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  • Annabel Sides

Australian Sport + Global Risks

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

April 6th, 2022 celebrated the International Day for Sport Development and Peace. The theme, climate action.

"With the need for urgent action growing more dire every day, the relationship between sport and climate must be better understood and ways of developing policies and taking concrete action to help reverse the impact of climate change through sport must be communicated to as wide an audience as possible." [1]

One way of understanding where climate change fits on a global scale and where sport sits as an actor of change is to look at global risks. I have taken risks identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the purpose of this article. Other models that identify risks and boundaries and are really suited to planning sport and climate work include Kate Raworth’s Donut Economics and the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s 9 Planetary Boundaries. There are also many leading scholarly and innovative thinkers who have years of experience in connecting the dots around sport and climate action and in inspiring concrete action globally.

The 10th risk identified in the graphic above is geoeconomic confrontation and although not specifically physical combative warfare, it is a contributor to unrest, a destabiliser of peace and, it results in citizens becoming casualties due to our interconnected geopolitics.

Societal risks at 4th, 5th and 6th and at 9th the economic risk of debt crisis, are also causalities of citizen casualties.

Citizen casualties in these scenarios may experience (among many other things) decreased social equilibrium, resilience and health of their communities and reduced ability as individuals to care for themselves, dependents and loved ones. Likewise environmental risks, extreme weather (2nd) and natural resource crises (8th) when combined with the afore mentioned orange, red and blue risks, exacerbate challenges to day-to-day living, particularly in frontline communities.

Why is this significant? Because climate action failure, biodiversity loss and human environmental damage are risks, that to be mitigated and adapted to, require collectives of people and individuals, across all sectors and all walks of life, globally and locally, to form climate positive partnerships and innovate. It requires people to understand the problem, develop policy, deliver concrete action, and communicate widely. It requires stable, resilient communities.

However, when individuals and communities, business and governments are challenged day-to-day with just existing, they are less nimble, less able, less stable and less responsive to the climate crisis. They are not resilient communities. They are not climate resilient communities.

Why is this significant? Because the recent IPCC report focuses on what we need to do to slow down and avoid future impacts, authors conclude “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is beyond reach” .One of the key words is immediacy because if we wait we become less able (as highlighted above) and the depth, volume and cost of the effort required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is magnified.

As warming increases, risks are realised, magnified and they accelerate. Categorically all WEF risks accelerate the number one risk, climate action failure, and climate action failure categorically accelerates all other risks.

We are not winning the race for transformational, immediate and deep emission reductions to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees and protect and restore our natural world.

We not winning the race to achieve the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sport can, however, bring communities together and foster resilience, sustainable development, peace through diplomacy and importantly climate action.

“Sport”, as stated by - UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed “has the power to align our passion, energy and enthusiasm around a collective cause. And that is precisely when hope can be nurtured and trust can be regained. It is in our collective interest to harness the tremendous power of sport to help build a better and more sustainable future for all."

As found by Brian P. McCullough (Ph.D., Texas A&M University) “research shows you can bypass resistance to environmental messages of individuals by engaging them through their sport or team”[2]

And, from Nelson Mandela (Nobel Peace Laureate) “Sports have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where there was once only despair.”

And, from Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Sectors engagement lead UNFCCC, The Role of Sport in Combating Climate Change - International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. “What sports do matters, because we are losing” (the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5degrees)

Connecting the dots to understand the relationship between sport and climate change globally and locally means understanding sport is both a cause and causality of climate change and biodiversity loss[3].

We have a lot lose in sport due to climate disruption; we also have a lot to gain if we take on the critical role afforded to us.

Loss of infrastructure, loss of playable days, loss of opportunity to access the physical and mental health that sport and physical activity provide, loss of the sport for development impacts it can create and loss of the right to play and have fun for children.[4] Unequal loss. Extreme weather is a new norm. Insurability and facility renewal will become a challenge. Front line communities will be ravaged. Relevance and capability of sport delivery will reduce.

Opportunity commercially, socially, emotionally AND for high performance. Opportunity of a safe and healthy climate future by being better ancestors. Opportunity for climate justice for people and for nature. Opportunity to lead and fill white space, to be transformational and become one of the accelerating groups of regenerative sport professionals ahead of the curve.

