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2. Climate Change and Sport

The Impact of Sport on Climate Change

It is important to acknowledge that sport has also had a detrimental impact on the environment.  Sport at all levels inevitably entails travel to events, energy consumption and the use of specialist short life equipment.

The Rapid Transition Alliance estimates that sport contributes 0.8% of global emissions, the equivalent of a medium sized country. 

The Impact of Climate Change on Sport

Climate change is already having a significant impact on sport at an elite and community level.  Playing surfaces are increasingly vulnerable to climate change.  Winter flooding renders pitches unplayable with disruption to fixtures, jeopardising participation and interest.  By 2050, almost a quarter of football league grounds are projected to be partially or completely flooded.  Summer temperatures and periods of drought also threaten pitches and courses across a range of different sports.  

Higher temperatures and poor air quality during summer months also threaten sporting events at all levels.  Athletes are increasingly suffering from heat exhaustion adversely impacting performance and causing detrimental impacts on health and wellbeing.  Sporting schedules are being adjusted to avoid the hottest parts of the day or the year.   Extreme heat policies were once prepared for remote possibilities but are now routinely used across a range of sports. 

Winter sports are also susceptible to climate change.  A report by the Rapid Transition Alliance highlighted that half of previous Winter Olympic and Paralympic cities would be unable to host the Games by 2050 due to the impact of global warming. 

The Impact of Climate Change on Sport Wales

As noted above, the impact of climate change will not be felt equally and will compound inequalities.  This risks delivery of the Vision for Sport in Wales that everyone can have a lifetime enjoyment of sport. 

Projections of increased coastal erosion and rising sea levels could pose a threat in the future to the operations of the National Outdoor Centre for Wales at Plas Menai on the Menai Strait, and more frequent flooding events could impact both the Plas Menai site and the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff, as another low-lying site next to the River Taff.  The Menai Strait is also a designated Marine Special Area of Conservation. 

Sport Wales works with a range of different partners to realise the Vision for Sport in Wales, providing funding through our investment models.  Climate change will impact on these partners, particularly those with facilities close to rivers or coasts.  Some of our funding may need to be reactive in nature as emergency interventions are increasingly required. 

Further afield, our organisation could be impacted by global supply chain disruption from increased severe weather events, and crop failures overseas could lead to food supply shortages.

Sport also brings significant opportunities to positively impact on the environment and decarbonisation.

Athletes, coaches and clubs have a significant voice and can influence and change behaviours.  Groups such as Athletes of the World are powerful advocates for change in the face of global challenges.  

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Sport has a global reach and can achieve a greater impact as a result.  A Globally Responsible Wales can lead the way by delivering change and collaborating with others.

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Climate change actions in the sport sector can have a ripple effect into other industries, encouraging wider sustainable behaviours and approaches.