The organizers they repeated it every chance they got. And always with insistent pride. There World Cup in Qatar it will be the first “carbon neutral”. It means that the thirty days of the competition will have a impact on the climate “zero or negligible”. A historic milestone which, according to the Fifahas been achieved by adapting the new ones technologies the peculiarities of the host country. The facilities of the competition (eight), are at most 75 kilometers apart from each other. This means that to move from one stage at the other the fans will be able to take advantage of the lines of the local subway, fuel-efficient shuttles and electric buses without having to fly. Plus one of the installations pulled up out of nowhere to host the competition, the 974 Stadiumwas built using naval containers and can be completely dismantled and reused elsewhere, or supplied components for swimming pools, sports centres, department stores. And again: a was built photovoltaic system of over 10 square kilometers which will supply energy to the country for the competition but also for the decades to come, while in the middle of the desert a huge nursery of trees and turf which should absorb CO2 emissions in the area.
It is an impressive and ambitious project that indicates a new route in the fight against climate change. Or maybe not. Because if the organizing committee spoke openly about successseveral environmental organizations have highlighted their own perplexity. According to some estimates, in fact, the World Cup in Qatar would still produce 3.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. That is almost double compared to the Russian World Cup in 2018 (2 millions tons) and eight times more than in Euro 2020 (450 thousand). It is a serious problem, above all if one considers that, according to estimates by theAENEAS, 42 million tons are produced per year to heat apartments throughout Italy (therefore 3.6 on average per month). It means that for thirty days a nation like the Qatarwhich has about two and a half million inhabitants, will pollute as much as a country almost 30 times larger. Numbers heavy, which add to an already difficult situation. In fact, Qatar is the first country in the world for polluting emissions per capita (32 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person in 2021) and only 2% of its energy comes from renewables.
This is also why someone has spoken openly about greenwashinga rather intuitive term that can be translated as a “strategy of communication or marketing pursued by companies, institutions, organizations that present their activities as eco-sustainable, trying to hide their negative environmental impact”. In recent weeks the organization Carbon Market Watch published his study in which the idea of competition “carbon neutral” is disassembled piece by piece. According to the report, in fact, the actual environmental footprint of the World Cup would be at least eight times higher to that announced by Fifa. What makes the accounting go wrong is the calculation criterion adopted by the organizers. Also because, claims the environmental association, “the assessment of the footprint of carbon it can only happen at the end of the event and, therefore, demanding carbon neutrality before the event takes place is premature and unfeasible”. To understand the problem we need to start from the definition of “Carbon Neutral”, which indicates a situation in which “human-centric CO2 emissions are globally balanced by anthropocentric CO2 removals in a specific period”.
One of the most delicate points of the question concerns the emissions produced for the creation of the infrastructure necessary to host the competition. The point is that a nation that before the Cup was awarded could only count on one great player stage he had to build another seven (which he otherwise would not have needed). The real risk, according to Carbon Market Watch, is that at the end of the tournament these facilities will be o unnecessary or oversized, given the continuation of football in that geographical quadrant. For example, the newborn stage Al Janoub it will have a capacity of 20,000 spectators and will be the headquarters of the Al-Wakrah Sports Club, which previously played in a 12,000-spectator venue. And it’s not exactly easy to determine whether a team that hasn’t won the championship for 21 years will really be able to increase theirs public by almost a third. The same goes for the 20,000-seat stadium by Education City, which will become the home of the Qatar women’s national team. In practice, for a full efficiency of the facility, a newborn movement that goes on amidst a thousand difficulties should attract a number of spectators close to that of the last women’s world championship.
The experiences of the past World Cup they offered a rather clear warning. Some of the stadiums built for Russia 2018 they did not host big teams and proved unsustainable for the clubs. A plant built in Amazonia for Brazil 2014 is not used frequently while another has become a parking area for buses, not to mention that those made for South Africa 2010 are underutilized and pose a problem for companies finances public. The risk that the stadiums of Qatar will end up the same way is high. And to build them, a significant amount of was released into the air greenhouse gases. Only to build up the demountable plant were issued 438 thousand tons of CO2, i.e. more than double the polluting gases that were needed to build all the other six stadiums (206,000 tons). An apparent paradox. Because the permanent installations would have been given a carbon footprint calculated not on the actual days of tournament, but on their entire life cycle, estimated at 60 years (but still uncertain). According to the estimates of Carbon Market Watch, on the other hand, the actual impact for the construction of the stadiums would be more than two million tons of CO2. It is however an indicative count, because it does not take into account the activities of maintenance and from functioning of plants in the years to come. Without forgetting that the emissions required to dismantle and possibly ship the 974 Stadium 7,000 kilometers away would be even higher than those produced by the construction of two permanent stadiums.
But it doesn’t end there. Because the other big perplexity concerns theuse of water. The organizers have built a nursery of over 425,000 square meters which will supply trees to the parks around the stadiums and lawns for playing and training fields. This weed “factory” is the largest in the world and is located next to a large plant treatment of waste water. But it has not been clarified whether this massive use of water in a desert region may have negative effects on the daily needs of the population. Even the idea that green can engulf carbon dioxide is not exactly exact. The Carbon Market Watch states that to absorb that amount of CO2 plants would need hundreds of years, whereas it is unlikely that trees and lawns can remain alive for so long, given that they have been placed in artificial green areas that require intense irrigation. For this also the survival of playing fields requires enormous water power. Each square meter of soil requires up to 5 liters of water per day. It means that just to water the lawns of the stadiums and training fields, Qatar will need at least a day 80 thousand liters of water. A huge amount for a country where fresh water sources are close to zero. For this the emirate is increasing its work by desalination, a practice that has very heavy costs on the environment. Most of the plants that convert seawater to freshwater are fueled by oil or gas and only theSaudi Arabia (which represents about a fifth of world production) can count on 30 plants that burn 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day (that is, as many as 40,000 Italians in an entire year, based on data from Confindustria Energia).
Furthermore, the desalination process releases a highly waste substance into the sea pollutant, strongly saline, toxic and hotter than sea water. And things are bound to get worse, as desalination activity in the area will grow by a further 37% over the next five years. The picture of the World Cup in Qatar, therefore, is likely to be a tints gloomy. Also because some elements have not been taken into consideration. Fans will also be able to travel on the underground from one stadium to another, but will still have to arrive at the stadium Qatar. And airplanes are the most popular means of transportation pollutants, with an average of 285 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer traveled (a car instead produces “only” 48 per passenger). Suffice it to say that, with these estimates, an English fan directed by London to Doha will produce about 1.8 tons of CO2. Without forgetting that each stadium will have a plant of air conditioning outdoors whose energy impact has not yet been clarified and which the waste sorting will play a fundamental role, given that according to data from the European Union, each fan, on match day alone, produces an average of one kilo of garbage. The organizers’ efforts to reduce pollution may not be enough. The World Cup will not only not be Carbon Neutralbut they will generate an amount of emissions eight times higher than that produced in one year by Iceland. And regardless of who wins the Cup, the defeat risks being collective.
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Qatar 2022, the world of greenwashing. Other than “carbon neutral”: it will pollute twice as much as Russia 2018 and eight times more than Euro 2020 – Il Fatto Quotidiano
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