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Sports outline game plan to safeguard biodiversity at first Sports for Nature Annual Meeting

November 27 2023 - News Release News Editorial

Sports for Nature signatories demonstrated how they are embedding nature in their sustainability strategies and called for further guidance to help them contribute to global biodiversity goals at the first Sports for Nature Annual Meeting held here last week, following the SportAccord International Federation Forum.

Sports outline game plan to safeguard biodiversity at first Sports for Nature Annual Meeting

In addition, three new sports organisations signed up to support the Sports for Nature Framework, bringing the total to 43 signatories. The International Fistball AssociationSurf Clube de Viana in Portugal and World Taekwondo all confirmed their commitment to take action to safeguard nature under the Framework.

“Without nature, sport has nowhere to play,” said Ms Elizabeth Mrema, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme in her opening remarks at the meeting. “Whether it is the landscapes to compete in, the equipment that you play with, the ocean you sail in or the water you swim in – all is provided with the support of nature.”

Backed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Olympic Committee (IOC), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, in collaboration with Sails of Change, Sports for Nature was launched in December 2022, to provide a pathway for sports to accelerate their action for nature. The initiative offers sports – of all sizes and in all geographies – technical assistance and training as well as a platform to exchange with their peers.

Two-thirds of the signatories participated in the hybrid meeting and took stock of their progress under the Framework’s four principles to: protect nature, restore nature, address supply chains, and inspire and educate others. All signatories are expected to report on their actions annually.

As Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Head of Communications David Ainsworth explained, in addition to having an impact nationally, signatories’ combined actions will directly contribute to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which calls for everyone in society to invest in nature conservation.

“The commitments and energy in Sports for Nature are exactly what the world needs to live sustainably and protect nature.  We are looking forward to the inspiring actions that signatories to Sports for Nature will take to support nature, sustainable development and the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework,” he said.

Both the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and World Rowing Federation showcased how they are updating their sustainability strategies to deliver action for nature under the Sports for Nature Framework’s principles. Guidance by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), – on invasive and non-native species – a major threat to biodiversity, and efforts by World Rugby to raise awareness and reduce the sport’s footprint on nature, were also cited as recent examples.

Working in groups, the signatories outlined key issues they will address in the coming year – from exploring how host cities and governments could help them protect and restore nature to recognising how they can use their influence and effect change through their procurement decisions and supply chains, with one group specifically examining sports apparel and equipment. Other groups discussed rolling-out effective staff engagement strategies and creating a global campaign to engage the broader sporting community.

For more information, please visit this webpage or email: SportsforNature@iucn.org.

Additional quotes from partners and signatories follow:

“As a partner in the Sports for Nature Framework, and its first signatory, we are excited to see the growing interest from across the sports world to join this initiative,” said Marie Sallois, IOC Director for Sustainability. “Sport relies on nature as much as it relies on a stable climate, and we want to be part of the solution to protect both. While making our own efforts to help protect and conserve nature, we want to use our influence to help the Olympic Movement and sport overall become more sustainable.  

“Sport awakens emotions. It’s a great way to share core values with fans, athletes and our children, so just imagine the potential sport has to lead efforts in nature preservation,” said Dona Bertarelli, an accomplished sailor, philanthropist, IUCN Patron of Nature and co-founder of Sails of Change. “Sport has a unique capacity to inspire and drive change, and the sports community shares a responsibility to protect the health of the nature it depends on.”

Per Nylykke, Deputy Director of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Sports Confederation of Denmark, explained: “As the NOC and Sports Confederation of Denmark with 2 million members – more than 1/3 of the Danish population – we feel an obligation to do what we can to protect nature and work systematically with sustainability. With the signing of Sports for Nature this summer, we have committed to work with 14 initiatives strategically over the next 3 to 4 years. We hope that our approach can be an inspiration to other NOCs and Sports Confederations around the world.”

New signatories:

Christoph Oberlehner, Secretary General of IFA, said: “As an outdoor sport, we are directly affected by extreme weather events like heat, heavy rain or storms. For IFA, the Sport for Nature declaration is much more than a piece of paper. We realize plenty of activities are needed to protect our nature and environment. “We truly believe that sport has the power to change the world for a better tomorrow. We are very glad to be part of the Sports for Nature movement and learning from others, and we are looking forward to getting into action with our partners. There’s plenty of work ahead of all of us. Let’s start!”

Joao Zamith, Chairman of Surf Clube de Viana, said: “It is an honour for us to join the Sports for Nature Framework. We have been prioritising environmental sustainability in our club’s activities for many years and are now excited to build on and expand this work, learn from other signatories, and jointly contribute to sustainable development in and through sport.”

Dr. Chungwon Choue, President of World Taekwondo, said: “Environmental sustainability is a key focus area of the World Taekwondo Sustainability Strategy. We believe there is a significant synergy between our sport and our athletes, and Sports for Nature. We are committed to doing all we can to protect nature through our infrastructure, supply chain and in educating our stakeholders to do their part, for the future of our sport and our athletes.”

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