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Girls play volleyball at a school in Herat, Afghanistan, in 2016.UNAMA Girls play volleyball at a school in Herat, Afghanistan, in 2016.

 

Athletes are among the most influential people on the planet and together with their managers, fans and others involved in organized sport, must contribute to global efforts to combat climate change. 

That was the message UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed delivered on Wednesday to a virtual event marking the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, observed annually on 6 April. 

This year’s theme examines how sport can help advance human rights and sustainable development through addressing the climate emergency. 

A powerful platform 

Ms. Mohammed pointed to the power of sports to unite and inspire people across the world, serving as an effective catalyst for promoting respect, equality, diversity, and inclusion. 

“Sport also provides a platform for tackling some of the gravest global threats to people and planet, like climate change, which is right now wreaking havoc in all countries, with the greatest impacts on the poor and the vulnerable,” she said. 

The UN deputy chief called for urgent and transformative action from all sectors, “including sports and the billions of people involved as participants, facilitators, owners, advertisers, and supporters.” 

She recalled that UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the need to go into “emergency mode” against the climate crisis, because the battle to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, will be won or lost in this decade. 

Show real leadership 

“And we are far off track,” she warned.  “Major sporting events and leagues, athletes and fans alike, are poised to be powerful advocates for collective and collaborative political action.” 

Ms. Mohammed said the sports industry must show real leadership, including by slashing its carbon footprint, encouraging higher ambition from the private sector, and promoting low-cost inclusive and accessible solutions, which also have high impact. 

“Most crucially, we need everyone involved in sport to speak up much louder and demand bolder actions from governments and businesses alike,” she said.  

Speak up for the planet 

Noting that sports stars, pundits, sponsors, and their creative partners, are among the most influential personalities on the planet, Ms. Mohammed urged them to contribute to climate action. 

They can call on governments and business to accelerate the renewal energy transition, for example, and to phase out coal. 

“Use your voices and your platform to connect with people and youth in the billions and fire up their passions. Show leaders that a just, healthy and net-zero carbon planet is inevitable, and that it must quicken,” she said. 

Ms. Mohammed described global efforts to combat the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development as a fight we will win or lose together. 

“More than ever, we must unite as one team, working together to create a safer, inclusive and more peaceful and more sustainable future for all,” she said.