What is COP26 and how does it affect sport?

, What is COP26 and how does it affect sport?, The Evepost BBC News
Ways climate is already impacting sport

When world leaders meet in Glasgow this week to discuss the global response to climate change, sporting organisations will either be involved or looking on with interest.

The summit, COP26, is the latest in a series of annual meetings, but this one is considered by many as the most significant yet, with a major United Nations scientific report warning that climate change is a “code red for humanity”.

The two-week conference is expected to dominate the news agenda around the world, but it could also have implications for sport.

What exactly is COP?

COP stands for “conference of the parties” and is an annual meeting of the 197 parties (mostly countries) who have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement aimed at “preventing dangerous human interference with the climate system”.

Glasgow is the 26th occurrence and has added significance as nations are expected to outline their plans for honouring pledges made five years ago relating to global warming.

Agreement was reached at COP21 in Paris to limit global warming to well below 2C and, preferably, to 1.5C compared to pre-industrial levels.

However, the increase is already believed to be 1.1C and we are on course for 2.7C warming this century with current emissions, something a recent UN report warned could have “disastrous consequences” and be a “climate catastrophe”.

The meeting is being seen as of elevated importance after last year’s was postponed during the pandemic and also coming after a year of unprecedented weather events: flooding in western Europe (killing at least 170 people) and China (displacing nearly 2m people), as well as the “heat dome” in Canada and the United States which is estimated to have killed around 1bn marine animals,external-link not to mention a continued growth in wildfires.

Nobody can look away from climate change – Kenworthy

How is climate change affecting sport?

Extreme weather events have already begun to have significant impacts on sport in recent years.

In 2014, matches on all outside courts at the Australian Open were suspended because of heat.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 was an example of a major winter sports event which needed to use artificial snow to supplement the melting snow at Olympic venues.

Matches at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, including England’s meeting with France, were cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.

The marathon at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 was moved because of concerns about extreme heat, while competitors spoke of the brutal conditionsexternal-link in the hottest ever Games.

And by 2050 it is estimated that almost one in four English football league grounds can expect flooding every year.

, What is COP26 and how does it affect sport?, The Evepost BBC News

The Met Office’s Dr Fai Fung recently told BBC Sport: “Climate projections are the best window we have on our future world and looking through that window reveals that all aspects of our lives will be affected increasingly by climate change.

“Looking at major global sporting events is an interesting way of understanding the impacts of climate change on society and we find that we can’t take the future viability of any of these events for granted.

“Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by nations around the world will avoid many but not all of the worst impacts of climate change on people, businesses and nature – including sport. The science shows that adaptation will also be needed alongside the emission reductions.”

The footballer whose shirt number highlights climate change – Thorsby speaks to the Sports Desk podcast

What has sport got to do with COP itself?

Sport is a huge multi-billion dollar business with unique global reach and engagement.

With an all-encompassing effort involving all aspects of society and industry required to address issues of climate change, many see sport as being a key tool for communication across the globe.

The UN recognises this in the form of their Sport for Climate Action Framework, which asks sports bodies to sign up to five key principles:

  • Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  • Reduce overall climate impact
  • Educate for climate action
  • Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  • Advocate for climate action through communication

What will the sporting presence be like in Glasgow?

, What is COP26 and how does it affect sport?, The Evepost BBC News
Former F1 driver Nico Rosberg is due to attend the Sport for Climate events on Wednesday

Wednesday is the day when sport will come into focus in Glasgow.

Key figures from the world’s biggest sporting organisations are expected to attend including the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Sport for Climate Action will host an afternoon of events on Wednesday, while there will be plenty of fringe talks and panel discussions in which sports bodies and athletes will come together to try to increase pressure on the industry to act, as well as send out a positive message to fans around the world.

Formula E is the only official sporting partner of the summit, while the likes of Olympians Paula Radcliffe and Hannah Mills, the Williams F1 team, former F1 driver Nico Rosberg and Tottenham Hotspur ambassador Ledley King are all due to attend.

What decisions could affect sport?

The main resolutions of the conference could impact sport in that they will aim to address emissions and climate change across the board.

One very specific development is that the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework – a pledge from sporting bodies to play their part in helping the environment – is set to announce it will be increasing its ask of sports organisations, requiring them to:

  • Achieve a 50% reduction in overall CO2 emissions by 2030
  • Achieve net zero by 2040
  • Submit annual reports to the UN on progress to achieve these goals

The IOC has already committed to the above targets but we expect to hear which other sports organisations will do likewise.

Outside the main summit a variety of other sporting organisations are coming together to announce a selection of other initiatives:

  • COP26 Sport Manifesto: Announcement of a manifesto signed by athletes and sports organisations. Currently has 200 signatories but could be closer to 250 by the day.
  • Loughborough University will be announcing the world’s first sport and sustainability course, to launch in September 2022.