Sport & Climate Action

Sport and the climate – not two words we would once upon a time expect to be used in the same sentence. However, leveraging of the sports industry to positively influence climate change issues has become increasingly prevalent both in Australia and internationally.

In recent years, the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework was launched by the UN and the International Olympic Committee with the aim of defining the role of sport in the worldwide fight to address climate change. The Framework recognises the impact of climate change on sports and lists examples including:

  • Damage to playing surfaces due to extreme temperatures, extended periods of drought, flooding, and/or pest species extending their natural range.
  • Damage to buildings and other infrastructure due to violent storms.
  • Coastal erosion and sea level rise directly affecting sports properties in seaside areas.
  • Warmer winters and lack of natural snow threatening ski resorts at lower altitudes.
  • Unseasonal rainfall forcing the cancellation or abandonment of sports matches.
  • Heat waves forcing changes to the timing of sports events.
  • Increased injuries to players from heat exhaustion and impact injuries from harder playing surfaces.
  • Sub-standard fan experience where high temperatures create potential health risks and detract from the enjoyment of the event.
  • Climate adaptation measures being required in the design of new or refurbished sports venues.

The Framework aims to help sports organisations reduce emissions caused by their operations and leverage the worldwide popularity of sport to engage the population in the cause, setting out five key principles as to how they can achieve this. Close to 200 sporting organisations across the globe are signatories to the Sports for Climate Action Initiative.

From a legal perspective, key considerations for sporting organisations include completing due diligence and identifying potential conflicts and tension points prior to entering commercial relationships with sponsors etc; ensuring clarity of expectations and obligations in both sponsorship and supplier agreements and athlete contracts; and the implementation and monitoring of relevant organisational policies.

In Australia, the Sports Environment Alliance, a member-based organisation focussing on environmental leadership and advocacy in the sporting community, is increasing in profile and has a growing list of high-profile organisations as members. The Cool Down Initiative is a separate campaign involving over 450 Australian athletes calling for climate change action.

The intersection of commercial partnerships, environmental issues, and increasing athlete advocacy has been at the forefront of Australian sport recently for organisations such as Netball Australia and Cricket Australia and we expect it will continue to do so.

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
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