The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that started on November 20 has drawn some attention from environmental groups. The World Cup in Qatar is claimed to be the first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup hosted by a country.
Qatar, a country of 11,571 km, with a population of 29.3 lakh (2021), is much smaller than Manipur in terms of area and population.
Seven out of the eight venues are new stadiums costing $6.5 billion claimed to have been built according to ambitious eco-construction and eco-operating standards.
The Supreme Organizing Committee claims that 79 per cent of solid waste from stadium construction sites was either recycled or reused and the stadiums are all energy-efficient.
Almost for a month, 32 teams will represent, arguably the ‘holy grail’ of football tournaments.
In its 92-year history, every event pales in environmental costs. The 2016 Olympics in Rio emitted 4.5 million tons and the 2018 World Cup in Russia released more than 2 million tons of CO₂. Qatar will emit some 3.6 million tons of CO₂ that's roughly equal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's annual emissions.
Most of those greenhouse gases will come from flights, floodlights and accommodation for more than 2.45 million visitors, as well as on construction of new stadiums among other infrastructures. As many as 1300 flights will take off during the FIFA Cup daily.
Some 51 per cent of emissions will come from transport, including the shuttle flights set to ferry spectators into the desert city each day because of shortage of accommodation in Qatar, from neighboring countries, including Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Only about 200,000 of the planned 1.8 million tons of credits have been issued. They all come from renewable energy projects in Serbia, Turkey and India that are actually excluded from the global carbon market.
Water use is another problem which Qatar expected to increase by 80 per cent during this Cup amidst the country’s already water scarcity situation.
The tournament’s pristine pitches from North America and the 136 practice fields reportedly requires around 10,000 litres of water in winter and 50,000 litres in summer daily. Most of Qatar's fresh water comes from desalination plants using fossil fuels. The plants also release salty, hot brine that is toxic to marine life when back into the sea.
Waste is also another problem. About 60 per cent of the waste generated during the event will be recycled, while 40 per cent will be turned into energy. But burning waste for energy is the worst for the environment. While the carbon footprint of 64 soccer matches played over a single month’s time might appear trifling, to hoodwink people while instead doing little.
Annual carbon footprint of English Premier League players, estimated at 29 tonnes of CO₂ which is nearly three times the annual carbon footprint of UK citizens and far exceeds the global target of two tonnes per person, set to meet the commitments of COP21- Paris Agreement.
FIFA was one of the first international sports federations to commit to the United Nations for a Climate Action Framework by developing its own climate strategy.
FIFA has established several initiatives with three main objectives: 1) making soccer ready for climate action, 2) protecting iconic tournaments from the negative impacts of climate change and 3) ensuring the development of resilient soccer.
The World Cup is the world's most popular sporting event which has the highest emissions. Apart from the environmental impact, FIFA World Cup and ecology is not always obvious. Like any human activity, sport takes place in a physical environment. Thus, the World Cup can contribute a lot to protect the environment.
To this end, the FIFA World Cup’s ‘Green Goal’ needs to have more meaningful action for a green environment. FIFA countries should make maximum investments to improve environmental quality. Football players and Athletes are the most influential people on the planet who can act as ambassadors on a myriad of social causes, including the environment.
It is important to note that all aspects of sports should be linked with the natural environment. Therefore, with the development of sports, including football, we should improve and safeguard our environment for a greener and more beautiful planet.
(The views expressed are personal)