Host Qatar’s World Cup ‘carbon neutral’ claims under fire

Most of the expected emissions from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar come from transport, infrastructure construction and housing

Most of the expected emissions from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar come from transport, infrastructure construction and housing.

Organizers have promised a carbon-neutral World Cup next month in Qatar, but environmental groups warn the tournament will be far more polluting than announced.

Qatar 2022 Secretary-General Hassan al-Thawadi said organizers will achieve net-zero emissions for the tournament as a whole “by measuring, mitigating and offsetting all of our greenhouse gas emissions”.

However, this promise failed to convince skeptics. Former Manchester United ace Eric Cantona recently criticized what he called an “environmental deviation”, pointing to the carbon footprint of eight air-conditioned stadiums.

Greenpeace Middle East program director Julien Jreissati has accused organizers of “window dressing” and insisted that claims of the tournament’s net-zero emissions “could be viewed as greenwashing/sportswashing”.

Gilles Dufrasne, a researcher for Carbon Market Watch and author of a report on Qatar’s 2022 carbon footprint, said that the claims of carbon neutrality were “misleading and dishonest about the actual climate impact of the event.”

Organizers of football’s marquee event said it will generate 3.6 million tons of CO2 Equivalent, compared to 2.1 million generated by the previous edition in Russia in 2018.

The vast majority of these emissions, about 95 percent, are indirectly due to things like transport, infrastructure construction, and housing.

But Carbon Market Watch says the hosts’ estimate is incomplete. It states that Qatar, for example, underestimated the footprint of the construction of eight new stadiums by a factor of eight and generated 1.6 million tons of CO2 instead of the specified 200,000 tons.

Some of these differences can be explained methodologically. Qatar anticipates that most of the new stadiums will be used long after the tournament is over, meaning their environmental impact should not be tied specifically to an event.

Carbon Market Watch disagrees, pointing out that relying on the continued use of eight massive sports venues in a country of just 2.4 million people is risky.

“Big mistake”

Contrary to popular belief, stadium air conditioning in Qatar is expected to make only a minimal contribution to the tournament’s climate impact.

“Compared to total emissions from stadium construction or aviation, that’s relatively small,” Dufrasne said.

Given the massive amount of infrastructure Qatar had to build to host the world’s biggest sporting event, some experts believe the tiny Gulf nation was destined to struggle to keep emissions down.

“The big mistake was made in December 2010 when the World Cup was not awarded to a country that already had all the infrastructure,” said Giles Pache, a logistics specialist at France’s University of Aix-Marseille, referring to the United States , the missed the FIFA vote for Qatar.

“In Qatar we started from scratch and hosted a global event built on sand,” Pache said.

“The US was really well resourced” in terms of stadiums and hotels, he said.

In order to achieve carbon neutrality, the tournament organizers have promised that emissions will be offset in the form of carbon credits. These theoretically balance out the emissions that result from cutting emissions in other parts of the world.

The organizers are working with Qatar on renewable energy projects in Turkey as part of this programme.

Jreissati said those carbon credits are a “distraction.”

“They give the impression that a solution is possible that does not require efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through ambitious political decisions,” he said.

“We need to reduce emissions at source as quickly as possible.”

For future tournaments, Dufrasne said he hopes for “systemic reflection” in organizing world championships.

This could include extending the gaps between tournaments or hosting global versions of the event.

“Have matches around the world and play in stadiums closest to the two teams playing,” he suggested.

Hot air? Qatar claims stadium cooling is not an environmental risk

© 2022 AFP

Citation: Host World Cup Qatar ‘carbon neutrality’ claims under fire (2022, October 19) retrieved October 19, 2022 from cup-carbon.html

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