The carbon footprint of the World Cup in Qatar is “at least double what was announced by the organizing committee”

The Football World Cup which starts in Qatar at the end of November 2022 will be the very first edition not to emit the slightest gram of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is announced by the organizing committee and the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa). Really ? The climate tech French Greenly made her own calculations. And we seem quite far from the account…

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar. There are those who are impatiently waiting for the list of French players selected to be unveiled by Didier Deschamps. And there are those who have decided to boycott it. Not hesitating to qualify the event as “sporting, social and ecological scandal”. It is on this last point, and more particularly on the question of the carbon footprint of the event, that the climate tech French Greenly investigated.

First of all, note that the organizing committee of this 2022 Football World Cup, based on the calculations of a specialized firm, estimates that the event will emit some 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). To fix ideas, remember that this corresponds to the carbon footprint of the Olympic Games in Rio (Brazil) in 2016. But also, twice as much as the last edition of the Football World Cup in Russia. Or the annual emissions of a country like Iceland.

Some were surprised. Knowing that, for the occasion, entire stadiums were built in the middle of the desert. The secret of the Qatari organizing committee to avoid increasing its carbon footprint: spread the emissions from these sites… over 60 years! Since, except for one of them, these stadiums must continue to serve after the World Cup. Result: a carbon footprint of around 200,000 tCO2e per stadium, compared to no less than 1.6 million tCO2e according to the estimate of the NGO Carbon MarketWatch. And that’s not counting the hard-to-quantify carbon footprint of their air conditioning – even if part of it will be provided by solar-generated electricity – and the infrastructure built around these stadiums – road networks, hotels, shopping complexes and even parks. of attractions.

Transport and CO2: what share of emissions?

The other big item in the carbon footprint of this FIFA World Cup in Qatar is transport. Greenly’s calculations give a footprint of some 2.4 million tCO2e for the transport of supporters to the region. In the region, because not everyone will be able to stay there. They will have to find hotels in the area and then take shuttles. There could be a question of a plane every 10 minutes! And finally, more than 80,000 tCO2e emissions around the event, to which must be added the emissions linked to the transport of the delegations which, if they are done in private jets, could cost between 5 and 14 times more CO2 than by airliner.

The window dressing of carbon credits

For Alexis Normand, CEO of Greenly, it is impossible to accurately estimate the carbon footprint of this World Cup in Qatar. “But it seems to want to be at least double what was announced by the organizing committee. And the main criticism that can be formulated lies in the irrationality of holding such an event in a country whose climate is unsuitable, which had neither the required infrastructure – because it is useless in normal times – nor the capacity reception necessary for such an influx of spectators. »

Last point of this assessment, which is not specific to the holding of the World Cup in Qatar: the weight of digital pollution. According to figures from the International Federation of Football Association (Fifa), the last World Cup in Russia had been the occasion of nearly 35 billion hours of viewing. Based on the average consumption of an LCD screen and on the average carbon intensity of electricity in the world, Greenly estimates that the carbon footprint of the broadcast of the matches will be around 1 to 2 million tCO2and alone!

To compensate for all this, Qatar says it has planned to invest in carbon credits. To, despite everything, make this 2022 Football World Cup the very first carbon-neutral World Cup! The problem is that one month before the start of the competition, only three carbon offset projects had been validated. The equivalent of 5% of the announced objective. And much less, probably, of the actual carbon footprint of the event…


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