IOC takes leadership role in the UN Sports for Climate Action Initiative

As world leaders at the UN Climate Change Summit in Poland (COP24) prepare to implement the Paris Agreement to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken on a leadership role in the new UN Sports for Climate Action Initiative, which aims to drive climate action across the sports community.

The Initiative was launched today by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in partnership with the IOC, at a High-Level Event of the Summit. It aims to set the course for the sports world to address climate change through concrete commitments and partnerships, while applying verified standards to measure, reduce and report greenhouse gas emissions – in line with the Paris Agreement.

“Addressing climate change is everyone’s responsibility, and the IOC treats it very seriously – as an organisation, as the owner of the Olympic Games and as the leader of the Olympic Movement,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “Sport is about action, and today the world needs urgent action to limit the rise of global temperatures. The Olympic Movement and the sports community at large are committed to making their contribution to the Sports for Climate Action Initiative.”

“The IOC is proud to have taken on a leadership role in the Sports for Climate Action Initiative,” said HSH Prince Albert II, Chair of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, speaking at the event. “With its global reach, universal appeal and the power to inspire and influence millions of people around the globe, sport is uniquely placed to drive global climate action and encourage crowds to join in. As countries here in Katowice prepare to turn their climate commitments into reality, we stand ready to leverage the power of sport to support their efforts.”

Sport is already being heavily impacted by climate change. Unreliable snow and warm winters are threatening winter sports, and rising summer temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns are increasingly challenging for summer sports athletes, event organisers and spectators.

The Sports for Climate Action Framework calls on the sports world – including sports federations, leagues and clubs – to jointly develop a climate action agenda for sport, adhering to five principles: promoting greater environmental responsibility, reducing overall climate impact, educating for climate action, promoting sustainable and responsible consumption, and advocating for climate action through communication. The Initiative also aims to use sport to drive global climate awareness and action.

The IOC, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024, and sports organisations such as World Sailing, the World Surf League, Roland Garros and Forest Green Rovers – a UK-based, professional football club dedicated to “greening up” football – have all signed the Framework. Athletes from around the world have sent words of support for the Initiative.

As part of its leadership role, the IOC will support the signatories in understanding and implementing the guiding principles of the Initiative. To support the Framework, the IOC released two practical guides today: “Carbon Footprint Methodology for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games”, which provides detailed guidance to the Organising Committees on how to measure the carbon footprint of the Olympic and Paralympic Games; and “Sports for Climate Action”, published in collaboration with the UNFCCC, which aims to provide the Olympic Movement at large with a general understanding of the issues related to climate change and managing carbon emissions.

Sustainability is a working principle of the Olympic Movement and one of the three pillars of its strategic roadmap for the future – Olympic Agenda 2020. Climate change has a prominent place in the IOC’s sustainability work: it is one of the five focus areas and a cross-cutting theme of the IOC’s Sustainability Strategy. The IOC’s long-term strategic intent for 2030 is to put in place effective carbon reduction strategies for operations and events, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

As owner of the Olympic Games, the IOC now requests the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games to develop carbon-management plans, including action to promote low-carbon solutions and compensate greenhouse gas emissions. As an organisation, the IOC has put in place carbon-reduction measures and is compensating its residual emissions thanks to its Official Carbon Partner, Dow. As the leader of the Olympic Movement, the IOC is also providing one-on-one guidance and support on climate-related issues to International Sports Federations and National Olympic Committees.

The UN Climate Change Summit (COP24) is taking place from 2 to 14 December in Katowice, Poland. During the Summit, countries are expected to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme, which is needed to implement the Paris Agreement and limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5°C.

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