Athletes double down on their call to FIS for Climate Action

Sunday 12th February, World Champs, Courchevel. Protect Our Winters Ambassador Julian Schütter delivered an open letter to FIS signed by hundreds of athletes demanding greater action and transparency on climate.

The letter demanded the following:
● FIS representatives must commit to reaching net zero for all FIS operations and events by 2035 or prior.
● FIS has to create a sustainability strategy of how to achieve a 50% emissions reduction by 2030, as committed to through the UN Sports for Climate Action framework, and present it to the public before the start of the 2024 season.
● FIS has to install a sustainability department that ensures that sustainability becomes a key aspect of all governance processes and operations, which must be controlled and certified by an independent organization.
● Full transparency is needed to support FIS‘s role as a much needed pioneer on climate action.

 You can read the letter and the full list of signatories (currently over 420, including the biggest names in the sport, like Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR), Travis Ganong (USA) along with Olympic cross-country skiing champion Jessie Diggins (USA), and the previous Freeride World Tour champions Arianna Tricomi (ITA) and Xavier de le Rue (FRA). Though the link below:

Since then, this action has grabbed media attention across the globe; almost universal coverage on TV and print media across the German-speaking press, and global coverage from Eurosport, Sky Sports, Washington Post, The Guardian, and many many more. With some probing journalism from the likes of Global Sustainable Sport starting to question the right of FIS to call itself “Climate Positive” given the highly opaque nature of its offsetting activities.

FIS has responded to the athlete’s letter, by simply restating its currently 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.

The full FIS response can be read here:

Julian Schütter (the instigator of the open letter) has now responded on behalf of the athletes to FIS. He welcomes their outward statements on climate and sustainability 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 much-vaunted sustainability strategy will be published and insisting on the details of its carbon footprint assessments and offsetting projects be made public. You can read his full response here:

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. It is therefore impossible to know what activities FIS is including in its footprint assessment, and whether the footprint has increased or decreased from last season. FIS is also not listed as a member on Planet Mark’s website.

FIS has stated it signed the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework in 2021 but has not met the demands of the framework which includes “For credibility of commitments and to maintain signatory status, all signatories are to submit annual public reporting from 2021 onwards.” 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, without publication of the Carbon Footprint assessment this is impossible to judge. All the offsets claimed by FIS are situated in the Amazon and are therefore from areas outside of FIS’s value chain (ie not in areas used by FIS for competitions or training). It is critical in this case that avoided deforestation projects can be assessed for additionality, i.e would the forest have been lost if the offset project had not occurred? Proof of this along with 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. The fact that the President of FIS is also the founder and co-chair of Cool Earth (the organisation advising on the offset projects) gives transparency around this aspect of FIS’s operations an extra layer of importance.

Even if turns out that FIS has used a truly independent 3rd party to certify its offsets ( such as Gold Standard or VCS) there are still concerns around claiming a Carbon Positive status based on offsets alone. A recent study has shown that 90% of such offsets are effectively worthless.

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,” (1)

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 heating. And answering the very reasonable demands from its own athletes would be a great place to start.


Main image credit (c) EXPA/Johann Grodler