Background: UIAA and the UNFCCC sports for climate action framework

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In September 2022, the UIAA signed a pledge as part of its engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Sports for Climate Action (S4CA) Framework, of which it has been a signatory since 2019. The pledge, known as the Sports for Climate Action Commitment, invites signatories to the S4CA to adopt targets and requirements to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with core activities, and track this progress over time.

On the occasion of International Mountain Day (IMD) 2022, the UIAA is consolidating information on what it has achieved so far and the challenges which lie ahead.

Signing the S4CA Framework back in 2019 meant a commitment to adhering to a set of five principles and incorporate them into strategies, policies and procedures. These are:

(1) Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
(2) Reduce overall climate impact;
(3) Educate for climate action;
(4) Promote sustainable and responsible consumption; and
(5) Advocate for climate action through communication.

Regarding (1), this has been an inherent concern of the UIAA since its foundation in 1932; a priority that also been demonstrated by the founding of the UIAA’s own Mountain Protection Commission in 1969 to support this work. Concerning (2), the UIAA commenced tracking its carbon footprint in 2018 and each year has increased the level and accuracy of this reporting. With this baseline the UIAA is now looking into ways to further reduce its impact. Regarding point (3), the UIAA has pledged to lead on this, on behalf of its members associations and wider mountaineering community. This has recently been solidified in the creation of a UIAA-wide Climate Change Taskforce. Points (4) and (5) will be a key deliverable for this Taskforce.

As further context, in 2015 at the COP21, the UNFCCC, the UIAA together with experts and partners, proposed a ‘Declaration on Mountain Change for COP21, ensuring the vulnerability of mountains be recognised in the final Paris Accord’. The goal was to raise awareness about the impact of climate change in the mountains.

Under the S4CA Framework, the UNFCCC asked signatories to pledge their commitment towards a concrete goal. The UIAA signed the commitment letter following its Management Committee meeting in August 2022. All levels of the UIAA agreed to highlight the need in protecting our vulnerable mountains through immediate climate action.

By signing the commitment letter and to ensure a consistent process and to incentivise action, all S4CA signatories are requested to adhere to the following process:

  1. PLEDGE. The Sports for Climate Action Commitment requires a pledge by the head of the organisation. Commitments to adopt the targets will also require a pledge at the head-of-organization level to reach (net)-zero by 2040.
    UIAA Action: As per August 2022, the UIAA committed to a mid-term target of reducing its footprint by 50% by 2030 and reaching (net)zero by 2040.
  1. PLAN. To help facilitate action towards emission reductions targets, participants of the Framework must issue plans on how they are aiming to achieve interim targets.
    As soon as possible but within 12 months of joining signatories will be expected to submit plans to UN Climate Change, explaining what actions will be taken toward achieving their climate pledges, especially in the short term (2030 target). These plans will often be iterative, especially when signatories first embark on their net zero transformation. For example, smaller entities or those facing resource and capacity constraints may require additional time to prepare a first GHG inventory.
    UIAA Action: This is a key priority for the UIAA Climate Change Taskforce in 2023
  2. PROCEED WITH ACTION. All signatories are requested to take immediate action toward their climate goals, reflecting the urgency of rapid emissions reductions. Each organisation can choose how they will approach their emission reductions audit, it is well understood that not all signatories begin from the same starting line.
    UIAA Action: Initial ideas were gathered throughout 2022 and during the UIAA Climate Change Summit held as part of the federation’s annual General Assembly. Report to be published on 9 December.
  3. REPORT. For credibility of commitments and to maintain signatory status, all signatories are to submit annual public reporting from 2021 onwards.
    UIAA Action: The UIAA submitted its first public report to the UNFCCC Secretariat in 2022, with the technical assistance of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President. The report draws on the UIAA’s carbon footprint reporting, which the UIAA has implemented since 2018 (first Carbon Footprint Report)

By adopting the targets detailed above, sport associations will officially join Race to Zero, a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

For more about the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission click here.

Main photo: Stock library