First climate-neutral World Cup ever? Here’s a fact check

The 2022 FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Qatar on Sunday, has drawn the attention of human rights and environmental groups worldwide. One claim by the host country is that the event is the first-ever carbon neutral World Cup. But is it? Mint checks the promise:

Why is the World Cup in Qatar under scrutiny?

Concerns surfaced much earlier when Fifa chose Qatar to host 2022 12 years ago. Qatar has since received a lot of bad press, from allegations of bribery to host the tournament to human rights abuses by migrant workers brought in to help with preparations and the country’s record on gay rights. Another point of contention is the claim that the event will be carbon neutral, meaning it can offset all the carbon emitted as a result. Many environmental organizations have criticized this claim and accused the organizers of “greenwashing”.

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How will Qatar make the event sustainable?

Qatar’s approach to sustainability – reducing emissions as much as possible and then buying carbon credits to make up the difference – has received a lot of attention as the country has the highest carbon emissions per capita. With the help of Swiss carbon management company South Pole, the tournament organizers released a greenhouse gas footprint report for the event last year, showing that 3.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions are released during the preparation and duration of the tournament. This is higher than the estimated 2.17 million tonnes for Russia in 2018 and 2.72 million tonnes for Brazil in 2014.

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What emissions figures from Qatar are exaggerated?

Carbon Market Watch, an independent research group, found that building new stadiums has eight times the carbon footprint estimated by Fifa. Greenly, another organization, estimates the event’s total carbon emissions at 6 million tons. Greenly boss Alexis Normand told Bloomberg that the 2022 World Cup will be “the highest-emission ever”.

Have previous World Cups been greenwashed?

In a report, climate protection activist Greenpeace described Fifa’s claims of a carbon-neutral World Cup as likely greenwashing. But it is not the first time that the governing council has been accused of greenwashing. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, participants traveling to the country were encouraged to offset their carbon footprint through the United Nations-sponsored Climate Neutral Now programme. Climate experts have dubbed the initiative greenwashing because they found several fundamental flaws in the program.

Are the green efforts of the organizers in vain?

Bloomberg reported that Qatar plans to buy 1.8 million carbon offsets from the Global Carbon Council to offset emissions. The country has also engaged in renewable projects and pledged to track emissions from flights carrying fans to and from the event. A stadium is dismantled after use. Organizers of a major event who claim – and implement – environmentally friendly practices should be commended. The attention this tournament is bringing to its environmental impact should be a wake-up call for Fifa.

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