Soccer World Cup: More grey than green

South Africa is trying to “green” the Soccer World Cup, but local efforts are struggling to balance out the enormous carbon emissions caused by holding the tournament at the tip of the continent.

The new stadiums built for Africa’s first World Cup incorporate top-notch environmental standards, such as natural ventilation, rain water capture, energy efficiency.

Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban have also planted thousands of trees to capture the carbon dioxide blamed for global warming.

Durban is the most ambitious of the nine host cities, planning to compensate for local carbon emissions by producing electricity from hydraulic turbines or biogas emitted by landfills.

Under the system of carbon credits, these projects will take two and a half years to offset the emissions caused by hosting the tournament in Durban, said Nicci Diederichs, head of the city’s green programmes.

Despite these efforts, the environmental cost of the World Cup will be heavy. The carbon footprint is estimated at the equivalent of 2,75-million tonnes of carbon dioxide, nine times higher than the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and more than twice as high as the Beijing Olympics.

Long trek
Simple geography is the main reason: foreign visitors will travel a total of 7,1-million kilometres to cheer their teams at the southern tip of Africa, their planes emitting tonnes of carbon.

Even without the international travel, South Africa will emit 900 000 tonnes domestically, partly because fans will have to fly between the far-flung host cities, and also because the country relies on coal for most of its electricity.

For efforts to offset the emissions, government has largely left the job to local players.

“The other host cities, and even at national level, they are not getting to grips with carbon issues and climate impact issues. It is so disappointing to see that no one else has really been able to tackle it,” Diederichs said.

The government in November called for proposals for projects that would generate carbon credits.

“At this point of time, they short-listed four projects.
None of them are actually feasible at this stage,” Diederichs said.

Something tangible?
Greenpeace climate campaigner Nkopane Maphiri said despite the publicity campaigns about the greening of 2010, not much has actually come to fruition.

“South Africa and the local organising committee have done a massive campaign about the greening of 2010, but we have yet to see something tangible,” he said.

“With 2010 already only 100 days away and not many things happening, we are worried.”

The environment ministry said that it was “in a process of developing a system that will contribute toward the reduction and/or offset of green house gases”, but couldn’t identify a programme already under way.

Anton Cartwright, coordinator of Promoting Access to Carbon Equity (PACE), which encourages voluntary efforts against emissions, said government should have begun looking at environmental efforts far earlier.

“It was a very naive tender,” he said of the government call for proposals.

“You can’t do this and expect people to come with a solution within four months. They should have been looking at this maybe two years ago.”

But he said that hosting the World Cup has prompted some soul-searching about environmental policies that has created a new awareness in South Africa.

“My sense, in the last year, we have seen a lot of changes and the World Cup is part of that,” he said. “When you get international people just asking the question ‘What is the footprint of the World Cup?’, it brings a new awareness.” - AFP

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