Claims that Qatar 2022 will be the first carbon neutral World Cup underestimate emissions from new buildings, set unlikely targets and leave doubts on future use of facilities, according to a report.
Organisers of the world’s largest single-sport tournament claimed that limited travel between venues, low-energy features inside grounds and re-usable stadia contributed to the most sustainable World Cup ever.
A report by climate group Carbon Market Watch said the claims were based on inaccurate figures, ignoring major sources of emissions, dubious environmental claims and promises that are unlikely to be delivered.
It said its own research cast “serious doubt” on the claim that it would be a net zero World Cup. It said: “This goal will be achieved through creative accounting rather than actually reaching a carbon footprint of (net) zero.”
The group estimated the carbon footprint from the stadium building programme alone was eight times higher than suggested.
It said organisers had underestimated the level of emissions from building new venues, as they had been built from scratch for the purposes of the tournament and their future use was uncertain.
It said that some of the climate mitigation measures were not credible. It cited a large-scale tree and turf nursery in the middle of the desert that uses treated sewage water for irrigation.
“The claim that this will absorb CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and contribute to reducing the impact of the event is not credible as this carbon storage is unlikely to be permanent in these artificial and vulnerable green spaces, while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries to millennia,” said the report.
It also said a carbon credit initiative – spending on projects that clean up the climate to offset the environmental damage from staging the World Cup – has barely got off the ground.
“It would be great to see the climate impact of FIFA World Cups being drastically reduced. But the carbon neutrality claim that is being made is simply not credible,” said the report’s author, Gilles Dufrasne.
The World Cup delivery committee said it was “speculative and inaccurate” to draw conclusions on their commitment.
“We are on track to hosting a carbon-neutral World Cup,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“The methodology used to calculate the carbon-neutral commitment is best in practice and was designed to be based on actual activity data, after the FIFA World Cup has concluded. This will be published, and any discrepancies will be explained and offset."
The statement said the organisers’ decision to “transparently and proactively offset carbon emissions in a responsible manner should be recognised, rather than criticised”.