International Olympic Committee Makes 'Biggest Commitment Ever' to Fight Plastic Pollution
The world of sport is not immune to the problem of plastic pollution. Stadiums and arenas can become filled with discarded cups, bottles and straws after sporting events. Sailors, swimmers and surfers are competing in oceans and waterways with an ever-growing presence of marine debris.
That's why on Monday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced plans to eradicate single-use plastics from the organization and its events around the world. What's more, seven major sporting bodies and representatives from more than 20 National Olympic Committees have joined the UN Environment's Clean Seas campaign to help bring awareness to marine litter and stem the plastic tide.
The sports bodies making efforts to cut plastic waste include World Sailing, the International Association of Athletics Federations, the International Triathlon Union, the International Ice Hockey Federation, World Rugby, World Golf and the International Surfing Association.
"This is the biggest commitment ever made from sport to address plastic pollution," said Erik Solheim, the executive director of UN Environment and a member of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, in a statement. "The International Olympic Committee's Clean Seas pledge will transform the awareness and use of plastic waste in sport. We are delighted to see the actions taken by so many sporting organizations as well as sponsors."
One of the initiatives from World Sailing is to eliminate single-use plastic at events (with the exception of boat branding) by 2019.
"We are thrilled that the IOC are calling on sport to join forces in reducing marine litter," Dan Reading, sustainability program manager at World Sailing, stated. "As sailors, we see the problem first hand in our Oceans but all sports have a part to play."
International Triathlon Union president and IOC member Marisol Casado added: "As with any organization that organizes large-scale events around the world, it is our duty to mitigate the environmental impact that we have.
"We are committed to reducing the use of plastic at our events, using recycled and recyclable products wherever possible and working with all our stakeholders and athletes to ensure that it becomes common practice in every corner of the globe," she noted.
.@worldtriathlon takes its responsibilities to the planet very seriously, it is our duty to mitigate the environmen… https://t.co/RTScLVsgTP— Marisol Casado (@Marisol Casado)1528148531.0
According to a press release, the IOC said it has already begun reducing waste at both its headquarters and the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. It aims to drive responsible material use at all IOC events in collaboration with its suppliers by 2020.
The IOC will also provide educational toolkits and workshops to the sports community and is working on coastal clean-ups, campaigns and education programs with the 17 nations in Oceania, a region seeing first-hand the impacts of marine debris.
"The IOC is embracing sustainability in its day-to-day operations, as well as taking a proactive leadership role to inspire Olympic stakeholders and the wider sports community to implement best sustainability practices," said Prince Albert of Monaco, who serves as the Chair of the IOCSustainability and Legacy Commission in a statement. "Making a pledge to the UN Environment's Clean Seas Campaign is another important example of how the IOC is implementing its Sustainability Strategy."
Monday's announcement from the IOC was supported by its sponsors that have also made pledges to reduce marine litter: Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical Company and Procter & Gamble.
The sports bodies made the following commitments towards the Clean Seas movement:
- World Sailing will pledge to implement an ambitious waste reduction strategy for all its events by 2019, and launch an education program to reach an estimated 70 million sailors.
- The International Triathlon Union will work closely with its local organizing committees, national federations, stakeholders and the IOC to raise awareness of the issue of marine litter.
- The International Surfing Association will elect a Sustainability Partner by the end of 2018, aiming to implement a plan to use, reuse and recycle plastics at ISA World Championships by 2019, and expand its education materials on sustainability.
- The International Ice Hockey Federation is decreasing plastic use and encouraging recycling at its headquarters, and providing recycling education opportunities at national and youth camps.
- The International Association of Athletics Federations has pledged to introduce measures to reduce plastic waste at future IAAF events, and encourage IAAF member federations to follow suit in addition to its air quality partnership with UN Environment.
- The International Golf Federation is working with governing bodies, national associations and grassroots facilities to drive more responsible resource use through the GEO Foundation.
- World Rugby has undertaken a variety of actions to reuse and recycle, and will implement new measures with a focus on the reduction of plastic waste.
- National Olympic Committees from around the world will be joining the Clean Seas movement with their own commitments—such as Spain and Germany, which are reducing waste and working on raising awareness nationally.
White Sox Become First MLB Team to Ban Plastic Straws https://t.co/NQO87D25lW @savingoceans @PlasticPollutes— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1525815307.0
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Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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