Qatar Airways CEO defends 160 extra daily flights in ‘carbon neutral’ World Cup


Qatar Airways CEO defends 160 extra daily flights in 'carbon neutral' World Cup

Qatar Airways announced on Thursday that it has partnered with regional airlines to allow World Cup ticket holders to fly from neighboring countries to Doha and back for just one day. Climate advocates say the decision conflicts with the tournament’s sustainability goals.

“Please don’t think that people only say negative things [things]Akbar Al Baker said in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson on Monday, adding that he was confident the flights would be full.

“[We] have planes that have very low emissions compared to the regular planes that most other airlines fly,” including long-haul flights, he said.

He didn’t elaborate on how the planes’ emissions would be lower than others, but the airline’s website says it operates “one of the youngest fleets in the sky” and has implemented 70 fuel optimization programs. Aviation is a major contributor to man-made climate change. Qatar’s economy is oil-based and has one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

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Prior to Thursday’s announcement, organizers had estimated a carbon footprint for the tournament of more than 3.6 million tonnes of CO2, more than half of which will come from traveling fans. Emissions from the new daily flights – from Dubai, Muscat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait – will add to the current estimate.

In response to questions from CNN, FIFA said their previous carbon footprint estimate was released in February 2021 and that actual differences would be addressed once the tournament was over.

Qatar has announced it will offset emissions through “green project investments” – a common way for businesses and people to offset the impact of their footprint. The organizers have set up a “Global Carbon Council” with the task of “identifying quality projects”.

However, climate experts have highlighted the limitations of offsetting schemes such as tree planting, arguing that they are being overused and their impacts sometimes overstated to allow emissions from burning fossil fuels to continue as usual.
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Carbon Market Watch released a report on Tuesday saying the World Cup carbon credit plan supports projects of “low environmental integrity” and has so far issued just 130,000 credits of the 1.8 million pledged. The World Cup is scheduled to start at the end of November.

The Carbon Market Watch report also claims that FIFA’s estimated carbon emissions for the tournament were grossly underestimated and criticizes “the choice of accounting approach”.

Commenting on the report, Qatar’s Supreme Delivery and Legacy Committee, which is responsible for the event, said it was “speculative and inaccurate to draw any conclusions” about its carbon neutrality commitment.

“The methodology used to calculate the carbon neutral commitment is best practice and was developed to be based on actual activity data after the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup,” said a statement broadcast in response to CNN’s questions . “This will be published, any discrepancies will be explained and compensated for.”

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FIFA also responded to the report and defended its own accounting method, saying it was based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used standard.

It added that it had “not misled its stakeholders” and was “fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose to the economy, the natural environment, and to people and communities.”

In a press release in September, Qatari event organizers said one of the advantages of hosting the World Cup was “the compactness” of their country. The short distance between stadiums would negate the need for domestic flights for fans and reduce the tournament’s carbon footprint. It said air travel was “recognized as one of the world’s largest sources of carbon emissions.”

But there are growing concerns that the small country of fewer than 3 million people may not be able to cope with that many fans. Flying spectators in and out in one day would reduce the need for higher accommodation options.

However, Al Baker said it had always been the plan to operate the extra flights to just transport people for the day.

“His Highness the Emir has always wanted to share the benefits of this tournament with all our neighbours,” he said.

“It can be done primarily because we have good, state-of-the-art facilities. They process people very quickly. We’ve also introduced massive transportation facilities including the subway,” Al Baker said.

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