UEFA to Allocate Funding Competitively Through Climate Fund to Address Football’s Carbon Footprint
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the governing body for football in Europe, has announced plans to allocate funding through a newly established ‘climate fund’ to tackle the sport’s significant carbon footprint. The climate fund was created as part of the preparations for UEFA EURO 2024 in Germany, under the slogan ‘United by Football – Together for Nature’. The tournament will commence in Munich on June 14 and culminate with the final in Berlin on July 14.
Despite football not being considered a major carbon emitter compared to certain industries, the global football industry contributes over 30 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the emissions of a small country like Denmark. Leveraging the sport’s popularity and influence, football can play a crucial role in educating fans about climate change and promoting innovative solutions to address environmental challenges. With a market value of approximately $1.9 trillion in 2019, football has the potential to make a significant impact.
A study conducted on greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation for tier 3 football games during the 2012/13 season revealed that the estimated emissions for transport to and from stadiums amounted to 56,237 tons of CO2e. The carbon footprint tends to increase for more significant games, as supporters and players often travel greater distances for crucial matches. Spectators and teams use various means of transportation to attend tournaments, with each mode emitting a certain amount of CO2, with flying being the most polluting.
To accurately assess their emissions, football clubs must consider not only the transport to and from games but also all materials purchased for players, business travel, and even the emissions associated with the production of merchandise sold to fans. This requires a comprehensive mapping of the club’s activities, purchases, and sales. In the United States, the football league has opted to purchase carbon credits to offset a portion of its carbon emissions.
In preparation for the Euro 2024 tournament, UEFA has established a €7 million ($7.6 million) climate fund. UEFA will contribute €25 ($27) to the fund for every ‘unavoidable’ tonne of CO2e emissions. The estimated total of the fund stands at around €7 million ($7.6 million) based on pre-event emissions projections. Amateur football clubs in Germany, where the tournament takes place, have until June 30 to apply for financial support for their sustainability projects. Eligible projects, focusing on energy transition, water stewardship, waste management, or smart mobility, must be new initiatives. Clubs can seek up to €250,000, and a streamlined application process is available for requests under €25,000. The objective is for UEFA’s financing to contribute to long-term emissions reduction, involving fans and local communities in the process.
Bernd Neuendorf, president of Germany’s football association (DFB), highlighted the significance of the UEFA climate fund for amateur football in the country. He emphasized that it provides clubs with an opportunity to enhance their commitment to environmental and climate protection. Neuendorf also underscored the collaborative efforts between the DFB, Germany’s federal government, UEFA, and other stakeholders to initially reduce the projected carbon footprint of the tournament, minimizing the necessity for offsetting.
Major sporting events face challenges in decarbonization, with transportation accounting for a significant portion (60% – 70%) of football’s carbon footprint, according to some estimates. Addressing Scope 3 emissions, where transport footprint falls, is the most challenging task for professional sporting events. For instance, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar generated an estimated 3.6 million tonnes of CO2e, with over half of these emissions coming from spectator transportation.
UEFA’s approach to offsetting stands out for its emphasis on community engagement rather than tracking individual emissions in tonnes. The organization invests in small-scale local projects, deviating from the trend among many corporations that favor large-scale global initiatives. While most of these projects are nature-based, there is also a growing interest in supporting early-stage man-made carbon capture and removal technologies.
In 2023, challenges arose for advocates of large international nature-based carbon offsetting schemes within voluntary carbon markets (VCM). These markets collectively exceeded $1 billion in value in 2021, with projections indicating a potential 160-fold increase by 2050. To address integrity issues surrounding the VCM, initiatives like the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative (VCMI) launched the Claims Code of Practice, which serves as a rulebook for companies in project selection, offsetting claims, and decarbonization-offsetting strategies. Collaborating with the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM), VCMI aims to enhance confidence in the market.
UEFA’s climate fund symbolizes the sport’s commitment to environmental responsibility and a sustainable football future. With its innovative offsetting approach and community-centric projects, UEFA aims to drive lasting change in football’s carbon footprint.