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Track and field’s promise for a sustainable future

In a recent IOC Sustainability Session, Seb Coe discussed the importance of having a "the collaboration of sport and science"

Climate change and sustainability are a couple of the most talked about issues in the world today. No matter where you are, this conversation is relevant, and the matter was recently covered in a virtual meeting featuring the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a number of international sporting federations. World Athletics (WA) was among the federations present on the call, and organization president Seb Coe delivered the day’s closing remarks. In a WA article recapping the “IOC Sustainability Session,” Coe touched on how important it is for all international sporting federations to join the fight against climate change, noting that “sustainability does really have to sit at the heart of pretty much everything that we do” as organizations. 

“We are witnessing around us irreversible changes,” Coe said on the call. “The only way that those changes can be addressed through our own portfolio [as sport federations] is the collaboration of sport and science.” Coe discussed the World Athletics Sustainability Strategy, which was released in April. This is a 10-year plan that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN). The UN introduced these 17 SDGs to its member states in 2015, announcing the organization’s hopes to accomplish each one by the year 2030. 

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The SDGs focus on humanitarian issues, matters of equality and climate action, and both the IOC and WA have pledged to join in the push toward reaching these goals. The WA Sustainability Strategy states that the federation will work to “Establish itself as a sustainability leader in sport,” with a focus “across six dimensions.” Included in these dimensions is climate change and WA’s plan to decrease its yearly carbon output by 10 per cent each year over the next decade. This would mean that WA would become carbon neutral as an entire federation (which includes all WA events and member organizations) by 2030. 

“We really want to do this to push forward on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Coe said in his speech to other sport federation representatives. “We think we can make a real difference here, both in awareness of the issues, but also in recognizing some of our own fragilities across our supply chains, particularly in the delivery of our events.”

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Coe added that he and the WA team are aware that this “will be an ambitious journey, but at the end of that we want to be best in class in the delivery of sustainable events — because that is what the world is now going to demand of us.” 

To read more about the promises made by Coe and WA regarding climate change and other SDGs, click here.

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