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As leaders of the UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action Framework prepare to gather at the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Lausanne on September 18th, 25 civil society organizations from 14 countries have written to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing concern over the health and safety of athletes and fans at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and urging him to use his platform “to encourage Olympic host cities and governments, such as Japan, to take urgent action to address the climate crisis.”

Referring to the intense heatwaves which have wracked Japan for the last two summers and threaten the health and safety of thousands of workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of athletes and fans who will attend next year’s Tokyo Olympics, the statement emphasised on the Japan’s continuing development of new coal power plants, which undermines global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and far outweighs Tokyo 2020 initiatives to reduce carbon emissions during next year’s event.

“Just outside the Tokyo 2020 Olympics venues, a new 1,300 MW coal plant in Yokosuka is slated for construction. In 2020, when the world’s eyes focus on Tokyo, four new coal-fired power plants are expected to begin operation in Japan. According to IPCC models, none of these projects can go forward for if average global temperature increases are to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the signatories emphasised.

The CSOs urged the IOC to take the following actions to address the climate crisis.

  • The IOC should take strong measures to ensure the health and safety of athletes, fans and workers, and work with host countries to ensure the long term viability of the Summer and Winter Olympics by addressing the root cause of the climate crisis: continued fossil fuel development.
  • When the IOC chooses a city to host the Olympic Games, such as Tokyo, it should consider the level of actions host city candidates and national governments have taken to address the climate crisis.
  • The IOC should work with Olympics organizers and host national Olympic committees to only approve corporate sponsors which have taken aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. Selecting host cities and sponsors which are exacerbating the climate crisis undermines the credibility of the IOC’s stated commitment to sustainability.
  • Meeting Japanese officials and the leaders of Mizuho, SMBC and Tokio Marine and encourage them to use their prominent role as hosts and sponsors of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to take meaningful action on climate and end their support for coal.
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