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Opinions of Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Columnist: Ahiawor, Dela

Sustainable Sports: An Open Letter to Justice Dzamefe

By: Dela Ahiawor

Dear Justice Dzamefe,

I hope you are doing well. I have been following the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Ghana’s campaign at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, keenly from the very outset. Honestly, the commission’s hearing have been very revealing and also worth the effort, thus far. Actually, this is my candid opinion, regarding the unflattering actions and inactions of all those who were in the thick of the Black Stars discomfiting outing this time around.

To my mind, some of the startling disclosures at the commission’s hearing absolutely justifies its formation with the mandate to help ascertain the truth of what really transpired in Brazil. That the ensuing recommendations, will help smooth the path for a sustainable development of sports in Ghana is what we all, look forward to.

Earth Conscious

For starters, my lord! Before I make my case, I am a concerned citizen with a thing for anything sports, but also very much concerned about the environmental impact of sports in Ghana. I am also avowedly earth conscious. If you are hearing this term for the first time, I mean to say I worry immensely about the health and future of our planet, lately. Apparently, due to the never-ending threat of global warming and climate change in recent times.

Timely Policies

But certainly, my worry is not unfounded neither is it far-fetched, because the President, H.E John Dramani Mahama not long ago launched a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and a National Environmental Policy (NEP). A move that signals the all-pervasive threat of climate change.

Interestingly, both policies are aimed at helping Ghana, a member of the global community to also play its part in combating climate change. The NCCP, is actually Ghana’s integrated response to climate change. It has been drafted within the context of national sustainable development goals. It also contains a well-defined pathway to control the challenges of climate change within the current socio-economic context of Ghana, providing opportunities and benefits of a green economy.

The NEP, also stresses environmental threats to our natural resources and has integrated the most urgent environmental concerns currently to provide clear strategies for reducing existing challenges. It also validates the strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) process as a tool for mainstreaming environmental policies into government policies, programs and projects.

In conclusion, I would like to state that this new vision with regards to combating climate change and environmental degradation in Ghana, shows government’s commitment to sustainability or sustainable development: which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” According to the Brundtland Report (1987).

But all said and done, a significant point to note is that a sustainable approach to managing the environmental impacts of sporting infrastructure, events and activities will help a great deal in Ghana’s quest for environmental governance (sustainable development), thus leading to improved human well-being and social equity.

Sports & Environment

Respectfully, my lord! For sports to become instrumental in driving the sustainable development message in Ghana, then a closer look at the interaction between sport and the environment is definitely a step in the right direction. Even the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has been connecting sports and the environment for the past two decades.

Talking of the environmental impact of sports in Ghana, let me first cast light on the essence of ‘clean technology’ and ‘sustainable engineering’. Both are alternative or innovative solutions (green building measures) to global warming and climate change.

Thus, clean technology, refers to any product or services that improve operational performance, productivity and efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste and environmental pollution. It includes recycling or renewable energy ( wind power, solar power, biomass, hydropower, green transportation, and other energy efficient appliances. It minimizes carbon footprints (greenhouse emissions) and pollution. It helps to reduce the effects of climate change and also improves the natural environment.

Secondly, sustainable engineering: involves designing or operating systems such that, they use energy and resources at a rate that does not compromise the environment or the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Now with this level of grasp, regarding clean technology and sustainable engineering measures or guides one can conclude that the sporting sub-sector in Ghana has a lot of work to catch up on, when it comes to embracing sports greening strategies ( sustainable solutions that help to control the environmental impacts of sports.)

To cite an instance of how sports infrastructure impacts the environment; the appalling state of the Accra Sports Stadium readily comes to mind. Using this facility as a template for all other sports infrastructure dotted all over the country, I would like to state that the Accra Sports Stadium was not sustainably engineered (built without green building measures) to start with. In fact, it’s just a grim and grey concrete structure with a high environmental footprint. Of course, if the Accra Stadium had been sustainably engineered and managed sustainably with adherence to clean technology measures, we would not be crying foul about its poor state just six years down the lane.

In addition, the infrastructural needs in terms of general unsustainable procurement, energy consumption, water usage and waste generation of this crumbling sports facility adversely affects our environment, by adding to the emissions in the atmosphere.

Still on the environmental impact of sports, it’s interesting to note that: sporting events are the real villain of the piece. On game or match days, packed stadiums without green building measures (recycling facilities and solar lighting, etc) equally have massive carbon footprints that tend to be very injurious to the natural environment.

Furthermore, our towns and villages abound with football pitches or parks that have been denuded of their vegetative cover (Sakora parks) due to the impact of sporting activities. Successive governments, communities, schools, sports leagues, clubs and sports event organizers have failed to maintain this bare parks sustainably over the years. But whereas grassed football pitches serve as ‘green lungs’ (vegetation that absorbs emissions, CO2) in our society, bare parks do not. They rather become impervious to carbon emissions, consequently leading to global warming.

In brief, recent rolling news events of the “People’s climate march” that took place around the world during the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, shows how important cutting carbon emissions has become to the global community, all in the bid to help control global warming. Apart from the Accra stadium example, there are several other instances of how sporting activities, events and infrastructure are negatively impacting the environment in Ghana. This is definitely due to the fact that, environmental degradation, takes place by a series of wee changes, over an enduring span of time making it rather intricate for many Ghanaians to appreciate and relate to; no matter how hard one tries to explain the whole process.

How Sport is Facing up to Climate Change?

But that notwithstanding, climate change has become a formidable foe that ought to be wrestled, by a redoubtable opponent. But since sports has a massive following universally, let me state that it has that strong arm to square up to this foe. In fact, globally the sports industry is becoming the forerunner in the environmental movement, because it’s able to shape the way people think about the environment.

Due to this fact, sports associations, sports leagues, teams, venues and sports event organizers are enhancing their environmental performance. At the World Cup in Brazil, all football stadiums followed models of sustainable construction and management in line with global standards. In addition, municipalities across Brazil implemented a number of sustainable programs during the World Cup, including environmental certification for venues and compensations for greenhouse gases generated by the event. Even world renowned sportsmen and women (athletes) are committing themselves to sports greening initiatives to help galvanize the global sports industry into action against climate change.

Going Forward

In a similar fashion, I think the sporting sector in Ghana, comprising: sports leagues, teams, venues and sports event organizers have no other choice than to also face up to climate change by going green. But a critical factor in this sports greening business is the role of sponsors of sports in Ghana.

Talking of sponsors, let me dwell a little on the headline sponsor of the Black Stars, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). Undoubtedly, the largesse of the GNPC to the good cause of football, after that eye-opening rendition by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alex Mould at the Commission of Inquiry is now public knowledge. This is a great gesture at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to say the least.

But it’s also sad to state that the environment which is one of the key pillars of (CSR), has not benefited from GNPC’S prodigious monetary donations to the Ghana Football Association (GFA) over the years. This is due to the fact that, the (GFA) has failed to commit part of these moneys to initiate sustainable strategies to help green and maintain the various football pitches (sakora packs) and other facilities to its name.

For the (GNPC) to consummate its corporate responsibility, with regards to supporting Ghana football in future, it must ensure that the (GFA) commits a piddling of its earnings to environmental stewardship to help combat climate change. In fact, this should be the way to go for all prospective sponsors of sports in Ghana. As for sports leagues, teams, sports venues (stadiums), event organizers in Ghana the earlier they go green the better, because sports greening creates sponsorship opportunities for new sponsors. Especially, if they also believe in environmental responsibility as a core business strategy.

It also helps to cut operating cost, strengthen corporate reputation, enhance the fans’ experience at sports venues. Truly, sports have the potential to promote mass behaviour change in Ghana with regards to improving our environment. Sports, also evokes loyalty and passion so attaching sustainability messages to it has a powerful effect. It also has great potential to help government achieve its climate change policy objectives in the nearest future.

Respectfully my lord! Kindly permit me to say that I have dwelled largely on greening football in this letter, but I meant it as a template for all the other sporting codes in Ghana. It’s my fervent wish that you mention the importance of greening Ghana sports in your report to the President, H.E John Dramani Mahama. And let’s also hope that he makes it binding on all stakeholders in the sports sector in Ghana.

Finally, my lord! If you have caught the green bug, by reading this letter, then don’t forget to also reduce your carbon footprint by using less paper when compiling your final report .

Thank you!

Yours earth conscious Scribe.

---The writer is a sustainability strategist at Green Sports Active, Email: ---