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2016: the year where the sports teams lead by example in the fight against climate change

Roy Bedlow, Chief Executive and co-founder of renewable energy investment company, Low Carbon, discusses the post – COP21 environment and why sporting organisations can do more to combat the harmful effects of climate change

The Paris Climate Change Summit (COP21) saw world leaders and large businesses gather to decide upon a global deal to help mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Amongst the key outcomes of this conference was a landmark deal, agreed by all 195 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level which will ‘cap’ the global average temperature to a rise below 2 degrees. Furthermore, $100 billion a year in climate finance will be made available for developing countries by 2020.

It’s clear to see that real progress is being made, but it isn’t just politicians and businesses such as Google and IKEA that can lead the way in making ‘carbon neutral’ pledges. All sectors and areas of industry across the world can make sustainable changes to help fuel the low carbon economy. The sporting industry in particular can lead by example and make a positive impact in the fight against climate change.

Football and rugby teams for instance are all cherished by their fans – many dedicate their lives to whole-heartedly following their clubs through each highly-anticipated game. But there is a golden opportunity for the influence of sport clubs to extend beyond what is played out on the pitch. Sports clubs across the UK should take the opportunity to become fully sustainable outfits in 2016 and beyond.

The state of play

Land Rover BAR is an example of a sporting organisation at the forefront of sustainable best practice. At Low Carbon, we are proud to have partnered with Land Rover BAR to help reduce the emissions from the team’s base. Furthermore, the flagship Portsmouth facility also promotes sustainability throughout with a solar PV installation which will save more than 60 tonnes of CO2 per year.

It’s not just impressive renewable energy installations that make this building so innovative. The team are taking things further by actively engaging with the local community, school pupils and visitors with sustainability projects and renewable energy technology and their benefits. It is this kind of engagement that can truly help people make sustainable and ‘energy-saving’ changes in their own daily lives – a vital component in the fight against climate change.

In 2016, we hope to see more sporting organisations follow in Land Rover BAR’s footsteps, taking the opportunity to turn commercial buildings such as stadiums and clubs into highly energy efficient ones, and to inspire future generations to be more energy efficient.

Team Principal and Skipper Ben Ainslie said: “We are in a really unique position to raise awareness and accelerate the adoption of solutions to combat our reliance on unsustainable resources. We are committed to reducing our own environmental footprint and working with our partners to identify new innovative solutions to deliver further positive change and communicate this widely.”

Innovative approaches

If COP21 taught us anything, it’s that all areas of industry from business to investment companies need to re-imagine their approach to tackling climate change. It’s smaller changes that can often count the most, from encouraging employee behavioural change to harnessing technology for stronger insights into carbon footprints.

Land Rover BAR is a prime example of company using technology to aid in protecting local habitats. In partnership with Newport Rhode Island -based organisation 11th Hour Racing, the Land Rover BAR team is taking measurable steps in promoting the health of marine environments for future generations. For example, sending data from their boats back to a team of sustainability designers at the headquarters, rather than needing polluting powerboats to follow the sailing team all of the time, is significantly reducing the team’s environmental impact on local waters. This is but one vital step to becoming the most sustainable sports team in the world.

Wendy Schmidt, 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder commented: “As the Exclusive Sustainability Partner for Land Rover BAR, 11th Hour Racing has stepped up to demonstrate how social, economic and environmental responsibility can be built in–not as afterthoughts, but as key ingredients to a successful sports program.

There is a sense of accomplishment for everyone involved, knowing that sporting triumphs can be pursued while looking after the world’s precious marine resources and habitats, advancing new technologies in energy, water, and material management systems, and enriching local communities. We think this message can resonate with a wide public audience that is already engaged with The America’s Cup and with Sir Ben Ainslie.  How really exciting it would be to equate success in one of the world’s most competitive sailing races with efforts to make our waters and the oceans healthier and cleaner?

On land, it’s been a pleasure working with Low Carbon to find practical solutions to power Land Rover BAR in its America’s Cup campaign.  This is a great example of how focused organizations can further their missions within the guidelines set by the Paris Agreement.”

What lies ahead

It is not just the responsibility of global governments, investors and businesses to take the charge on reducing greenhouse emissions post COP21. Sports clubs arguably hold some of the most privileged positions in society and have a tremendous opportunity to inspire and educate the next generation on how to be truly sustainable. Large and influential sports club should look to create a long-lasting culture which aims to drive sustainability and eco-friendly actions through as second nature.