Qatar Airways CEO defends 160 more daily flights in ‘climate neutral’ World Cup

Qatar Airways announced on Thursday that it has partnered with regional carriers to allow World Cup ticket holders fly to Doha and return from neighboring countries just for the day. Climate advocates say the decision goes against the tournament’s sustainability goals.

“Please don’t believe people who only say negative [things]”, Akbar Al Baker told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview on Monday, adding that he was confident the flights would be full.

“[We] have planes that have very low emissions compared to normal planes that most other airlines use,” including long-haul flights, he said.

He didn’t explain how the planes’ emissions would be lower than others, but the airline’s website says it uses “one of the youngest fleets in the sky” and has implemented 70 fuel optimization programs. Aviation is a major contributor to human-induced climate change. Qatar’s economy is oil-based and has one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

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Prior to Thursday’s announcement, organizers had estimated the tournament’s carbon footprint at more than 3.6 million tons of CO2, more than half of which will come from traveling supporters. Emissions from new daily flights – from Dubai, Muscat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait – will be added to the current estimate.

In response to questions from CNN, FIFA said its previous carbon footprint estimate was released in February 2021 and actual differences would be addressed once the tournament is over.

Qatar said it would offset emissions by “investing in green projects” – a common way for businesses and individuals to undo the impact of their footprint. The organizers have set up a “Global Carbon Council” responsible for “identifying quality projects”.

However, climate experts highlighted the limits of offset programs, such as planting trees, arguing that they are overused and their impact is sometimes overestimated, to allow the status quo of emissions from burning fossil fuels.
The official emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is unveiled in Doha on September 3.
Carbon Market Watch published a report on Tuesday who said the World Cup carbon credit scheme supported projects with a “low level of environmental integrity” and had so far only issued 130,000 credits out of the promised 1.8 million. The World Cup is due to start at the end of November.

The Carbon Market Watch report also claims that FIFA’s estimated carbon emissions for the tournament were grossly underestimated, criticizing “the choice of accounting approach”.

Commenting on the report, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is responsible for the event, said it was “speculative and inaccurate to draw conclusions” about its commitment to carbon neutrality.

“The methodology used to calculate the carbon neutral commitment is best practice and was designed to be based on real activity data, after the FIFA World Cup has ended,” he said. in a statement sent in response to questions from CNN. “This will be published, and any discrepancies will be explained and compensated.”

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FIFA also responded to the report and defended its own accounting method, saying it was based on the widely used Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

He added that he did not “mislead his stakeholders” and that he was “fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose to the economy, the natural environment and to people and communities”. .

In a press release issued in September, Qatari organizers of the event said one of the advantages of hosting the World Cup was the “compact nature” of their country. The short distance between stadiums would eliminate the need for fans to travel by domestic plane and reduce the carbon footprint of the tournament. He went on to say that air travel is “recognized as one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions in the world”.

But there are growing fears that the small country of less than 3 million people will not be able to cope with so many fans. Getting spectators in and out in one day would reduce the need for higher levels of accommodation.

Al Baker, however, said there were still plans to run additional flights to transport people just for the day.

“His Highness the Amir has always wanted to share the benefits of this tournament with all our neighbours,” he said.

“It’s doable because, first and foremost, we have good state-of-the-art facilities. They process people very quickly. We’ve also got huge transport facilities in place, including the subway,” Al Baker said.

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