Nairobi, 11 February 2009 - It used to be "Swifter, Higher, Stronger" but in the future the Olympic motto may well include "lower" at least as it relates to carbon and curbing climate change.
From the 2014 Sochi Olympics to the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by South Africa to Norway's premier car race starting tomorrow - major sporting events around the globe are increasingly looking at neutralizing their carbon footprint as part of overall "greening" strategies.
These tournaments are the latest participants to join the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote global action and involvement towards low-carbon economies and societies.
Launched a year ago, the CN Net today has close to 100 participants worldwide, including several countries, cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading NGOs.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Whether carried out on track and field or on ice and snow, sporting events ignite the spirit of achievement in thousands of competitors and billions of spectators worldwide. It is therefore heartening that this passion for excellence increasingly encompasses environmental performance, with sporting organizations raising the bar ever higher at each and every tournament".
"By joining UNEP's Climate Neutral Network, they challenge themselves and others to champion the climate change cause through one of the most powerful catalyzing forces on the planet-sport," he added.
The2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Winter Gameswill be held in a unique natural setting between the balmy shores of the Black Sea and the soaring snow-capped Caucasus Mountains-an area known as the "Russian Riviera".
The Sochi Olympics organizers have set the goal of hosting "Carbon Neutral Games", which will be pursued by investing an estimated US$1.75 billion in energy conservation and renewable energy, upgrading transport infrastructure, and by offsetting remaining greenhouse gas emissions from the use of electricity, air travel and ground transportation. Other environmental initiatives include development of "green belts" in the city and reforestation of the Sochi National Park.
"Sport depends on the environment. At the same time, the sport industry depends on energy consumption and is one of the greenhouse gases 'addicts'. What we have is a great opportunity and a great responsibility to deliver and promote the model of climate neutral Olympics-reducing our carbon footprint to zero. Driven by our commitment, motivated by our predecessors and inspired by the unique and diverse nature of Sochi, we are proud to join the Climate Neutral Network to work with the world's best initiatives and to share the best experience and practices," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee.
The news comes as UNEP is set to launch on 18 February its environmental assessment of the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008. The report will be released during the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum taking place in Nairobi from 16-20 February.
The FIFA 2010 World Cup - which will be staged at 10 venues across nine South African cities-will be the first-ever global soccer tournament to be hosted by an African nation.
The FIFA 2010 World Cup will have the largest carbon footprint of any major event with a goal to be "climate neutral"-estimated at more than two million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, with international travel contributing more than 65 percent.
Offsetting the domestic carbon footprint of the tournament could cost between US$6.8 and 12.0 million, while offsetting international travel would, on its own, be double this amount, according to the recent feasibility study conducted by Greening 2010 FIFA World Cup team.
The South African Government is working on a carbon offsetting scheme for the World Cup and on securing donor funding to implement this. The Government has also embarked on a multi-million dollar initiative-the Public Transport Infrastructure Fund-to upgrade bus and rail services in time for the opening whistle in 2010.
Often likened to a "winter Dakar", Rally Norway is the annual extreme motor sports event with over 20 teams racing against each other on iced-over and snow-covered tracks. This year's edition, which will be held from 12-15 February in Hamar, also aims to be the first "emission-neutral" rally.
The organizers have pledged to fully compensate for greenhouse gas emissions resulting from fuel used by competing vehicles, logistical support, and air and road travel, and are challenging competitors and other organizations involved in the 2009 Rally Championship to join them. Rally Norway 2009 will also feature a "Green Room" where new technologies for low-carbon vehicles and fuels will be featured.
Rally Norway's General Manager Even Wiger said: "Rally Norway aims to be the driving force to change the motor sports to a low-carbon sport. The drivers are role models, and the races are test labs for new technology and more low-carbon fuels. Our objectives are to be a driving force to make all World Rally Championships climate neutral, and hopefully this will influence the car production and the fuel production to low-carbon cars in general."
Two other sports organizations from Norway-the Norwegian Grand Prix and the Norwegian Golf Federation-have also joined UNEP's Climate Neutral Network.
Staged in the picturesque fjords of Norway's south coast, the Norwegian Grand Prix is one of the most spectacular powerboat events in the world and the largest annual outdoor sporting event in Norway with more than 100,000 spectators. The Norwegian Grand Prix's vision is to be a global champion of climate neutral boat sports, and to leave the legacy of sustainability to future generations.
Finally, the Norwegian Golf Federation (NGF)-the country's third largest sports association with 122,000 members-aims to show that golf courses can serve as good examples of sustainable area planning in creating modern cultural landscapes that contribute to environmental knowledge and awareness raising. The Federation has pledged to make its operations climate neutral as of this year.
Paal Melbye, NGF's Head of Department of Golf Facilities, Tournaments and Events, said: "We would like to join the CN Net because we believe this will increase our visibility as a sport federation that takes environment and climate change seriously. The Network will also give us valuable contact with like-minded organizations, in particular the growing members of sport federations and events participating in the CN Net, from which we can develop best practice."
Sports organizations around the world are taking the lead in implementing solutions to combat climate change. Last October, representatives of over 100 sports organizations attending the 2008 Global Forum for Sport and Environment (G-ForSE) co-hosted by UNEP adopted the UNite to Combat Climate Change campaign, pledging to reduce their carbon footprints and encouraging sports personalities to act as advocates for the environment.
UNEP has been actively involved in work on sport and the environment for well over a decade. UNEP works to promote the integration of environmental considerations in sports; use the popularity of sports to promote environmental awareness and respect for the environment among the public, especially young people; and promote the development of environmentally friendly sports facilities and the manufacture of environmentally friendly sporting goods.
Notes to Editors: For more information about UNEP's Climate Neutral Network visit http://www.unep.org/climateneutral
For more information about the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum visit http://www.unep.org/gc/gc25
For more information about UNEP's Sport and Environment initiative visit http://www.unep.org/sport_env
For more information about UNite to Combat Climate Change campaign visit
For more information contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, or when traveling: +41 795965737, or e-mail: email@example.com
Or: Xenya Cherny Scanlon, Information Officer, Climate Neutral Network, on Tel: +254 20 762 4387, Mobile: +254 721 847 563, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; internet: http://www.unep.org/climateneutral