Qatar World Cup 2022: A Red Card For A Climate Disaster?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been one of the most highly anticipated international sporting events of the year. However, since its announcement in 2010, FIFA has been in the hot seat for its poor decision-making in offering Qatar the honour to host such an event. It has dipped its feet in every single controversy possible: human rights violations, mistreatment of migrant workers building the stadiums, discriminatory laws that refute Qatar’s “welcome to all” affirmation, and environmentally disastrous solutions to the insolvable logistics of hosting a summer sporting event in one of the hottest countries in the world.

It has dipped its feet in every single controversy possible

The Qatar World Cup proudly boasted its “carbon neutrality” goals, declaring that it seeks to either not produce any carbon dioxide emissions or cancel them out by removing them once they are produced, inflicting no harm to the environment throughout the tournament. However, according to official estimated figures, the 2022 World Cup will emit an estimated 3.6 million tons of CO2, much higher in comparison to the 2.1 million tons released during the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. 3.6 million tons is almost equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of Laos. An investigation by Carbon Market Watch, reported by Gilles Dufrasne, estimates that this figure falls in fact 1.6 million tons short of the actual predicted emissions. Furthermore, Julien Jreissati, programme director at Greenpeace Middle East, has accused the tournament of engaging in “greenwashing” and “sportswashing”, disjointing their statements from the reality of their actions (or rather inactions). Dufrasne himself stated that its carbon neutral claim “misleads players, fans, sponsors and the public into believing that their (potential) involvement in the event will come at no cost to the climate.”

The 2022 World Cup will emit an estimated 3.6 million tons of CO2

Criticism arose in the months leading up to the event regarding their “single-use” stadium and post-tournament legacy in a country that averages around a mere 1,500 supporters watching their most successful football team Al-Sadd, according to a report by the Daily Mail. Following the abandonment of Olympic sports stadiums in Rio and Athens, Qatar pledged that the stadiums would be utilised to host the Asian Football Cup in 2023, converted for public use into schools and hotels, and one would be demolished. However, these plans seem abstract, ill-defined, and ephemeral, especially when considering the environmental and economic cost of maintaining and operating the venues after the tournament.

Amongst the emissions produced are those emanating from transportation services for over a million visitors: an average of 160 daily shuttle flights a day are expected to transport fans staying in neighbouring countries to the stadiums in order to make up for the lack of accommodation in Qatar. It doesn’t stop there. The decision to air-condition the stadiums can be questioned as videos and pictures surface of fans and staff wearing hoodies indoors while the outside air boasts a scorching 30˚C. Despite the air-conditioning only accounting for a low amount of carbon emissions according to Gilles Dufrasne, it revives the question as to why was such a meteorologically incompatible country chosen as the host? Furthermore, as a country suffering from severe water scarcity suddenly confronted with high water demands for public consumption and infrastructure, Qatar has heavily relied on the process of desalination to remove salt from its water, especially the 10,000 litres used a day to douse the stadium and practice fields. This energy-intensive method uses large amounts of fossil fuels and releases toxic salt brine into the seawater, harming marine life, coral reefs and ultimately disrupts coastal ecosystems.

Why was such a meteorologically incompatible country chosen as the host?

This therefore poses the question whether large-scale sporting events accumulating masses of jubilant, unheeding fans such as the World Cup will ever be able to meet sustainability goals. While FIFA has officially pledged in collaboration with the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) since 2016 to reduce carbon emissions and single-use plastics produced by its tournaments, its greenwashing is a prime example of corporate virtue-signalling and an unfaithful attempt to align itself with international ecological policy. It therefore blindsides the oblivious fan into indulging in environmentally damaging consumer choices, ultimately serving as a “get out of jail free card”, a green veil, allowing future World Cups to be bigger, better, and more environmentally disastrous.


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