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Paris Moves the Ball Forward on Climate

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Allen Hershkowitz, Ph.D.

President, Green Sports Alliance

 

 

 

 

The agreement reached at the Paris COP and its approval by 195 countries confirms irreversible international momentum towards dealing with global climate change.

Although the Paris accord is not designed to be an enforceable treaty, its influence on the culture of the marketplace may ultimately become as powerful as an enforceable law. In that important sense, by codifying—for the first time ever– a new global consensus about the need to move away from burning fossil fuels and preventing the temperature of the planet from increasing by 2o Celsius, (or 3.6o Fahrenheit), Paris was a indeed historic meeting. Transparent reporting mechanisms and carbon reduction commitments from 186 of the 195 signatories to the Paris accord also contribute enormously to its force.

Now, with the agreement in place, it is up to governments, businesses, and NGOs alike to confront the hard work needed to implement its provisions.

The good news is that decades of political gridlock in Washington DC, and decades during which governments throughout the world avoided responsibility for combating global warming have encouraged a proliferation of innovative, market based solutions. And now, with the framework of the Paris agreement providing incentives and direction, decarbonization technologies will capture more and more of the market. It is worth noting that although the Paris accord was negotiated and approved by governments, it will be implemented overwhelmingly by the private sector. Indeed, visitors walking through Le Grand Palais during the Paris COP saw a diverse array of businesses promoting innovative decarbonization technologies not even dreamed about ten years ago.

Also unique at the Paris COP was the organized presence of the global sports industry. The strong showing of representatives from the world of sports confirmed how pervasively the concern about global warming has penetrated popular culture.

Among other accomplishments, the Paris COP indisputably confirmed the existence of a global sports greening movement, with representatives of sports federations, leagues, teams, venues and sports businesses from throughout the world coming together to describe their efforts addressing climate change.

Sports industry symposia held over three days at Le Grand Palais and Stade De France included athletes from professional soccer, snow, and sea sports, as well as presentations from representatives of the National Hockey League, Formula E, UEFA, the Australian Sports Environment Alliance, Protect Our Winters, the Golf Environment Organization, the British Association for Sustainable Sport, the French Ministry of Sports, Arsenal, the Atlanta Falcons, and sports venue designers like HOK.  (You can view videos of these organizations presentations here.)

The visibility of sports at the Paris COP is a new phenomenon for a gathering of climate negotiators. Indeed, this was the first time in the history of climate negotiations that the sports industry weighed in. In particular, it was the work of the French Ministry of Sport and the Green Sports Alliance that kept the sports industry’s concern about global climate disruption visible at the COP. And through our use of digital and social media the visibility of the sports industry at the Paris COP was broadcast throughout the world.

Will the deal achieved in Paris lead to a resolution of the challenges posed by climate change? Not in my lifetime. Does much work remain? Of course it does.

As the New York Times reported on the day after the agreement was signed:

“By itself, [the Paris agreement] will not save the planet. The great ice sheets remain imperiled, the oceans are still rising, forests and reefs are under stress, people are dying by tens of thousands in heat waves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds seven billion human beings is still at risk.”

But one thing is clear: global cultural assumptions about how humanity needs to relate to the planet are shifting in a helpful way. And the growing embrace of responsible environmental stewardship by the global sports industry is helping to instigate that cultural shift.  Indeed, as one participant told me after attending a Green Sports Alliance’s symposia at the COP, “The global sports industry might wind up having the greatest cultural influence in moving us towards a survivable carbon budget.” With billions of fans paying attention worldwide, that just might be the case.

The Sports Industry at the Paris Climate Talks

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Allen Hershkowitz, PhD
President
Green Sports Alliance

 

 

This week I travel to Paris, where I will be joined by sports industry representatives from throughout the world to communicate our collective concern about the urgent need to address climate change. Like everyone attending the Paris climate negotiations, those of us representing the sports industry will also be communicating about our collective responsibility to help reduce global warming pollution. We will also be reporting on the many good initiatives that the sports industry has already undertaken during the past decade to lower its carbon profile.

The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) represents the first United Nations climate meeting where the global sports industry will be playing a prominent role. I am proud to report that three events at the COP21 will be hosted or co-hosted by the Green Sports Alliance, and there will also be an event hosted by the French Ministry of Sports. Our intention is to use the visibility of sports to reach out to millions of fans and businesses, urging us all to take action, and to recognize that we are one team, one planet, and that climate change is not a game.

The United Nations recently reported that during the past twenty years, more than 600,000 people have died due to weather related events, while more than 4 billion people have been injured and about $2 trillion in economic damage has been incurred. The past ten years, as ocean temperatures have climbed and glaciers have melted, saw twice the amount of weather-related damage incurred than the ten years previously. Things are getting worse.

The two-week climate summit in Paris has been years in the making. It will seek to make progress in three areas: 1. Controlling emissions, 2. Developing financial assistance plans to help developing nations mitigate their own contribution to the problem and help them adapt to the major challenges that climate change imposes on them, and 3. Plan for future action.

Mitigation is essential; we must reduce our use of fuels that contribute to global warming. The goal is to develop plans collectively that will limit future warming to no more than 2 degree Celsius (almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The good news is that mitigation plans have been submitted by more than 170 countries, which are collectively responsible for 90 percent of all greenhouse emissions. The United States submitted its plan in March of 2015, and pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 26% by 2025 (using 2005 as the baseline year). China’s plan promises to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The not so good news is that the plans so far submitted don’t collectively add up to enough of a reduction in emissions to prevent worsening catastrophic damage. More needs to be done. Much more. And for this reason, negotiators at the COP will also focus on financing adaptation, especially for developing countries.

