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Football for Climate Action: Learning COP 26  

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In recent years extreme weather events have had significant impacts on major sporting events across the world, with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Tokyo Olympics among the latest examples.  

 But while some parts of the world are only just beginning to see the realities of climate change through these events, in the Pacific region they are more visible and the consequences extend far beyond sport.  

At this month’s Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland the Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, said the situation was “our point of no return”, while Kausea Natano, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, asked this chilling question in regards to rising sea levels, “will Tuvalu remain a Member State of the United Nations if it is finally submerged?”.   

Prime Minister of Fiji Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama – whose nation is one of few to legislate a net-carbon zero emissions target, as they look to relocate up to 75 communities inland to escape rising seas – said the voices of small island developing states must be heard if the world is to build back greener, bluer and better. 

COP 26 has seen a number of positive developments as governments submit ambitious national determined contributions (NDCs) that aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and see emissions halved by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.   

This year the sport sector has joined this rally cry with a number of sport-focussed events featuring inspirational strategies for change.  

This has included innovative and climate-focussed sports bodies like Forest Green Rovers and Sail GP adapting their delivery models to reduce impact, alongside powerful messages from athlete advocates calling for change, such as this video produced by more than 50 Olympians and Paralympians calling on world leaders to deliver climate action.  

Football has been leading the charge and at COP 26 FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, confirmed the pledge to UNFCC Sports for Climate Action Framework, which includes the commitment to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2040.  

It is all part of the new FIFA Climate Strategy also launched this month, which outlines four pillars of activity including: 

  • Educating the global workforce on climate-related impacts and climate-friendly solutions.  
  • Adapting football regulations and activities to be more resilient to current and anticipated impacts of climate change. 
  • Reducing carbon emissions of FIFA and football to contribute to the Paris Agreement and the Sports for Climate Action Framework. 
  • Supporting and investing in key stakeholders with access to know how to tackle the impacts of climate change.  

OFC Head of Social Responsibility Michael Armstrong said at COP 26 Pacific Island leaders have demanded action, not excuses, and in many ways the sport sector can be seen to be living up to this request. 

“It is encouraging to see so many sports evolving toward reduced climate impact and using their platform to advocate for further change,” Armstrong said.  

“The global and local football networks provide a great opportunity to advance this work through engagement with international experts, local knowledge and a mobilised youth.  

“FIFA presents a useful model and resource to drive change toward three important goals, including making our organisations ready for climate action, protecting tournaments from the negative impact of climate change and ensuring climate-resilient football development. 

“The momentum of our sport and our region is on our side for OFC to drive forward with tangible action to support football and our communities in the face of our greatest ever challenge.   

“OFC has been leading work to support our communities in the face of the increased frequency of extreme weather events brought about by climate change.  

“COP 26 and the FIFA framework provide a foundation for us to go further and ensure we are enhancing climate resilience and reducing our contributions to the current climate emergency.” 

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