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World Rugby Launches Ambitious Plan To Support Global Action On Climate Change

World Rugby has launched its Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030, a detailed strategy to help tackle the environmental sustainability issues that both affect and are affected by rugby.

Aligned with its values of solidarity and respect, the international federation has set ambitious and tangible targets to achieve over the next decade including, among many, a 50 percent cut of its carbon emissions by 2030 without using offsetting.

World Rugby is an active and committed advocate of positive change, supporting rugby kit and equipment collection and redistribution partner SOS Kit Aid over 20 years, joining the UN Environment/IOC Clean Seas initiative in 2018, and being among the first international federations to sign the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework in 2019.

However, the climate crisis that is affecting rugby communities around the world has further motivated the organisation to show leadership and develop a comprehensive environmental sustainability plan, as outlined in World Rugby’s 2021-25 strategy.

Storms, floods, fires and drought attributed to global warming are devastating communities, while the low-lying Pacific Islands, in particular, are among the most vulnerable communities on earth to the impact of climate change due to the rise in sea levels that is compromising their very existence.

Without immediate and meaningful action, the rugby family will be amongst all other groups, communities and ecosystems affected globally.

Over the past 12 months, World Rugby has worked with leading sport and sustainability experts to understand and assess areas of greatest impact, need and influence.

World Rugby’s ESP 2030 is the outcome of this process and has been developed following input and feedback from a wide-ranging consultation process that involved key rugby stakeholders including unions, players, fans, partners and suppliers.

In providing a roadmap for tackling the sport’s impact on the global environment and promoting best practice, the Plan has been endorsed by leading rugby figures and International Rugby Players alongside external sport and sustainability experts from the IOC, United Nations and others.

World Rugby’s Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030 focuses on three priority themes:

  1. Climate action: addressing the carbon footprint of rugby, adaptation measures to stay in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement and use rugby’s platform to spread awareness and advocate for climate action
  2. Circular economy (managing materials and resources): addressing issues of single-use plastic, short-life materials and waste management
  3. Natural environment protection: addressing how rugby can help sustain ecosystems and promote healthier environments wherever it is played

The strategy includes aspirational but achievable targets with a focus on four pillars of activity:

  1. Our governance: to embed sustainability in everything that we do
  2. Our direct impacts: to reduce the environmental footprint of our own activities
  3. Our events: to deliver and support sustainable rugby tournaments
  4. Our global family: to promote sustainability in rugby through education, advocacy and knowledge sharing

In addition to cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent, World Rugby will work towards a further fifteen targets as set out in the Plan. 

Included in these targets are aims to ensure all World Rugby competitions have a positive impact on the natural environment by 2025, to reduce the number of short-life items produced for World Rugby competitions by 80 percent by 2027, and making sustainability a material consideration in all World Rugby decision making processes, including the awarding of Rugby World Cups.

With these new targets, World Rugby has completed the requirements set by the UNFCCC to become a signatory of the “Race to Zero”, a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth. All Race to Zero signatories are committed to the same overarching goal: halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2040 or earlier.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The climate crisis is arguably the biggest challenge facing humanity and our planet’s fragile ecosystems. It is affecting all areas of our lives and with it, our ability to play the sport we love.

“Although the climate and environmental impact of rugby and all its associated activities is relatively minor compared with other sectors, it is our moral responsibility to be strong advocates for environmental and social responsibility and show leadership through accountability, positive action and good governance.

“Following extensive work and consultation, we are very proud to be presenting our Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030. It is both a statement of intent and a tangible roadmap for tackling the environmental sustainability issues that both affect our sport and are affected by our sport.

“It is the beginning of a meaningful and exciting journey for all involved in rugby to play their part in tackling climate change, inspiring fans and our member unions to act and achieve our shared ambition to be a responsible sport.”

World Rugby will look to engage with all its stakeholders to bring them along on the journey, starting with its playing population.

David Pocock, former Australia international said: “The climate crisis is the biggest challenge we face. It is great to see World Rugby leading and committing to playing an active part in safeguarding all of our futures, and the future of rugby.”

Jamie Farndale, Scotland & Great Britain Sevens international and a sustainability advocate said: “It is very inspiring to see World Rugby recognising the responsibility it has with regards to the environment.

This plan is ambitious, measurable and detailed. It sets out a clear roadmap to a more sustainable future for the sport, leading from the front and bringing the rest of the rugby world with it.

I am particularly excited by the ambition to hold climate positive events. Rugby has the opportunity to become an environmental leader in sport, demonstrating the way forward for others.”

Alena Olsen, USA Women’s Sevens international and EcoAthletes Champion added: “This strategy addresses many major concerns that climate change poses on the future. It is ambitious and that’s a good thing! I hope the rugby community can take part in making it a success.”

Lindita Xhaferi Salihu, Sectoral Engagement Lead (Sport for Climate Action) at UN Climate Change, said “This decade is crucial for the future of our planet. It’s about protecting the game on the field and outside the stadium.

To have a fighting chance against climate change we must all start acting now in a meaningful, robust and transparent way. We applaud World Rugby for committing to the ambitious goals set out in the UN Sports for Climate Action framework and for joining the collective race which none of us can afford to lose – the Race to Zero.”

Also commenting on the plan, Julie Duffus, Olympic Movement Senior Manager – Sustainability at the International Olympic Committee, added: “With a climate emergency very much upon us, all sectors of society must back-up commitments with actions to avert the very worst impacts global warming will bring.

The Olympic and wider sporting movement is no different and, building on the IOC’s close collaboration with its stakeholders, we are delighted to see World Rugby build on existing efforts and formalise its ambition and actions in this Environmental Sustainability Plan.

“Through this work, World Rugby is taking a leadership role within sport, taking responsibility for their actions by walking the talk and using the unique platform that sport has to influence global action and change.

Tackling climate change requires a team effort and, with shared values of passion, respect and solidarity, the IOC looks forward to supporting World Rugby in achieving its ambition.

This will serve to safeguard not just the practice and enjoyment of sport, but also the future of all communities most at risk from unsustainable practices.”

For more information, visit www.world.rugby/environment