The FIFA 2022 World Cup is currently underway in Qatar, a small desert nation with the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world and generates most of its revenue from the extraction and sale of oil.
In preparing the 2022 World Cup, organizers have billed the event as the first carbon-neutral tournament in history, promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offset any residual carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits.
Over the past decade, the nation invested $220 billion to build the city from scratch for the World Cup. An entire city and infrastructure, including multiple stadiums, roads, and a subway system, all financed by the sale of oil.
Considering the average price of Qatari crude — $75.16 per barrel of oil — the country has had to sell nearly 3 billion barrels of oil to pay for this extravaganza. These amounts to four years’ worth of oil production for Qatar. When burned, it will release 928 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. No amount of carbon credits can erase this.
Estimated emissions from a single 42-gallon barrel of oil amount to 317 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This is a conservative estimate. The calculation provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the average carbon dioxide coefficient of distillate fuel oil is 431.87 kilograms per barrel.
FIFA has estimated that the World Cup will generate the equivalent of 3.6 million tons of CO2, far higher than the annual emissions of countries such as Puerto Rico or Malta. The estimated 928 million tons of carbon dioxide top the annual emissions of most countries, and is roughly seven times the amount of carbon dioxide released in a year by Qatar itself. According to Global Carbon Project data, the country emitted around 130 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2017.
World Cup organizers claim they will purchase carbon credits to offset through CO2 reduction projects such as planting trees and financing renewable energy plants. One carbon credit is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide, which effectively gives them the right to pollute the environment.
In fact, the recently established local carbon offsetting agency has approved only three such projects, including a hydroelectric plant and a wind farm in Turkey, as well as another wind farm in Serbia, which collectively represent 350,000 credits. This is a drop in the ocean compared with the official 3.6 million tons of CO2 emissions, and even more so compared with the 928 million tons of carbon dioxide total estimate. In other words, it will be impossible to offset the carbon footprint of the World Cup and the investment behind it.