UPDATE – following criticism by FIS of POW’s campaign and in advance of the FIS World Cup in Solden, President of Protect Our Winters Europe, Alistair Maltby sent this letter to Johan Elasch, President of FIS.
The world of competitive Snowsports is feeling the impact of climate change right now. With competitions being cancelled due to extreme weather events or lack of snow. A study shows that all but one of the previous 21 host cities, Sapporo, Japan, will be too warm and dry to host a safe, fair Winter Games by 2080 if we continue on the current emissions path. (1).
This loss of snowpack affects far more than our winter sports activities. Severe and unmitigated climate change could see mountain glacier ice and snow that existed in 2015 reduced by up to 80% by 2100. Putting at risk the 1.9 billion people that rely on snow or glacier meltwater for their water supply (2).
FIS (Féderation Internationale de Ski) is the international ski federation and thus a globally active organisation. In addition to Alpine skiing, the FIS also control sports such as freeride, snowboarding, telemark, Nordic sports and several others. It holds the power to create systemic change within the competitive, and wider, ski industry, to become a leader in climate action. Instead, we see an organisation slow to move, and whose stated climate actions are either inadequate or untransparent.
In early 2023, 500 professional winter sports athletes signed an open letter calling for greater climate action by the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS). Signatories included concerned present and previous FIS competitors, including current alpine racing mega stars 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).
You can read the letter in full here:
Despite this, not enough has been done, and we believe FIS must try harder to be the climate leader our sport deserves.
We are inviting our community to join the athletes in this call by launching a petition calling on FIS to:
Implement a target-based sustainability strategy – including a roadmap to achieve a 50% emissions reduction by 2030.
In Nov 2021 FIS signed the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework, the full requirements of the framework can be seen here
The framework requires:
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).
The 2030 target is described by the framework as
“reduce GHG by 50% by 2030 at the latest. 2019 baseline is recommended”
Two years after signing there is no publication by FIS of their strategy to reach this target. It is 12 months overdue and therefore a key demand of this petition.
Publish FIS’s environmental impact with full transparency.
In 2021 FIS published its first Events Emissions Estimate , using the partner Planet Mark
However severe doubt has been cast on the quality of the information provided by FIS by a 3rd party study carried out by Mission Zero – Klima Partner.
The study commissioned by Greenpeace assessed the “FIS Events Emission Estimation Executive Summary” for plausibility based on the expertise of athletes, insiders, and information from World Cup venues.
The full study in German can be seen HERE
The 4-page summary in English HERE
Mission Zero’s assessment using the FIS internal calculation tool revealed that just four major events in Kitzbühel, Schladming, Adelboden, and Sölden, as well as athlete flights (at the World Cup level), accounted for 85 percent of the total emissions attributed to the Alpine Skiing sector.
With over 30 World Cup events, 300 continental events, and hundreds of smaller race events in the Alpine Ski sector it is obvious that FIS are massively underreporting their event emissions.
The report’s conclusion can be seen below:
It can be stated upfront that the FIS, with its executive summary on event emissions and the published accessible data, fails to provide a transparent and comprehensible assessment. All calculations, evaluations, derivations, and cross-checks indicate an implausible and underestimated overall evaluation of emissions.
The second instance of lack of transparency lies around FIS’s claim of Climate Positivity based on its offsetting programme (a claim that upcoming EU Green Claims legislation will soon make illegal).
The “Climate Positive” status relies heavily on the use of “avoided deforestation offsets”, it is POW’s view, and the view of many leading climate experts that offsets should only be used to compensate for those emissions that cannot be avoided at an operational level. All the offsets claimed by FIS are situated in the Amazon 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,” (3)
Adapt the competition calendar to reduce the impact of travel and respect the changing climate.
The seasons are shifting, climate change is bringing snowfall later and later each year. A study published in Nature suggests a 36-day reduction in snowpack cover compared to the long-term mean. Yet FIS still insists on scheduling World Cup races in October, before the first snowfall has even occurred. Demands in the athlete’s open letter for a 1-month delay has resulted in a postponement of only 1 week, and actually only reset the date to the 2019 start time. We are now seeing pictures in the press of bulldozers and excavators working to crush glaciers into race courses and an over-reliance on artificial snow creation.
Simply delaying the season 1 month until the snow starts and extending it 1 month into the spring when natural snow can still be found would massively reduce the impact of the race season on our mountain environments.
There has been a slight improvement in the FIS calendar to reduce long-haul flights for some athletes in alpine disciplines and for this we acknowledge the work of FIS, in other disciplines such as Free-Ski there is much work still to be done.
Use FIS’s political influence to advocate for climate action at a governmental level.
Political advocacy for systemic action on climate at a governmental level must be pursued by any organisation with the influence that FIS holds. We are happy and willing to work with FIS at anytime on this subject.
(1) Daniel Scott, Natalie L. B. Knowles, Siyao Ma, Michelle Rutty & Robert Steiger (2023) Climate change and the future of the Olympic Winter Games: athlete and coach perspectives, Current Issues in Tourism, 26:3, 480-495, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2021.2023480
(2) Bethan Davies, Senior Lecturer in Glaciology, Royal Holloway University of London.
@Title image @Christop Jorda, early season race prep at Solden, typically the first race in the calander, this early start has required intensive race prep for many years, infact this photo is from race prep occuring in 2023. It is time to stop.