By Dr Sheila Nguyen, CEO of The Sports Environment Alliance (SEA).
It is well known that Australia is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. In 2007, I arrived in the country in the middle of the Millennium Drought and a few years later, Queensland was flooded, displacing many and leaving 1000s without power, fast forward to recent years and “Australia on fire” is the headline story as bushfires ravaged our communities. On the tail of the bushfire season, the COVID pandemic further exacerbated the already exhausted country.
In the wake of these challenging times, we have heard optimistic terms such as “resilience,” “building back better,” and a number of other phrases promising a safe, healthy and happy future. Yet, as we continue to seek ‘safe, healthy and happy,’ most of us are also seeking solutions for the climate challenge that is inextricably linked to a happy future; after all the UN describes climate change as the “biggest threat modern humans have ever faced”.
The reported outcomes of COP26, outline combined commitments made by global leaders that do not equate to the actions necessary to achieve warming beneath the holy grail of 1.5 degrees. Writing from a country where the international community has long deemed our federal climate approach to lack intent, the need for community and industry to make up for ambition is imperative to accelerate the global team’s efforts towards zero.
In reflection on our time at COP21 in Paris, where sport was a sideshow, it is incredible to see sport move onto the COP26 mainstage. The community at large and the industry itself, is starting to realise its greatest potential to be an agent for change and a serious actor in climate action. Here in Australia, the sport industry is reflecting and acting on the opportunities where they can make a difference and I am proud to be a part of coordinating this effort.
As David Attenborough remarked, “humans are powerful enough to address climate change, [and] the next generation could and should see a wonderful recovery”. As sport becomes more aware of its ability to have far and wide ranging influence, sport needs to command the main stage for climate action.
Recognised as an Australian Financial Review Top 100 Women of Influence (2019) for her leadership in galvanising the sport industry to protect and respect the natural environment, Dr Sheila Nguyen, is the CEO of SEA. As a leading sport and regenerative researcher, and an energy and environmental design-built environment practitioner Sheila has consulted with several national sport organisations and professional clubs, globally, on strategic and operational sustainability issues.