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Complaints against FIFA greenwashing hit Swiss advertising commission

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Heated affair: the World Cup in Qatar kicks off on November 20. Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Barely two weeks ahead of the World Cup kickoff in Qatar and just days ahead of the UN climate summit, several NGOs, including a civil society group based in Switzerland, have filed complaints with consumer protection agencies alleging that global football body FIFA has repeatedly lied about the event’s carbon neutrality.

Climate Alliance Switzerland, a network of climate action organisations, filed a complaint with the Swiss Fair Trading Commission on Wednesday, stating that misleading statements were made by FIFA, the global governing body of football.

The Zurich-based organisation had stated that the football tournament, scheduled to begin on 20 November in Qatar, was “fully carbon-neutral”.

The report found that the organisers not only sharply underestimated the carbon dioxide emissions generated by hosting the event to the public, but also gave the impression that its footprint would be offset by carbon credits created by FIFA and organisers according to their own standards and which lacked in transparency. Carbon credits, also known as carbon offsets, are permits a company can buy to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. The practice is controversial, with many NGOs calling it a “license to pollute” for companies.


“It is so clear that [hosting a carbon neutral event] was greenwashing. It is impossible at this stage to be carbon neutral,” Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer at Carbon Market Watch, told SWI “It is only possible to do that by offsetting emissions, and offsetting emissions is imperfect.”

While the World Cup infrastructure has been built specifically for this event, organisers did not calculate carbon emissions related to construction of buildings, said Carbon Market Watch. Qatar only took into account the carbon footprint of those buildings during the few weeks of the sporting event, which is fraction, of their expected 20 year life.

Emissions offsets presented by the Qatari committee include a small patch of desert where small trees and grass have been grown, and a couple of limited renewable energy projects in Turkey that will far from compensate the low carbon emissions estimate. Other projects “in the pipeline” of the Qatar’s new carbon market standard, lack transparency and integrity, according to the report.“

“We hope that in Switzerland and in other European countries, by raising this issue in the media and before the authorities that should regulate publicity and advertising, that legal action could follow from prosecutors,” Dufrasne added. “Hopefully this is a wakeup call.”

Shuttle flights

Qatar meanwhile expects roughly 500 daily shuttle flights to the World Cup events, to facilitate access to fans.

Christian Lüthi, director of the Climate Alliance wrote in a press release: “We are hopeful that the commission will also condemn these infringements of fair advertising, and that it sends a clear message to FIFA.”

Qatar’s hosting of the tournament has already come under fire for migrant worker abuses in the building of the venues, based on investigations into the deaths of more than 6,500 foreign workers since the bid was won by the emirate in 2010, according to a recent report by the Guardian newspaper.

FIFA did not reply to a request to comment about the allegations.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR