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  • Annabel Sides

Sport@COP +Australian Sport

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

What is COP26, why does it matter to sport?

Having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.

Without a clean, healthy and sustainable environment access to sport, and the physical and mental health benefits it provides, are compromised. Already climate disruption is challenging the resilience of sport and impacting the safe and equitable delivery of the games we love to play. With every degree of warming sports natural, social and economic ecosystems are stretched. In scenarios above 2 degrees of warming delivery of sport will be severely effected.

At COP26 world leaders will converge in Glasgow to renew commitments and targets to combat climate change and protect the future. It is regarded globally as one of the last opportunities for collective international action to stop runaway climate change.

To put the urgency for brave climate action by 2030 into perspective, from November 1, 2021 to Dec 31st 2030, is 8 years and 2 months. Two Olympic cycles. We need a great come back, this is not a long time for a world team to find form in this race we must win.

At Green Planet Sport one of our goals is to support sports to find a clear path to understanding and tackling climate change to support a world where healthy environments and connected communities provide a foundation for the natural world and the sports world to thrive.

We understand that while managing life in the pandemic you may not have been able to connect to what COP26 is all about and why it matters to the Australian sports community. If you have, it may feel overwhelming to know where to best put your energy or find your voice as an fan, athlete, official, administrator or broadcaster.

Green Planet Sport has put together some tips below on how to engage with the COP26 climate conversations and be part of the team that is playing for a better climate future through sustainable sport action.

So, engage in COP26. Be part of the action! Join, pledge, support and be political in Australia and at Glasgow.


Use the stories we have of the joy and power of sport to change lives to evoke political and public will, to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.

“COP26 is the Olympics of climate change, lets hope we come home with a gold medal” Zali Steggal, Smart Energy Council Conference, 2021.

Be part of the action!

Register for Sport@COP events. Sport@COP will provide the sports community with an on-the-ground presence in Glasgow throughout much of the conference, thanks in large part to the efforts of two green-sports leaders: Madeleine "Maddy" Orr, founder of the Sport Ecology Group and an EcoAthletes advisory board member, and Aileen McManamon, founder of 5T Sports. Virtual options are also available.

Another way to keep up to date with events being led by the sports sector at COP26 follow Sports Positive through your socials, they have put together a list COP26 sport events, both live and virtual. Sports Positive and the organisations founder, Claire Poole, are part of the active and experienced international team representing sport and bringing the world of sport together to tackle climate change.

Sign the EcoAthletes Sports Community COP26 Manifesto calling for action on climate change from a collaboration of international athletes, teams and thought leaders, it will be presented to the powers-that-be at the conference. The Manifesto is designed to provide a voice for those present and those unable to attend the conference. Green Planet Sport has signed and supported the manifesto. We encourage the Australian Sports community to get behind this manifesto and sign on. If you are working with sports leaders and groups in the Pacific Islands please also support them to have a voice. Due to the pandemic Pacific Island nations, our neighbors and partners in sport, will be under represented in Glasgow.

Join up, sign up, support and pledge

There are lots of other opportunities to join, sign up and pledge to amplify your individual or organisational voice as a collective. These organisations amplify the voice of sport, for those new to the space they help you find your voice on climate action, they will be your coach.

  • Australian leaders Front Runners and The Cool Down. You can join as a high performance past or present athlete or as a social sports team.

  • AFLP4CA, you can join if you are AFLM or AFLW Player, they seek to normalise climate action within the AFL community

  • If you are a current or retired national or international athlete you can join Eco Athletes.

  • If you are a player of the World Game Football (Soccer) you can join Morton Thorsby at We Play Green

  • Sports Environment Alliance Australia has a team of athlete ambassadors you can find out more by contacting SEA through their website

Being part of one group does not mean you can’t be part of another. All of these groups offer different amounts of training, support and connections into the world of climate action and sustainable sport.

Sports Broadcasters also have a significant role to play. Working in Australian Sports media? Be well informed so you can talk about climate change, support athletes and sports who are working positively in the space and respectfully challenge those who can do more. We are always #StrongerTogether when working toward raising awareness and normalising climate action in the sport community.

Sports broadcasters support athletes and sports to be counted on social and environmental issues that matter. You help them to be change makers.

Good sources of sport and sustainability information are:

Consider lobbying your media employer to sign up to the United Nations Sport For Climate Action Framework (UNSfCAF) , led by the International Olympic Committee, it has five principles of action and an international community of practice. BBC Sport and Sky Sports are signatories and leading the way in the sport and climate broadcasting.

Australian Sport signatories include Tennis Australia, Team Australia SAILGP, Bowls Australia, the Melbourne Cricket Club and Richmond Football Club. They will have a voice through sport sector engagement at COP26. Your sport does not need to have expertise or be advanced in your sustainability journey, you do have to believe in a better climate future and want to participate in action by embracing the principles of the framework. So send UNFCCC an email, get a form, fill it out, join.

Not convinced? If you need music, sport action and video to be inspired watch “Building a better world through sport - IOC's climate positive commitment”

Pledging and taking action during COP26 shows an appreciation for the urgency of bold climate policy and action. It demonstrates respect for the planet and our young people. What we do today counts tomorrow.

One of the biggest platforms for community action is Count Us In. Their mission is to inspire 1 billion citizens to significantly reduce their carbon pollution and challenge leaders to deliver bold, global change. Sport franchises, organisations and leaders have been with Count Us In every step of the way.

You can pledge individual action, promote your members to take individual steps of action or start your plan to bring Count Us In to your sport in 2022.

A similar Australian campaign that supports individual action is the The New Joneses Road Trip. The social media content is entertaining and focuses on actions that really count.

Be political. #standup

Climate change has long been a political football in Australia.

Politicians sing sports praises, identify sport as an integral part of Australian culture and a sector where we punch above our weight on the international stage. Politicians are quick to have a photo with an elite sports person, property or community sports team. They are also quick to tell sports people to “stay in their lane” when it comes to social and environmental issues. Yet by not standing up on the world stage at COP26, to punch above their weight, to lead political will for climate action and climate justice, they are not standing up for Australian Sport, our places of play or our people.

As an fan, athlete, administrator or broadcaster there are several very easy ways that you can be heard on the political platform.

You can find out if your local member has pledged to take a stand on climate action through the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELFCA). The ELFCA are a growing cohort of former senior Australian fire and emergency service leaders who have observed how Australia is experiencing increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events that are putting lives, properties and livelihoods at greater risk and overwhelming our emergency services. They are supported by the Climate Council. If your local member has not pledged to take climate action. You can click a button and send an email to encourage them to. On the flip side if they have, you can say thanks and, still shout out why climate action matters to sport.

Directly though the Climate Council you can send and email to key decision-makers in the Federal Cabinet, including Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce, Angus Taylor, Josh Frydenberg, Sussan Ley, Melissa Price, David Littleproud, Bridget McKenzie and Simon Birmingham.

Sport leaders and climate activists Craig Foster and Belinda Baggs are supporting this campaign.

One of the best things about these direct email tools is that you can alter the email to be specifically from you or your organisation, you can add in your own sport statistics and personal stories about how climate change will impact sport.

The Climate Councils report Game Set Match, calling time on Climate Inaction can help you tailor your email with scientific evidence.

Thanks to all those in the world of sport who are seeking a world of change for a better climate future. Power to you. #greenplanetsport

You can show your support for any of the events of organisations engaged in COP26 by shouting out their work through social media channels, liking or following them, or signing up to their newsletters and updates.

Lastly if you are still not really sure what COP26 is all about, here is some warm up reading, “What is Cop26 and why does it matter? The complete guide” it is a good summary.

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