COP21 - Five ways sport can be used to address environmental challenges
Taking place in Paris, preparations for the COP21 Summit have been largely overshadowed by the attacks of 13 November. Due to concerns that French security forces don’t have the resources to protect full capacity stadiums and the summit simultaneously, both away fans at French football matches and public demonstrations at the summit have been banned.
It is hoped, however, that the summit can still lead to a meaningful agreement. In 2014, the United Nations published a sobering report which warned that the effects of climate change are already being seen and will lead to political instability, rising food prices and other major problems if not urgently addressed.
Although sport is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about climate change, soaring temperatures at the Australian Tennis Open and limited snowfall at the Winter Olympics show that no discipline is immune to climate change. At the same time, sport can also be part of the solution, whether through grassroots projects or the professional level.
1. Providing environmental education through sport
Sport and development programmes can use activities to teach participants about environmental challenges and their solutions, while inspiring them to integrate changes into their daily lives. The YDF Manual for Environmental Awareness provides ideas on how to do this.
2. Cleaning up professional sport
Major sports federations and teams can lead by example, taking care to reduce the size of their carbon footprint. UEFA, for example, is engaged in an initiative in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to measure and offset the carbon impact of its flights.
3. Integrating environmental standards into organisational working practices
Sport and development organisations and sport clubs can create organisational policies and procedures which reduce the environmental impact of programme activities. PITCH Africa, for example, has conceptualised and implemented eco-friendly designs for sport infrastructure which include a rainwater harvesting system.
4. Campaigning for changes in policy
Athletes are well-positioned to petition for policy change, and to encourage members of the public to do the same. Last year, following Sochi 2014, over 100 athletes from the Winter Olympics signed a letter to world leaders calling for action on climate change.
5. Advocating for changes in behaviour
Sport is one of the world’s biggest industries, and many athletes enjoy a huge amount of fame and therefore influence. Private corporations have long recognised the value of this in sponsoring stars to endorse their products. Athletes and teams can do the same for environmental campaigners – Leonel Messi, for example, has endorsed and promoted the WWF's Earth Hour.