COP26: FIFA sign new UN climate targets for sport despite proposing a two-year World Cup

France players celebrate celebrating World Cup in 2018
Football’s biggest tournaments will now be held under the auspices of strict climate targets

The World Cup’s governing body, FIFA, has accepted new climate goals at the COP26 climate conference, despite considering plans for a two-year World Cup.

The targets were unveiled as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and include achieving net zero in 2040 and a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.

Other signatories include the International Olympic Committee, the Premier League, BBC Sport and Formula E.

Net zero is when a company or country achieves an overall balance between the amount of carbon it emits and the carbon it removes from the atmosphere.

The European football governing body Uefa has also signed the overall goals, but together with Formula 1 it is not on the list of organizations that join the UN’s existing Race to Zero campaignexternal link, a coalition of leading net-zero initiatives.

This summer, Uefa faced criticism for the planning of Euro 2020 in 11 countries and the introduction of the Europa Conference League this season increased the number of continental club group matches by 20%.

This was part of a growing feeling in football certain organizations and actions were contrary to the principles they had signed.

Fifa is considering proposals to host a World Cup every two years, but has also planned an expansion to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament in the US and Canada – both of which will guarantee an increase in CO2 emissions.

But Fifa president Gianni Infantino stressed his organization’s commitment to the UN’s zero goal, including for future tournaments.

“Climate change is affecting the lives of entire communities,” he said. “Football is not immune to significant changes around the world where grassroots and elite football are affected.

“Our climate strategy outlines our plan to protect our planet and beautiful wildlife by reducing emissions and tackling climate change.”

When he signed up for the Race to Zero campaign, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League is demonstrating its commitment to a more sustainable future.

“Like all sports, football has the power to unite people, and we hope that through our work and public commitment to climate change, we will also encourage football fans around the world to consider how they can reduce their own CO2 footprint.”

What has been promised?

That Sports for Climate Action Frameworkexternal link was launched three years ago in Poland, but had no specific objectives, but instead committed signatories to five key principles, including reducing the overall climate impact and promoting greater environmental responsibility.

This reflected the approach to the broader challenge of getting stakeholders to the negotiating table, and it was therefore not based on transparency or accountability.

Wednesday’s announcement means that all signatories of the original framework will have to commit again – and as part of the commitment, they agree to present plans for concrete actions they will take to achieve the goals, and to report annually on the overall progress.

A 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030
Net zero in 2040
Annual reporting of progress and footprint data

The promise was made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, where a number of leading figures discuss the role of sport in supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement, an international climate agreement signed in December 2015.

Patricia Espinosa, UN Secretary-General for Climate Change, said: “Since we launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework, more than 280 sports organizations have committed themselves to the overarching goal of bringing sport into line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The sector eagerly took up the challenge, but also told us they want to do more and do it faster.”

The IOC was among the first to sign the new measures, and President Thomas Bach said last week: “The climate crisis is without a doubt the greatest challenge facing humanity.

“By further reducing our CO2 emissions, we are strengthening our contribution to the realization of the Paris Agreement, following the latest science on climate change and contributing better to this global effort.

“We urge all other sports organizations to follow suit.”

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