To truly address the climate crisis, we need a transformative shift in cultural attitudes about how we relate to the Earth. The Paris COP shows that mobilizing the world’s governments to act is crucial. But governments don’t lead cultural shifts, they follow. The global sports industry, one of the world’s most powerful economic sectors and arguably the most visible, is helping to lead that cultural shift towards ecologically smarter behavior. Already, the Green Sports Alliance and our allies have reached more than 100 million people about the need to shift towards responsible environmental stewardship, and our member teams and venues have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of millions of pounds, and they’ve often saved money doing so.

If you would like to learn about our work, please join us in Paris, watch our events on line at www.greensportsalliance.org, or follow the conversation with #GreenSports.

On December 5th and 6th, Green Sports Alliance COP21 panels will be held at 5PM (Paris-time) in Room 5 at Le Grand Palais:

  • On December 5th our panel speakers include:
    • Alejandro Agag, CEO, Formula E
    • Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Manager, UEFA
    • Gretchen Blieler, Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding; Protect Our Winters Board member
    • Omar Mitchell, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League
  • Moderator: Allen Hershkowitz, President, Green Sports Alliance
  • On December 6th our panel speakers include:
    • Chris DeVolder, Sustainable Design Leader, HOK
    • Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance
    • Alexis LeRoy, Founder and CEO, ALLCOT Group
    • Moderator: Scott Jenkins, Chairman, Green Sports Alliance

On December 7th at the Stade de France, the Green Sports Alliance is participating in Sustainable Innovation in Sport, a multi-panel symposium convened by Climate Action that is bringing together 100+ leaders from government, the United Nations, sports leagues and teams, and corporate sustainability leaders.

Confirmed speakers at the Stade De France event include:

  • Allen Hershkowitz, PhD, President, Green Sports Alliance
  • Neil Hawkins, Chief Sustainability Officer and Corporate VP, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Tânia Braga, Committee Head of Sustainability, Accessibility and Legacy, Rio 2016 Olympic Games
  • Dr. Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, Global Technology and Sustainability Director, Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions
  • Jean-Pierre Siutat, President, French Basketball Federation
  • Alexandra Boutelier, Managing Director, Stade de France
  • Mael Besson, Policy Officer, Sustainable Development of Sport, French Ministry of Cities, Youth and Sport
  • Viviane Fraisse, Sustainability Head, Roland Garros
  • Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Manager, UEFA
  • Alain Riou, Adjoint Director-General, French Federation of Tennis
  • Gretchen Bleiler, Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding; Protect Our Winters Board member
  • Omar Mitchell, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League
  • Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer, BT Group
  • Jacques Lambert, President, UEFA EURO 2016 Steering Committee; President, EURO 2016 SAS
  • Lewis Pugh, UNEP Patron of the Oceans

Advancing the Collegiate Green Sports Movement with AASHE

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David Muller
Membership Director
Green Sports Alliance

 

 

 

 

The Green Sports Alliance was honored to participate in several sessions at the recent AASHE 2015 Conference & Expo, themed “Transforming Sustainability Education,” in Minneapolis, MN.

Per AASHE’s website, the 2015 Conference & Expo was designed to “convene a diverse group of campus representatives – including faculty, students, sustainability officers, staff, administrators and presidents together with business, non-profit, government and community members – to celebrate and inspire sustainability solutions and innovations.”

AASHE blog post-David Muller

The Green Sports Alliance works with nearly 40 colleges, universities, and collegiate athletic conferences across the country—and that number is rising quickly. As a testament to the growing interest from sustainability officers in greening Athletics and Recreation programs at their respective institutions, the Green Sports Alliance participated in three different sessions at AASHE for the first time:

The PAC 12 Road to Zero Waste Competition – Panel discussion highlighting the ‘Road to Zero Waste Challenge’, an unprecedented (friendly) competition between all twelve Pac-12 universities, organized by the GSA, to achieve the highest landfill waste diversion rate at a men’s or women’s basketball game in Spring 2015. The University of California, Berkeley won the inaugural competition with a sparkling diversion rate of 95.7%. Halli Bovia of USC moderated, and I was joined on the panel by Lin King and Katherine Walsh of UC Berkeley.

Greening Collegiate Sports: Facility Tour and Networking Event – A tour highlighting the sustainability profile of GSA Member University of Minnesota’s LEED Silver-Certified TCF Bank Stadium, which opened in 2009 and was the first collegiate or professional football stadium in the country to achieve LEED certification. The tour was followed by a networking reception and a panel discussion moderated by me and featuring several UM reps and Dave Newport of CU-Boulder.

Green Sports Alliance Networking Lunch – A lunchtime gathering that featured discussions of new and innovative sports sustainability efforts, opportunities for campuses to develop sponsorships of their sports greening efforts, and opportunities for campus sustainability and sports greening advocates to link and leverage their efforts.

These lively and well-attended sessions provided a wonderful opportunity to share some of the outstanding work taking place at GSA member campuses around the U.S., and provided sufficient inspiration for several new colleges and universities to join the Green Sports Alliance.

I applaud AASHE for putting on a top-notch event, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to shine a light on Collegiate Athletics’ role in advancing institutional sustainability goals as well as the broader green sports movement. I look forward to the Green Sports Alliance and our collegiate members having an even more prominent role in Baltimore next year!

SPORTS MEMBERS INCLUDE...
403
TOTAL SPORTS MEMBERS
193
TEAMS
194
VENUES
16
LEAGUES