The Football World Cup in Qatar, an ecological aberration certainly, but to what extent? How much carbon dioxide (CO2) will the competition transmit? Estimates vary almost from simple to double. According to FIFA [PDF]it will be 3.6 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of the annual emissions of a country like Haiti or the Democratic Republic of Congo. But Greenly and Carbon Market Watch, two organizations specializing in the carbon footprint which have redone the calculations, are counting on 5 to 6 million tonnes instead. So why such a difference?
As we explain in the video at the top of the article, this discrepancy is mainly linked to the conservative methodology of the Fifa report concerning the emissions generated by the construction of stadiums. And more particularly the six so-called “permanent” enclosures, that is to say those which will remain there after the tournament – unlike a seventh stadium, intended to be dismantled.
The sequel after the ad
Fifa estimates the carbon footprint of these six sites at 206,000 tonnes of CO2and that of the temporary stage at 438,000 tonnes. “Something wrong with this calculation is obvious”, comments Gilles Dufrasne, the author of the Carbon Market Watch study. In detail, the FIFA report attributes to the six construction sites a balance of 4,500 tonnes of CO2the rest – that is to say almost all – corresponding to the seats alone, which will be dismantled.
Breakdown of emissions over 60 years
To arrive at such low results, the report distributes construction-related emissions over the total lifespan of stadiums, estimated at sixty years. Over this period, the equivalent of only 70 days of broadcasts is allocated to the tournament, ie less than 1%. A kind of accounting greenwashing. And a biased calculation, since these stadiums would probably not have been built without the World Cup.
World Cup 2022: did Qatar gag France?
Furthermore, Fifa’s calculation assumes that the stadiums will continue to be used after the tournament. Nothing is less sure. Qatar has built the equivalent of a Stade de France, a Vélodrome and five Bollaert stadiums in Lens on a territory as large as Ile-de-France, but four times less populated… and not really a football fan . These enclosures therefore have a good chance of ending up like certain infrastructures of previous editions in Brazil, Russia and South Africa: empty most of the year, or even completely abandoned.
“You have to go back to the World Cup in Germany in 2006 to see stadiums that found their economic model and continued to be fully used thereafter”, exposes Gilles Dufrasne. Of course, it is possible that these buildings will be adapted to local needs after the competition. But for now, “no concrete element” was given by Qatar, deplores the carbon market specialist.
The sequel after the ad
Taking into account all the emissions, his NGO estimated the carbon footprint of the stadiums at 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 – eight times more than Fifa. The infrastructure sector is not the only area where emissions items have been undervalued: on transport, the calculations are not entirely correct either. Although the Fifa report took into account the movement of supporters from their country of origin, the emissions of the 160 “shuttle” flights carrying supporters who cannot find accommodation in the emirate each day were not counted.
If you don’t know your carbon footprint yet, have you wasted your life?
In addition, Fifa promises a competition “carbon neutral”, through compensation mechanisms. The principle: buy “carbon credits”, which finance projects that contribute to reducing CO emissions2. “Except that two days before the tournament, barely 400,000 credits have been purchased out of the 3.6 million needed. At this stage, communicating about a carbon neutral competition is completely inappropriate and misleading for the public”, denounces Gilles Dufrasne, whose NGO has filed a complaint with the Belgian Advertising Ethics Jury against Fifa for misleading advertising. The NGO Notre Affaire à tous did the same in France.