It’s time to score a radical climate goal — by slapping sport with green legislation

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent the editorial position of Euronews.

Every competition, race and medal must justify itself, beyond simply adding to the growing annals of the sport’s history. If not, our failure to act will go down in history as humanity’s most disastrous goal, writes Isabelle Schatzschneider.


The toxic dust in the wake of the 2024 Super Bowl — or rather the “super pollutant,” whose ads alone released as much carbon dioxide as 100,000 Americans — has barely settled.

But millions of sports fans are now preparing to add more poison to the atmosphere by traveling to the highly toxic Formula 1 races, as well as the 2024 European Championships and the Paris Olympics.

While the EU has targeted the construction, energy, food and transport sectors to meet its ambitious climate targets, the carbon footprint associated with travel and advertising of sporting events is overlooked.

Yes, the sports industry is taking steps to become environmentally friendly – ​​for example, large numbers of sporting bodies used the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai to focus on their plans for sustainability.

Even the European Football Association (UEFA) has said that it aims to make the European Championship the most sustainable European championship ever.

But it’s time to get real.

Pledging to “go green” is never enough

It is estimated that the ballooning football matches in the 2024-2025 season, culminating in the European Championship hosted by Germany – will result in teams and their fans collecting around two billion air miles – the equivalent of more than 4,000 return flights to the moon or nearly half million tons. of greenhouse emissions.

This greenwashing is not limited to UEFA.

Organizers of this summer’s Paris Olympics are touting the “greenest Games ever” — and just this month they announced a new environmental precedent by using existing or temporary venues for most events and focusing on low-carbon buildings for other events.

But their efforts are a losing battle in the face of the uncomfortable reality that 15.3 million people – more than double Paris’s normal occupancy – will use a toxic mix of transport to visit the French capital next August.

Given the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, world leaders must take the radical step of stamping sporting events with green legislation before it is too late.

After all, it has been proven time and time again that trying to blame people and get them to lead the charge on sustainability doesn’t work. For this reason, sports organizers’ pledges to ‘go green’ must be grounded in globally agreed laws that monitor and control rampant carbon footprints.

No one is trying to be a killjoy

EU policies on creating “safe, sustainable and connected” transport must now be used as inspiration to impose transport restrictions on these rising global gatherings (just look at the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by 16 cities and three countries).

The proposal is straightforward: implement fixed carbon emissions quotas at all major sporting events. Fans’ and teams’ air miles – and their personal and team carbon output – will be regulated. Emission caps and targets must also be issued to sporting event and stadium organizers to make their stadiums more sustainable.

Naturally, there will be a loud and inevitable explosion of screams and “kill the joy” chants from fans who view these scenes as life-or-death events.

But in order to attract fans, world leaders must also explain to the public in no uncertain terms why sporting events should be legalized.

Advertising the carbon footprint of sporting events as prominently as health warnings on cigarette packs – or calorie counts on menus and alcohol units on drinks – is also a key step to making this legislation part of sustainable sport.

Just as with smoking or alcohol, people should be warned to travel responsibly, or not to travel at all.


Measures to legalize transport and emissions associated with sporting events are not intended to dampen the spirit of sport – they are intended to protect the planet so that future generations can enjoy it responsibly.

It will also make necessity the mother of invention, forcing sporting bodies to come up with sustainable innovations for stadiums and transportation.

The change must therefore be properly labeled – as “environmentally conscious engagement” – to keep skeptical fans on their side.

We have to learn how to play responsibly

After all, there is huge potential for the world’s more than €500 billion sports industry to use its money and international power to make huge, vital changes in sustainability in line with global climate goals.

For example, at the same COP summit where sports organizers pledged their green allegiance, 197 countries signed the historic UAE Consensus – a guiding star for global climate action that gives clear direction to countries and industries alike – on how to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. °C within reach by 2020. “Move away” from fossil fuels, triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, and transform global climate finance.


But as COP President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber recently said at the International Energy Assembly in Paris, “Governments and all relevant parties [must] Be honest and transparent about the costs and trade-offs involved in achieving this goal.

More broadly, this means that governments, industries and individuals will have to make sacrifices to avoid planetary warming – and end the impunity of parties that have long resisted change.

Of course, transforming the sports industry will not be easy. But the ultimate goal is simpler: to create a sustainable future where the excitement of sport and the health of our planet are in harmony.

Every competition, race and medal must justify itself, beyond simply adding to the growing annals of the sport’s history.

If not, our failure to act will go down in history as humanity’s most tragic goal.


Isabelle Schatzschneider is an environmental activist and commentator on European Union environmental policy. She is a research associate at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nuremberg, and a former researcher at the Schweissfurth Foundation in Munich.

At Euronews, we believe that all viewpoints matter. Contact us on view@euronews.com To send presentations or submissions and participate in the conversation.

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