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Environment and climate change: conquering sport!
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Sport, like any human, economic or social activity, depends on its environment. The polysemy of the word environment offers an interesting opening. Sport must be analyzed through its impact, both directly on its territory but also more generally by studying its contribution to climate change. These two scales, the local and the global, merge: sport therefore appears to be a sector that is both partially responsible for global warming (around 1% of emissions in France, and 1% of gas and electricity consumption) but also as a potential tool for raising awareness and action in the fight against climate change.

As certain reports (IPCC, WWF France) have predicted and as certain catastrophic episodes have already demonstrated, sport will not be spared from climate change. Reduction of practice days, cancellation of events, endangering the health of practitioners, maintenance of lawns and spaces during periods of heatwave/drought, sport is and will be increasingly concerned. This evidence now calls into question the capacity and maturity of the sector to take action.

What sport and what impacts?

Sports can be nature, stadium or indoor sports (gyms, swimming pools, ice rinks, complexes). The impact of sports practice can be direct (for example motorized sports), indirect (the footprint to maintain and operate the sites) or induced (the movement of spectator or sports populations, their additional consumption on site, etc.) .

The very scope of the players in the sector is not easy to clarify: should we include the commercial sector (producers and marketers of sporting goods), TV or internet broadcasters, screen manufacturers (smartphones, TV, computers) who base part of their communication/advertising on sporting events? What should we do about the question of e-sport which is mobilizing more and more practitioners and whose practice tends to become an event in the manner of more “traditional” sports?

If we suspect that the general impact of mega-events leading to the design of infrastructure and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people will not have the same magnitude as a meeting between two teams from the same village, the heterogeneity of structures and their human and financial resources as well as the problems encountered further complicates this mapping work.

Understand and become aware

Understanding its impact is the first essential step for those involved in sport. In the absence of carrying out complete greenhouse gas assessments (BGES), identifying the main emitting positions of each activity and the orders of magnitude would already be a big step, particularly for the most modest structures.

The recent major sporting events organized (or to come) in France have, however, demonstrated the need to agree on a common framework, shared benchmarks and indicators. In the wake of the work on the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games , the Ministry of Sports and JOPs as well as the CNOSF should, in the coming years, offer tools likely to advance the sector, together and in the same direction.

Educational work will then be necessary so that the figures and data thus obtained become concrete in the minds of the professionals, volunteers and practitioners who keep the sport alive. This initial awareness should then guide the sector towards a transition adapted to the scale and means of each actor.

React and take action

Secondly, the gradual generalization of the eco-conditionality of public subsidies and the implementation of personalized support and decarbonization plans could help sports structures in their transition. Public service delegations granted by the State to federations could also be affected. They would then be required to measure certain indicators and communicate them regularly.

Furthermore, environmental issues, like other social or cultural subjects, could appear on the agenda of education through sport programs. Also, to drive this educational policy, the integration of environmental modules into sports educator training seems essential. It could be supplemented by compulsory training for volunteers and high-level athletes. An open access intersectoral resource center could help all populations share good practices and draw inspiration from those of others.

Inspire aspirations for different models

Taking action is the result of will. Investing (time or money) in raising awareness or transitioning the sector means agreeing to do things differently, to direct the project of your structure towards a more sustainable model (and, contrary to popular belief, not necessarily more expensive). However, doing things differently can also involve reviewing your priorities and making decisions.

Can we nourish the ambition of more sustainable models and pursue the imperatives of developing an activity? Can we want to both raise public awareness about the fight against climate change and continue to artificialize soils, build infrastructure, create synthetic fields covered with rubber balls, increase the number of meetings and mega- events, to create new disciplines and competitions?

From now on, the credibility of the actors and their actions will also be established by consistency with the speeches made and the ambitions displayed.

The energy sobriety of sport and the dedicated government action plan, which had the merit of questioning the sector and providing avenues for action, just like the review of the criteria for the LFP Club License which integrates new criteria environmental and social issues or the establishment of the REP-ASL sector (second life of sporting and leisure articles) seem to be going in the right direction.

However, the sector's transition to less carbon-intensive models is still in its infancy. Sobriety can be chosen and desirable, for this we need to modify the specifications, the evaluation criteria and the reading grids. Transitions, to operate on the ground, must also and above all operate in the minds and governance of structures.

Publication produced by Franck d’Agostini

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