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Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director at Indian Premier League Event

Remarks by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

To a Dinner of the Indian Premier League

11 March 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,

It can be somewhat daunting for a Brazilian-born, German national to address such a distinguished gathering from the world of cricket.

Being two countries where the national sport is association football, I am more familiar with the off-side rule than an LBW.

Indeed I am mortally worried that an unguarded or naïve remark may result in being caught in the slips, bowled out by a googly or asked to take up a position at silly mid on.

And while I was educated in England, and thus was aware of this beautiful game, I must confess that the regulations of cricket remain something of a mystery to me.

The Duckworth-Lewis method could, as far as I know, be a new form of birthing technique.

Or a system for estimating the number of water birds supported by a wetland or lake system.

Fortunately, I understand that I am not alone.

 Indeed even the most ardent fans and wizened aficionados will cheerfully admit that part of cricket's magic is that you may never fully understand all its terms and rules.

This is even after years and decades of studious application.

So Ladies and gentlemen,

Cricket is for me a new frontier in my understanding in terms of how it is played and administered.

What is not a mystery however is the passion and the popularity of the game.

A popularity which, with the establishment of the Indian Premier League (IPL) just three years ago, is hitting new and exciting heights.

Indeed if you look at the reach, engagement and potential for awareness-raising of modern sports, the growth is nothing short of spectacular.

This is in part linked with the huge penetration and proliferation of telecommunications including TV channels.

Sport is no longer confined to those in the stadium. It is beamed into homes, social centres and leisure locations world-wide.

  • Last year it is estimated that over 4.5 billion people attended or tuned into the Olympic Games in Beijing.

 

  • The cumulative audience for all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated at just over 26 billion.

You can see the growth in popularity of world sport in, for example, statistics from the Rugby World Cup.

  • The first Rugby World Cup, in 1987, had a cumulative world television audience of 300 million.

 

  • The 2007 tournament had a cumulative world television audience of 4.2 billion for the 48 matches.

The IPL is no exception to these trends: On one level, this is a domestic competition between eight leading teams with currently over 90 per cent of viewers based in India.

But the appeal of modern cricket transcends the domestic.

This league is attracting an increasing global following and defining itself as a truly global phenomenon.

Not least because of it's showcasing of international stars such as Sachin Tendulkar and the league's link to Bollywood and other popular cultural centres and icons.

The international viewership of IPL in Asia, the Middle East, the UK and the US was, in 2008, running at around eight million viewers per match.

I am sure this global reach will extend even further over the coming years and perhaps our new environmental initiatives can play a part.

UNEP's interest in cricket and in the IPL is essentially two-fold.

Firstly, India is a country undergoing extraordinary growth with all the attendant challenges that entails.

As the global body responsible for the environment, we recognize that the consumption and production patterns of the rapidly developing economies of India but also one such as China and Brazil will increasingly define the future of this planet.

The choices that are made in terms of how best to manage energy to the sustainable use of natural and nature-based resources will play a key role as to whether six billion people, rising to nine billion people by 2050, can live together over the coming decades.

Will define, with the developed economies, whether development is divisive or cooperative.

Whether the services provided by the Earth's life support systems can be maintained.

Or whether—to borrow a cricketing metaphor—we are  running or soon will be run out.

Public awareness will be central to defining a new development path—a path UNEP has termed the low carbon, resource efficient, Green Economy.

Perhaps just one or two figures that may encapsulate this..

  • Climate change could cost the global economy five per cent of global GDP—perhaps higher—over the coming decades if left unchecked.

 

  • Air pollution in China and India may be claiming as many as more than one million lives a year.

  • Economic losses linked with some kinds of air pollution may equate to over two per cent of India's GDP

 

  • Globally and every year we lose perhaps as much as $5 trillion of natural capital as a result of environmental degradation of forests and other natural systems.

  • An investment of $45 billion could secure or safeguard these assets while also triggering employment in areas such as natural resource management.

 

Making these connections and catalyzing a response is part of UNEP's core work.

Through our new partnership with the IPL, building on our partnerships with the International Olympic Committee and with many other sporting organizations and bodies, we have a chance to translate those challenges—but also very much opportunities- to a new audience.

I am delighted that our agreement includes messaging in stadiums and on ticketing and other tournament literature.

But mass spectator sporting events also need to go beyond messaging.

Your commitment to also green the IPL, stadia and matches will speak volumes to audiences inside and outside India.

UNEP is delighted to be supporting the IPL's Green Vision through technical guidance not least in respect to minimizing greenhouse gases given the over-arching and global challenge of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, the power of sport rests in part on the influence in the public consciousness of its players—individuals who are role models to both the young and the old.

It gives me thus particular pleasure to announce this evening that Sachin Tendulkar, has agreed to be a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador.

His legendary achievements will be familiar to everyone in this room.

  • The highest run scorer in Test cricket

 

  • The highest number of Test centuries

  • And, along with Brian Lara of the West Indies, the fastest to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket history

 

Mr. Tendulkar has also distinguished himself with UNICEF, raising awareness among the young about the importance of personal hygiene.

I am sure that his character, personal integrity, intellect and profile will also catalyze wide spread environmental action.

A special focus of this new relationship is this year's UN's International Year of Biodiversity.

Here we are working to raise awareness and a higher level of political and grassroots response to the loss of the planet's biological diversity including animals and plants.

The last century was an industrial one—the new century will increasingly be a biological century.

One based on the genetic diversity and the secrets of nature in terms of new businesses, products and services.

However it will only be possible if collectively societies can learn how to sustainably manage and sustainably harvest and invest and re-invest in these precious and economically central resources.

Sachin as a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador you are in excellent company. Tonight we are also fortunate to have with us Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

What your cricket bat is to sport, Mr. Bertrand's camera and video-camera is to the world of photography and cinema.

Home, a movie about the Earth, is in many ways a blockbuster in its own right with its own fan base world-wide.

And other UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors are Giselle Bundchen, the Brazilian-born supermodel and Yao Ming, the Chinese-born basket ball star.

Ladies and gentlemen,

How far our partnership evolves depends on our collective ambition.

But today we have marked out a crease uniting two worlds—cricket and the environment.

Perhaps together we can take the message of sustainability through sport to cricketing events globally—perhaps we have set a green run-per-over-rate that will catch the imagination of cricket clubs and associations both professional and amateur world-wide.

Friends,

I am told that two Cs are the letters that begin the two most popular words in India—cricket and cinema.

Today we can start bringing some more Cs into the popular lexicon.

C for combating climate change and C for care for the planet or Conservation of natural wealth.

Above all however uniting the C of cricket with the C for Catalytic, Communities and Countries.

Fast tracking too a step change in awareness, allied to action on issues-issues that for many are felt emotionally as life and death ones with national and global sustainability issues that ultimately are life and death if left unaddressed and unresolved.

Thank you for inviting me here this evening.

Today we have started hitting four and sixes for the environment and for the lives and livelihoods of millions of cricket fans and beyond.

Cricket is a sport that can trace its roots back 16C—the environment as an issue is a little younger.

UNEP was born some 40 years ago when the world began to realize that some environmental changes were becoming global.

Today however marks a new chapter and one which I hope will endure beyond the short term but become as well established as the 80 year-old Ranji Cup


A partnership that can be as potentially record breaking as Sachin Tendulkar's double century in a one-day international in February this year.