Antti Pihlakoski, Jackson Tuwei, Moa Hjelmer, David Rudisha and Johan Storåkers
Every Breath Counts campaign builds momentum with four-day event in Stockholm
More than 6000 kids took part in a special mini-marathon event in Stockholm on Sunday (5) to cap a packed four-day programme in the lead-in to World Environment Day (5) that focused on World Athletics’ role in sport and sustainability and its air quality initiatives.
The Swedish Athletic Association also marked the occasion by becoming the fourth national athletics federation to join World Athletics as a signatory of the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC) Sports for Climate Action Framework, underscoring the sport’s commitment to the fight against climate change.
“Climate change is one of the most critical issues the world is facing, and it will take collaboration and bold action to win this fight,” said Johan Storåkers, President of the Swedish Athletic Association and Deputy Mayor of the nearby Municipality of Sundbyberg. “We are going to work hard to communicate how serious this issue is and focus on concrete action.”
To commemorate the occasion, Storåkers was handed a relay baton made of recycled aluminium and produced by World Athletics supplier Mondo from Jackson Tuwei, President of the Athletics Kenya during a ceremonial relay exchange. Athletics Kenya was the first Member Federation to sign on the pledge, with the federations of Oman and Serbia following suit.
“The Swedish Athletic Federation has already illustrated a strong commitment to the principles of the Framework with its efforts and initiatives at past events,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. “Their partnership will be critical as our sport continues to build momentum in the battle against climate change.”
The focal point of the weekend was ‘Stockholm+50’, a major international environmental meeting on 2-3 June that marked the 50th anniversary of another conference in the Swedish capital that led to the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme in 1972.
On Friday (3), World Athletics joined Athletics Kenya at the conference event, Building Partnerships for Blue Economy, Sports and Environment, which discussion that focused on actions by athletics federations to champion air quality and climate actions. Two-time Olympic champion and 800m world record-holder David Rudisha, Tuwei and Storåkers participated in the panel which was moderated by World Athletics Head of Sustainability Bob Ramsak.
On Saturday (4), World Athletics hosted ‘The Role of Sport in the Green Transition: Action and Advocacy to Tackle Air Pollution’, a panel discussion centred on the links between sport, the environment and air quality.
The participants included Storåkers, Amina Mohamed, Kenyan Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage Amina Mohamed; Måns Nilsson, Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI); Karin Grute Movin, an Executive Board Member at European Athletics; World Athletics Council member Antti Pihlakoski; and Kajsa Bergqvist, the 2005 world high jump champion and the Swedish athletics team manager. Ramsak again served as the moderator.
In a lively discussion, Mohamed stressed the importance of collaboration while Bergqvist urged athletes to become more engaged in environmental issues and initiatives.
The panel, which was live streamed on the World Athletics Twitter channel, took place at Stockholm’s historic 1912 Olympic Stadium.
The kid’s mini marathon took place in a park near Stockholm Stadium in the presence of Rudisha and 2012 European 400m champion Moa Hjelmer.
“The combination of environmental discussion, the handover of the baton to the Swedish Athletic Association and the Stockholm Mini-Marathon are a good force for good causes,” said Tuwei. “In a unique style, environmental issues and athletics have been introduced to the kids and I have seen a different way of doing it. More than 5000 kids running and practicing Kids Athletics is amazing and what a perfect setting, bearing in mind that UNEP, Stockholm Environmental Institute and World Athletics were all born in Stockholm. I feel that we have achieved our objective for coming here.”
‘Every Breath Counts’, a World Athletics global campaign to raise awareness and demand stronger and bolder action to combat air pollution which was launched on Wednesday, was a focal point at each event throughout the four days.
Coe introduced the campaign to attendees of the Stockholm+50 conference side event on Friday via a video message while Rudisha made the campaign central to his presentations at various appearances over the long weekend. Volunteers were also at the Stockholm Marathon expo for three days urging attendees to sign the campaign’s Declaration for Clean Air.
About the Sports for Climate Action Framework
The Sports for Climate Action Framework was launched in Katowice, Poland in 2018 with an aim to encourage sport organisations to take collective action to limit global warming to a 1.5C degrees rise, the levels agreed in Paris during the 2015 Climate Change Conference.
The framework has two overarching objectives: achieving a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change through commitments and partnerships in congress with verified standards, and using sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens. Signatories must pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2040.
By signing on, signatories will agree to commit to the framework’s five principles:
• Undertake systemic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
• Reduce overall climate impact;
• Educate for climate action;
• Promote sustainable and responsible consumption; and
• Advocate for climate action through communication.
Sports organisations are invited to sign on regardless of the current stage of their environmental endeavours and to work collaboratively with other signatories to identify and spotlight solutions.
Commitment to the framework requires a demonstration of ongoing progress, meaning organisations need to set targets, measure their carbon impact and take action to reduce as well as compensate for those remaining emissions.
World Athletics signed on to the framework on Earth Day 2021, demonstrating the global governing body’s broader approach as outlined in the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, a 10-year road map unveiled in April 2020 whose goals include transitioning to carbon neutrality across all of its operations and events by 2030.
World Athletics urges all of its member federations, event organisers and other stakeholders to learn more about the framework and commit to its principles. World Athletics will provide its member federations with any guidance and assistance needed to ensure that our sport is positively contributing to the framework.