UNEP releases sustainability report on 2010 World Cup to guide future mega events

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Monday, October 15, 2012

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently released a report on the environmental performance of the FIFA 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.  The purpose of the report is to provide guidance on sustainability for host cities of future mega sporting events. 

One of the main findings of the report was that the actual carbon footprint for the event was lower than the projected footprint that was calculated prior to the event. The projected footprint was estimated at 2.64 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, 990 000 tonnes more than the actual footprint of 1.65 million tonnes.  

According to the report the main areas of successful carbon mitigation initiatives were energy efficiency, renewable energy and public transport provision.   However, the most significant reasons for the lower than expected footprint was fewer visitors to the country than originally expected.  This resulted in substantial reductions in emissions from international travel and accommodation.   

The table below shows the difference between the projected carbon emissions and actual carbon emissions for the 2010 World Cup.


Projected emissions (tCO2e)

Actual emissions  (tCO2e)

Emissions Reductions  (tCO2e)

International travel




Intercity transport




Stadium construction and precincts




Intra City Transport




Stadium energy use












The graph below shows the total carbon footprint for the 2010 World Cup broken up into different emission areas. 


Lessons Learnt

The UNEP FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 report is an attempt to provide lessons learnt from the Green Goal 2010 World Cup Programme, a greening programme for the event, to assist future cities in greening similar mega sporting events. The report covers a range of environmental issues such as carbon, transport, waste, and water management.

One of the key findings in the report was that more could have been achieved by South Africa if sustainability measures had been brought in earlier on in the planning and design stages. Furthermore better monitoring and data collection would have resulted in a more comprehensive assessment being done.  

Some of the success of the greening programme highlighted in the report included:

  • Demolition waste was re-used in the construction of new stadia which minimised waste and carbon emissions
  • Energy use was reduced by 30% across all the stadiums. This was achieved by installing energy efficient light bulbs, intelligent lighting systems, designing stadia to make the best of natural light, installing building management systems to control lighting and installing demonstration renewable energy projects.
  • 350,000 trees were planted across the country for carbon sequestration.
  • The investment in public transport facilities and infrastructure such as bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways is a lasting legacy that South Africans will benefit from in the future.

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Amanda Botes