The European Tour group is aiming for a CO2 net in 2040 with the UN agreement

Ryder Cup
The European Tour group hosts high-profile tournaments such as the Ryder Cup

Golf’s European Tour group has announced it will be carbon-zero by 2040, saying “as a global brand we have a clear responsibility”.

The tour has signed up to the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework (UNFCCC).

It is the first Tour to target zero and joins other organizations such as football’s European body Uefa.

Achieving net zero means reducing emissions and balance any remaining with various green practices.

European Tour group chief executive Keith Pelley said: “Our net-zero commitment shows we are serious about environmental responsibility and the role we can play.”

Last year four times major winner Rory McIlroy paid thousands to offset his carbon footprint following feelings of environmental “guilt” traveling in private jets to tournaments.

McIlroy now pays extra fees, believed to be around $150,000 (£110,000) a year, to offset his carbon footprint.

“I wouldn’t claim to be an eco-warrior myself,” McIlroy said.

“But I’m someone who doesn’t want to harm the environment. So how can I make my journey around the world neutral? How can I neutralize what I’m doing?”

The UNFCCC was established by the United Nations (UN) for sports organizations to tackle climate change through five principles, including efforts to reduce overall climate impact, educate for climate action and promote sustainable and responsible consumption.

The UN’s Race to Zero pledge requires all signatories to commit to reducing direct emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2040.

Lindita Xhaferi-Salihu, Head of UN Sports for Climate Action, said: “The Sports for Climate Action Framework is about driving sport to net-zero emissions by 2040, in line with keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“It is no small or easy task, but to secure the future of sport we must all join hands and strive to win the race against climate change.”

Analysis – David Lockwood, BBC Sport sustainability manager

One of golf’s biggest challenges is hosting events on courses in hot, water-poor climates like the Middle East, where water shortages are likely to only increase.

The European Tour group is not exempt with six of their 43 events in the UAE and Qatar. The question remains: is it ever possible for a sport like golf to be truly sustainable in these climates?

The UN for Sport for Climate Action’s Race to Zero framework is as close to an industry benchmark as the sports industry currently has.

By signing up to the framework, the European Tour group has committed to complying with the UN’s reporting mechanism. This is an important step, as there is a lot of room for interpretation in net-zero strategies and targets without independent verification or investigation.

For sports, one of the biggest areas of discussion around this is fan travel, and this is important as it represents the most important part of the sports footprint. It is therefore encouraging that the European Tour group includes fan travel within its footprint.

However, the strategy currently only covers events organized by the European Tour group itself and not those organized independently. It will be important to see the extent to which these unplanned events encompass a more sustainable approach.

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