16 April 2014 – The globe’s biggest sporting event – the FIFA World Cup – is aiming to offset its greenhouse gas emissions this summer in a move that should inspire more event organizers to undertake high-profile climate action.

The Government of Brazil has announced an initiative encouraging holders of carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), called certified emission reductions (CERs), to donate them to organizers to offset emissions from construction and renovation of stadia, consumption of fossil fuels from official and public transport, and other sources.

By some estimates, offsetting these sources of emissions would require above one million CERs or more, depending on what was covered in the calculation. That would be equivalent to taking nearly 300,000 passenger cars off the road for a year.

“Brazil’s call for carbon credits to offset emissions from the world’s largest mass spectator event is a welcome move and part of a global trend by organizers to green big sporting events like football tournaments and the Olympics,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after being informed of the news.

It has also been reported that FIFA is planning to offset the emissions of officials and fans by perhaps buying carbon offsets.

“I wish Brazil and FIFA every success in their endeavors and look forward to a rigorous assessment after the final whistle blows on what was actually achieved in respect to climate neutrality. Big sporting events are increasingly winning green medals for their environmental performance. In doing so they can inspire the wider society towards climate action in support of a better world,” added Ms. Figueres.

All donated credits must originate from Brazilian CDM projects. Nearly 150 Brazilian CDM projects have issued more than 90 million CERs; an estimated 14 million of these could be available for donation. Each CER is equal to one tonne of avoided carbon dioxide. The smallest accepted donation is 5,000 CERs and donors will receive an official certificate acknowledging their contribution to offsetting the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Since being established as part of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first emissions reduction treaty, more than 7,600 CDM projects and programmes in 105 developing countries have been approved. These range from projects that reduce emissions by replacing inefficient wood stoves and ones improving energy efficiency to solar, wind and hydro power projects. The CDM to date has generated more than 1.4 billion CERs and has driven climate-focused investment worth $396 billion.

“When emission reductions come with other benefits, such as technology transfer, sustainable energy, increased household prosperity, clean air, education, or spur other types of sustainable development, then clearly this is in the best interest of everyone, in developed and developing countries,” said Hugh Sealy, Chair of the Executive Board that oversees the CDM. “The CDM delivers these kinds of benefits, so companies that use CDM offsets are doing the right thing and have a great story to tell.”

The Executive Board Chair made the remarks at the close of the Board’s most recent meeting, which gave the green light to an initiative intended to increase CDM’s use by environmentally aware emitters in the private and public sector. The initiative will include a range of outreach activities and communication efforts in the coming two years, including encouraging events like the FIFA World Cup to offset emissions using the UN-certified emission reductions.

“Measuring and reducing emissions is the responsibility of all companies and significant emitters. Investors, customers and a fast-growing proportion of the public expect it,” said Dr. Sealy. “The use of offsets offers a cost-effective way to approach climate neutrality by going outside the company boundaries and investing in emission reductions elsewhere.”

The value of CERs has in recent years gone down as demand has fallen, due ultimately to countries’ level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 could make mechanisms like the CDM indispensable as a means to mobilize investment to reduce emissions and spur development.