As COP26 begins in Glasgow how can Celtic be more environmentally conscious?

By Euan Davidson

November 2, 2021

If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ll know that Glasgow is hosting COP26. Until the 12th of November, world leaders will be in the city for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. With climate change already having sizeable affects worldwide, it’s hoped that politicians can get together to provide tangible efforts against catastrophe.

It’s been such a big story that’s it hard not to reflect on our own environmental efforts. Whether it’s workplaces, hobbies or homes. Celtic are no different; in fact they’re a huge institution with their own environmental impact.

For the club’s part, some efforts have been made of late. During last week’s fan forum, the club announced they’d spent £600k on “energy-saving grass growlights”. That, the club have begun to “pay a premium for 100% green electricity”. There’s an effort at boardroom level to go carbon neutral by 2040 [@Ginty1888].

In March, the club joined the #MorethanFootball campaign. Fronted by the European Football Development Network, there’s a specific scope on environmental responsibility [Celtic FC]. Meanwhile, the SFA has its own charter on environmental impact [SFA].

But is it all enough? What can football clubs do in terms of transport, carbon emission, food and a variety of other factors? And can football clubs be a driver for good in the biggest challenge we’ll ever face together?

We spoke to Fraser Stewart, a Researcher, Activist and Celtic Fan. He’s a climate and policy expert at the University of Strathclyde, who you might have seen on BBC Social. Fraser will be speaking alongside Greta Thunberg at the Climate Strike in Kelvingrove Park this Friday.

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How can football clubs like Celtic meet environmental goals as leaders come to Glasgow for COP26?

67 Hail Hail: What kind of influence do you think football clubs – including Celtic – could have in terms of leadership on climate problems and workable everyday solutions?

Fraser Stewart: “Football clubs can actually play a really important role in climate action. They are almost uniquely placed to bring working-class people into the conversation, but also have things they can do in stadia that reduce emissions with real social impact too.

“Take Athletico Bilbao, for instance. They installed 300 solar panels on their roof that provides cheap leccy to over 200 homes and businesses close by. It doesn’t have to just be green for green’s sake. Although that is important: we can do a whole lot of good for a whole load of people in the process.

“I would argue that Celtic is especially primed to lead on the climate crisis. Celtic is a club is built on a foundation of mutual aid, of solidarity and looking out for one and other.

“You would be hard pushed to find a bigger demonstration of those principles than taking leadership on climate. It contributes to poverty and hardship and suffering the world over, from the schemes of Glasgow to the Global South. In more than just name, being green and taking climate action feels like an inherently Celtic thing.”

Photo by EVAN VUCCI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“This is where football clubs can lead”

What role do football clubs have, societally, to encourage simple environmentally friendly solutions in communities?

“Football clubs have great access to communities often forgotten about in the climate crisis: the working-classes. Despite being least responsible for emissions and feeling the worst effects in terms of air pollution and flood risk and health impacts and energy bills, the working-classes remain marginalised in the bigger climate conversation.

“This has to change, because the solutions we design won’t just affect the leafy middle-classes; they will affect everyone.

“But the climate crisis is also a huge opportunity for those communities. While obviously it’s a massive issue we have to fix of its own accord, it’s also an opportunity. We’re at this formative moment in history where we are being forced to change everything to combat the climate emergency. That’s housing, transport, energy, land, economics, industry, jobs and everything in between.

“We can change these things in a way that makes life better for a lot of working-class people in the process. And, we can improve housing for low-income families to reduce emissions but also energy bills. We can provide cleaner, more expansive public transport that not just encourages people to leave the car at home, but that better connects previously excluded communities.

“This is where football clubs can lead, I think. Not in encouraging folk to go vegan or cycle or anything like that (although there’s always room for those things and football clubs could absolutely run those types of campaigns if they wanted to). But in bringing those communities into the conversation through fan and local initiatives. Giving them a voice at a higher institutional level, and supporting green initiatives with big local and social impact.”

Photo by Jan Kruger – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

As COP26 kicks off in Glasgow, what could Celtic Park do?

What could be done at Celtic Park to reduce its environmental impact?

“Like any football stadium, Celtic Park has lots of opportunities to reduce environmental impact. There are obvious ones like those implemented by Forest Green Rovers: provide more vegan options, recycle, run on renewable energy. Forest Green even cut the grass with an electric vehicle. Their whole thing is being an eco-friendly club, which I think is really cool and has actually brought great publicity.

“One thing I would like to see, especially at a stadium like Celtic Park with such a big travelling support, is providing electric/hybrid supporters buses and facilities for charging them. This is a little more expensive but would have pretty significant environmental impact.

“These things are all practical. But actually the biggest thing I think Celtic can do (and any other club) is around money. Football clubs everywhere have investment and finances and pensions tied up in fossil fuel companies and other things that are extremely destructive to the planet.

“Divesting those investments and finances into more sustainable initiatives – of which there are now millions upon millions – is something that would take more political will but has a much bigger, systemic impact overall.”

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

How Glasgow could’ve used football clubs in COP26 planning

Do you think the big Glasgow clubs could’ve been utilised effectively during COP26? if so how?

“I think they could have been utilised to help bring the city into the conversation.

“So far, COP26 has been defined by exclusion: of people most affected by the climate crisis everywhere to people of the city itself. This has led to a lot of ill will and resentment towards COP that didn’t need to exist.

“With a bit more foresight and local connection, the UK Government in particular could have leveraged the influence of clubs across the city to again tap into those working-class communities. And find ways to make them feel welcome and part of what is ultimately an event that will have implications for them too.

“Instead, we’ve ended up shutting those people out and telling them to expect delays. Delegates and dignitaries get free travel and special treatment. That in turn has led to a lot of people thinking “well f*** them and f*** this”.

“This needs to be a lesson for anyone concerned with climate anywhere: football clubs might not seem like your classic environmental bedfellows, but they represent communities everywhere who have been shut out of this conversation, and can be a great ally in the bigger fight for climate and social justice – the latter of which many football clubs have been fighting on for years.”

Some quotes have been edited for length.

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