The 2023 Rugby World Cup was held in France and hosted 20 nations separated into 4 groups who played in 9 different stadiums across the country. For my TY Work Experience week with Dr Robert Butler at UCC I have researched some of the environmental costs of this tournament.
For the calculations that follow we assumed that the teams would use airplanes as their main source of transport and that a total of 60 people (34 squad players and 26 staff) would be aboard flights. It is estimated that for every person on a plane (Boeing 737-400) 115g of CO2 per passenger per kilometre is produced.
We also assumed that the nations travelling to their first game were travelling from the relevant capital cities.
Some of our findings are as follows.
Our estimates suggest that total team travel to and about France for the tournament was just under 190,000km. This travel was associated with the production of just over 1,300 tonnes of CO2. The mean distance travelled per game was 3,890km resulting in 26.8 tonnes of CO2 emissions on average.
The maximum distance travelled for a game was 21,493km resulting and produced 148 tonnes of CO2 from airplane travel. This game was contested by Japan and Chile in Toulouse. For reference, this equates to enough energy to power 29 homes electricity for a year and to charge 18,000,000 smartphones.
Other notable games with high CO2 emissions were France (0km) vs New Zealand (18,979km) resulting in 131 tons of CO2, Ireland (275km) vs Tonga (17,056km) resulting in 120 tonnes of CO2 and Australia (16,294km) vs Georgia (3,370km) resulting in 140 tonnes of CO2. Out of the 48 matches only 6 amounted to more than 100 tonnes of CO2.
3 games resulted in 0 tonnes of emissions: New Zealand vs Uruguay (Group A), England vs Argentina (3rd place playoff) and New Zealand vs South Africa (Final). All teams had played their last games in the same location. 33 matches resulted in under 10 tonnes of CO2 being emitted.
To conclude, the World Cup was a fairly climate friendly affair. This is mainly due to France being a small country and teams not having to travel huge distances during the tournament. All games with over 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions were games where at least one team had to travel from their home country. After the initial travel to France the emissions from travel fell considerably.
Owen Williams is a Transition Year student at Glanmire Community College, Cork.