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Julie Duffus
15 Mar 2019
Olympic News, Sustainability, IOC News

World’s highest decision-making body on environment highlights power of sport to advance sustainable development

From tackling marine litter and climate change to conserving biodiversity, sport’s contribution to sustainable development featured prominently at the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, which closes today in Nairobi.

As the leader of the Olympic Movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) provides education, support and guidance to the International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs), helping them address today’s sustainability challenges.

“It is an honour to be representing the IOC at the UN Environment Assembly,” said Beatrice Allen, IOC Member and member of the IOC Sustainability and Legacy Commission, who spoke on behalf of the IOC at the Assembly. “This Assembly is a success story, with delegates from all walks of life contributing to the debate on how to make this world a better place.  The IOC’s interventions revolve around the need for strong partnerships in terms of dialogue, research and funding of environmental conservation initiatives.”

Julie Duffus
Climate change and plastic pollution took centre stage at the Assembly, with the IOC representatives highlighting the many ways in which the Olympic Movement is addressing these issues.

For example, since joining the UN Environment Clean Seas Initiative in June 2018, the IOC has brought 11 IFs, four NOCs and three of its commercial partners – Coca Cola, Dow Chemicals and Procter & Gamble – on board the programme, to take on the challenge of marine litter. Ichinomiya city in Japan, which will host surfing competitions during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, has also joined the initiative.

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As part of its partnership with UN Climate Change, the IOC took on a leadership role in the “Sports for Climate Action Initiative”, launched at UNFCCC COP 24 last December. The aim of the initiative is to help the sports community contribute to global climate goals. Nineteen sports organisations have so far signed up to the initiative, including the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.

Since 2016, the IOC has also been partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to help the Olympic Movement and the sports sector more broadly avoid potential negative impacts on nature. A new IUCN guide launched at the Assembly as a result of this partnership outlines how the careful planning, location and design of new sports venues can help avoid potential negative impacts on nature – and even contribute to its conservation.

This year’s UN Environment Assembly was overshadowed by the tragic crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, in which 157 people were killed, including many travelling to attend the UN Environment Assembly. Speaking at the session, Beatrice Allen expressed her heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Olympic Movement.

“On behalf of the IOC President and the entire Olympic Movement, let me say that our thoughts are with all those who lost their lives in the Ethiopia Airlines plane crash - but of course, given the meeting today in Nairobi, also with those from the UN, which was so badly affected,” she said.

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