The Brazilian government promised that the 2014 football World Cup would be an ecological event. Music festivals and other large gatherings now claim to pursue the same goal. But how far can the organisers really go in making their events green?

“We want to score green goals,” Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira announced at a press conference on 28 May. Hosting a major sports event such as the football World Cup is in fact a huge challenge in terms of environmental consequences. Building stadiums and infrastructures, flying in the teams, the personnel and the public, hosting them, handling their waste, etc., all comes at a cost – and that cost is easily translatable into greenhouse gases emissions. Ms. Texeira said that the 2014 World Cup was expected to directly emit 59,000 metric tons of carbon – the figure rises to 1.4 billion metric tons when indirect emissions are taken into account. That is half the footprint of the 2012 London Olympics.

At times of economic and ecological crises, events such as the World Cup or the Olympics arouse criticism from local populations and foreign observers for being too expensive, or environmentally harmful – and often both. Brazil has seen strong protests in the past weeks and months, and is facing the tricky equation that every organiser of such events now has to deal with: how to reconcile the entertainment the public is expecting with the needs of local populations and environmental issues. In other words, how can it be made a win-win event for everyone?

Together with the United Nations Environment Programme, the government also launched the “"green passport"”: an app that recommends environmentally sustainable activities for tourists while they are visiting the country. About 600,000 foreigners and 3.1 million Brazilian tourists are expected to descend on the 12 host cities. Other initiatives to limit emissions include training garbage collectors on recycling, and selling local and organic food in host cities.

The government has also chosen to offset the carbon emissions that will be generated in spite of these efforts: they have asked companies to give out carbon credits in exchange for the right to advertise themselves as “green seal” World Cup sponsors. The United Nations’ blog “Climate Change” details: The Government of Brazil has announced an initiative encouraging holders of carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM – this was established as part of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 – Ed.), called certified emission reductions (CERs), to donate them to organizers to offset emissions (…). All donated credits must originate from Brazilian CDM projects.” Ms. Texeira said that this programme had already made it possible to offset 115,000 metric tons of emissions. “The Cup will open having offset 100% of its direct emissions,” she stated.

2014 World Cup

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