I think that opportunity to support climate action can be realised with immediacy and depth in Australia. Here is my Green Planet Sport visual on what needs to be done and below are some tips for educating, voting and committing. I will look at the other areas in more detail in a future blog. There are so many ways to approach this work, that is one of the exciting and challenging things.


Understanding requires climate and sport literacy.

Literacy for the whole sports community, including directors, administrators, executives, athletes, broadcasters, fans, coaches and officials, event managers, stadia directors, partners, government sport administrators, volunteers and many more!

There are many programs of work from sports, clubs and NGOs that provide innovative education platforms and experiences. Many of these you can hear about on the podcasts listed below. Some of our favourites at Green Planet Sport are WSL Pure, The Ocean Race, Sail GP, Extreme E, Vermont Green FC, Forest Green Rovers, Save Today Play Tomorrow, TG Hoffenheim, Formula1, South Hamptons Halo Effect, Sports Positive Leagues, Pledgeball, Count Us In, Planet Super League, Play to Zero and Football for Futures.

Starting tips on how to improve climate and sport literacy.

Athletes: AimHi Earth have worked with Athletes of the World and delivered a live 90 minute climate education session specifically for sports people. Signing up to Athletes of the World will let you know when sessions are being run. If you are or know a Commonwealth Games athlete who would love to do this session prior to Birmingham 2022 get in touch and I can provide you with the details.

For administrators: Sports Environment Alliance #SEAAcademy Climate Change 101 available to members, BASIS UK Fundamentals of Sustainability for Sports Organisations , Sport and Sustainability International SandSi, Sport for Good from Torrens University

For Broadcasters: Broadcasters can ask questions, lead conversations and add special commentary. If you work in sports broadcasting, check out commentary from Sky Sports led by David Garrido and tune into Beyond Sport. If you are a broadcast executive wishing to give your team an edge get in touch with AimHi Earth or WeAreAlbert. We Are Albert also has on demand YouTube videos to get you started.

Research: The Sport Ecology Group is a community of academics seeking to share their research with a broader audience than traditional academic journals will allow. Guided by a simple vision: imagine if all people understood and supported the environment with the same interest and passion they showed their favourite sports teams. From here you can link to many of the articles that inform the press.

Podcasts: The Sustainability Report with @MattCampelli, The Climate of Sport with @claireypoole and GreenSports Pod with @GreenSportsBlog founder Lew Blaustein are some you can’t go past. The podcast series Emergency on Planet Sport with @jsoverend (and hopefully a sequel to come) is also great and has some Australian specific content.

The Climate Reality Leadership program is also a worthwhile course for anyone in sport.

Green Planet Sport can provide bespoke built webinars and workshops and connect you to literacy projects, conferences and events happening around the world.


In Australia one of the most significant thing sports can do to support climate action, reduce the severity of identified global risks and help achieve the UN Sustainable Development goals is, in May 2022, encourage our eligible voting community to vote. To spend a quarter, a half, a gym session of time working out a play for election day. Just as we should go to a game prepared, we should also go to the polling booth prepared. This action does not require a political allegiance. It gives sports fans, in particular young people another reason to get to the polling booth and make a choice for their future, whatever that choice may be.

In Australia we are required to register to and vote from 18 years of age, however this does not mean that all communities have access to cast their vote as easily as others. Here are some articles the USA sports community encouraging communities, particular American BIPOC communities, to vote during the 2020 US election 2020 election season features sports, politics, athlete activism, voting efforts & Athletes and the US election: How a generation of stars got in the game

Check out as a potential place to engage in this space.

Internally sports also have voting. If you have voting rights within your sport that help decide key leadership roles, for example on the national or international governing body boards, look closely at the ESG approach and credentials of candidates.


Make a commitment to show you are serious, to build a community of practice and to keep you accountable.

For Sports, Broadcasters, Universities & Mega Events + others

The UNFCCC is affording sport an opportunities-based role through its sectorial engagement program and providing literacy through collaboration.

“Sectoral engagement aims to enable an effective collaboration within an industry in order to enhance climate action in support of the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Relevant actors are brought into the global dialogue on climate action to identify challenges and create a forum where these are discussed and addressed collectively.

Currently, UN Climate Change has initiated climate action initiatives in collaboration with two sectors: the fashion industry and the sports community. Both sectors’ voluntary stakeholders convene to develop a coherent, unified position on climate. Their work programmes aim to connect the diverse stakeholders within their respective industries, to identify new areas for action and to scale up existing initiatives that connect the value chain.”[5]

Via this sector approach, the UNFCCC provides sport with a framework and a road map, the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework and Race to Zero targets. These documents draw from the UN Sustainable Development Goals to create 5 principles and more recently a set emission targets in line with the UN Race to Zero campaign. Sports who become signatories to the framework and targets become part of an international community of practice and their work is already accelerating change. Becoming a signatory as an IF, NSO, broadcaster or as a major event, sports university, sports association, or professional club should be a priority. However even more important than signing is to act. Each sport will find its own theory of change, this is exciting, as this is what will influence behaviour of people from all over the world and of all backgrounds and ideologies, for sport is the shared passion that calls for action.

Commercially, socially, and environmentally sports who are signatories are taking up white space, to address the goals of the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework and more broadly the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, they are sector and global leaders, better ancestors and doing well by doing good.

For Australian sports not ready to commit to the UN framework you can join Sports Environment Alliance Australia & New Zealand (SEA), the peak body for sport and climate. SEA cater for community clubs, professional teams, NSOS and SSOs.

We have some great leaders in Australian sport in this space. We have signatories to the UN Framework and a rapidly growing membership of SEA. Brisbane2032 will be a carbon positive Games and the raft of international sports events to be hosted here in the next few years will set new ESG benchmarks for Australian sport. The Australian Open and Formula 1 events this year gave us a glimpse of the indicators we will grow to expect.

Governments who act on and report to the SDGs at the highest level of politics, not just through special projects are building resilience to act even in times of disruption. Cities and shires building climate resilient communities have the best chance at managing local and global risks. Sports can work with their city partners and politicians to be part of this climate resilience building. This is commitment to partnerships for change.

For Athletes

Athletes of the World, Champions for Earth, Eco Athletes, Front Runners Australia – The Cool Down can provide support and space for your voice to develop and be heard. Sports including cricket (Cricket for Climate) and AFLW/M (AFLP4CA) have their own player groups for climate action.

For Fans

Fans have a valuable voice.

Ask your sport, club or team what they are doing to be more sustainable, form a fan based environmental group (Nottingham Forrest Supporters Trust), refuse your membership merch (unless its sustainable), if you see something ask for change - did you notice that AFL Footy cards are in paper rather than plastic this year? (I know some peeps who wrote a letter…) write a letter as a member or fan supporting your sport to take action, sign your community team up to The Cool Down.

Individual fans can become a ‘friend’ of SEA and fan groups can become members.

Have a willingness to change your behaviours, from how you get to a game, what you eat when you are there and what merchandise you buy, this can all make an overall impact and support sport to do better.

In conclusion

Taking an opportunities approach to this work that has immediacy and depth will allow sport to be more nimble and to become regenerative. Regenerative sports will realise transformational, commercial, society and planet saving opportunities. The sports sector can contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change and protecting our planet. Without this work accelerating across all sectors we will not realise keeping within 1.5 degrees nor protect and restore our natural world.

How is your sport equipped to make a commitment to being regenerative, with immediacy and depth, to become part of this decade of action we so critically need, to understand the problem, develop policy, deliver concrete action, and communicate widely? How will you be part of this era of transformational change?

Green Planet Sport loves connecting people and ideas for innovation.

We can Help you Know So You Can Do.

connecting athletes to communities of practice | developing climate literacy training | linking to research and podcasts to grow curiosity | club house chats | 1:1 online incubators| writing sport specific reports on climate change and its impacts | delivering papers on international best practice policy development, activation creation, communication and engagement | environmental scans on specific activations including green leagues and whole of sport programs |purpose project development including connecting to nature based solutions

[1] [2] Sport Ecology Group, Earth Day presentation. Wednesday 6th April, “How are sports fans tackling climate change” [3] The Role of Sport in Combating Climate Change - International Day of Sport for Development and Peace [4] The convention on the rights of children (CRC) [5]


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