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Report questions Qatar 2022’s carbon-neutral claim

Carbon Market Watch, a non-profit association with expertise in carbon pricing, has released a report which questions claims made by organisers of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar that the tournament will be the first carbon-neutral event of its kind.

Research from Carbon Market Watch suggests that Qatar 2022’s goal will be achieved through “creative accounting” rather than actually reaching a carbon footprint of net zero.

The report states that calculations used by World Cup organisers ignore some “major sources of emissions” and that the credits currently being purchased to offset them have a “low level of environmental integrity”.

Carbon Market Watch cites the emissions associated with the construction of permanent new stadiums as one of the main reasons why Qatar 2022’s carbon-neutrality claim appears “far-fetched”. The group says that the emissions impact could be understated by a factor of eight.

The report also suggests that other sources of emissions could have been underestimated, such as those due to the exclusion of emissions from maintaining and operating stadiums in the years following the tournament.

Carbon Market Watch acknowledges that its report does not assess the full extent of the impact of the implemented climate mitigation measures, but the group said that some of the proposed actions also “lack integrity”.

The report notes that World Cup organisers have contributed to establishing a new carbon credit standard, the Global Carbon Council, which is supposed to deliver at least 1.8 million credits to offset World Cup emissions. According to the report, the council has two registered projects and has issued just over 130,000 credits.

Carbon Market Watch’s Gilles Dufrasne, the author of the report, said: “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.

“Despite a lack of transparency, the evidence suggests that the emissions from this World Cup will be considerably higher than expected by the organisers, and the carbon credits being purchased to offset these emissions are unlikely to have a sufficiently positive impact on the climate.”

In September, Qatar 2022 organisers detailed plans to deliver the first carbon-neutral World Cup in the history of the event. Organisers cited the short distance between stadiums and the use of solar power at venues as ways to achieve the carbon-neutral goal.

Following the release of the Carbon Market Watch, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy told BBC Sport: “We are on track to hosting a carbon-neutral World Cup.

“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 World Cup has concluded. This will be published, and any discrepancies will be explained and offset.

“No other country has engaged so deeply with its citizens to ensure a sustainable legacy is left behind after a FIFA World Cup.”

A spokesperson also told The Guardian that the criticisms from Carbon Market Watch were “speculative and inaccurate”.

A statement from FIFA added: “The organisers have pledged to measure, mitigate and offset all FIFA World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas emissions, while advancing low-carbon solutions in Qatar and the region. Thus, at no point has FIFA misled its stakeholders, as is claimed by the report.

“FIFA is fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose on the economy, the natural environment and on people and communities. [It] has been making efforts to tackle those impacts and use opportunities that arise to mitigate the negative impacts and maximise the positive impacts of its iconic tournament.”

Image: Ben Sutherland/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size