Sustainable football: How EURO 2024 attempts to be climate-neutral

As football remains the most carbon-negative sport in the world, EURO 2024 is trying to change that with its climate-neutral policies.

It’s no secret that football is a carbon-heavy sport capable of ramping up a nation’s carbon budget. Now, UEFA is attempting to reduce the climate impact of its EURO 2024 tournament.

While it is undoubtedly the most popular sport of the 21st century, football leaves its carbon footprint all over the globe. It is estimated that the football industry produces more than 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This amount is equivalent to the carbon emissions of a small country, such as Denmark.

To illustrate this, the Men’s World Cup 2022 alone produced approximately 3.63 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is a combination of transportation, logistics, electricity, construction and other contributing factors.

The UEFA EURO 2020 itself drew criticism for the climate impact associated with its international travel. Although UEFA said it was committed to ensuring the EURO’s sustainability at that time, the tournament still scored high in carbon costs.

This was due to huge distances between match locations. As it was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Championship competition, the federation announced the tournament would be hosted in several nations as a “romantic” one-off event.

With 11 cities in 11 UEFA countries each providing venues for the tournament, the UEFA predicted that the matches would generate an additional two million air trips.

Lately, the UEFA has also been further criticised for failing to come up with a strategy to cut its climate emissions in half by 2030. However, more progress is being demonstrated in its planning of the EURO 2024.

UEFA and EURO 2024

This year’s EURO is planned with an ESG strategy featuring three pillars which connect to 11 areas of action. These are in turn backed by 28 topics, 48 targets and 83 key performance indicators.

“Through the targeted investments and measures presented in our strategic approach, we have built the foundation to contribute to the tournament’s legacy, in full alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” said Michele Uva, UEFA director for social and environmental sustainability.

Adding to the discussion is Germany’s federal minister of the interior and sports, Nancy Faeser. Host cities in the country will accommodate the German Football Federation (DFB) and UEFA’s goals.

“We’ve set ourselves common goals that everyone is working on under their responsibility,” Faeser said. “I therefore welcome the fact that UEFA also wants to set standards for a sustainable tournament with its environmental, social and governance strategy for the EURO in Germany.”

Last year, the UEFA established a new “climate fund” that addresses the sport’s carbon footprint. The fund was established in Germany under the slogan ‘United by Football – Together for Nature’. The estimated total stands at around €7M, with plans for the UEFA to contribute €25 for every ‘unavoidable’ tonne of CO2e emissions.

Although the budget for EURO 2024 is a fraction of the Paris Olympics’ budget, it is still one of the biggest football championships this year. As the match stirs excitement worldwide, football fans are eagerly anticipating the clashes of their favorite teams. Make the most out of the experience by reading a guide to placing bets for this year’s biggest Football championships.

EURO 2024’s plans to be more sustainable

Learning from EURO 2020’s mistake, all EURO 2024’s games will take place in Germany this year. Around 2.7 million tickets will be sold for the 51 games scheduled in 10 stadiums.

To reduce the amount of carbon footprint via aviation, UEFA is subsidising a 25 per cent discount on Interrail passes. Travel to host cities will also be sold at only 29 euros.

On match days, rail operator Deutsche Bahn promised 10,000 extra seats on its high-speed ICE trains. On top of it, car parking will be quite restricted.

Participating teams are required to create their low-emission travel plans, such as using low-emission vehicles to move venues. Germany’s alliance of NGOs urged the country’s national team to travel sustainably. The alliance said in an open letter, “As hosts in particular, we should and can set a good example.”

Regarding infrastructure, the DFB plans to restrict power consumption in media centres. It will also use renewable power in stadiums and headquarters.

Generators in the area will be “environmentally friendly,” said the federation. Water consumption minimization measures are also said to be put in place.

In regards to match-day food and beverages, vegetarian alternatives will be available, served in recyclable or reusable containers.

“This is the first time all the stadiums and also public viewing areas plan to have reusable cups, so that’s definitely progress,” said lead author of a feasibility study for a Climate-neutral UEFA EURO 2024 Hartmut Stahl.

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