Sport Sets Pace for Climate Action as IOC and Other Sports Organisations Join Race to Zero Campaign

Nov 5, 2021 9:25 AM ET

International Olympic Committee

The announcement was made at a session devoted to sport entitled Sports for Climate Action – On the Race to Net-Zero, held during the UN Climate Summit COP26 taking place in Glasgow, Great Britain.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the climate crisis will make or break the future of our planet,” said HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Chair of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, addressing the session in a keynote speech. “This crisis is a call to action for everyone, also for all of us, in the world of sport. As the leader of the Olympic Movement, the IOC has a responsibility to be a part of the solution, and we have a responsibility to be ambitious about leading the change in the sporting world.”

“Four years since we launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework, more than 280 sports organisations have committed to the overarching objectives of aligning sport with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Patricia Espinosa, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, during the event.

“The sector eagerly took up the challenge, but also told us that they want to do more and to do it faster. These organisations are now being challenged to reduce emissions 50 per cent by 2030 at the latest and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040,” she added.

Other sports organisations joining the Race to Zero Campaign include the Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024, FIFA, World Sailing, the IBU and Formula E.

Like many other sectors, sport is increasingly affected by climate change, both in winter and summer. Unreliable snow and temperatures impact winter sports, while increasing summer heat threatens the health of athletes, event organisers and fans.

As part of its efforts to address climate change, the IOC recently committed to reduce its direct and indirect carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement and responding to the latest science on climate change.

“This is key to how we will make the shift from a carbon-neutral to a climate-positive organisation by 2024. Following this commitment, we urge all sports organisations to follow suit,” Prince Albert added.

IOC’s Climate-positive commitment

Already carbon neutral, the IOC aims to become climate positive by 2024.

This will be achieved by:

  • reducing the IOC’s direct and indirect emissions by 30 per cent by 2024 and by 50 per cent by 2030, across the three scopes defined by the GHG Protocol, in line with the Paris Agreement;
  • compensating more than 100 per cent of its remaining emissions, mainly through the Olympic Forest project; and
  • using its influence to encourage the broader Olympic Movement, as well as its supply chain and other stakeholders, to take action against climate change, and make the sports world more sustainable.

In 2018, working with UN Climate Change, the IOC co-developed the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, the Framework is aimed at driving climate action across the sports world. More than 280 sports organisations from around the world have signed up to it so far, including the IOC itself, which is also leading on its implementation.

Climate-positive Olympic Games

In March 2020, the IOC took the decision to make the Olympic Games climate positive. From 2030 onwards, each Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) will be contractually obliged to:

  • minimise and compensate its direct and indirect carbon emissions; and
  • implement lasting zero-carbon solutions for the Olympic Games and beyond.

All upcoming Olympic Games organisers have committed to carbon neutrality, with Paris 2024 aiming to become the first climate-positive Games even before the 2030 deadline.

“The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the biggest event in the world, and we are currently facing humanity’s biggest challenges,” said Paris 2024’s Director of Environmental Excellence Georgina Grenon. “That’s why Paris 2024 has since its bid committed to full alignment with the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 50 per cent and host the first Games with a positive impact on the climate,” she added.

Inspiring change

The COP26 sports session also featured double Olympic champion in sailing and IOC Sustainability Ambassador Hannah Mills, speaking about the power of sport to inspire positive change. With the IOC’s support, Mills has recently rallied athletes from around the globe in a powerful plea to world leaders to increase their ambition to tackle climate change.