“We are no longer living with a climate change challenge; we are living with a climate emergency,” she said. “The IOC is one of the institutions in the world that can have the most beneficial impact on how the world addresses this challenge.”
Ms Figueres pointed to the already visible impacts of climate change on sport, including melting glaciers and unreliable snow in the winter, and rising temperatures in the summer.
“But I am an optimist,” she said. “We have all the tools at hand to address this challenge and you have an extraordinary influence that you can materialise.”
Ms Figueres congratulated the IOC on its sustainability work to date, starting from the acknowledgment by the UN, in 2015, of sport as an important enabler of sustainable development.
“Sport contributes to almost all the Sustainable Development Goals, which is quite a remarkable privilege with respect to the development of humanity around the world,” she said.
She emphasised the need for the IOC to address climate change at the global and local level. This includes the need to address air pollution, which is responsible for seven million deaths annually, and disproportionally affects athletes.
“You punch way above your weight and can lead by example. We need you to be champions for global and local health. You must use your platform to exhibit the human capacity to raise to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced – climate change,” she said.
A former Costa Rican diplomat, Christiana Figueres was Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016. In 2015, she successfully delivered the UN Climate Summit in Paris, leading to the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement.
“Christiana is a true professional, a friend, and an outstanding leader in the global issue of climate change,” said HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, the Chair of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission. “As leaders of the Olympic Movement, we have to recognise that we have a role to play and our actions must be part of the solution to the global challenge of climate change.”
“You have the commitment of the IOC on sustainability and our commitment to even strengthen our efforts further in this area,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
Sustainability is one of the three pillars of Olympic Agenda 2020 – the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement. The IOC is working to ensure that its principles are embedded across its activities, as an organisation, as the owner of the Olympic Games and as the leader of the Olympic Movement.
Climate change has a central place in this work. Thanks to the IOC Official Carbon Partner Dow, the IOC’s estimated carbon emissions between 2017 and 2020 have already been offset. This includes the construction and operation of Olympic House, the new headquarters of the IOC. The building has recently received rigorous international and Swiss sustainability certifications, becoming one of the most sustainable buildings in the world.
In December 2018, the IOC took the leadership role in the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Thirty-five sports organisations have joined the framework so far, including nine International Olympic Sports Federations and the Organising Committees for three of the upcoming Olympic Games editions: Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 and Paris 2024.