FISU Executive Council member Martin Doulton called on sporting organisations to sign up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework ©FISU

International University Sports Federation (FISU) Executive Council member Martin Doulton has warned that winter sport events could be gone by 2050 if sporting organisations do not to drastically reduce their carbon footprint.

Doulton’s warning came on the opening day of the FISU Winter Conference staged here alongside the 2023 Winter World University Games.

The meeting, held under the theme of "Save Winter", saw sporting leaders, scientists, academics, activists and athletes gather to discuss the topic of climate change.

FISU is among several governing bodies that have become a signatory of the United Nations (UN) Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The initiative was co-created by the UN Climate Change and the International Olympic Committee in 2018 with the aim of driving climate awareness and action.

"By 2031, I would like to see every sporting organisation signed up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and each of them would have exceeded the commitments to reducing their carbon emissions by 50 per cent by a lot less otherwise we will not be coming back to a winter sports event in 2050," said Doulton.

"I think if we can help everybody including our national associations and universities to be on the same page, that's good start."

The FISU World Conference is being held alongside the Lake Placid 2023 Winter World University Games ©FISU
The FISU World Conference is being held alongside the Lake Placid 2023 Winter World University Games ©FISU

Doulton was speaking on a panel session, called "Designing for the Future of International Sporting Events, Competitions and Fans".

The secretary general for the Oceania University Sport Association was joined by Basil Seggos, commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Mike Pratt, President and chief executive of the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

The ORDA was in charge of modernising venues in Lake Placid, which previously staged the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, for the Winter World University Games.

Changing lighting systems to LED, introducing solar panels at Gore Mountain and improving the battery efficiency of zambonis are among the measures taken by ORDA to ensure better sustainability.

Doulton confirmed that a full carbon audit would be conducted at a Winter World University Games for the first time in Lake Placid.

"It’s such a new and emerging thinking that there are a lot of different ways to measure carbon emissions," he said.

"We will have information available to the public on the carbon emissions that this Games have created and also the programmes that have been designed to offset it.

"It's a learning process and not a scientific outcome but it [the carbon audit] will be good to use for future projects.

"From a host city perspective and ORDA, those organisations are driving FISU understanding on climate action and we are learning from them as much as visa-versa."

FISU Acting President Leonz Eder spoke about his experiences of climate change ©FISU
FISU Acting President Leonz Eder spoke about his experiences of climate change ©FISU

FISU Acting President Leonz Eder also spoke about the impacts of climate change on winter sport when he delivered his opening remarks at the World Conference staged the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

"As children in Switzerland, we experienced enough snow every winter, even at low altitudes, 300 or 400 metres above see level and not just for a few days or weeks, practically the whole winter," said the Swiss official.

"As a sports teacher, I had to learn it was much easier to hold an event in February or March than in December as before and today, hardly any region in the Alps can manage up to high altitudes without producing artificial snow," said Eder.

"Can winter as we know it, still be saved?

"How do we seriously deal with climate changes?

"Or do we have change what we expect to be able to do in winter?

"Do entire tourist regions have to switch to alternative off?

"Is it right on the one hand to save the traditional idea of winter by all means possible, including indoor facilities or even building ski resorts in climate zone that have never seen snow.

"How can we reconcile this as an organisation like FISU working actively to address the 17 sustainable development goals, the signing the UN Climate and Action Framework and commitment to major carbon reductions?

"There is a great line-up at this conference and I am sure we will find answers to burning questions of Save Winter."

The FISU World Conference is due to continue tomorrow and conclude on January 20.