Reducing the World Cup carbon footprint

8 April 2010

First, the bad news: with an estimated carbon footprint of 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ will have the largest carbon footprint of any major international sporting event (nine times higher than the World Cup in Germany in 2006, and more than twice as high as the Beijing Olympics).

However, the hosts of the latest edition of the World Cup are not to blame for this. The problem is that South Africa is a long-haul destination, and most foreigners will be flying here for the month-long event.

The Project 2010 column: Craig Urquhart Even without the international travel, South Africa will emit around 900 000 tons domestically, partly because fans will have to fly between the far-flung host cities, and also because the country still relies on coal for most of its electricity.

With this is mind, the 2010 Local Organising Committee together with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and World Cup host cities launched the national Greening 2010 framework, aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the event.

Participants signed a pledge committing their support for Green Goal initiatives, which focus on the environmental aspects of waste, energy, transport, water, biodiversity and responsible tourism before and during the event.

A number of initiatives have been launched to address 2010-related environmental concerns.

Many of the world’s top players, including Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo will be wearing shirts made of plastic bottles at the World Cup. Nike has confirmed that shirts for the nine national teams it sponsors will be made from polyester recycled from used bottles retrieved from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites. The sports gear giant says they will keep players cooler and drier while reducing energy consumption in manufacture by 30%, compared with normal polyester.

Meanwhile, more than 1 200 rubbish bins with a soccer theme are being placed around South Africa’s main airports as part of a recycling project to promote the World Cup’s Green Goal campaign.

The bins, in the colours of the national flag (with lids resembling soccer balls), will help people separate their waste and facilitate recycling. The aim is to eventually have 100 000 of these bins throughout the country the next two years.

Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban have also planted thousands of trees to capture the carbon dioxide blamed for global warming.

And Fifa will soon be able to buy “green” electricity, produced by the Darling Wind Farm in the Western Cape, for the World Cup. This wind energy could also be used to illuminate Table Mountain and other city landmarks.

Durban is planning to compensate for local carbon emissions by producing electricity from hydraulic turbines or biogas emitted by landfills.

In other developments, South Africa’s electric car, the Joule, is in production in Port Elizabeth for use during the World Cup.

By ensuring that these and other offset projects are properly implemented, South Africa can do a great deal to counter the negative impact of staging the tournament so far from Europe and the Americas.

Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010