Being a steward of the game today means getting serious about climate action.

US President Joe Biden is a huge sports fan. He credits sports as helping give him the confidence to overcome his speech impediment.

Sport was his ticket to acceptance and his stutter never stopped him yelling ‘give me the ball!’ at teammates.

There’s no doubt President Biden now has the ball and is running hard with it.

At last week’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate, the US committed to cut its climate pollution by at least 50 per cent by 2030, the UK pledged a 78 per cent cut by 2035, the EU a per cent cut and Japan a 46 per cut cut by 2030.

Meanwhile, Australia was alone in the changerooms, talking up a big game, but making no change to its 26 to 28 per cent climate pollution reduction target.

Australia has to get with the decarbonisation game if we want to protect our unique nature and the way of life Australians love.

That’ll mean slashing climate pollution over the next decade. The science tells us that it’s not safe to shoot for 2050 as our goal.

Making buildings that are used every day by communities – like sports stadiums, clubrooms and change rooms – powered by renewable energy so they cut pollution and save money should be part of a national plan to decarbonise.

The building sector emits about a fifth of Australia’s climate pollution.

Australian sports, from the elite to the community level, can be a big part of the climate solution.

President Biden is a massive fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles’ stadium is powered by 11,108 solar panels and 14 wind turbines. The Eagles buy energy sourced from renewables for whatever else they need.

Assessments of Australian rules football, cricket and soccer by the University of New South Wales and the Australian Conservation Foundation show that if all state and national stadia were fitted with solar panels, it would generate around 20,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy – enough to power 2890 households.

And if community clubs get involved, it could create 100,000 megawatt hours of solar energy and cut 310,000 tonnes of climate pollution.

Researcher Dr Mike Roberts and his team found the biggest solar opportunity for AFL was at Metricon Stadium (Carrara), home of the Gold Coast Suns, which has an estimated 1647 kilowatts of clean energy potential on the stadium and adjacent sports and leisure centre.

“North Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda football clubs are already leading the way, having all installed substantial 100-kilowatt solar energy systems, while the MCG has a 99-kilowatt solar system to power its water recycling facility,” Dr Roberts said before the release of the Powering a Sporting Nation report on Tuesday.

“At cricket venues, the SCG has an estimated 1004 kilowatts of clean energy potential and for soccer the Darwin headquarters of Football NT has 406 kilowatts of solar potential.”

Clean energy is not the only goal; By setting a goal to lift the solar energy generation of AFL, cricket and soccer, those sports would save a combined $3.7 million annually.

The funds saved could be used to get more kids involved in sports to improve their physical and mental health.

Community clubs would have to cook 2.5 million sausages to raise the same amount money to help grow the game.

The response of Australia’s sports leaders to the threat global warming poses to the long-term future of the game and health of players and fans has been underwhelming.

The federal government’s first ever national sports plan, released in 2018, failed to consider climate change and its implications.

It’s time for the leadership of the AFL, Cricket Australia and the Football Federation to catch up to what communities and many businesses are already doing.

They should look at the leadership shown by the top performers at President Biden’s summit.

Australia’s sports administrators need to implement action to cut pollution, speak up for more urgent national climate action and help fans and community clubs find the solutions needed to make a big difference.

That’s what being a genuine steward of the game means now.

Australia’s big national sporting codes could come together this year and agree to prepare a roadmap to make sport powered by 100 per cent clean energy by 2030.

Collingwood AFL footballer Jordan Roughead sums up the scale of the opportunity we face.

“We have seen the impact global warming is having on sport, particularly over the last few years. The science says if we don’t change the way we’re living now, future generations are going to suffer.

“If we can work as a team and work towards a common goal to protect our climate and our environment, our impact will be significant.”

Dr Paul Sinclair is campaigns director at the Australian Conservation Foundation

Header pic by Yu-Jheng Fang, via flickr creative commons

Paul Sinclair

Campaigns Director at the Australian Conservation Foundation.