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World football governing body FIFA has said that it will host the first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup this year – but not everyone’s buying it.
Marking World Environment Day on Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino reiterated a pledge to have a green tournament, saying the body “is playing its part” for the environment “so I call on all of you to raise the FIFA green card for the planet,” he said.
Host nation Qatar, the world’s largest emitter per capita of carbon dioxide, has said it will keep emissions low and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the tournament produces by investing in projects that will capture the greenhouse gases.
Climate activists aren’t convinced, and one German politician has accused the organizers of “greenwashing” the event – a term used to call out those who try to cover their damage to the environment and climate with green initiatives that are either false, misleading or overstated.
“There is no such thing as a carbon-neutral world championship,” Michael Bloss, a member of the European Parliament for Germany’s Greens party, told CNN last week. “It’s a bit of a punch in the face” for environmental efforts, Bloss said. “Calling it a green championship is bizarre.”
Here’s why environmentalists and advocates for climate action are skeptical about the organizers’ claims:
Calculation of carbon footprint
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SCDL), the body organizing the event, and FIFA predicted in a February 2021 report the carbon footprint of the World Cup would be around 3.6 million metric tons of CO2.
Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a nonprofit advocacy group specializing in carbon pricing, says those calculations are grossly underestimated for several reasons. Qatar has built seven new arenas specifically for this tournament, one of them temporary and six permanent. CMW claims FIFA’s math doesn’t add up because it has excluded the emissions emitted from cooling the air-conditioned stadiums. On top of that, the footprint is calculated using only the 70 days the stadiums will be used, not their entire lifetime, when they will need continued maintenance. The tournament lasts 28 days.
After major sporting events it is common to see venues become underutilized, but the SCDL told CNN that there will be no “white elephants” left behind after the competition ends. FIFA and the SCDL justify the emissions from the stadiums’ construction by arguing Qataris and visitors can continue to use the facilities in the future.
Commenting on the CMW report, the SCDL said it was “speculative and inaccurate to draw conclusions” on its commitment to carbon neutrality.
FIFA and Qatar pledge to offset carbon emissions by investing in green projects and buying carbon credits – a common practice used by businesses to “cancel out” the impact of a carbon footprint.
But climate experts have highlighted the limitations of offsetting programs such as tree planting, arguing that while they play a crucial role in absorbing and storing carbon, they are overused – and their impact sometimes overstated – to allow for business-as-usual emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Qatar has secured 1.5 million carbon credits so far out of the 3.6 million it needs, the organizers have said, and the SCDL told CNN that since the tournament is yet to start “the ex-post carbon emissions inventory can only be finalized after the event.”
It added that it will be sowing the seeds for the largest turf farm in the world by planting 679,000 shrubs and 16,000 trees. The plants will be laid at stadiums and elsewhere around the country and are supposed to absorb thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.
Compact size of Doha
Qatar has touted its tiny size as being advantageous to its carbon-neutral ambitions for the World Cup. The short distance between stadiums would negate the need for domestic air travel by fans and reduce the carbon footprint of the tournament, the Gulf nation said in September.
But last week Qatar announced a plan to have ticket holders stay in neighboring countries and shuttle in and out of the country by air to attend the games.
“They are going to emit a lot of CO2 from the airplanes,” Bloss, the German MEP, told CNN.
Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, which partnered with regional airlines to arrange the 160 extra flights a day to the country during the tournament, defended the plan last week.
“[We] have airplanes which have very low emissions compared to the normal aircraft most of the other airlines fly,” including long-haul flights, he told CNN’s Becky Anderson.
He didn’t elaborate on how the planes’ emissions would be lower than others, but the airline’s website says it uses “one of the youngest fleets in the sky” and has implemented 70 fuel optimization programs.
South Africa says UAE arrests Gupta brothers, wanted on corruption charges
South Africa on Monday said the United Arab Emirates had arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, brothers who face charges of political corruption under former South African President Jacob Zuma.
- Background: The brothers are accused of using connections with Zuma, who ruled from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, misappropriate state assets, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing. They left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in 2018. Dubai police confirmed on Tuesday that they arrested the pair, calling them “among South Africa’s most wanted suspects.” The UAE and South Africa ratified an extradition treaty in April 2021.
- Why it matters: The announcement comes just days after Denmark’s justice ministry said the main suspect in a dividend tax fraud case, Sanjay Shah, was arrested in Dubai. Shah maintains his innocence. The UAE has been trying to rid itself of the image of a haven for fugitives in financial crimes. This year, the country was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list that aims to combat money laundering.
Saudi first-quarter GDP grows by 9.9%, fastest in a decade
Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product grew 9.9% in the first quarter of this year, official data showed on Tuesday. The growth is the fastest in a decade.
- Background: Saudi Arabia and fellow oil producing Gulf Arab states have seen their fortunes multiply since Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February. The event led to energy prices skyrocketing, which experts say will allow the nations to register budget surpluses after eight years of deficit. In May, Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable company, replacing Apple.
- Why it matters: As Saudis reap the benefits of high oil prices, Western officials have been asking Gulf monarchs to increase production in order to cool down oil prices. An agreement by OPEC to pump more oil over the next two months has laid the groundwork for an upcoming July visit by US President Joe Biden, where he is meant to meet for the first time with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Train derailment in eastern Iran kills at least 17 people, injures 50
A passenger train derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday morning, leaving at least 17 people dead and 50 injured, the Iranian Red Crescent said on Twitter.
- Background: The number of deaths is expected to rise due to the severity of the injuries, the south Khorasan governorate official Seyyed Abolhassan Mirjalili said, according to Iranian state media IRNA. The train was carrying 348 passengers when it collided with an excavator on the rail, IRNA said. Aerial footage published on Iran’s Red Crescent social media showed train cars on their side in the desert.
- Why it matters: The incident comes almost two weeks after a 10-story commercial building collapsed in the city of Abadan killing 41 people and sparking anti-government demonstrations across Iranian provinces.
What to watch
India is scrambling to repair damage with its Arab allies caused by anti-Islam comments by an official from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which prompted some Gulf states to summon India’s ambassadors.
Indian journalist Barkha Dutt tells CNN’s Becky Anderson why it took the party almost 10 days to discipline the official. Watch the interview here:
Around the region
Some of those living in the UAE may need a wardrobe makeover.
Shirts with cigarettes, socks with marijuana leaves, hoodies with 4/20 slogans, or any product promoting narcotics could lead to serious trouble, including jail sentences.
Dubai Police have warned that violators of a law banning such displays could be faced with fines of as much as 5,000 dirhams ($1,360) and repeat offenders could be locked up for as long as two years.
The law, part of wider legislative reform at the end of 2021, prohibits pictures, drawings, writings or ideas that encourage any acts that involve the use of drugs.
Officials have urged people in the UAE to raise awareness about the law, especially among youngsters. Police have said that youths who are exposed to such images are four times more likely to consume marijuana, according to Gulf News.
Under the law, the greatest punishment is targeted at those who produce, import and sell such items, with fines starting at 50,000 dirhams. In all cases, goods will be confiscated. The same law, however, relaxed rules around possession of narcotics, cut sentences and softened rules on first-time offenders.
By Tasmiyah Randeree