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Qatar World Cup: Climate groups file complaints over 'carbon neutral' claim

Environmentalists across Europe dispute accuracy of Qatar and Fifa's plan to offset tournament emissions
A partial view of Doha's Education City Stadium one of the venues of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (AFP)
A partial view of Doha's Education City Stadium one of the venues of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar (AFP)

Environmentalists across Europe have filed complaints with advertising regulators disputing claims that next month’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar will be “carbon neutral”, climate activists said on Wednesday. 

The complaints were lodged in the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 

Fifa and Qatar have pledged to deliver “a fully carbon neutral World Cup” by creating energy efficient stadiums and low emission transport, as well as offsetting emissions through internationally recognised carbon credits, among other initiatives. 

But climate campaigners have criticised the methodology used to calculate the neutrality, including the attribution of offsets and the emissions from the construction of eight new stadiums. 

“Who can honestly believe that the construction of air-conditioned stadiums in the middle of a desert can be carbon neutral?” said Jeremie Suissa, executive officer at the French campaign association Notre Affaire A Tous. 

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"Football fans should be able to enjoy their sport without being taken hostage by Fifa’s drastic choices."

The French group has filed a complaint to advertising authorities. The New Weather Institute in the UK, Switzerland’s Klima-Allianz Schweiz [Climate Alliance], Belgium's Carbon Market Watch, and the Netherlands' Fossil Free Football have all taken similar action.

Footballers sign letter 

A report by Carbon Market Watch in May said that World Cup organisers' estimates that the tournament - which kicks off on 20 November - will emit 3.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were not accurate "due to the choice of accounting approach".

In addition to the advertising complaints, several footballers signed an open letter asking Fifa to scrap the carbon neutrality claims and review its approach to sustainability before the women’s World Cup in July next year. 

"Climate change is the opponent we must tackle - and we're already deep into extra time,” the letter stated. 

“Whatever shirt we wear or chant we sing, we've got everything to gain from taking action. But, instead of taking this golden chance, Fifa's currently set itself up to miss its best shot at goal.”

Signatories of the letter included Norwegian male international Morten Thorsby, Tessel Middag of Rangers WFC, Elin Landstrom of AS Roma Women, and Wycombe Wanderers’ David Wheeler. 

A spokesperson for the Qatar World Cup’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: “Sustainability has defined all our planning and operations, and it is at the heart of our legacy vision".

They also cited a new solar power plant the size of 1,300 football pitches, the planting of 679,000 shrubs and 16,000 trees, and the construction of the new Doha Metro. 

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