GSB News and Notes, COP21 Edition


As the global UN climate change conference (aka COP21) moves into the weekend and then its second and final week in Paris, the Green-Sports movement gets ready for its day in the sun. Or, to be more exact, its 3 days, starting tomorrow/Saturday. With that in mind, we serve up, for your weekend reading, a COP21-inspired GSB News & Notes column.

The centerpiece of the Green-Sports presence at the UN climate change conference in Paris is Monday’s Sustainable Innovation in Sports (SIIS) symposium. As mentioned in an earlier GreenSportsBlog story, SIIS is organized by Climate Action, with the high patronage of the French Sports Ministry and in association with the Green Sports Alliance. It brings together leaders from Government, UN, sports leagues, teams and governing bodies along with corporate sustainability leaders. Climate Action’s Claire Poole laid out the organization’s hopes for SIIS, saying it “Will highlight the unique opportunity that sport offers to the wider climate change effort. The number of people engaged in the world of sport and the passion and commitment of those people is unrivaled. To drive positive change towards a more sustainable world through sport, as all of our speakers are doing, is truly inspirational.”
But SIIS isn’t the only Green-Sports action taking place at COP21.
The Green Sports Alliance is playing host to two panel events this weekend which will demonstrate that, according to its president, Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, “The global sports industry, one of the world’s most powerful economic sectors and arguably the most visible, is helping to lead that cultural shift towards ecologically smarter behavior.”
Saturday’s panel, moderated by Dr. Hershkowitz, features:

  • Alejandro Agag, CEO, Formula E, the groundbreaking electric vehicle (EV) grand prix circuit.
  • Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Manager, UEFA, the governing body of European pro soccer
  • Gretchen Bleiler, Olympic silver medalist in snowboarding; Protect Our Winters Board member
  • Omar Mitchell, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League

Alejandro Agag

Alejandro Agag, CEO Formula E (Photo credit: Electricautosport.com)

Scott Jenkins, the Alliance’s Board Chairman and General Manager of the über-green Mercedes-Benz Stadium, future home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, will take the moderator’s microphone on Sunday. He will discuss the power of green-sports with:

  • Chris DeVolder, Sustainable Design Leader, HOK, a pioneer in the sports stadium architecture sector.
  • Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance, the leading organization in Australia for the promotion of Green-Sports
  • Alexis LeRoy, Founder and CEO, ALLCOT Group, an international, renewables-focused company that develops sustainable energy and forestry projects.

Sheila Nguyen

Sheila Nguyen, Executive Director, Sports Environment Alliance. (Photo credit: Sports Environment Alliance)

Both panels start at 11 AM EST/5 PM Paris Time and can be streamed on the Alliance’s web site.
For the second time since I started GreenSportsBlog in May 2013, I read an article about the intersection of Green & Sports I wish I had written. The first, a piece in GreenBiz this August by Raj Sapru, imagined what an ESPN of Sustainability would look like. Smart and thought provoking, which what I aspire GSB to be.
Then came “Fantasy Climate Football,” John Vidal’s clever and insightful story in this Tuesday’s edition of The Guardian that compared the key countries and groups of countries working on a carbon emissions reduction deal at COP21 to the 20 teams in the English Premier League (EPL.) Strange comparison?
John Vidal

John Vidal of The Guardian. (Photo credit: The Guardian

Not in my book–in the words of the two blokes from the hysterical Guinness campaign of several years ago, I think it was “BRILLIANT!
First, Vidal laid out the how the COP21 system–like that of the EPL’s–can be confusing, at least to soccer/climate conference newbies: “Just as players move between clubs in the English Premier League, so countries at the UN climate talks switch between negotiating groups and make secret alliances. They can also belong to several groups at the same time^.” 
With that out of the way, Vidal got to the work of comparing the COP21 teams to those of the EPL. Here are five highlights:

  • The US, seen by many as “arrogant, rich and powerful,” is most like Manchester United. The USA and ManU both “have fanatical supporters,” but are viewed as bullies. I’m not sure that Obama’s USA will fully warrant the bully moniker but the conference has a week to go. Will Uncle Sam, as Vidal supposes, “decline to pay weaker clubs [i.e. developing countries] the $100bn it promised them in 2009” at the Copenhagen climate conference? We may have to wait until “stoppage time”, aka the very, very last minute of COP21 next Friday to see where this nets out.
  • Vidal’s likening of the EU to Chelsea is spot on. Both have “great individuals but [are] widely disliked at home and ha[ve] been in turmoil all season.” 14th place Chelsea and a divided EU each seem “unable to agree on a way forward and [are] now losing ground to everyone.”
  • Nouveau riche, big spending and powerful Manchester City is linked with the “Basic Group”–a designation I’d never heard of–which includes Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. Vidal: These are “Thrusting, ambitious…world-class teams seeking to dominate the ‘league’ but are often caught flat-footed at the end of play by the older teams who set the rules.”
  • Under-financed, underdog, and surprising 2nd place Leicester City is paired with The V20, a group of the 20 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including Kenya, the Maldives and the Philippines. Don’t bet against the V20, suggested Vidal, opining that “everyone thinks [they] will go down but actually [they are] quite strong.”
  • Finally, awful Newcastle draws OPEC, which is bad news for the oil producing exporters. The writer, clearly not a Newcastle man, said both are “frequently accused of playing dirty,” and are “having bad season[s] because players are increasingly worthless.” For Newcastle, that means the players are, well, worthless. For OPEC, it could well mean their oil, while not worthless, will be worth a lot less than it has been due, in part, to the staggering growth of renewables and the potential for carbon pricing in the not too distant future.


^ EPL players can get “loaned” to, and thus play for, other EPL teams
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  1. […] in Sport Summit in Paris, as part of December’s UN Climate Conference (aka COP21, click here for the recap). Sports was also an important topic at another corner of COP21, the Summit of […]

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