Sport & Sustainability: How is the industry tackling climate change? - SportsHotels - The sports accommodation experts

Sport & Sustainability: How is the industry tackling climate change?

In December 2023 some Alpine ski resorts said they were “battling for their future” due to the decrease in snow caused by climate change, and the situation is expected to get worse, even over the next few years. In many cases, snow was replaced with heavy rainfall and resorts weren’t able to open until well into the season.

Winter sports are hit particularly hard by the lack of snow, with programmes being disrupted or even cancelled, but summer sports feel the impact too, particularly when there’s extreme heat and poor air quality.

Playing Against the Clock: Global Sport, the Climate Emergency and The Case for Rapid Change predicts that if global temperatures increase by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, a quarter of English Football League grounds “Can expect temporary or permanent flooding by 2050.” It is also predicted that half of the previous Winter Olympics host cities won’t be able to host again by 2050, as they won’t have enough snow and ice.

The Cost Of Climate Change

Discomfort and declining snow levels aren’t the only problems… Expenses are increasing for sport at every level due to rising costs in agriculture, transport, supply chains, and more.

These rising costs will affect professional sport, but as is so often the case, the most deprived communities are most severely affected as they don’t have the budget to install better drainage or fix surfaces damaged by flooding.

According to the Climate Coalition, climate change is hitting these sports hardest:

  • Golf – Rising sea levels pose a serious threat, with far more closures due to waterlogged courses.
  • Grassroots football – Clubs lose an average of 5 weeks each season due to bad weather, and more than a third can’t use their facilities for 2-3 months.
  • Football league – Cancelled fixtures due to bad weather affect players and fans alike. During the 2015/16 season, Carlisle United couldn’t use its club for 49 days, which cost them close on £200,000
  • Cricket – The rate of matches affected by rain has more than doubled since 2011

Tackling The Issues

In 2018 the U.S. Open introduced an extreme heat policy, enabling players to request a break to get some shade and hydrate. This was one of the first times a rule was changed due to climate, and many other sports have followed.

Top skiers sent a letter to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation in 2023 demanding that action be taken to protect the environment, following a season with visibly lower levels of snow. One of the requests was for the federation to update its schedule so competitors wouldn’t have to fly back and forth so much, and could reduce their carbon footprint.

There was also a petition in October 2023 which gathered 35,000 signatures, demanding that the federation take more action to deal with the climate crisis and have greater transparency about its sustainability measures.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a sustainability strategy and since 1994 has pledged “To encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly.” Actions have included revising public transport systems in Olympic host cities to be more energy-efficient, creating more green areas in those cities, and using more sustainable construction methods and materials. London 2012 was the first time a ‘zero waste to landfill’ target was set and achieved! The Tokyo Olympics sourced the majority of its energy from renewable sources, offset more than 4 million tons of CO2, and introduced hydrogen to power the Olympic torch, as well as many vehicles and buildings in the Olympic village.

There’s a growing list of organisations committed to improving sport’s impact on the environment, such as the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA) in Australia which has local communities, professional clubs, city councils, and national sports organisations working together to drive change. It’s encouraging to see more and more initiatives like this taking shape, and making it possible for individuals, teams, companies and sports bodies to get involved.

Sport’s powerful reach can help make a difference too, and sports teams taking action can encourage and inspire their sponsors, fans, and communities to reduce their carbon footprint and influence sustainability in their corner of the world. This is an important issue which the team takes very seriously, and we believe it’s possible to increase sustainability without completely avoiding things like travel – we believe in making smart choices and finding the best, most sustainable options, and we’re proud to work with many hotels who share that philosophy. If you and your team would like to make your travel more sustainable, we’d love to help!

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