Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

3 countries, 48 ​​teams, 104 matches: can the 2026 World Cup be ecological?

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Several experts fear that fans will travel by plane for matches. (Archive photos)

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With 48 teams and 104 matches Played in three different countries, the 2026 FIFA World Cup could cause record carbon emissions. This is what several experts who study the ecological impact of large-scale events fear.

Even though the vast majority of cities where matches will be played already have stadiums, the vastness of the geographic area covered and the expansion in tournament size could result in a tournament with a larger footprint ecological would be even more important than that of 2022, fears Khaled Diab, communications director of Carbon Market Watch.

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Carbon Market Watch

Same story for Madeleine Orr , sports ecologist at the University of Toronto.

It's impossible to have a mega event that is sustainable. There is nothing that FIFA is doing to date that really shows us that it wants the 2026 World Cup to be sustainable.

A quote from Madeleine Orr, sports ecologist, University of Toronto

In 2021, FIFA pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Yet the federation stages matches in 16 different North American cities thousands of miles apart in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

In 2018, the United Bid committee (New window), in which soccer associations are part from Canada, the United States and Mexico, assessed the impact of the 2026 World Cup on the environment

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The carbon footprint was estimated at 3.7 million metric tons, 85% of which was caused by travel.

The 2022 figure was 3.6 million metric tons.

The fact that the officially estimated carbon footprint of the 2026 World Cup is more or less the same as that of 2022 betrays FIFA's lack of seriousness. If the federation wants to halve its emissions by 2030, it cannot continue to act as if nothing had happened in 2026.

A quote from Khaled Diab, communications director of Carbon Market Watch

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Gianni Infantino

For its part, FIFA says it recognizes its ecological impact and plans numerous initiatives to minimize travel, including the assignment of teams to fixed regions during the initial phases of the tournament.

This year, the federation also expects to launch its sustainable development and human rights strategy for the World Cup World.

This strategy will exhaustively detail the objectives that we will pursue and the initiatives that we will launch and put in place for the event, said a spokesperson for the federation via an email to Radio-Canada.

Even if North America is better equipped compared to Qatar, that does not mean the tournament will be more sustainable, believes David Black, professor in political science and international development studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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David Black, professor of political science and international development studies at Dalhousie University, thinks the structure of the World Cup needs to change for it to be sustainable.

According to him, the majority of the cities in question do not have sufficiently efficient public transport systems. He adds that there is not enough time before the year 2026 to improve this infrastructure.

North American cities do not have sustainable modes of transportation fast enough for gamers and enthusiasts. The distance between these cities will therefore force the majority of people to travel by plane, which is not at all sustainable.

A quote from David Black, professor of political science and development studies international at Dalhousie University

Last summer, North America saw a record number of wildfires.

Again, participating cities need to be ready with the necessary infrastructure, says Black.

Cities will need systems of equipped health care, in addition to air-conditioned spaces that people can have access to, he says.

Khaled Diab is of the same opinion.

With the threat of wildfires, it will take a lot of energy to cool the stadiums, he adds.

For for the 2026 World Cup to be greener, David Black suggests that public transport in cities where matches are played should be free throughout the tournament. The federation can also promote recycling and composting in all stadiums, and facilitate access to drinking water.

Khaled Diab, for his part, suggests that the federation sell tickets at reduced prices to fans who live in the cities where the matches take place. According to him, this could discourage them from making long plane trips.

Aside from these minimal changes, David Black maintains that the structure of the tournament should change by 2030 for it to be truly sustainable.

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As a For example, FIFA could organize matches in a single country, or limit the number of teams that can participate. It could also prevent cities that do not have established infrastructure from hosting matches.

The idea that any country can host the tournament at any time of the year must change if the federation's priority is for the tournament to be sustainable.

A quote from David Black, professor of political science and international development studies at Dalhousie University

He adds that the federation has a responsibility to show the example on a global scale.

This is the perfect opportunity for the federation and wider sporting communities to change the way they to operate and become leaders of sorts.

A quote from David Black, professor of political science and international development studies at Dalhousie University

If the federation has a role to play, fans could also think about reducing their carbon footprint by avoiding traveling for matches, believes Madeleine Orr.

I don't want to tell anyone not to have fun during the World Cup, but you have to do it in a sustainable way and in this case, the best thing you can do to do is stay at home, suggests Ms. Orr.

With information from Rozenn Nicolle

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