With the international spotlight on the Gulf nation as the FIFA World Cup 2022 approaches, Qatar has been criticised over its sustainability promises for the tournament.
The Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, has defended the decision to operate more than 160 additional daily flights to shuttle spectators between Doha and neighbouring major cities, during what has been billed as the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup.
Last Thursday, Qatar Airways announced its partnership with regional airlines to enable World Cup 2022 ticket holders to travel into the Gulf country and back from countries in the region just for the day.
Climate activists argue the flight plan poses an issue to the tournament’s sustainability mission.
“Please don’t believe people saying only negative things,”Al Baker said in an interview with CNN on Monday, adding that he was certain the flights would be completely filled.
“We have airplanes which have very low emissions compared to the normal aircraft most of the other airlines fly,” including long-haul flights, he stressed.
The Gulf carrier’s website confirms that it has one of the world’s youngest airlines fleets, “with an average aircraft age of approximately five years.”
The airline has also deployed a successful fuel optimisation programme covering over 70 separate programmes, which includes reducing weight on board aircraft and flight path optimisation. In addition, it has introduced a 20-minute contingency fuel policy, which has resulted in “significant fuel savings.”
“His Highness the Amir always wanted to share the benefit of this tournament with all of our neighbours,” Al Baker said.
Sustainability concerns for the World Cup
Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, organisers had estimated that the carbon footprint for the major sporting event will equate to over 3.6 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas, more than half of which will come from traveling fans.
The announcement included an extra 30 daily return flights between Dubai and Doha, operated by flydubai, 10 daily return flights between Kuwait City and Doha, operated by Kuwait Airways, 24 daily return flights between Muscat and Doha, operated by Oman Air, and 20 daily return flights between Riyadh and Jeddah to Doha.
These flights will add to the current estimate of the CO2 emissions during the tournament.
The World Cup in Qatar will offer the first ever climate-neutral experience in history, meaning during the event, carbon footprint will be offset through some of the green initiatives the government has invested in. Organisers have established a “Global Carbon Council” tasked with “identifying quality projects.”
A Carbon Market Watch’s (CMW) “Yellow card for 2022 FIFA World Cup’s carbon neutrality claim” report released on Tuesday sheds light on some of the doubts cast on this year’s World Cup. It claimed that carbon emissions from new stadiums could be up to eight times greater than the figures in Qatar’s initial report, criticising “the choice of accounting approach.”
In a statement, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy dismissed CMW’s claims as “speculative and inaccurate,” affirming that the country is on a track to smoothly carry out carbon-neutral World Cup plans.
The Gulf country’s commitment to a climate-neutral World Cup 2022 should be “recognised, rather than criticised,” a spokesperson said.
In a September press release, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said one of the benefits of hosting the World Cup was “the compact nature” of Qatar. The short proximity between stadiums would dismantle the need for domestic air travel by supporters and reduce the carbon footprint of the tournament. It went on to say air travel is “recognised as one of the world’s largest sources of carbon emissions.”
Defending the World Cup being hosted in Qatar, Al Baker said “It is feasible because, first and foremost, we have good state-of-the-art facilities. They process people very quickly. We have also brought in massive transportation facilities including the metro.”