Offsetting the 2010 FIFA World Cup

It goes without saying that tomorrow, June 11, 2010, literally kicks off the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The media has been throwing around stories on projected winners, South Africa’s history in the making and even possible flu outbreaks from vuvuzelas. Fans around the world wait in anticipation; meanwhile in South Africa, staff from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) are trying to meet an ambitious “green” goal.

According to a UNEP-GEF press release, the long-term initiative has three main goals: “renewable energy interventions in six World Cup host cities, an awareness-raising drive on green tourism both funded by GEF and a UNEP program to offset the carbon emissions of eleven World Cup teams.” The 2006 FIFA World Cup hosted in Germany managed to achieve the first carbon-neutral tournament in the history of the event.

An article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment reported that the “initiative in Germany included the use of rainwater tanks, reusable cups in public areas and eco-electricity to lessen the environmental impact.” Even excess carbon emissions of around 90,000 metric tons were offset by contributions to environmental projects, said the article’s author Jen Fela.

The challenge this year is the location of South Africa, which is situated on the southern tip of Africa and relies primarily on coal-generated electricity. In the 2009 Feasibility Study for a Carbon Neutral 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, “the estimated carbon footprint of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is 896,661 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) with an additional 1,856,589 tCO2e contributed by international travel.”

In an effort to offset these staggering numbers, the GEF has contributed $1 million to installing energy-efficient street lights, stoplights and billboards, and it started a Green Passport project aimed at reducing the carbon emissions generated by overseas travelers. The passport is a 32-page booklet on tips for sustainable travel to be handed out to 100,000 visitors.

Other projects include Solar Cookers by Sunfire Solutions, soil composting by Soil and More Reliance, LED energy efficient lighting retrofit program by Lemnis Lighting, wind energy by Mainstream and Domestic fire lighting by the Nova Institute. All of the projects will be attached to a carbon calculator to keep track of emissions and offsets.

Photo credit: Crystian Cruz

Jen Fela (2010). Dispatches Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 8 (5), 228-232 DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295-8.5.228

Author: Katie Kline

Moderator of EcoTone and ESA's communications officer.

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