Euro 2024 may force German football to get serious on climate - expert
[Also read the CLEW article Sustainability concept bolsters Germany’s football Euro 2024 bid on this topic.]
Clean Energy Wire: Hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of Europe will travel to the stadiums during the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship, causing huge amounts of CO₂ emissions. Are major sporting events, such as the Euro 2024, and climate protection incompatible?
Ralf Roth: Of course, considerable amounts of CO₂ are produced at all major international events, including the Oktoberfest, which is currently taking place in Munich. From a scientific point of view, climate protection and the Euro 2024 would be compatible if the international arrivals and departures – almost exclusively flight emissions – were voluntarily offset through climate compensation by the polluters. Then there are the national climate protection measures in the stadiums, in accommodation and in public transport. UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] called on all participating countries to offset their greenhouse gas emissions themselves for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. One-third of the countries agreed. This personal responsibility also applies to the guests.
What are the biggest energy and climate problems at major sporting events such as the European Football Championship?
It is basically air traffic, accommodation and individual traffic. Over 85 percent of emissions are caused here.
The German Football Association (DFB) has enclosed a sustainability concept with its bid for the UEFA Euro 2024, which was not required. Do you regard this as a serious effort to ensure the sustainable organisation of this major sporting event?
It is at least a renewed approach by the DFB to tackle the topic of sustainability after the Green Goal [environmental concept for the FIFA World Cup 2006]. A cooperative participation process was chosen to develop the concept. It is noticeable that the social dimensions – compliance, integration and SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] – carry strong weight. This is typical for an international application.
Now, there are many good ideas in the sustainability concept. Unfortunately, essential building blocks for the binding operationalisation of ideas are still missing in almost all relevant subject areas. To my knowledge, there are still no guarantees of implementation and no concrete goals for action. So, awarding the Euro 2024 to Germany could obligate the DFB and the host cities to actually implement a sustainability strategy. For example, the DFB currently has no full-time contact person or structures for environment and sustainable development. Other associations are further along in this respect.
What advantage could Germany, as the potential organiser of the Euro 2024, have over other countries in terms of energy and climate?
The basic infrastructure – stadiums and transport infrastructure – is already in place at a high standard and the operators and cities have the relevant experience and structures to organise major events in a sustainable way. All stadiums already operate energy-efficient in order to be profitable. The DFB’s concept fits in with current political programmes and national climate policy. In addition, German industry and research can provide the necessary technological expertise and possibly other support.
Have the fans' expectations changed over the years with regard to topics such as sustainability, climate protection and energy consumption at matches and major events?
According to our knowledge, the guests, fans and visitors expect the organisers to fulfil their tasks in these areas. At Euro 2024, this concerns the individual venues and stadiums. In essence, it remains a football experience.
Can sport also be a good vehicle to make sustainability and climate protection more tangible?
Without question, sport would have the power to bring these issues into society through its images, actors and members. There are many examples of this. What is important is credibility, commitment and goal-oriented action. Sport must lead the way with good examples in all relevant areas of sustainability. Simply submitting concepts for applications for major events will not be enough. Sustainability requires permanent and consistent action.
In its concept, the DFB proposes the introduction of a sports climate fund to promote projects in local sports clubs. What do you think of such a proposal? Is something similar already in place?
The idea originated in the Hamburg 2024 Olympic bid. The aim is to offset the greenhouse gas emissions caused by sports activities in Germany with climate protection measures within the sports sector. Clubs must apply for the funds and use these to finance climate protection measures in their facilities. The focus is on sports facilities, since increasing energy efficiency not only reduces costs but also saves emissions. These savings in greenhouse gas emissions benefit the national climate balance and thus the achievement of political goals. The club transfers the saved emissions to the fund. It is important to make it clear that possible projects within the framework of the climate protection fund cannot be regarded and counted as real compensation. But it is an excellent opportunity to involve the clubs directly in the sustainability strategy of major sporting events. However, I’m lacking faith that this will be tackled.