Qatar promised to host the first carbon-neutral World Cup - but environmental experts doubt Doha’s accounting toward that goal, and are calling for climate impacts to be front and center in deciding the location of future global sporting events.
Qatar, the world’s largest producer of fossil fuel gas, made the vow when it bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup 12 years ago - but monitoring groups say the tournament hosts deserve a “yellow card” over the pledge as many emissions have been overlooked.
For instance, the country spent at least $229 billion on infrastructure development, including the construction of seven new football stadiums.
But it has undercounted the footprint of the six permanent stadiums constructed for the event by a factor of eight, coming to 1.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent instead of the 0.2 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent reported by Qatar, found a report in May by environmental monitor Carbon Market Watch.
The host nation has also faced criticism for the number of flights that have been operating during the tournament.
State-owned Qatar Airways has helped organise daily air shuttles in and out of Doha on match days from other Gulf cities, including at least 60 daily flights to and from Dubai.
Air travel accounts for almost 52 per cent of the expected emissions from the event, according to a recent report by FIFA.
To achieve its carbon neutrality pledge, Qatar announced a string of initiatives, including using solar-powered stadium air conditioning, repurposing shipping containers as building materials, and purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions.
The offsetting scheme does not work, it’s a scam. The problem with their claim of carbon neutral is that they are basing it on carbon offsets.
Julien Jreissati, program director, Greenpeace
The organisers said they would purchase such offset credits from projects in their own nation and the surrounding region, through a new carbon market standard, the Global Carbon Council (GCC).
But there are not nearly enough credible carbon offsets on the market to meet demand, and many countries and companies are relying heavily on offsets of questionable value rather than reducing emissions in their own operations, analysts say.