Yet another chance for sports actors to commit to limiting climate change

Achraf Hakimi

Paris Saint-Germain's Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi (left) and Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe take part in a training session on the eve of their UefaChampions League match against Juventus Turin in Saint-Germain-en-Laye outside Paris, on September 5, 2022.

Photo credit: Franck Fife | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Action Framework which aims to reduce carbon footprint from sporting activities. The aim is to organise sporting competitions with as little carbon footprint as possible.

Located between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea, the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is home to Kafr el-Sheikh Sporting Club which plays in the country’s second-tier football league.

But from November 7 to 18, Sharm el-Sheikh will be associated with something whose effects are intricately intertwined with both sports, and the future of the town which is a key tourist destination.

Sharm el-Sheikh will host the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from November 7 to 18.

Leaders from around the world will attend the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference at Sharm el-Sheikh to take stock of progress made in reversing global warming since COP 26 held in Glasgow last year, and to make new commitments to the fight against climate change (long-term changes in global temperatures and weather patterns).

Being a coastal town (it lies at an altitude of only 44 metres), Sharm el-Sheikh is vulnerable to the effects of climate change just like Mombasa.

This column has in the past argued that being a human activity, sports is both a contributor to, and is one of the casualties of global warming.

The sporting fraternity the world over should join in the fight against climate change by adopting eco-friendly behaviours that reduce or avoid emission of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) which contribute to climate change.

The United Nations Environmental Programme defines carbon footprint as the total amount of greenhouse gases generated by our actions. Since the 1800s, human activity has been the main contributor to climate change, chiefly due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.

For example, when star players opt to fly alone directly to the venue of a tournament instead of taking a single flight together with the rest of the team, they contribute more to climate change because each star player in his own flight leaves behind a carbon footprint.

As world leaders meet to tackle issues on climate change, athletes and sports entities should commit to making the world a better place not just for themselves, but also for the people they entertain on the pitch.

Which is why a picture of Paris Saint-Germain’s star player Kylian Mbappe bent double in uncontrolled laughter beside his coach Christophe Galtier at a press conference early this month in Paris left me gutted.

The Sh6 billion-a-month player’s apparent incredulity over his team’s commitment to fighting climate change shocked me.

PSG were facing accusations of failing to take the threat of climate change seriously after travelling 380 kilometres in a private jet to Nice for a football league match, instead of taking a train to the city which is on a high-speed train line.

Taking an aeroplane from Paris to Nice leaves behind a bigger carbon footprint than a two-hour ride on a high-speed train.

The Paris-based team won 3-1 in Nice, but not on the court of public opinion. Asked by journalists whether PSG had discussed an offer from the state railway group SNCF to provide travel for them to away games, Galtier initially smiled at the idea in a silly way at the press conference, then sarcastically said the Parisian giants were looking into traveling to away matches by “sand yacht.” Mbappe bent double in laughter over the suggestion.

Clip goes viral

The clip went viral on social media. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and campaigners condemned Galtier and Mbappe “for being out of touch and arrogant at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis and spiraling temperatures linked to climate change.”

The poster boy of French football and a famous son of Paris, a city which has lent its name to the Paris Agreement, had just shown such indifference to climate change. I was consumed by the ignominy.

Mbappe’s home city of Paris hosted the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in which the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 parties. It aims at limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

It is encouraging that global sporting federations like Fifa, Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, World Athletics, among others have since signed up for the UN Sports for Climate

Action Framework which aims to reduce carbon footprint from sporting activities. The aim is to organise sporting competitions with as little carbon footprint as possible.


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