Environmental sustainability and the Women’s World Cup
Climate change affects all aspects of modern life. During the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC), a record-breaking heatwave rolled through Europe, requiring additional water-breaks during some of the matches. The coinciding Africa Cup of Nations saw one player stretchered off mid-game and another hospitalised for severe dehydration due to the even higher temperatures in Egypt.
In December 2018, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) joined the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which provides support and guidance to sports actors and organisations for climate protection. Before this, FIFA was the first international sports organisation to join the Climate Neutral Now initiative, pledging to become greenhouse gas emission neutral.
No doubt the most challenging aspect of integrating environmental sustainability into FIFA’s practices comes from the World Cups – mega events attracting millions of spectators from all around the world. The 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup resulted in around 2.1 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions according to FIFA’s reports. This is equivalent to the emissions from around 456,500 cars over one year.
So how did FIFA aim to minimise the environmental impact of the 2019 WWC?
For each of its World Cups, FIFA outlines a “Sustainability Strategy” prior to the tournament, and has committed to measuring the related emissions throughout the organisation and duration of the event in order to offset the carbon emissions. The 2019 Women’s World Cup highlighted three key areas in its Sustainability Strategy:
- Biodiversity: minimising the impact on the natural environments as a result of the event
- Waste management: reducing, reusing, or recycling waste resulting from the event
- Climate change: encouraging sustainable transport use, eliminating water and energy wastage, and promoting renewable energy usage
The jury is still out on how well FIFA achieved its environmental sustainability objectives for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but it is essential that sustainable practices become engrained in all aspects modern life – be it individuals cycling or walking instead of driving, or international organisations switching to renewable energy and offsetting unavoidable emissions – especially for high-impact mega-events.
We are at risk of losing the world we rely on to practice the sports and activities we love, and the time for action is now.