The conversation surrounding reducing carbon emissions has become part of our daily lives and, as an industry, sport is taking significant forward steps – influencing, raising awareness and engaging people across the country.
The forward momentum is something that the industry can be proud of, but with the focus so clearly on reducing our carbon footprint, are we ignoring other essential environmental battles to be won?
“It’s impossible to prevent climate change, without focusing on biodiversity.”
As we head into a critical phase to reduce the impact of climate change, we now understand that we must also solve the biodiversity crisis if we are going to make a difference. Biodiversity & climate change are intertwined and one cannot be solved without also addressing the other.
However, the biodiversity situation in the UK is bleak, with the loss of nearly 50% of our natural biodiversity since the industrial revolution (Natural History Museum, Natural Trends Explorer, 2021). This is a devastating statistic and, it is therefore no surprise, that the UK is in the bottom 10% for biodiversity intactness – with losses worse than all other G7 nations (Natural History Museum, Natural Trends Explorer, 2021).
Thankfully, most of this loss of biodiversity – wildlife, habitats and green space – can be reversed. This means that the sports industry has a chance to lead the biodiversity drive by focusing, not only on its carbon emissions, but on its environmental impact as a whole.
With biodiversity being such a crucial part of our sustainable objectives, let’s quickly dive into what it is and why it is so important.
What is biodiversity?
In simple terms, biodiversity is the variety of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms which make-up communities and habitats on earth. As a rule, the more diverse the species in these habitats, the healthier the eco-system.
Why it is important?
It doesn’t get much more important than biodiversity as it is crucial to all life on earth! Many people tend to think of biodiversity as a luxury for humans to enjoy. However, in reality, it is responsible for stabilising our climate to make the world habitable and for producing all of the food we eat.
How does the sport industry impact on biodiversity?
The sports industry, like many others, plays a significant part in this loss of natural biodiversity in the UK. The impact can be categorised into three main areas:
- Playing surfaces, developments & facilities
Buildings, sports surfaces and all of our facilities lead to the loss of plant species and habitats all across the UK. Natural biodiversity has been replaced to facilitate the sports industry’s movement and, as sport continues to become more popular, the size and number of these facilities also grows to keep up with demand. This consequently leads to more loss of biodiversity and has a considerable impact on our sustainability.
- Food & drink supply
Increasing demand for food & drink in the last 70 years has led to mechanisation and intensive farming. This change in farming practices has had a negative impact on our water systems, soil health, pollinator populations and wildlife habitats. Sporting events and facilities contribute to the demand for cost-effective food and drink – with hospitality a large part of sporting events and revenue for venues.
- Waste management
As with all industries, sport creates a significant amount of waste. Although there are plenty of initiatives being introduced to help reduce the sheer amount created by sporting events, our activities continue to produce landfill waste. As we know, these landfill sites are created on natural biodiversity areas, again directly influencing our dramatic loss over the last few decades.
What can we do to boost biodiversity?
On a global level, 2022 is likely to be a momentous year for biodiversity with Kunming, China hosting COP15 – the largest biodiversity summit for over a decade. Although COP15 has been postponed since 2020, the U.N are hopeful that the second and, most important, stage of the summit will take place in-person and that a new agreement will be finalised. The goal is to achieve a ‘Paris-style’ accord aimed at preventing and reversing the loss of plants, wildlife and habitats. However, with previous biodiversity targets having limited impact, it is hoped that important short-term and medium-term goals will be set at the summit and that this is followed by legislation and policy-change from participating nations.
How can sports industry in the UK help to enhance biodiversity?
The industry, from grassroots through to elite level, has impacted on the environment across the UK. However, all sports have an opportunity to address the biodiversity crisis.
For many years now planting trees has been promoted as the answer to offsetting our carbon footprint and increasing habitats. Although woodlands and forests are crucial to a sustainable future, this alone is not the answer.
Experts in the field of biodiversity and climate change have called for tighter standards over tree plantings and greater diversity in our environmental projects. With this in mind, how can sports organisations help?
- Wildlife Habitats – the industry can help fund the creation of a variety of habitats for UK wildlife and ensure a brighter future for our birds, bees & mammals.
- Green Space – organisations can donate wildflowers to community projects, schools and charities to enhance biodiversity in urban spaces, developments and parks across the country.
- Sustainable Food Chain – sporting bodies, clubs and organisations can invest in a sustainable food chain by supporting UK farmers to increase biodiversity on farmland growing cover crops and green manure mixtures.
- Soil Carbon Offsets – all businesses can look to offset their carbon footprint through more than planting trees. Instead, we can support a rounded soil carbon approach to becoming net zero which incorporates more plant species.
These actions can make a real difference to reversing the overwhelming loss of natural biodiversity and, clearly, sports organisations have the potential to both fund and promote these important eco-activities.
Bethan Pugh, YourPact
To hear more about this from Bethan, please join our webinar on Wednesday, 16th March 2022 at 2pm. Register here.