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The Road to a Carbon Neutral FIFA World Cup

As one of the most significant events in sports, the FIFA World Cup attracts millions of fans and generates a significant carbon footprint. However, the world is becoming more environmentally conscious, and there are increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions in all industries. In this blog post, we’ll explore whether it’s possible to have a carbon neutral FIFA World Cup.

The Carbon Footprint of the FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is a massive event, with millions of people attending games, traveling to host cities, and consuming resources. As a result, the carbon footprint of the event is significant. According to estimates, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia produced over 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Despite claims by FIFA that the 2022 world cup would be fully carbon-neutral, the reality was quite different. The environmental nonprofit Carbon Market Watch estimated the event to be the most polluting sporting event of recent times, emitting 5.03 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). Image credit: Md Shaifuzzaman Ayon

Understanding Carbon Neutrality

Before we dive into whether a carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup is possible, we need to understand what carbon neutrality means. Being carbon-neutral means that an activity or event has zero net carbon emissions. This is achieved by balancing the amount of carbon emitted with an equal amount of carbon removed or offset.

Most mega sporting events are carbon disasters. The goal of a carbon-neutral Olympic event would only be possible after the event has already occurred, through carbon offsetting schemes. Unfortunately, these schemes are themselves notorious for being ineffectual. Image credit: fotdmike on

Steps Toward a Carbon Neutral FIFA World Cup

There are several steps that FIFA and host countries can take to work towards a carbon-neutral World Cup.

  1. Sustainable Stadiums and Infrastructure

One of the most significant sources of carbon emissions during a World Cup is the construction of new stadiums and infrastructure. By building sustainable stadiums and infrastructure, such as using renewable energy and sustainable building materials, the carbon footprint of the event can be reduced.

  1. Renewable Energy

Using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the World Cup. Host countries can invest in renewable energy sources to power stadiums, transportation systems, and other event-related infrastructure.

  1. Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting involves investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions to offset the emissions generated by the World Cup. For example, host countries could invest in reforestation projects or renewable energy projects to offset the carbon emissions of the event.

“UN Environment supports carbon offsets as a temporary measure leading up to 2030, and a tool for speeding up climate action. However, it is not a silver bullet, and the danger is that it can lead to complacency.” – UN Environment climate specialist Niklas Hagelberg.

The Possibility of a Carbon Neutral FIFA World Cup

While it may be challenging to achieve a completely carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup, significant progress can be made by taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and invest in carbon offsetting projects. By building sustainable stadiums, investing in renewable energy, and offsetting carbon emissions, FIFA and host countries can work towards a more environmentally friendly event.

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