GSB News-Notes: Aussie Rugby Goes Green; NHL Wins Another Green Award; Intersection of Green, Sports and…Al Gore?


We are serving up a diverse menu of stories for you in today’s GSB News and Notes: The Australian Rugby Union, along with Qantas Airlines, pledges to offset the national team’s entire carbon footprint. The NHL gets recognized again by the EPA for its stellar sustainability work. And the Climate Reality Project, the non-profit founded in 2006 by Al Gore to empower citizens to give the slide show that was at the heart of his Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, uses sports analogies and metaphors to excite folks about the December UN Climate Conference in Paris.

The Australian National Rugby team, the Qantas Wallabies, knocked off Scotland 35-34, in a classic World Cup quarterfinal on Sunday in London. And, while the squad prepares for this Sunday’s semifinal vs. Argentina@, the Australia Rugby Union (ARU), the governing body of the sport Down Under, and Qantas Airlines are working behind the scenes on a partnership that demonstrates a new and significant commitment to sustainability.
Australia Wallabies

The Australian National Rugby Team (“The Wallabies”) celebrates after surviving their World Cup quarterfinal vs. Scotland, 35-34, on Sunday in London. (Photo credit: Stuff.co.nz)

ARU announced on Friday that the Wallabies will offset their entire carbon footprint, including that of their current World Cup campaign in the UK. The offset will come through the Qantas Fly Carbon Neutral Program, in partnership with the Carbon Trade Exchange.
Fly Carbon Neutral, the largest offset program of its kind in the world, gives Qantas customers the choice to offset the environmental impact of their flights by supporting verified projects that reduce carbon emissions, protect wildlife and empower developing communities. These include the conservation of 7,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest and the empowerment of rainforest communities in Papua New Guinea. This commitment means ARU is Australia’s first sports league to offset its entire carbon footprint.
Coming on the heels of the recent exit from power of former Prime Minister and climate change-skeptic Tony Abbott, hopefully a more environmentally assertive Australia is in the offing as the World Cup nears its end in England and as the Paris COP21 UN Climate Conference approaches.
The National Hockey League (NHL) announced Monday that it received a 2015 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The League is being recognized for its leadership, overall strategy and impact on the green power market. Other notable winners include Apple, H&M, Intel, Microsoft, and Northwestern University.
The NHL, as has been well documented on the pages of GreenSportsBlog, has been at the forefront of the Green-Sports movement since 2010 with the launch of NHL Green, a comprehensive environmental sustainability initiative which addresses the effects of climate change and freshwater scarcity on the game of hockey. It is also the first professional sports league in North America to issue a sustainability report, documenting and disclosing the League’s carbon footprint, and last season, it became the first to have a carbon neutral season. This award is no surprise.
And, we expect that leadership to continue. The 2015-16 season, just underway, marks the second straight year the League will work with Constellation Energy– the NHL’s official preferred energy provider – to implement energy efficiency strategies in NHL arenas and counterbalance greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all League activities through Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that support wind projects in the US and a biomass project in Canada, and carbon offsets.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that “EPA applauds the National Hockey League’s exemplary leadership in acting on climate, which should serve as a model across the country.” This is, of course, great.
Gina McCarthy

US EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (Photo credit: Washington Post)

But, whenever I write about the NHL and carbon neutrality, readers always ask me, “when will the NBA, Major League Baseball, or the NFL go carbon neutral?” Good question. We look forward to writing the “[fill in the blank] League/Association joins the NHL in carbon neutrality” story soon. But, for now, we offer a well-deserved congratulations to the NHL again.
On October 8, the 59th anniversary of one of baseballs unforgettable moments–Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series–Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project# Blog went up with an unforgettable post “Game Time on the Road to Paris.” Its goal: To energize readers to continue push world leaders to enact a meaningful agreement with teeth at the UN climate talks in the French capital in December.
Sports themes permeate the opening of the post….both on the hopeful (“If the [climate] talks really were a game like the Super Bowl or the World Cup final, we’d be betting on our team.”) and cautious (“The last time negotiators tried to agree on a deal this big – back in Copenhagen in 2009 – our team lost. So how can we be so hopeful that the outcome will be any different only six years on?”) sides.
The blogger backed off of sports at that point, but we were hooked. Especially when the writer, in an effort to build confidence and resolve among readers, methodically offered up 6 key reasons why this year will be, indeed, be different from 2009 (we provided the sports themes, just for the heck of it):

  1. Superstorm Sandy’s and Typhoon Haiyan’s 1-2 Punch underscored the urgency of taking action for millions worldwide.
  2. China Serves An Ace with Solar:China – with coal-fired power plants choking its cities – made solar power a key component of its 2011 five-year plan, which unleashed market forces that made solar power suddenly accessible to millions.” This meant dramatic growth in installations and new job opportunities in the US–in 2014, a new solar system was “installed in the US every two-and-a-half minutes.”
  3. Energy Storage Becomes a Heavy Hitter:A good [portion of a sustainable] future hinges on making energy storage systems better and cheaper to help cover needs on nights and calm days. Which is why projections for as much as a 40—60% price decline on batteries over the next five years according to one recent report – are such good news.” Not convinced? Well, “Deutsche Bank has found that the cost of energy from solar will be as cheap or cheaper than the cost of energy from fossil fuels in up to 80 percent of the global market within two years. Can you say ‘turning point’?”
  4. Businesses Join the Green Team: “When major corporations like Nike and Starbucks rethink their business [towards more sustainable operations], it shows a real cultural transformation is underway and sends a clear message to policymakers and other companies. Critically, many firms with international reputations – think Unilever, eBay, and General Mills– are putting their considerable influence behind key climate initiatives like an emissions-reduction agreement in Paris.”
  5. Obama Goes Long with his Climate Action Plan:  In June 2013, President Obama “announced the Climate Action Plan, an ambitious suite of initiatives to cut carbon pollution, expand renewable energy, and increase resiliency to climate impacts. This plan would lead to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a historic effort to limit carbon pollution from US power plants for the first time.” This is a big deal.
  6. US and China on the Same Team on Climate: This, in my opinion, is an even bigger deal than the Climate Action Plan–and that’s saying something. I’d say it’s the biggest play in the run up to Paris. Last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama “surprised the world by announcing that the planet’s two largest economies – and largest polluters – had signed a joint agreement to address climate change.” Though the goals each nation laid out% were newsworthy, what made the announcement truly momentous was that “it was the US and China making it. Seeing two of the world’s great economic rivals join forces left many nations with little excuse for inaction and created real momentum for a breakthrough in Paris.”


President’s Obama and Xi toast to the US-China climate agreement in November, 2014. (Photo credit: Public Radio International)

So now we’re in the 4th quarter of the Road to Paris. It’s time for those governments, NGOs, non-profits, and corporations who will be in the game–and for those advocates pushing them–to FINISH STRONG. I like our chances.

@ The other semifinal is an “Invictus” rematch: The Springboks of South Africa vs. The All Blacks from New Zealand.
# Full disclosure: I am a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project team in San Francisco in August 2012 to give the “An Inconvenient Truth” slideshow to community groups. Since then, I’ve given 30+ such presentations.
% US committed to reduce emissions 26—28% below 2005 levels by 2025 and China promised to peak emissions by 2030 and aim for sooner


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