FIFA Climate Strategy builds on long-standing commitment to sustainability

5 Nov 2021

Earlier this week, FIFA presented its Climate Strategy at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland, taking a leading role in the world of sport by confirming its pledge to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change − Sports for Climate Action Framework

This includes a commitment to reduce football’s emissions and contribute to achieving the global goals with a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2040, as per the goals set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. 

But, what does ‘carbon neutrality’ exactly mean? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines net zero as a state where there is no incremental addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This means that once all avoidable emissions have been reduced, residual emissions have to be removed from the atmosphere. 

For organisations like FIFA, achieving its net-zero goals demands leadership and the collaboration of its internal functional areas and external stakeholders.

FIFA’s direct collaboration with the UNFCCC started in 2016, following Gianni Infantino’s election as president, when FIFA became the first and only sports federation to join their Climate Neutral Now campaign. 

In 2018, FIFA became a signatory of the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework, and FIFA’s commitment to protect its biodiversity and the climate became one of the key goals of the FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023.

But the dedication of FIFA to environmental matters has evolved with the issue over time, and has become a crucial part of its agenda for the last 15 years. 

In collaboration with local organising committees, FIFA has taken measures to reduce and offset the emissions associated with its competitions, such as sustainable stadium certification requirements, competition-wide recycling programmes, environmental training for workforce and service providers, sustainable operations workshops for stadium managers, free inter and intra-city public transport services for fans, and climate action campaigns for ticket holders. 

The main focus of FIFA’s carbon offsetting portfolios has been on certified projects located in the host countries of our tournaments, and supplemented by UN-certified emission reduction projects from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Waste is also an important environmental issue that FIFA has been addressing and reporting on for many years. For example, FIFA, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ LLC (Q22) are very much aware of the threat that waste poses to the environment and society, including plastic pollution and single-use products. 

The tournament organisers have committed not only to a carbon neutral but also a plastic neutral FIFA World Cup. This initiative includes raising awareness specifically about plastic pollution, developing specific plastic waste reduction plans and offsetting plastics used in the tournament by physically removing plastic waste from rivers and oceans. The amount recovered will be equivalent to the plastic waste generated from the hosting of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and will ensure the tournament is plastic neutral.

For future FIFA tournaments, FIFA’s bidding requirements mean that those countries considered for hosting must ensure they have stringent, robust measures in place to prioritise sustainability, including the development and implementation of climate protection programmes. 

This collaboration between FIFA and the hosts form part of FIFA’s strategy to adapt its iconic tournaments to climate change impacts and to reduce their associated carbon emissions. Earlier this year and together with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Qatar, FIFA published the carbon footprint of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and reconfirmed our joint pledge to make this next major tournament fully carbon neutral, including the fans.

The FIFA Climate Strategy builds on the steps taken to date and sets out still further measures to strengthen FIFA’s climate protection and environmental programme, and to help ensure that FIFA’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 becomes a reality.

Looking ahead, the following three key goals outline the game plan for FIFA’s climate action work for the coming decades:

  1. Make the organisation ready for climate action

  2. Protect the iconic tournaments from the negative impacts of climate change

  3. Ensure climate-resilient football development