Authorities of the 2018 World Cup, held in Russia from June 14th to July 15th, worry about the event’s environmental impact. FIFA, soccer's highest governing body and the tournament organizer, has made official two significant measures to make the World Cup a more sustainable event.
For the first time, the entity demanded that all 12 World Cup stadiums be green certified. FIFA has also developed a carbon offset program to reduce the effects of CO² (equivalent carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas) resulting from the event. Sources estimate that 2.1 million tons of these gases will be emitted - less than the 2.7 million tons produced in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup.
The Russian World Cup was the first of the 21 World Cup editions in which all stadiums received a sustainable building seal. "Stadiums are fundamental in our efforts to organize a more sustainable FIFA World Cup, which is why the organization has made green certification mandatory for all arenas used in the event," said Federico Addiechi, FIFA's Sustainability and Diversity Director.
It is a very sharp measure from FIFA concerning sustainable construction, but not the first. At the 2011 Women's World Cup, the government urged the arenas in Germany to implement environmental measures. There was an average investment of €700,000 per arena, whereas the economy on water and energy efficiency hit the €300,000 yearly thanks to the innovations. In the 2014 World Cup, there was also an incentive for the arenas to present sustainable solutions. The most successful case was the installation of a 2.5 MW solar panel at the Mané Garrincha National Stadium, in Brasilia.
In Russia, investments in sustainability focus on reducing carbon emissions, in addition to water and energy efficiency. Five stadiums have been awarded the Breeam (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) certification since January. By the end of the event, every stadium will be certified. The assessment takes into account the environmental building standard, energy efficiency measures including metal halide lamps, LED lighting with motion detectors and rainwater harvesting and reuse systems.
According to FIFA, construction of the 12 stadiums and the temporary facilities of the Fan Fests - events by the host city that gather fans to watch the matches on a big screen - produced around 92,000 tons of CO². The entity is concerned with making the investments on financial, human and environmental resources useful: in their Sustainable Stadium Policy, FIFA has demanded the presentation of projects for the future uses of the facilities. The goal is that installations do not become "white elephants".
Still, the World Cup organization faces criticism about its sustainable policy. Environmentalists point out that they lacked care in choosing the sites for the arenas. The most mentioned example is the stadium of the city of Kaliningrad, built on a delta river area which is also a fountain for birds. "If Russia were careful about protecting the environment, the region could become a reserve or a national park within the city," environmentalist Alexandra Korolyova told ABC.
Carbon offsetting program
FIFA's sustainability report produced for the World Cup in Brazil records the emission of 2.72 million tons of CO² related to the event. The entity's Sustainability Strategy for the Russian Cup projects the emission of 2.17 million tons of CO². Considering this amount, 98.6% refers to indirect emissions, while 75% originates in international trips and local displacement of tourists within the country.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association has launched a campaign to encourage fans who have already bought their tickets to offset their carbon footprint: anyone joining the program supports United Nations (UN) compensation initiatives and enters a prize draw to win two tickets for the World Cup final. According to FIFA, each tourist represents an impact of 2.9 tons of CO² on the event's carbon footprint. Critics, however, regret that the scheme is limited to only 100,000 CO² - that is, it would only account for the emissions of 34,500 fans - out of 3 million viewers.
The organization also pledged to offset all emissions considered "unavoidable" and operationally controlled, which is an amount of 243,000 CO², or 11.2% of total emissions. All of this effort by FIFA is the result of the signing of the global agreement on climate change, which aims to make the World Cup a carbon neutral event, with 100% of neutralized emissions by 2050.