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The World Cup may be great for planet soccer, but it isn’t so good for planet Earth.
FIFA says the 2014 tournament, which will require huge amounts of air travel to venues across Brazil, will produce the equivalent of 2.72 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
That means staging the monthlong tournament will produce as much carbon dioxide as 560,000 passenger cars do in one year, according to the greenhouse gas calculator on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s website.
In an effort to curb pollution, FIFA will finance such projects as tree planting trees, which help reduce carbon emissions. FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, Federico Addiechi, said in an interview that the ruling body will be spending several million dollars.
Teams, spectators, officials and others will have to crisscross the world’s fifth-largest country, mostly by air, because the 64 World Cup matches are scattered across 12 stadiums.
Fans will produce about 90 percent of World Cup carbon emissions, Addiechi said. The rest — about 251,000 tons — is directly from FIFA’s activities. That includes travel for teams, referees, FIFA officials, carbon produced by their hotels, the use of stadiums and other tournament-related activities.
“We’re going to offset 100 percent of those emissions,” Addiechi said.
That could be done by financing reforestation in Brazil, wind farms, hydroelectric plants or other projects. The projects will be announced next year. Addiechi said they will cost FIFA about $2.5 million, which is still just a fraction of the billions expected in World Cup revenue.
A FIFA-commissioned study breaks down World Cup emissions like this:
- 213,706 tons from the Confederations Cup tournament in June.
- 38,048 tons from other preparations, including last week’s draw, which required more than 3,000 guests and journalists to trek to a huge tent erected at a remote beach resort on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. That draw alone produced an estimated 5,221 tons of carbon. “Although it could have been more sustainable, this trip to Brazil this time, at least we are going to offset it,” Addiechi said.
- 2.47 million tons from the World Cup next June and July, for a total of 2.72 million tons.
“If you compare this to the emissions of other industries, it is nothing,” Addiechi said.
The Ford Motor Co. calculates that its plants around the world emitted 5.1 million tons of carbon in 2012.
The EPA calculates that the average American home emits 20 tons per year and that the United States’ coal-burning power plants each produce about 3.5 million tons annually.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa also required large amount of travel, as will the 2018 edition in Russia.
“We need to develop the game of football, that means that people are traveling around the world,” Addiechi said. “Otherwise we have to stop doing what we are doing and I don’t think that’s in everyone’s interests.”
Within FIFA, he said he acts as its environmental watchdog, asking such questions as: “‘Do we really need this? Do we really need such a big tent? Do we really need to go there?'”
“Those are my arguments,” he said. “But there are other arguments and we need to accept that they are sometimes as important as the environmental and social ones.”
For the 2014 World Cup, FIFA plans to encourage fans to think about their emissions by offering to offset some of them. Ticketholders will get an email in March or April. For those that sign up, FIFA will pay to offset half of the carbon produced by their flights.
“This is as far as anybody in the world of sports has gone,” Addiechi said. “It’s going to cost 20 bucks per fan, probably.”
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