Is sport a victim of climate change and/or a contributor towards it?
Think about that question for a moment…
Sport is actually both a victim of climate change and a major contributor to climate change. Sport is a victim because of the negative impact of climate change on sport and a victimiser because of the large carbon footprint generated from sporting activities across the globe.
As a former West Indies cricket captain and as an administrator within the UWI Faculty of Sport, I feel a deep sense of personal and professional responsibility to champion the awareness of this issue and to coerce much-needed adaptive changes. Through the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Sport, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a few other partners, I was fortunate to be involved in a research project centred on this very pertinent topic. My involvement has opened my eyes to the point, so much so that I am now compelled to act.
There are a great number of phenomena associated with climate change that are already impacting the sporting landscape in a material way, such as extreme weather conditions and a host of related issues. Heatwaves, wildfires, poor air quality, cyclones, the loss of biodiversity, droughts, rising sea levels, excessive rainfall and enhanced disease risks are some of the phenomena associated with climate change. These are quite disruptive elements that have been intensifying and will soon obliterate sport at all levels—the industry level and the institutional and individual levels.
Rest assured, sport faces an existential threat. We must act now.
But, how should we act to address this burning issue? I have developed fifteen (15) recommendations for our consideration:
1. There is need for governing bodies in sport to launch and implement environmental strategies that will facilitate the achievement of a carbon-neutral goal. There is also a need to set targets and to aim for incremental reductions in the size of the carbon footprint related to our sport. World Athletics and World Sailing have already actioned this type of adaptive approach.
2. Adopt mitigation measures across the sporting levels immediately. These include but are not limited to a positive management of supply chains and the manufacturing of items related to sport. Implement a management system that insists that manufacturing standards incorporate more sustainable materials and promote shorter environmentally friendly supply chains.
3. Collaborate with partners in sport and use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and media platforms to communicate powerful messages on Climate Actions to enhance education on environmental issues and the use of sport CSR investment to better achieve the goal of carbon neutrality.
4. The management, design and re-design of sporting infrastructure should be green and climate-friendly. Adopt change management principles towards the management of sporting facilities to ideally reduce carbon emissions. Use zero carbon building standards, promote efficiency and resilience for both new and retrofitted buildings.
5. Upscale recycling and our attitude to recycling.
6. Implement and/or enhance Green Waste Management.
7. Implement and enhance water harvesting.
8. Use renewable energy sources.
9. Decarbonise transport, even if we have to offer concessions or incentives for same.
10. Work towards a shared understanding on climate change and create climate-change-themed sport challenges between and among partners.
11. Develop a governing framework to protect our land and our oceans.
12. Mainstream climate change considerations by introducing climate change concepts into all aspects of life.
13. Partner with academic institutions to support and promote climate change and sport sustainability programming.
14. Support and sponsor research and scholarship in climate change and sport sustainability.
15. Be a champion for outreach and advocacy in the arena of climate change.
These measures must become a way of life for all of us. For now, take a bold step and join us at the UWI Faculty of Sport to get more deeply involved in our urgent climate action agenda.