Leading sports organizations are stepping up climate action and working with the UN to make sports more sustainable.
At a meeting in Bonn this week, sport representatives agreed to work with UN Climate Change to help achieve the key goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which is to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to build greater resilience to climate change.
Sports and leisure activities - from skiing to sailing and from cricket and athletics - are impacted by rising global temperatures and more extreme weather events.
At the same time, the sports events often have high carbon footprints, for example from the travel of large numbers of peoples to key events. Such events need involve offsetting and sustainable catering and waste management in order to be climate-friendly.
Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said:
“Sport is about achieving ones best. We need to harness this passion to bring about change.”
She also highlighted the fact that sports engages a broad cross-section of society and that sportspeople and sports organizations have significant public and community trust.
“This trust and engagement provides an opportunity for awareness raising and for moral leadership,” she said.
UN Climate Change will work with the sports sector on a number of issues, including on measuring and reducing the direct impacts of sports events and other activities in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Furthermore, they will work to better understand the precise impact of climate change on sports and leisure activities and to find ways to increase the communication and public awareness potential of the sector in driving broader and deeper engagement on climate action around the world.
There are some shining examples of sports climate action which have already been celebrated by the UN and other organizations.
For example, FIFA has labelled the UK football team Forest Green Rovers the greenest football club in the world.
Dale Vince is Chairman of Forest Green Rovers. He believes in the capacity of a club to reach its members and fans with clear messages and examples of how they can reduce most of their climate footprint - notably energy, transport and food.
“Our main role is not to lecture, but to show in practical terms what is possible,” he said.
Dale Vince’s club initially faced some resistance for example when it started offering vegan food to fans as part of its sustainability drive.
Meanwhile, the club uses its “greenest football club” label as a marketing asset, and reaches an estimated 1.3 billion in 20 countries.
The organizations working with UN Climate Change on the greater sustainability of sports are: French Ministry of Cities and Sport, Formula E, Philadelphia Eagles, International Labour Organisation, BBC, Earth2Ocean, Green Sports Alliance (USA and Japan), Seattle University, Roland Garros, Golf Environment Organisation, World Rugby, Council for Responsible Sport, UEFA, The Football Association, FIA, San Francisco 49ers, NHL, Forest Green Rovers, DFB Bundesliga, VF Corporation, FIFA, GORD, WWF, Burston Marsteller, Change the Game, J. League Marketing Inc., the Climate Coalition and Papua New Guinea Office of Climate Change and Development.