Reforestation for CO2 Compensation

by Prof. Dr. Torsten Weber and Luisa Schumann

Der Klimawandel sowie die Abholzung und Rodung der Wälder haben in den letzten Jahren zu einer drastischen Verminderung des natürlichen Waldbestands geführt. Dabei sind unsere weltweiten Wälder die wohl wichtigsten Grundlagen im Kampf gegen den Klimawandel. Auch der Sport hat hier oft einen negativen, ökologischen „Impact“ auf unsere Umwelt und damit unsere Wälder – er ist mitverantwortlich für die weltweite Klimakrise. Zudem werden viele unterschiedliche Sportarten vom Klimawandel negativ beeinträchtigt. Besonders betroffen ist davon unter anderem der Wintersport. Gleichzeitig liefert der Sport – auch in Deutschland – Anknüpfungspunkte und -ansätze, die Klimakrise zu bekämpfen und eigene Kompensationen voranzutreiben. Grundsätzlich muss dabei vollkommen klar sein: An erster Stelle gilt es, Emissionen zu vermeiden und sie „wo immer möglich“ zu reduzieren. Nur dort, wo heute noch unvermeidbare Emissionen anfallen, sind Kompensationen ein Mittel, an anderer Stelle positive Klimawirkungen zu erzielen. Dennoch möchten wir uns heute mit diesen Möglichkeiten beschäftigen.

Green Lungs and Resource Providers

Forests worldwide produce oxygen crucial for humans and animals, store large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), filter pollutants from the air, purify water, and provide a natural habitat for many different species. Forests are more than just oxygen suppliers; they are valuable raw material sources. Sustainable wood harvesting is environmentally friendly compared to other resources. Wood is versatile, used for furniture, flooring, doors, houses, and paper production. Wood is increasingly popular as fuel and in modern heating systems due to its environmental friendliness and efficiency compared to fossil fuels. While natural gas and mineral oil release fossil CO2, wood burns CO2-neutral.

Climate Change Causes Deforestation

Global climate change is one of the main reasons for current deforestation, having disastrous effects on forests. They suffer massively from the consequences of climate change, pushing them to their limits. A more severe global deforestation threat looms. Causes include extreme weather, prolonged drought, heat, storm surges, and drought. In Germany, the effects of climate change and high temperatures are noticeable. The state of our forests has significantly deteriorated in recent years, with around 250,000 hectares of damaged forests in Germany. Forest fires in 2018 alone destroyed an area equivalent to 3,300 football fields. Firs and pines are particularly affected, but oaks and beeches suffer despite their robustness and high resistance. Other countries, such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Zambia, also face challenges like illegal logging, slash-and-burn agriculture, and deforestation for fuel. Reforestation can restore the natural balance and have a positive impact on our planet.

Reforestation as CO2 Compensation

It may be challenging to completely stop climate change, but numerous measures can fight it and mitigate its consequences. Effective and helpful is reforesting wooded areas, actively contributing to global climate protection.

The Earth is currently covered with approximately 2.8 billion hectares of forests. Russia has the most significant area for reforestation, followed by the USA, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China. Studies suggest that two-thirds of human-caused CO2 emissions could be absorbed through reforestation. However, due to climate change, the area suitable for reforestation shrinks every year, requiring swift action. It will take decades for forests to mature and fully exploit their potential as natural CO2 storages.

The Role of Sports

In German sports, both amateur and professional, new and innovative ways of compensating CO2 emissions should be explored. The following recommendations and possibilities can support athletes, sports clubs and associations, fans, and supporters in their efforts toward CO2 compensation and provide ideas for incentives.

a) Tree Planting to Offset Sports Travel

Sports trips, whether by plane, train, or car, generate a significant amount of CO2 emissions. Sports clubs and associations can actively engage in climate protection and contribute to compensating the CO2 emissions generated by sports travel by planting trees or financially supporting tree-planting projects. This can also compensate for the travel of fans and/or visiting fans.

b) Climate Ticket

Another option for CO2 compensation is to offer "climate tickets." Fans can actively engage in climate protection and support climate projects by purchasing such tickets. For example, supporters could be invited to donate a small cent or euro amount for forest reforestation for each purchased ticket. TSG Hoffenheim has been offering such climate tickets since October 2019.

c) Charity Events

Sports clubs can organize charity events, providing not only sports activities but also informative lectures on sustainability and environmental protection. Visitors can be encouraged to make voluntary donations to climate protection projects and/or environmental organizations during such events.

d) Energy-Efficient Lighting and Heating

By using renewable energy and more energy-efficient lighting and heating for sports facilities, annual energy consumption can be significantly reduced. The saved costs can then be reinvested in reforestation and CO2 compensation projects. Clubs can apply for funding under the Federal Environment Ministry's Municipal Directive from January 1, 2020.

e) Donations and Tree Planting for Every Goal/Win

For every goal or victory, sports clubs and associations can donate to reforestation projects or plant a tree. This way, athletic and ecological success are well intertwined.

f) Support Certified Climate Protection Projects and Purchase Certificates

By purchasing emission certificates, sports clubs and associations can offset emissions by financing and supporting projects promoting renewable energy or reforestation.

g) Develop Custom Climate Protection Projects

In addition to the mentioned options, sports clubs and associations can develop their own individual climate protection projects. There is a great deal of potential in Germany, and partners like "Sports for Future" are ready to provide advice and support.