its carbon footprint

Later this year, the whole world will be following the world’s largest football tournament. There were questions when Qatar was awarded to host the event but the organisers have claimed this will be the first “carbon neutral” World Cup. Paul MacInnes writes on the Guardian website that they are failing to live up to its promises.


Qatar World Cup criticised for ‘problematic’ carbon footprint promises

The Qatar World Cup is failing to live up to promises on reducing its carbon footprint, a new report has warned, creating another problem for the tournament.

Organisers have claimed that the 32-team showpiece will be the first “carbon neutral” World Cup, meaning any emissions would be limited and offset. However Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a not-for-profit organisation which works closely with the European Union, has examined the organisers’ plans and says projected emissions have likely been underreported, with the footprint created from building seven new stadiums of particular concern.

“It would be great to see the climate impact of Fifa World Cups being drastically reduced but the carbon neutrality claim that is being made is simply not credible,” said Gilles Dufrasne of CMW, author of the analysis. “Despite a lack of transparency, the evidence suggests that the emissions from this World Cup will be considerably higher than expected by the organisers, and the carbon credits being purchased to offset these emissions are unlikely to have a sufficiently positive impact on the climate.”

Central to CMW’s complaint is its calculation that carbon emissions created by the new stadiums could be as much as eight times higher than the figures contained in Qatar’s analysis. The CMW report claims the hosts have made a calculation which spreads a stadium’s carbon footprint over its entire lifetime, something the report describes as “problematic”.

“These stadiums have been constructed specifically for the World Cup,” CMW said. “Future extensive use of so many stadiums in such a small geographical space is uncertain, especially when considered against the fact that Doha had only one major stadium before it was awarded the World Cup.”

Further criticisms related to plans to absorb emissions with a large-scale “tree and turf nursery”. The CMW report claims this idea is “not credible” because any absorption is “unlikely to be permanent in these artificial and vulnerable green spaces”. It also questions the carbon credit system Qatar plans to use to offset remaining emissions at the end of the event.

The new format, known as the Global Carbon Council (GCC), was originally authorised by Qatari authorities and has different criteria to other established credit systems. It is being used in relation to only two other projects worldwide and has sold 130,000 credits. A minimum of 1.8 million are expected to be sold to the World Cup.

A spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee, responsible for the delivery of the World Cup, said the country’s commitment to a carbon-neutral World Cup should be “recognised, rather than criticised” and that the CMW criticisms were “speculative and inaccurate”.

It said that many trees from the nursery were endemic to the region, drought tolerant and would be replanted around stadium areas after the tournament. The GCC credit system, it said, was approved by a number of bodies, including the International Civilian Aviation Organisation, a UN agency.

Fifa disputes the CMW analysis, saying it is not appropriate to calculate stadium emissions based only on their use at the World Cup and that “detailed legacy plans and business models” for stadiums’ use after the tournament are in place.

“The organisers have pledged to measure, mitigate and offset all Fifa World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas emissions, while advancing low-carbon solutions in Qatar and the region,” a spokesperson said. “Thus, at no point has Fifa misled its stakeholders, as is claimed by the report.

“Fifa is fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose on the economy, the natural environment and on people and communities. [It] has been making efforts to tackle those impacts and use opportunities that arise to mitigate the negative impacts and maximise the positive impacts of its iconic tournament.”

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