The 2018 World Cup in Russia released more than 2 million tons of CO2 and the 2016 Olympics in Rio emitting 4.5 million tons
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar organizers have called it the first carbon-neutral tournament in history. But climate critics say the claims are misleading.
Carbon Market Watch questioned the carbon-neutral label, saying organizers have dramatically underestimated emissions.
The World Cup will emit some 3.6 million tons of CO2, according to official figures. That's roughly equal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's annual emissions.
Qatar said it has cut planet-heating emissions by installing solar-powered lighting and cooling systems, and constructing "energy-efficient stadiums." Emissions it can't avoid, it will be offset with local green projects.
Most of those greenhouse gases will come from flights and accommodation for the more than one million visitors, as well as the construction of seven new stadiums, among other infrastructure, say organizers.
Stadium construction is one area where organizers got creative with their carbon accounting, underplaying emissions by at least 1.6 million tons, said Gilles Dufrasne, author of the Carbon Market Watch study.
Only a small portion of construction emissions have been included in official estimates, as organizers say the stadiums will be used for other events. But the calculation ignores the fact that these stadiums would not have been built were it not for the World Cup.
51% of emissions will come from transport, according to official estimates. But that doesn't include the shuttle flights set to ferry spectators into the desert city each day, said Dufrasne. Because of a shortage of accommodation in Qatar, 160 flights a day will take off from neighboring countries, including Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Carbon Market Watch analysis also criticized plans to offset these "unavoidable" emissions from transport and other areas, questioning their legitimacy. Only about 200,000 of the planned 1.8 million tons of credits have been issued. They all come from renewable energy projects in Serbia, Turkey and India through an organization more or less established by Qatar itself, rather than under internationally recognized and independent standards.
Greenpeace question the idea of offsetting altogether.
"It does not work," said Julien Jreissati , program director at Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa. "This whole idea of offsetting is merely a distraction away from real climate action, which is reducing fossil fuel-based emissions at the source as fast as possible."
Emissions aren't the only environmental concern. Water use is another, and especially concerning given Qatar's scarce water resources.
Qatar's freshwater comes from desalination plants produced in an energy-intensive process that uses mainly fossil fuels. The plants also release salty, hot brine that is toxic to marine life back into the sea.
Waste is another problem. Event organizers say 60% of the waste generated during the event will be recycled, while 40% will be turned into energy. But burning waste for energy releases greenhouse gases.