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Global sport events are great opportunities to change a country’s image. The Olympic games in Tokyo in 1964 and in Beijing in 2008 were a sort of coming out party for both countries: they showed that they had finally become a member of the rich countries’ club. The first football (soccer) World Cup on African soil was supposed to show the world the other face of Africa: young, active, and shaping its own future.

It could also have been a good opportunity to address climate change since Africa will be particularly hard hit by it. But this and other opportunities were missed.

The World Cup will cause a lot of carbon emissions: 2.7 million tons. For comparison, Switzerland emits about 4.4 million tons of carbon in one month.

Fans flying long-distance to the World Cup will be responsible for 67% of total emissions. Intercity transport will cause 18%, since the games will be held in several locations. Energy consumption in hotels and restaurants will be responsible for about 12%. Urban transport, stadium construction and energy use in stadiums and surrounding areas will cause the remaining 3%.

Per capita carbon emissions in South Africa are quite high. Averaging about 9 tons per year, they are similar to those of many European countries: almost as much as the United Kingdom (about 10 tons) and Germany (12 tons). This is due to the high proportion of coal in the country’s energy supply. This can’t be changed for the sake of the World Cup. However, South Africa could have taken a stance on climate change.

In contrast to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, carbon emissions will not be offset in South Africa. It can’t be for lack of money. Offsetting all emissions with CERs – the highest quality and most secure certificates on the market – it would cost about 34 million pounds (about 50 million US dollars or 40 million euros). Nothing compared with the World Cup overall budget of € 2.75 billion pounds.

Missed opportunity number one
South Africa has missed a golden opportunity to place the issue of climate change and its consequences in the consciousness of the world's population. According to the FIFA, the number of spectators will top two billion people.

As tournament organizer the FIFA should have required greater environmental awareness by the host country. Or should have prescribed it. The list of requirements that the host country must meet is very long and detailed – why not add carbon emissions offsetting to it? What was been done in Germany voluntarily in 2006 must become mandatory: The World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and all others after it must be 100% carbon neutral.

Missed opportunity number two
South Africa has missed the opportunity to demand that Africa should get a larger share of CDM projects. Currently only 2% of all CDM projects are done in Africa – compared to 76% for Asia/Pacific and 22% for Latin America/Caribbean. In addition to carbon offsetting, CDM projects have two other very important goals: to promote a low-carbon energy infrastructure in developing countries and the technology transfer them. The African continent badly needs both.

Missed opportunity number three
Africa has immense desert areas suitable to the production of solar energy. It could generate enough electricity for the whole continent and Europe. Africa should move on from major exporter of crude oil (Nigeria, Angola and Libya) to major exporter of solar energy. What is missing? Capital and technology. The World Cup would have been a great opportunity to present the project and to get the attention of investors.

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