60 million trees would need to be planted to offset the carbon emissions caused by the 2022 World Cup tournament, according to the energy experts at Hometree.
Seven out of the eight stadiums being used for the Qatar World Cup have been purpose-built, with the eighth being completely refurbished. Building and construction are responsible for 40% of the planet’s carbon emissions when it comes to energy usage. Around 10% of that figure comes from emissions caused by the construction, maintenance and demolition of buildings worldwide.
If this is applied to the World Cup, then over 10 million tonnes of carbon have been emitted for the tournament overall, despite FIFA and Qatar officials claiming the number is only around 3 million. FIFA and Qatar officials claim only 120 million tonnes of carbon emissions have been used in building the stadiums, but if the larger number is in fact true, then around 4 million tonnes of carbon was emitted to build these various stadiums.
Qatar’s first stadium is already being demolished
Stadium 974, which was solely built for the tournament, is already being dismantled now the initial group stages are over. As Qatar has recently faced controversy following the extreme amount of carbon emissions used to purpose-build its 8 stadiums, and the unethical treatment of migrant workers, many are wondering where its components will go after the first stadium begins to be torn down.
The stadium was built temporarily for the tournament, and constructed of 974 shipping containers, hence the stadium’s name. Qatar has not revealed where the dismounted stadium will go after the tournament, but it’s possible that parts of the stadium will be reused in Uruguay if they are successful with their 2030 World Cup bid.
This begs the question of the further environmental damage which will come from shipping these parts around the globe, due to football’s lack of popularity in Qatar.
The seven remaining stadiums post-tournament
Much of the detail is unclear, such as where the stadium parts will go, but several will be scaled back. Lusail Stadium will incorporate “a community space of schools, shops, cafés, sporting facilities and health clinics,” Qatar World Cup organisers have said. Al Bayt Stadium will have a five-star hotel, shopping mall and sports medicine clinic in the vicinity. Two of the stadiums will be used by local soccer clubs.
Some of the stadiums are also expected to be reused for the next AFC Asian Cup, which Qatar will again be hosting in January 2024. Qatar officially picked up the hosting rights a month before the World Cup started, replacing China, which had to hand back the hosting rights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar will also host the 2030 Asian Games, a multi-sports tournament that has more athletes competing than the Olympics, which could possibly require even more venues that cater to other sports, such as swimming pools, tennis courts and bicycle tracks.
Then there is the question of the Olympic Games, the sought-after tournament in which Qatar is planning to bid for the 2036 games. However, Qatar will then have to build a new stadium, as the main Khalifa International Stadium has too small a capacity for the Olympics.
How much carbon emissions are coming from football fans who have headed to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup?
An estimated 91,000 fans have flown to Doha from England, amounting to 580.5kg of CO2 emissions per passenger, per 6-hour 45-minute flight. This means that English fans are expected to produce 52,825.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions when travelling to the 2022 World Cup.
To offset England’s CO2 emissions, Hometree found that 316,953 trees would need to be planted.
Around 10,000 French fans have also flown in for the event, adding up to 5,625 tonnes of CO2 emissions, adding up to 58,450 tonnes of CO2 emissions from total French and English travellers.
According to Doha News, the top 10 purchasing countries of tickets for the World Cup sold are Qatar, the United States, Saudi Arabia, England, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, Brazil and Germany. For these top four countries producing the most CO2 emissions from flights, a total of 2,508,579 trees would need to be planted, and that’s just from the four largest polluting countries alone.
The experts at Hometree said: “If the entire Qatar World Cup is producing around 10 million tonnes of carbon emissions, around 600 million trees would need to be planted in order to offset the tournament’s emissions.
“And whilst it’s unlikely that 2.45 million fans will ever travel across the world Greta Thunberg style, there are ways to travel more sustainably. From booking with eco-friendly airlines to considering carbon-conscious accommodations and supporting local businesses, sustainability is going to be a big question on fans’ minds going forward.”