World Cup in Qatar received a “Greenwashing Award” for carbon neutrality claims

The upcoming World Cup in Qatar was already one human rights disaster, as the rapid construction of multiple stadiums has caused the reported deaths of 6,750 migrant workers since 2010, when FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar. And there’s another controversial issue that football fans have to grapple with: its devastating impact on the environment.

Wherever they take place, World Cups generally generate high emissions due to the construction of stadiums, hotels and upgraded infrastructure, as well as the air travel of football teams and millions of spectators from around the world. But Qatar claims its November tournament will be the first carbon-neutral World Cup. In response, an anti-carbon advertising campaign has cast a tongue-in-cheek slant on the organizers of this year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup bad sport award Because of its greenwashing. The campaign calls Qatar’s claims dubious, questions its offset programs and criticizes its fossil fuel sponsors.

Operated by British think tank New Weather Institute, Bad publicity is a campaign against the promotion of fossil fuels and other high-carbon projects. According to Freddie Daley, a research fellow at the Center for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex, emphasis has recently begun to be placed on how these are promoted in sports advertising, which can be even more effective given the emotional connection fans have with their teams.

The New Weather Institute’s inaugural Bad Sports Awards is one way to “make.” [entities] look silly as they are,” says Daley, who is also involved with the badvertising campaign. The New Weather Institute received nominations from around the world – from ice hockey franchises in North America to rugby teams in Australia. But the jury, which included climate scientists and lawyers, decided to give the most prestigious award – overall winner of the Bad Sports Awards for Greenwash and Sportswash – to FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the body responsible for infrastructure and expiration the event.

Greenwashing, where companies overstate or mislead their sustainability credentials or commitments, is rampant across all industries. Sports washing, on the other hand, is when companies (or countries) try to use sports to improve a tarnished reputation.

qatars—and FIFA’s– reputation has rightly faltered due to human rights violations. In the run-up to the World Cup, the country had hired 2 million migrant workers from countries like India and Bangladesh; Nearly 7,000 reportedly died. Not to mention that Qatar has a record of discrimination, including against gay people; LGBTQ fans have been warned to exercise caution when traveling to the event.

It’s effective for malicious entities to wash sports because sports are so universally fun – especially the World Cup, which is expected to have 5 billion viewers this year, which is almost two-thirds of the world’s population. And those millions of viewers might think they’re watching a sustainable World Cup because Qatar has claimed it will be carbon neutral. It’s the “biggest stage in world football,” says Daley. “People live for it. To the [Qatar] to say, ‘We have this emissions thing under control’ is really damaging.”

The ads shown to the billions of viewers will only reinforce this cognitive dissonance. Official sponsors include state-owned QatarEnergy, which will spend $56 billion on expanding gas fields. It is also responsible for the North Dome gas field, which stretches from Qatar to Iran – and is almost the size of all existing gas fields combined. Other high emissions sponsors include Qatar Airways and Hyundai.

In addition to the ads, the infrastructure for hosting a World Cup is incredibly polluting, making claims of carbon neutrality all but unthinkable. Qatar’s Supreme Committee has built seven new stadiums, along with airports, railways, highways and accommodation, at a total cost of around US$220 billion. The country also did not take into account the trips of around 1.2 million supporters in its accounting Expansion of flight services by about 75% in November and December, including Qatar Airways tripling between Sao Paulo and fivefold between Madrid.

The country has announced ways it will offset its carbon emissions from hosting the World Cup, most notably through a carbon credit marketplace that will invest in renewable projects. but a may report from Carbon Market Watch, which outlines why Qatar is not on track to achieve carbon neutrality, says it would need to buy 3.6 million or more credits to offset all emissions. (It is estimated that the country will emit 3.63 million tons of pollutants in the preparation and hosting of the World Cup.)

Qatar has also built the world’s largest tree and lawn nursery in the desert, a “carbon sink” to soak up and sequester atmospheric carbon. But the report says it will be 200 to 300 years before peat farming really mitigates carbon in any way.

Via email, a spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee confirmed that they still believe the World Cup will be carbon neutral and pointed to other ways to achieve this: The small country does not require fans to take domestic flights, as is traditionally the case at World Cups. Travel will rely on a subway system and 800 new electric buses; and they built an 800-megawatt solar power plant that will live on well beyond the tournament.

They also promoted the carbon credits, saying they have now secured at least 1.5 million credits, adding that any offset discrepancies will be filled in once the tournament is over. The spokesman dismissed criticism, saying Qatar’s move to “proactively offset carbon emissions. . . should be acknowledged rather than criticized.”

Still, outside groups have their doubts. Daley says the aim of the awards is to raise awareness of the polluters, comparing them to the original sports scrubbers: Big Tobacco, which used to advertise heavily at sporting events until public perception changed and advertising regulations tightened. World Cup hosts and FIFA itself could certainly reconsider advertising from fossil fuel-related companies.

But apart from all the sponsorships, it’s difficult to set up a sustainable World Cup; Emissions from past tournaments averaged 2 million tons. “Elite sport, it’s fundamentally unsustainable,” says Daley. But Qatar’s false claims are making the situation worse. “They remain unchallenged and use this framework for future tournaments,” says Daley. If future hosts continue to make the same claims, there will be no ecological progress.

At its inaugural awards ceremony, Badvertising also presented other awards including Premier League powerhouse Manchester City. The team have encouraged fans to recycle their bottles at the stadium in exchange for airline points with their sponsor Etihad Airways, a huge carbon emitter. A return flight from Manchester to Dubai, where Etihad is based, emits around 1.8 tonnes of emissions.

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