As champion Max Verstappen races around Yas Marina Circuit in Formula One’s season finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the final preparations will be underway for another global event just down the road in Dubai: the COP28 climate talks.
The United Nations climate conference, which starts on Nov. 30, is meant to focus minds on another race: the global drive to rapidly cut planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Scientists say the world is losing this race to zero as emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise.
Transport accounts for around a third of global emissions and no other sport is more associated with high emissions in this sector than F1, not just because of the cars themselves but also because the race calendar spans the world, requiring teams, kit and fans to travel vast distances.
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel caused a stir last year when he said climate change made him question his job.
In 2019, the sport set a target to achieve a net zero-carbon footprint by 2030, using 100 per cent sustainable fuels by 2026 when a new engine is introduced.
Ellen Jones, F1’s head of environment, social and governance (ESG), says it has a “unique platform” to develop technological solutions to climate change and inspire international action.
So how does F1 plan to reach net zero, and do the plans stack up?
What are F1’s biggest emissions?
F1 cars on the track are responsible for just 0.7 per cent of the sport’s emissions, which overall stand at around a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent - roughly the same as the annual emissions of 55,000 normal cars, according to a calculator from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
We hope that our global platform will support the development and growth of the SAF market while we look for further long-term solutions to reduce our environmental impact while we race.
Alice Ashpitel, head of sustainability, Mercedes-AMG Petronas
The jet-setting nature of the F1 calendar, with more than 20 races taking place across five continents, means that travel and logistics make up two-thirds of the sport’s footprint.