Counting the Carbon Cost of Qatar 2022

The group stage is over, and the World Cup has entered the knockout phase. Mbappe, Messi, Ronaldo. Extra time. Penalties. Winner takes all. The pinnacle of international football.

We should all be excited. But so much feels off this time. The controversies around migrant workers and the LGBT community have been well documented. And then there are the environmental aspects.

Hosting the World Cup in a nation with no major pre-existing stadiums meant that pretty much everything needed to be built from scratch. Despite FIFA and Qatar’s claims that this is the ‘most sustainable World Cup ever’, realistic estimations put the tournament’s emissions at 4.6 million tonnes of CO2.

But what does 4.6 million tonnes really mean?

Well, that’s just less than the total emissions of Albania, a country with a population of around 3 million people, for a whole year.

FIFA have also claimed that this will be the ‘net zero’ World Cup. But the Qataris are already some way short of the carbon credits they require to achieve this goal, and they’ve even invented their own system for verifying them. With as many as 120 flights shuttling fans from neighbouring Dubai every day, the organisers’ claims seem more and more ludicrous. Their actions are all nothing short of greenwashing.

Global events like the World Cup and the Olympics serve a valuable purpose in our society, bringing joy to so many, but these events cannot come at the expense of our habitat.

FIFA must do better.

"Live" methodology

To calculate the true ‘live’ emissions of this World Cup, we've simply taken the Eco Experts' final estimated emissions value and calculated the ‘per second’ emissions value across the 35 days of the event.

Strictly speaking, not all of the 4.6 million tonnes will be emitted during these 35 days. The purpose-built stadia will continue to generate emissions for the duration of their lifetime. But we didn't want this website to be running for 70 years.

N.B. The ‘tonnes per goal’ figure and the Doha-Heathrow flight counter only updates after a goal is scored, otherwise it would be moving fairly rapidly throughout the day!

Stewart Pickering
GM Sustainability
Photo credits:
1. Tomasz Sroka / Unsplash
2. Hasam Zaidi / Alamy Stock Photo