Connecting COP28 Outcomes To Sport
COP28 has ended with agreement. For the first time there is a text signed by 200 global leaders that talks of “transition away from” fossil fuels. Not “phaseout” or “phase-down,” as the text had started out and that many wanted, but a big deal.
There is a lot to process and digest, so a quick recap. It’s been a controversial edition of the annual climate summit. Reports state that nearly 100,000 delegates registered for COP28, including 2,500 oil and gas lobbyists. There has been a lot of discourse surrounding Sultan Al Jaber’s presidency and some of his comments during the summit.
Sports were visible across the two-week summit, the highlight of which was the five-year anniversary of UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, which was launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. You can watch the recording of The Power of Sport for Climate Action anniversary event and see other sports-focussed events that happened during COP28 here.
Those events—whilst excellent—aren’t actually what I want to talk about here. Instead I want to explore the major themes within the summit negotiations, as they relate to sport’s journey to increase climate action.
Energy is probably the biggest theme at the COP due to the work to specifically get fossil fuels included in the Global Stocktake text. The final text “calls on parties, in a nationally determined manner” to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”
Action must follow—massive amounts of finance must be mobilized for developing countries to help make the energy transition possible—but the die is cast. Fossil fuels are on their way out. Over 100 countries also backed a COP28 pledge to triple clean energy by 2030.
So what can sport do when it comes to playing a role in supporting global governments in this effort? It can’t dismantle the $7 trillion currently given annually in subsidies to oil, coal and gas, but sport can:
- Not seek or accept sponsorship from or align with fossil fuel organizations or those who finance or underwrite fossil fuel exploration, extraction or distribution
- Increase renewable energy capacity at sports venues and training grounds
- Encourage fans and organizations in their ecosystem and supply chain to transition to renewable energy in their own homes and businesses
- Ensure facilities, buildings and venue are as energy efficient as possible
- Collect data on energy use and energy efficiency and disclose those through effective and clear reporting
Sustainable mobility was another big theme at COP28, with 60 global pledges to double green transport by 2030 including from Chile and Colombia. The sustainable land transport community also agreed to annually observe November 26 as World Sustainable Transport Day, which was launched by the UN General Assembly in 2023.
Sport turned out in force under the transport theme. FIA had official observer status for the first time and highlighted the potential of sustainable fuels, the future of powertrains and infrastructure, consumer engagement, as well as shared knowledge and innovation transfer between track and road.
Formula E led the charge on the importance of a sustainable future for motorsport and Mark Harper MP commended Formula E for demonstrating how high-performance racing and environmental responsibility can coexist and effectively advance the carbon agenda.
Envision Racing announced that Professor Ed Hawkins’ climate stripes will feature on their electric race car and kit from next season. The stripes will be integrated into the team’s Race Against Climate Change program, including International “Show Your Stripes” Day on 21st June 2024 (save the date).
Sport Can Support This Effort By:
- Changing competition schedules and locations to reduce travel distances, and make routes and timing more efficient, as quickly as possible
- Encourage and incentivise fans and participants to use active and green public transport options where possible
- Power team coaches and transport with sustainable fuels
- Put guardrails and processes in place to manage staff travel, prioritize videoconferencing where possible, and mandate modes and class of travel depending on need and distance
- Collect data on staff, organization and fan travel, and disclose through effective and clear reporting
Food and agriculture have become a larger focus at the annual COP in recent years. The COP28 UAE declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems and climate action was signed by nearly 160 countries.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization also released a “Global Roadmap” for countries to help guide them toward “zero hunger” (SDG2) while staying within the 1.5 degree Celsius target of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Addressing this challenge involves a range of solutions which are outlined in the report; from boosting soil health to increase productivity, educating consumers about food expiration dates and reducing consumption of foods with high carbon footprints such as dairy and beef.
What Can Sport Do To Play A Role In These Changes?
- Socialize the idea of eating less meat and dairy at sports events and in staff canteens by adding tasty plant-based options or having meat-free menus
- Use menus at sports events to educate fans on the carbon footprint of various menu items
- Use education programs and outreach to fans to help educate around food expiration dates to reduce waste
- Reduce food waste during the preparation of food for sports events and ensure any organic waste is used for energy or composted
- Platform athletes who are proponents of incorporating more plant based foods in their diet
These are not exhaustive ideas but encapsulate ways in which sport can take actions in line with government targets. Other themes at COP28 included nature, water, technology, youth, oceans, education and skills. I could write even more about the outcomes of these and how they can be applied to sport, but this is a good start.
The climate negotiations in Dubai may feel—physically and/or cognitively—a world away from sport to some. Somehow “apart” from the day-to-day grind and prioritization of working in professional and grassroots sport.
However, having the privilege of knowing so many incredible change makers in global sport, I am positive that sport will play a key role in achieving the targets in these crucial areas, as we transition to a cleaner, healthier and more just future.Read Full Article