Over 420 athletes (including superstars like Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)) have now signed a letter demanding greater action and transparency on climate by the sport’s governing body, the FIS (International Ski & Snowboard Federation).
The letter, written by ski racer and Protect Our Winters Ambassador Julian Schütter, was initially delivered to the FIS just after the Men’s Downhill ski race at the FIS Alpine World Championships in Courchevel on Sunday 12th February but has remained open to further athlete signatories since, with the list continuing to grow.
The FIS has responded to the athlete’s letter with an online media release which focuses on British government roles connected to climate change, as well as charitable endeavours to protect rare species in the rain forest, that have been held the current FIS President, the multi-billionaire chairman of the Head sports group, Johan Eilasch, before restating the organisation’s initiatives on sustainability.
Protect Our Winters (POW) have now released a media statement of their own, stating that the FIS statement restates,
“…its current vague and opaque actions on climate, with no indication of offering a level of transparency in its actions or any indication that it plans to follow even simple requests from the athletes, such as the request to only cross between the US and Europe once in a competition season, thus massively cutting travel-based emissions.”
POW is referring to the decision to fly the tour back across the Atlantic for a second time this winter for athletes to compete in races in California Colorado, the latter a short distance from where Colorado races were held at a nearby resort in the autumn.
POW say that Julian Schütter welcomes their outward statements on climate and sustainability from the FIS along with their claims of wishing to work with all stakeholders but insists that this stance is meaningless without concrete and visible action, asking again for a date when FIS’s long-awaited sustainability strategy will be published and insisting on the details of its carbon footprint assessments and offsetting projects be made public.
The POW media release continues:
POW stands in support of the athletes in their demands from FIS and has some real concerns around FIS’s climate actions, particularly regarding transparency namely:
• FIS has claimed to have made a full assessment of its Carbon Footprint over the last 2 seasons using the consultancy Planet Mark, yet this assessment has not been made public.
• FIS has stated it signed the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework in 2021 but has not met the demands of the framework and is not listed as a signatory on the UNFCCC website.
• FIS’s claim of “Climate Positive” status relies heavily on the use of “avoided deforestation offsets”, it is POW’s view that offsets should only be used to compensate for those emissions that cannot be avoided at an operational level. The volume of financing directed to, and the amount of carbon preserved by, these projects must be made publicly available if FIS is to maintain credibility in its claims.
• There are still concerns around claiming a Carbon Positive status based on avoided deforestation offsets alone. A recent study has shown that 90% of such offsets are effectively worthless.
POW state that Greenpeace Austria Economic Expert Ursula Bittner has this to say about FIS’s use of offsets:
“Terms such as climate-neutral or, in the case of the FIS, even climate-positive are misleading. They are nothing more than pure greenwashing…… The basis of the existence of skiing is melting away. It is high time to pull the emergency brake and save CO2 directly at major events such as the World Ski Championships, for example, instead of investing in distant projects. The compensation model is a fraud on our planet,”
“POW believes that FIS must become a champion for climate action amongst sporting organisations, it is after all responsible for the sport most directly affected by global warming. And answering the very reasonable demands from its athletes would be a great place to start,” the organisation’s statement concludes.