Qatar Airways CEO defends 160 extra daily flights at ‘climate neutral’ World Cup | CNN


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Qatar Airways CEO has championed a plan to operate more than 160 additional flights every day to transport spectators from the region to Doha and back for what has been advertised as the first “carbon neutral” FIFA World Cup.

Qatar Airways announced on Thursday that it is collaborating with regional airlines so that holders of a World Cup ticket for a day can fly to Doha and back from neighboring countries. Climate advocates say the decision conflicts with the tournament’s sustainability goals.

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

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

He didn’t elaborate on 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 based on oil and has one of the largest carbon footprints per capita in the world.

Before Thursday’s announcement, organizers had estimated an environmental footprint for the tournament at more than 3.6 million tons of CO2, more than half of which will come from traveling supporters. The emissions from the new daily flights – from Dubai, Muscat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait – will add to the current estimate.

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

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

However, climate experts have pointed to the limitations of compensatory programs, such as tree planting, arguing that they are overused and their impacts are sometimes overestimated to allow for business-as-usual emissions from fossil fuel combustion. to make.

Carbon Market Watch released a report Tuesday that said the World Cup’s carbon credit plan supported projects with a “low level of environmental integrity” and had issued just 130,000 credits of the 1.8 million pledged to date. The World Cup starts at the end of November.

CNN has contacted the Qatari government’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is responsible for the event, for comment.

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

In response to the report, FIFA said the accounting method was based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used standard.

It added that it had “not misled its stakeholders” and was “fully aware of the risks mega-events pose to the economy, the natural environment and to people and communities.”

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

But there are growing concerns that the small country of less than 3 million people won’t be able to handle that many fans. Flying spectators flying in and out one day would alleviate the need for higher levels of accommodation.

However, Al Baker said it was always the plan to run the extra flights just to bring people for the day.

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

“It is feasible because first and foremost we have good state-of-the-art facilities. They process people very quickly. We’ve also introduced massive transportation facilities, including the subway,” Al Baker said.

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