Earth Day 2021 (© Christel Saneh)
World Athletics and organisers of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade22 have marked Earth Day 2021 by signing on to the United Nations Climate Change (UNCC) Sports for Climate Action Framework, an initiative supporting and guiding sports organisations to measure, reduce and offset their carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
The aim of the Framework is for international federations, leagues, clubs and event organisers to take collective action to limit global warming to a 1.5 C degrees rise, the levels agreed in Paris during the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in 2015.
The United Nations has recognised that the global carbon reductions required to meet the targets agreed to in Paris - to achieve a net zero emission economy by 2050 - cannot be met by governments alone. Meeting the scale of the immense challenge requires action from all sectors, including sport. With a global reach that includes a fan base in the billions and a unique power to inspire, sport is well positioned to help drive global climate action. With more than 1.4 billion people around the planet who run regularly, that’s particularly true for the sport of athletics.
"Climate change is one of the defining issues of our time," said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe upon signing the Framework’s letter of commitment.
“We are witnessing irreversible changes that are impacting our sport across the board – from the quality of the air our professional athletes and recreational runners breathe to our ability to hold events safely. It is critical that sport is seen as a major player in the battle against climate change and a driving force for solutions.”
Despite the worldwide economic slowdown driven by the pandemic last year, the planet’s temperatures continued to climb at an alarming rate. In its most recent annual report, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) noted that 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record and that the past six years, including 2020, were the six warmest on record.
Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework, Coe said, underscores the global governing body’s broader approach as outlined in the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, a ten-year road map unveiled in April 2020 whose goals include transitioning to carbon neutrality across all of its operations and events by 2030.
“We, as a truly global sport, have a very important role to play in the battle again climate change, but also in efforts to address diversity and advocate for social equality. It's important for us to utilise the power we have to lead and inspire others."
Coe added that local commitments and efforts to drive sustainability have become determining factors in World Athletics' choice of host cities for its championship events. "This is something our athletes and our fans are increasingly demanding. We, and our trusted partners, have to deliver. So I'm particularly proud that our partners in Belgrade have also committed to the principles outlined in the Framework.”
Slobodan Brankovic, President of the WIC Belgrade22 Local Organising committee, said: “I am glad that the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade22 continues in the footsteps of the Serbian Athletics Federation in terms of sustainability.
“It is important to us, as it is to our fans and I believe to young people in Europe alike, to organise sustainable athletic events, to reduce our carbon footprint and to leave our planet better than we found it for the generations to come.
“I am sure that World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade22 will be a leader in this area in Serbia and inspire a generation of young Serbians to take action to combat climate change.”
Eliud Kipchoge, the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder in the marathon and one of the sport’s most vocal proponents of environmental justice, said he was proud of his sport’s efforts to drive sustainability and combat climate change.
“I am very pleased that World Athletics has started a collaboration with United Nations Climate Change," Kipchoge said. "We have all inherited the earth and our contribution will be measured on sustainability. It is our task to save and improve the land upon where we live for future generations. We are in a race against time, every minute counts, just like a marathon.”
Eliud Kipchoge on Earth Day (© Dan Vernon/NN Running Team)
Venezuelan star Yulimar Rojas, the 2020 World Athlete of the Year, echoed Kipchoge's sentiments.
"The world is our home and we must be responsible with it. We are committed to taking care of it every day for the rest of our lives, it is a duty to us and also to future generations," Rojas said.
"Raising awareness about climate change is the responsibility of all of us. I am proud to send this message through World Athletics, who are taking an active part in fighting for a better world."
Organisers of other upcoming championships have also expressed their support for the principles of the Framework. The LOC of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, who already have a robust sustainability strategy in place, are expected to sign on to the Framework soon.
“We welcome World Athletics as a signatory to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework," said Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Sports for Climate Action Lead at UN Climate Change. "The world is in the most important race of our time – race against climate change. With over one billion active runners globally and counting, World Athletics has a significant opportunity to inspire climate action across this sports community and help win the race against climate change. We look forward to World Athletics’ contribution in helping to deliver on the goals of the Framework.”
About the Sports for Climate Action Framework
The Sports for Climate Action 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.
By signing on, signatories will agree to commit to five key 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.
The Sport for Climate Action Framework was launched in Katowice, Poland, in 2018, the city that will host the World Athletics Relays Silesia 2021 on 1-2 May. More than 200 governing bodies, leagues, clubs, teams and media organisations have signed on.
World Athletics urges all of its member federations, event organisers and other stake holders to learn more about the Framework and commit to its principles. World Athletics will provide any guidance and assistance needed to ensure that our sport is positively contributing to the framework.