Australian Olympic Committee engages its ‘whole family’ in driving global sustainability
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Chief Executive Matt Carroll has called for collaboration as the organisation strives towards the bold targets set out in its recently launched Climate Action Plan (CAP).
The CAP outlines a plan of achieving net zero by 2040, with a 30% reduction by 2024 and a 50% reduction by 2030.
However, Carroll is well aware that an impactful sustainability strategy requires a cohesive approach to fulfil such lofty ambitions.
“The future of sport is intrinsically linked to the health of our planet and, as the leader of the Olympic movement in Australia, the AOC has a duty to ensure we initiate our own plan to make a meaningful contribution,”
“Our bold net-zero ambitions require the efforts of the whole AOC family – AOC employees, Olympians, AOC Team partners and suppliers, and very importantly, the broader Olympic family.”
Five Core Pillars of UN Framework
Five Core Pillars of UN Framework
The Australian Olympic Committee became a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Sports for Climate Action Framework in 2020 and the CAP now extends that commitment to the five core principles of the UN framework.
The five core principals are:
- P1 – Principle 1 – Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
- P2 – Principle 2 – Reduce overall climate impact
- P3 – Principle 3 – Educate for climate action
- P4 – Principle 4 – Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
- P5 – Principle 5 – Advocate for climate action through communication
Climate impact on sport in Australia
Australia is witnessing a significant increase in extreme weather, which is having a serious impact on sport, with some seasons cut short. This has prompted many Australian sports stars to call for stronger action to combat the climate crisis.
Among those calling for greater government action in recent years have been former national team captains and vice-captains like Pat Cummins, David Pocock and Craig Foster, Olympic athletes like Bronte Campbell, surfers like Adrian Buchan and AFLW players like Sharni Layton.
“Sport needs to decide whether we are going to raise our collective voice for urgent climate action, as an influential social institution,” stated Craig Foster, former captain of the Socceroos national football team.
“Sport is an international community of commonality and shared humanity, and this is precisely what climate action is about.”
In the last two annual reports published by the Climate Council, Australian sport was warned of threats from climate change due to increasing severity of heatwaves, drought and natural disasters.
In 2020, over eight million hectares of Australian forest burnt around the major capital cities, forcing sporting seasons to end early. This disruption was estimated to have had a significant financial impact on the Australian sports industry.
Furthermore, an increasing number of sports stars have succumbed to heat exhaustion in recent years, with temperatures frequently rising above 40C.
Meanwhile, in 2022, floods swept through Queensland and New South Wales, having a massive impact on sporting fixtures and their playing surfaces, causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.
“Sport is obviously an institution here in Australia. Sports stars are revered and the clubs are as well. Millions of Australians play or watch sport on the weekend. It’s a huge part of our life, part of the social fabric of rural and regional communities, yet climate disruption is playing havoc on sport.
“And it’s expected to get worse. By 2040, heatwaves in Melbourne and Sydney are expected to get as high as 50C. You can’t play in those conditions. We’ve already seen elite tennis players keeling over at high 30s, low 40s. You can imagine what that would be like. Ten degrees hotter is unplayable.”
The AOC’s Sphere of Influence
The AOC’s Sphere of Influence
The AOC has defined its three primary spheres of responsibility as:
- an organisation
- a major participant in Olympic Games
- leader of the Olympic Movement within Australia.
It is in these areas that the AOC sees its role to lead by example and influence through its long-term strategy around sustainability and climate action.
The AOC has 43 member sports, which participate in summer and winter Olympics and youth and regional competitions.
There are also 3,454 active Australian Olympians and around 13 million active participants and volunteers across all Olympic sports, not including the fans who attend, watch and follow Australian sport every day.
Climate Action Plan – Priority Areas
The AOC has defined three key priority areas in its fight against climate change:
CAP Priority Area #1
To consistently and authentically communicate on climate to the wider Australian Olympic community
CAP Priority Area #2
To lead the Australian Olympic community through climate action
CAP Priority Area #3
To cultivate a positive climate culture within and outside the Australian Olympic Committee
AOC Climate Action Plan Summary
These priority areas have led to the development of the CAP Action Plan, which includes a range of actions under each pillar of the UN Framework:
P1 – Principle 1
Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
- Update AOC policies to reflect sustainability priorities and climate action
- Review sustainability priority and climate action
- Update performance indicators to reflect priorities and action
- Designate a senior management team member to champion the CAP
- Create a Sustainability Steering Committee to lead the delivery of the CAP
P2 – Principle 2
Reduce overall climate impact
- Develop a plan for materials usage, recovery and circular economy
- Develop an energy efficiency plan
- Develop a low carbon mobility plan
- Report on emissions that are measured and verified
- Develop a carbon offset plan
P3 – Principle 3
Educate for climate action
- Create a sustainability focused communication plan
- Education and training for employees, Olympians, and National Federations
- Develop one case study of sustainability in action within the AOC, the AOC teams, and/or greater community and share in AOC internal and external communications (Includes P1 and P5)
P4 – Principle 4
Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
P5 – Principle 5
Advocate for climate action through communication
- Support a globally and/or nationally led sustainability campaign with value aligned partners e.g., IOC, ONOC, Brisbane 2032 (Includes P2 and P3)
- Co-develop sustainability research with a university partner annually (Includes P2 and P3)
Partnerships in Action
The AOC consulted a range of stakeholders in developing the CAP. These included Team Partners, the AOC Athletes’ Commission, the AOC Sustainability Steering Group, the International Olympic Committee, National Sports Federations, and an independent consultant, Dr Sheila Nguyen.
Team Partners included:
AOC’s role in protecting Australia’s natural beauty and rich biodiversity
Whilst climate action is at the heart of the AOC’s overall plan, it is only a part of the broader social responsibility plan linking to other areas like diversity and inclusion, all of which are part of the AOC’s Reconciliation Plan.
With Brisbane set to host the Olympic Games in 2032, the AOC can use the platform of the Olympic movement to actively contribute to global sustainability.
Carroll summarised by saying:
“In developing our Climate Action Plan, we have a heightened sense of pride in living and playing in Australia, which is among the most biodiverse places in the world, affording Australians incredibly beautiful and naturally rich places to play.
“In fact, of the world’s species, 7-10% live in Australia and of our 700,000-plus species, many of the flora and fauna are only found here and nowhere else globally. Our climate challenge is the rapid decline of the very biodiversity that makes our country so special and our opportunity is to advocate, to educate, and to lead by example in climate action.”
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