World Cup Nations Team Up Against Climate Change

December 7, 2009

7 DECEMBER 2009 | Copenhagen – As the climate talks kick off in Copenhagen, key football nations are teaming up for the planet for the biggest sport event of 2010.

More than half of the countries that have qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup have committed or pledged to offset the emissions of their teams’ and officials’ flights to South Africa for the competition.

Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, England, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Serbia, USA, Uruguay and host country South Africa are among the squads determined to score green goals for the environment in 2010.

Tackling transport is central to greening the World Cup, as emissions generated by the teams’ and spectators’ international travel to South Africa will make up more than 67 per cent of the event’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The news was announced in Copenhagen on the first day of the UN climate talks, during a press conference with representatives of the seventeen World Cup teams alongside Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

Achim Steiner said: “Today footballing nations representing millions if not billions of fans are standing up and being counted as environmental ambassadors for one of the greatest spectator events in the calendar. Every one of the teams is determined to make a sporting impact in South Africa while reducing their impact on the global environment. I hope the remaining nations participating in South Africa will want to come on-side for the climate in order to score their own green goals in 2010”.

The news comes as UNEP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) announced further support towards greening the World Cup with a one million dollar funding package.

With GEF funding, UNEP is supporting the Green Goal 2010 Programme, which aims to ensure that the World Cup has a long-term sustainable impact on the country and the region.

The project will help six of the host cities reduce their energy consumption by installing solar-powered and energy-efficient street lamps, traffic lights and billboards in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Polokwane, Rustenburg and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality.

The GEF is also supporting a responsible tourism initiative through the Green Passport, which will be distributed widely to visitors during the World Cup to provide people with tips on how to travel sustainably.

Monique Barbut, GEF CEO and Chairperson, said: “The GEF is committed to acting locally for global impact. This project aims to leave an environmental legacy in South Africa long after the last whistle blows. We look forward to working with our partners to help deliver new and innovative ways to mitigate and compensate emissions generated by mass events.”

The GEF funding will complement existing green initiatives by the South Africa 2010 organizers including investments in public transport, rainwater harvesting, recycling and tree planting drives at the Host Cities across South Africa.

In Cape Town, which has set a target of 50 per cent of fans travelling to the 2010 stadiums by public transport, the World Cup has catalyzed significant investment by the city in public transport and non-motorized transport facilities. The city’s brand-new integrated rapid transit system will be operational by June 2010, and new pedestrian and bicycle lanes are being built around the city. 

Other initiatives by South African organizers include multi-bin systems for recycling in catering areas at World Cup venues, the cleanup of waste hot spots in Mangaung, education programmes on soccer and the environment for 40 schools in Cape Town, and the planting of 200,000 trees around Johannesburg.

Notes to Editors

The Green Goal initiative was first kicked off during the last World Cup in 2006 in Germany through a partnership between UNEP, the organizers of the 2006 World Cup and the German Federal Government. The pioneering initiative aims to make the World Cup more environmentally-sustainable in the areas of water, waste, energy and mobility.

UNEP’s Sport and Environment Programme aims to promote the links between sport and the environment. It builds on the UNEP Governing Council’s long-term strategy on sport and the environment, adopted in 2003. The strategy also seeks to strengthen partnerships with sports organizations and federations such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) unites 182 countries in partnership with international institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment. An independent financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $8.6 billion in grants and leveraging $36.1 billion in co-financing for more than 2,400 projects in over 165 countries. 

For more information please contact:

  • Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on cell: +41 795965737 or e-mail:
  • Theodore Oben, Chief, UNEP Outreach on cell: +254 724 255 247 or e-mail:
  • Maureen Shields Lorenzetti, GEF Media Relations, Washington D.C. on cell: +1 202-473-8131 or email: