With the 2010 Soccer World Cup just days away and with the world’s eye focused on South Africa, we decided to take an exciting departure for our publication to examine the environmental impacts of the tournament.
Despite FIFA’s goal of being “climate-neutral” and their efforts to create Green Goal Programme, without counting the impact of international travel, the overall carbon impact of the 2010 tournament is estimated to be eight times that of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and more than twice that of the Beijing Olympics.
According to the “Feasibility Study for a Carbon Neutral 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa” prepared by Econ Pöyry AB with support of Norwegian government, the tournament will produce an estimated carbon footprint of 2,753,250 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). That will mean that the 2010 World Cup will have the largest carbon footprint of any major international sporting event where a carbon footprint was recently calculated.
This massive footprint is, by and large, a consequence of the dramatic distances to be traveled by the majority of the international spectators. Since almost all international visitors will be flying into South Africa, international transport will account for 67% (or 1.86 million tons of CO2-e) of the entire carbon footprint of the tournament. The remaining 33% of emissions (or nearly 900 thousand tons of CO2-e) will come mostly from inter-city transport and energy use in accommodation, as well as stadium construction and materials, and stadium and precinct energy use.
According to the Econ Pöyry report, when compared to the 2006 World Cup event, a large chunk of the domestic carbon footprint is due to the greater distances between venues in South Africa and lack of high speed rail connections between cities that will host them. As a result, most visitors will have to fly between matches, thus leading to much higher transport emissions. Within cities, visitors will have to rely much more on buses and cars, instead of the cleaner light rail, also leading to higher emissions.
Despite the ecological impact of the tournament, organizers, teams, NGOs and certain countries, are attempting to offset the carbon footprint through various programs. The cost of these efforts, as the Econ Pöyry report estimates, will range from $5.4 and 9 million for domestic carbon footprint and would be double that for offsetting the international travel impact. It not entirely clear, however, how much has already been spent by the tournament organizers, countries or NGOs.
Nevertheless, at GMO Journal we cheer the green initiatives established in anticipation of the tournament.
For example, in November 2009, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), together with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Host Cities, launched the national ‘Greening 2010′ framework designed to reduce the environmental footprint of the event.
A number of host cities in South Africa also announced major projects in support of the FIFA’s Green Goal initiatives focusing on cleaning up and recycling waste, reusable energy, efficient transport, water conservation, protection of biodiversity, and responsible tourism before, during and after the event.
Furthermore, according to South African Tourism bureau, all South African host cities have developed greening 2010 plans. Johannesburg, Cape Town, Soweto, and Durban have planted hundreds and thousands of trees and created new green spaces.
The city of Durban launched a landmark project to convert methane gas produced from household wastes at landfills into electricity. Similarly, many solar and wind energy projects have been announced or completed in recent years, spurred by the Green Goal commitment to use green energy to power sport venues during the tournament and by the increasing clean energy demands from within the country.
Over 1,200 recycling bins were installed in Cape Town and in the airports of host cities for the games with plans for tens of thousands of such bins to be installed around the country over the next few years.
Additionally, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has provided $1 million to help retrofit solar panels on public street lights, traffic lights and billboards around stadiums in the six cities hosting the games.
Just this Monday, in a PR Newswire press release, Soil & More announced that “over half the nations that qualified for the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa have pledged to offset their CO2 emissions, for example, by supporting an organic compost project set up by Eosta’s sister company Soil & More Reliance in South Africa.” The press release also named 17 teams supporting this initiative, including powerhouses such as Brazil, Argentina, Italy, England, as well as teams from USA, The Netherlands, Japan, Chile, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, New Zealand, Greece, Nigeria, Serbia, South Korea, Uruguay and the host country South Africa.
Some corporate sponsors have also stepped up their greening efforts to gain greater visibility.
Nike, for example, confirmed that many of the world’s leading players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Robinho and Ji-Sung Park will take to the pitch in South Africa this summer wearing the most environmentally-friendly and technologically-advanced kit in football’s history. For the first time, all of Nike’s national teams, including Brazil, Portugal and The Netherlands, will be wearing jerseys made entirely from recycled polyester, each one produced from up to eight recycled plastic bottles. The recycled bottles used to manufacture the jerseys are said to cover over 3,000 kilometers (1864 miles) when laid end-to-end, spanning longer than the entire coastline of South Africa.
Coca-Cola, another familiar World Cup sponsor, is set to give away 20,000 tournament tickets to schools that took part in an innovative competition that promotes environmental awareness. Students were encouraged to collect bottles and cans for recycling and a total of 200 schools will be rewarded with World Cup tickets. A pilot program with just two schools during the Confederations Cup has collected nearly 68 thousand plastic bottles within a month.
There are also greening efforts at the local level all across South Africa aimed at improving environmental conditions in slums, beautify neighborhoods and clean up polluted dumps to prepare the nation for the influx of foreign fans.
These efforts, big and small, will have a lasting positive ecological and economic legacy on South Africa. Most importantly, they focus the world’s attention on changing the mindset of national, corporate and organizational responsibility towards the environment.
Now, let’s see some amazing soccer!