The UAE was the first country in the Mena region to announce a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Since then, it has funded several clean energy projects, including solar, wind and nuclear, in an effort to reduce consumption of gas for electricity production.
Abu Dhabi alone has launched the two-gigawatt Al Dhafra solar power plant, one of the world's largest solar projects, which is expected to power 200,000 homes and reduce the capital's carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2.4 million tonnes a year.
Hence, Yas Marina Circuit’s ambitious plans to ensure the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also achieve net-zero carbon status as an event and venue by 2040 is part of their ongoing commitment to sustainability.
The circuit is the first in the region to obtain the FIA Three Star Certification, in 2021, in recognition of the environmental performance of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and its commitment to environmental management and its sustainable approach.
“We started this journey a few years ago. We put a sustainable strategy and a policy in place at Yas Marina Circuit,” Saif Al Noaimi, chief executive officer of Ethara, the event management company behind the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, told The National.
“We have annual targets for reducing our carbon footprint as a venue and as an event of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
According to Al Noaimi, Yas Marina Circuit is on target to meet those goals. The track's management have implement initiatives like replacing the lights with LED and looking into sustainable sources of fuel for their generators. They have completed building one megawatt of solar energy at the circuit which is going to cover more than 30 per cent of the annual power needs.
“We have targets and ambitions that by 2040, we will be a carbon neutral venue and event of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and by 2030, we have a target of having 50 per cent of it completed,” he said.
“We are moving on many fronts. For example, our atmospheric generation infiltration system that converts water from the atmosphere - rain for instance - into clean, bottled water for drinking and other uses.
“We have recycling plants where we recycle anything at the event and we are actually using recycled material to make uniforms for our staff.”
The strategy of the FIA, the governing body for motorsport, is to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2030.
They have set ambitious targets and have been working with the teams, race promoters, partners, suppliers, broadcasters, and the FIA to reduce the sport’s carbon footprint.
Some of the initiatives include developing sustainable fuels, considering greener ways to travel to races, and how staff members are dispatched to the circuit.
It is no secret that F1 is a major source of harmful emissions, with its own 2019 sustainability report confirming 256,551 tonnes of CO2 emitted by 10 teams, 20 car units, and 23 racing events across various locations.
However, only 0.7% of those emissions are generated by the racing cars themselves.
The biggest contributor is logistics – the movement of equipment by road, air or sea – which accounts for 45 per cent.
The second largest is business travel which includes all transport and hotels for the F1 teams and major event partners, which contributes 27.7 per cent. The other major contributors are facilities and factories, accounting for 19.3 per cent, and event operations, which contribute 7.3 per cent.
In addition to carbon emissions, F1 events consume large amounts of energy required to power their racetracks, especially for night races.
The Covid-19 outbreak in December 2019 ramped up F1’s sustainability efforts, more so for economic reasons than ecological. It resulted in the ‘cleanest’ F1 events of the past decade as races were mostly limited to Europe and without any spectators present.
“I would say F1 is actually a pioneer in sustainable global sport,” Al Noaimi said.
“They have very ambitious net-zero targets by 2030 and that includes their global travel emissions. They have vocally set a very ambitious target. If you look at the internal combustion engine of an F1 vehicle, it is by far the most efficient engine in the world.”