It is that time of the year that everyone has been waiting for. You guessed it right – FIFA is finally taking place this year over 4 weeks in Qatar. This football championship is watched worldwide by several viewers of all age groups and who knows some of those children might just be FIFA football players of the next generation. However, despite all the celebrations and anticipations, no one has ever really given thought of how these large-scale sporting events affect the environment. From transportation to accommodation to human rights, every aspect comes under great scrutiny while trying to plan a huge event like this. So in a situation like FIFA 2022, the government of Qatar has come under immense pressure to try to keep this show sustainable.
The initial claim of the football matches being carbon neutral is now being second guessed as it loses its credibility with several reports being released and coming to notice. Even though the organisers have broken down the aim of having a carbon neutral tournament into 4 key processes – awareness, measurement, reduction, and offsetting – and have claimed to be progressing rapidly in all these areas, the Carbon Market Watch has stated that carbon emissions have been estimated to reach a new height than the original estimation by the organisers (3.6 million tonnes). Moreover, the offsetting schemes have now been proven to have a low level of environmental integrity. Officially speaking, Qatar stands first in 2022 to be the nation whose consumption of natural resources like fossil fuels has excessed the yearly planetary boundaries.
To address the main aspect of all the football matches are the pitches. A good and reliable pitch is the basis of every match and the most core element that needs to be maintained throughout those 4 weeks. However, the toll that the maintenance of these pitches takes on the environment is highly negative and not at all eco-friendly. All the pitches and training grounds have been air-conditioned for the last 3 months which means excessive waste of energy and has been sprayed with tonnes of litres of water which means immense waste of water. In over 144 fields, more than 8 stadiums and dozens of training pitches, chilled air was blasted to maintain the growth of the grass on the turf. As cool (pun intended) this sounds, the amount of harmful gases released by these air conditioners is extremely high and poisonous for the planet.
With lavishly constructed new stadiums being built in Qatar, this world cup is formally carbon heavy and is estimated to have 70% more carbon emissions than the last tournament in Russia. At the same time, significant effort has been made by builders to limit carbon impact of the new stadiums and infrastructure. One of the stadiums is made of shipping containers that can be dismantled and repurposed after the matches get done. Besides this, the mode of transportation in and around the city has also been switched to electric buses instead of fuel dependent vehicles.
This year let’s do something different. Instead of focussing on the matches, let’s see if we can figure out all those places where a more sustainable and environmental-friendly option could have been implemented and hasn’t been done yet. I am going to be watching these matches and spotting these errors. Let me know if you see something that you feel shouldn’t have been done and is unfair to the climate.