Thursday 28 March 2024, 08:15

Oceania Member Associations come together to focus on climate change strategies

  • Climate change is having a significant impact in the Pacific region

  • Ten Member Associations will gather for a FIFA workshop focused on infrastructure and facilities

  • Football facilities have been used by the community during natural disasters in Oceania

The Pacific region, with its prevalence of low-lying islands, is especially vulnerable to climate change. Football is not immune, and is affected at all levels, but at the same time, it can also play a role in helping to draw attention to climate change and taking action against it. With that focus in mind, ten OFC Member Associations (MAs) will gather in Papua New Guinea on Tuesday 9 April to commence a two-day FIFA Football Infrastructure and Facilities Maintenance workshop. The overarching aim will focus on safeguarding for facilities and to ensure that accessibility and sustainability components are part of the programme during construction of an MA’s facilities.

Since 2016, FIFA has focused on climate awareness and mitigation and it launched a Climate Strategy in November 2021 at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland. In 2022, FIFA and the Pacific Islands Forum signed a memorandum of understanding, covering several areas which included leveraging opportunities for climate-resilient football development in the Pacific region. Papua New Guinea Football Association General Secretary Gordon Manub said that the impact of climate change had resulted in numerous challenges. “We’ve had increased adverse weather in terms of an increase in temperature, impacts that we never used to have,” he said. “We now have a lot of cooling breaks during our matches, the cost of getting water onto the pitch for the teams that are participating has increased. “Our country is the first country to have climate-change refugees. One of our islands, the Carteret Atoll, is actually under water, and about 1,700 people from that island are being moved to the mainland, to Bougainville. That’s how damaging climate change is for us.”

In some countries, FIFA Forward-funded infrastructure designed with a focus on disaster resilience has proved to be invaluable to the local community when natural disasters occur. Residents sheltered at the Tonga Football Association’s headquarters during the catastrophic Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai eruption and tsunami in 2022, and it was a similar scenario a year earlier at the Fiji Football Association’s Labasa facility which was used as an evacuation centre during a major cyclone. Under the FIFA Forward Programme, FIFA has invested a total of USD 21 million on infrastructure development in the region since 2016 with sustainability, accessibility components embedded into the designs.

“We have a big FIFA Forward programme in Papua New Guinea,” added Mr. Manub. “FIFA has assisted us in a lot of our infrastructure, building a stadium, we’re actually just coming to the completion of our headquarters being renovated and maintained by FIFA through the FIFA Forward programme. “We’re also gearing up for FIFA Forward in supporting high infrastructure development in two of our big cities, one in Port Moresby and one in Lae. We’ve already got our plans underway and we’re looking forward to what FIFA’s doing for our country through the support of the FIFA Forward programme.”

Given football’s unique ability to be a change-maker, FIFA has continued to strengthen its requirements and programmes related to environmental protection, particularly over the past decade. This commitment has translated into concrete actions to protect our planet, in particular around FIFA’s flagship events. “Football crosses boundaries, football stops wars,” said Mr. Manub. “So, I think that football can stop global (climate) change, and global impact…by using us (football) as an agenda.”

Papua New Guinea at the FIFA Series 2024