October 2, 2022

Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s newsletter Meanwhile in the Middle East, a three-times-weekly overview of the region’s biggest stories. Register here.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

World football’s governing body FIFA has said it will host the first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup this year – but not everyone is buying it.

On World Environment Day on Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino reiterated his promise to hold a green tournament, saying the body is “playing its part” for the environment “i therefore calls on you all to raise the FIFA green card for the planet,” he said.

Host country Qatar, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita, said it would keep emissions low and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as the tournament produces by investing in projects that will capture greenhouse gases.

Climate activists remain unconvinced and a German politician has accused organizers of ‘greenwashing’ the event – a term used to call out those trying to cover up their environmental and climate damage with initiatives green false, misleading or misleading. exaggerated.

“There is no such thing as a carbon-neutral world championship,” Michael Bloss, a member of the European Parliament for Germany’s Greens party, told CNN last week. “It’s a bit of a punch in the face” for environmental efforts, Bloss said. “Calling it a green championship is weird.”

Here’s why environmentalists and climate action advocates are skeptical of organizers’ claims:

Carbon footprint calculation

The Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), the event’s organizing body, and FIFA predicted in a February 2021 report that the carbon footprint of the World Cup would be around 3.6 million metric tons of CO2.

Carbon Market Watch (CMW), a nonprofit advocacy group specializing in carbon pricing, says these calculations are grossly understated for several reasons. Qatar has built seven new arenas especially for this tournament, including one temporary and six permanent ones. CMW says FIFA’s calculations don’t match because they excluded emissions from the cooling of air-conditioned stadiums. In addition to this, the footprint is calculated using only the stadiums 70 days of use, not their entire lifespan, when they will need ongoing maintenance. The tournament lasts 28 days.

After major sporting events, it’s common to see venues become underutilized, but the SCDL told CNN there will be no more “white elephants” after the competition ends. FIFA and the SCDL justify the emissions from the construction of the stadiums by arguing that Qataris and visitors can continue to use the facilities in the future.

Commenting on the CMW report, SCDL said it was “speculative and inaccurate to draw conclusions” about its commitment to carbon neutrality.

Carbon credits

FIFA and Qatar pledge to offset carbon emissions by investing in green projects and buying carbon credits – a common practice used by companies to “undo” the impact of a carbon footprint.

But climate experts have pointed to the limitations of offset programs such as tree planting, saying that while they play a crucial role in absorbing and storing carbon, they are overused – and their impact sometimes overstated – to allow the usual combustion emissions. fossil fuels.

Qatar has so far secured 1.5 million carbon credits of the 3.6 million it needs, organizers said, and the SCDL told CNN that since the tournament has not yet started, ” the ex post inventory of carbon emissions can only be finalized after the event”. .”

He added that he will sow the seeds for the world’s largest grass farm by planting 679,000 shrubs and 16,000 trees. The plants will be laid in stadiums and elsewhere in the country and are expected to absorb thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

Doha compact size

Qatar has touted its small size as advantageous for its carbon-neutral ambitions for the World Cup. The short distance between stadiums would negate the need for domestic air travel for fans and reduce the tournament’s carbon footprint, the Gulf nation said in September.

But last week Qatar announced plans to have ticket holders stay in neighboring countries and fly to and from the country to watch the games.

“They’re going to emit a lot of CO2 from planes,” Bloss, the German MEP, told CNN.

Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, which has partnered with regional airlines to operate the 160 additional daily flights to the country during the tournament, defended the plan last week.

“[We] have planes that have very low emissions compared to normal planes that most other airlines use,” including long-haul flights, he told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

He didn’t explain how the planes’ emissions would be lower than others, but the airline’s website says it uses “one of the youngest fleets in the sky” and has implemented 70 fuel optimization programs.

South Africa says UAE arrests Gupta brothers, wanted for corruption

South Africa said on Monday the United Arab Emirates had arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta, two brothers accused of political corruption under former South African President Jacob Zuma.

  • Background: The brothers are accused of using ties to Zuma, who ruled from 2009 to 2018, to win contracts, embezzle state assets, influence cabinet appointments and siphon off state funds. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing. They left South Africa after Zuma was ousted in 2018. Dubai police confirmed on Tuesday that they arrested the couple, calling them “among South Africa’s most wanted suspects”. The United Arab Emirates and South Africa ratified an extradition treaty in April 2021.
  • why is it important: The announcement comes just days after the Danish Ministry of Justice said the prime suspect in a dividend tax evasion case, Sanjay Shah, had been arrested in Dubai. Shah claims his innocence. The UAE is trying to shake off the image of a haven for fugitives in financial crimes. This year, the country was placed on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which aims to fight against money laundering.

Saudi Arabia’s first-quarter GDP grows 9.9%, fastest in a decade

Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product rose 9.9% in the first quarter of this year, official data showed on Tuesday. Growth is the fastest in a decade.

  • Background: Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-producing Gulf states have seen their fortunes multiply since Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February. The event led to a spike in energy prices, which experts say will allow nations to post budget surpluses after eight years of deficits. In May, Saudi Aramco became the world’s most valuable company, replacing Apple.
  • Why is this important: As the Saudis reap the benefits of high oil prices, Western officials have asked Gulf monarchs to increase production to cool oil prices. An OPEC deal to pump more oil over the next two months has set the stage for an upcoming July visit by US President Joe Biden, where he is due to meet the de facto ruler, the Crown Prince, for the first time. Mohammad bin Salman.

Train derailment in eastern Iran kills at least 17, injures 50

A passenger train derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday morning, killing at least 17 people and injuring 50, the Iranian Red Crescent Society said on Twitter.

  • Background: The death toll is expected to rise due to the severity of injuries, South Khorasan Governorate official Seyyed Abolhassan Mirjalili said, according to Iranian state media IRNA. The train was carrying 348 passengers when it collided with an excavator on the rail, IRNA said. Aerial footage posted on Iranian Red Crescent social media showed train carriages alongside them in the desert.
  • why is it important: The incident comes nearly two weeks after a 10-story commercial building in the city of Abadan collapsed, killing 41 people and sparking anti-government protests in Iranian provinces.

India is working to repair the damage with its Arab allies caused by anti-Islam comments by a ruling Bharatiya Janata party official, which prompted some Gulf states to summon India’s ambassadors.

Indian journalist Barkha Dutt explains to CNN’s Becky Anderson why it took the party nearly 10 days to discipline the official. Watch the interview here:

Some of those living in the UAE may need a makeover.

Shirts with cigarettes, socks with marijuana leaves, hoodies with 4/20 slogans, or any product that promotes narcotics could lead to serious problems, including jail time.

Dubai police have warned that violators of a law banning such displays could face fines of up to 5,000 dirhams ($1,360) and repeat offenders could be jailed for up to two years.

The law, which is part of a wider legislative reform at the end of 2021, prohibits images, designs, writings or ideas that encourage any act involving drug use.

Officials urged the people of the UAE to raise awareness about the law, especially among young people. Police say young people exposed to such images are four times more likely to use marijuana, according to Gulf News.

Under the law, the heaviest penalty is for those who produce, import and sell these items, with fines starting at 50,000 dirhams. In any case, the goods will be confiscated. The same law, however, loosened the rules around possession of narcotics, reduced penalties, and loosened the rules on first-time offenders.

By Tasmiyah Randeree