The United Nations Information Centre has joined the campaign to raise public awareness of climate change through sports! In a Facebook Live event on 5 April entitled, “Take Climate Action with Sports!” UNIC brought high school students and representatives from the sporting world together to discuss society’s role in the fight against climate change.
The Global Effects of Climate Change
Climate change is a global issue and its effects are increasingly seen worldwide. Japan is no exception: Intense summer heat and torrential downpours have steadily become more common over the last several years and disrupt the daily lives of people all over the country. Movements to combat climate change have consequently emerged and grown in number all around the world. One such movement arose in the sports community, accruing widespread support from athletes worldwide and leading to the collaboration between environmental activists and the sports community.
It is evident that climate change affects the environment—but have you realized that it also affects sports? Climate change and global warming have significantly changed the natural terrains that athletes use to practice and play on. This is where the interests of environmental activists and the sports community align; athletes rely on the environment for their craft, just as the world requires a good environment for us all to thrive. The climate action and sports movement seizes on these interests—and on the world’s interest in sports—and consolidates them into one effort to grapple with climate change.
The collaboration between the sports community and the environmentalists was devised during COP24 (2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference), which was held in Katowice, Poland, in December of 2018. The “Sports for Climate Action Framework” was determined then and uses the medium of sports to call for proactive world action against climate change and to raise public awareness of the issue.
Athletes from all over the world have endorsed this initiative and join in calling for environmental action.
UNIC recently commemorated the “International Day of Sport for Development and Peace” and held the “Take Climate Action with Sports” Facebook Live event on 5 April.
Calling Awareness to Climate Change Through Facebook Live
Viewers had the privilege of hearing from several outstanding representatives of the sporting world during this event. Among them were Koji Murofushi, the Sports Director of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Narumi Takahashi, figure skater and member of the JOC Athlete Committee. The event began with their remarks on what they perceive to be the relationship between sports and climate change.
Murofushi and Takahashi both stressed that preserving the environment is of utmost importance and must be prioritized. “We can’t play sports without a beautiful environment,” they agreed. “As global warming advances, the places for winter sport athletes to practice decrease.” Their remarks, which carried a sense of urgency, struck a chord with viewers and gave them insight into the tangible implications of climate change.
The representatives also took questions from live viewers. One question that was asked was, “Have action and awareness spread within the winter sports community?” In response to their question, Takahashi answered, “Awareness and action have been spreading rapidly in Japan for a few years now. However, the most important thing remains for the athletes themselves to appreciate the environment in which they play and for them to act on that appreciation by taking proactive action to help preserve the environment.” She further emphasised the importance of heightening athletes’ awareness of climate change.
Following her remarks, Haruki Sawada, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance, spoke. Sawada was one of the creators of the “Sports for Climate Action Framework”—which was established at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) and took approximately one year to design—and his experience in helping create this initiative coloured his words. He believes sports holds the unique power to “mobilize and connect people”, which is also the hope and expectation behind the “Sports for Climate Action Framework.” Sawada stressed that it is highly important for athletes to think independently about how they, as individuals, may have a positive effect on the world.
Tomoko Hoshino, a steering committee member of the Global Environment Outreach Centre (GEOC), further explained developments related to climate change. She added that, in addition to climate change awareness permeating the sporting world, the movement has also spread to the fashion and music industries, causing both to rise up as strong proponents of proactive environmental action. These developments demonstrate how climate change awareness is beginning to transcend boundaries among even an eclectic range of industries.
The Expectations for Climate Change Related Activities in the Tokyo 2020
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) will exercise special consideration towards climate change and climate change related activities, striving to bolster the relationship between sports and environmental action.
“The Olympics and Paralympics have the Power to Raise Awareness and to Change People’s Beliefs”
The unique power sports possesses to capture the attention of the people and spur the world to action is what Murofushi hopes to capitalize on with the 2020 events. He sees the Olympic and Paralympic games as prime opportunities to heighten awareness for climate change and activities promoting sustainability at an international level. He invites people to approach climate issues with a global perspective, calling for action “from the ground-up” and to “think globally, act locally.”
The “International Day of Sport for Development and Peace” event was held at the United Nations headquarters in New York (3 April). Murofushi participated in this event and gave his remarks through a video message to viewers. In his message, he spoke briefly on the use of recycled electronics in creating the Tokyo Olympics’ medals and the opportunity regular people have to contribute to the effort by donating old electronics.
High Schoolers are also Taking Action in the Fight Against Climate Change
The “Take Climate Action with Sports!” event also featured high school athletes from Sano High School and provided them with a platform through which to share their experiences. Yuumu Watarai, high school student and captain of his school’s boys’ rugby team, discussed what he learned about climate change from participating in the COP24.
Watarai had been nervous just minutes before the event began; however, as expected of an athlete of his caliber, he overcame his nerves and rose to the occasion for the real thing. When his turn came around, he shared his thoughts eloquently and with great conviction.
“From participating in the COP24, I was able to acquire a global perspective,” he said. “I had the opportunity to listen to a lot of diverse opinions. Ultimately, I realized that we, as young people, must take a forward role in directing action against climate change.” His strong remarks and his teammates’ vocal support further invigorated the event.
“We Can Accomplish Big Things When We Work Together, Not Alone”
These were the powerful words spoken by high school athlete Natsuki Ōkawa. Ōkawa is an accomplished athlete and the captain of her school’s girls’ rugby team, as well as a conscientious member of the world community who thinks often about her impact on the environment. From discarded pet bottles to old clothes, she realized the considerable impact her team—and the waste they produce—has on the environment. Her thoughtful consideration for the environment and her motivation to better understand her role in fighting climate change are reflective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Live viewers posed this question: “What do you want other high school students to learn?” In response to this, Ōkawa responded, “I want them to put forward new ideas, to challenge themselves, and to try things that haven’t been done yet.” She further emphasised the importance of finding new solutions and expressing different opinions, hoping that both older and younger generations can learn from each other and work side-by-side in taking environmental action.
The experiences shared by all of the participants in this event helps bring to light the personal responsibility we each have in how we approach, think about, and take action pertaining to climate change.
Climate change is not “someone else’s problem.” Climate change is our problem.
This is an invitation to you, the reader, to ask yourself also: What can you do to help fight climate change?