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By Pete Wells, Head of Standards and Risk, ukactive

In June 2019, the Government announced that the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming. The ensuing Climate Change Act set a legally-binding target to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero by 2050. Earlier this year, the UK pushed the envelope even further, setting in law the world’s most ambitious climate change target to date, which aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

As the Government continues to progress the sustainability agenda, the physical activity sector must also make headway in this space. The sector’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040 is an important first step.

ukactive is currently working with the pan-European consortium, Green Sports Hub Europe, on a project to identify barriers in sustainability in sport and physical activity. Powered by ukactive, the 2021 Survey on Existing Barriers on Sport & Sustainability aims to reduce the existing knowledge gap, by gathering first-hand information about physical activity and sustainability from the people and structures directly involved in the sector.

The survey has been designed to generate new knowledge on existing barriers and issues encountered by the sector, along with what is working well, which we can then take forward with relevant government organisations.

Everyone understands there’s much more to be done, from the management of major events, the implementation of sustainable travel policies and the selection and use of recyclable materials, to the creation and operation of low energy and low resource-hungry facilities.

There is a keen interest and awareness about environmental sustainability across the physical activity sector and a willingness to promote change where needed. Physical activity organisations should continue to lead by example, taking a critical look at how they operate, quantifying and recording consumption and waste, and setting challenging targets to reduce or eliminate its carbon footprint.

As hosts of the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as

COP26, in November, the UK Government and wider business community will be under increased scrutiny to act against climate change. ukactive will be speaking at the conference in Glasgow to represent the physical activity sector and identify what other sectors and countries have done to embed sustainability into their policies and practices.

Over the past 18 months, the sustainability agenda has taken a backseat as the sector directs its energy and focus towards managing and mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are fully aware that operators are already working on sustainable and carbon neutral models, and that our sector boasts a number of great examples and case studies in this space.

The sector is not looking at sustainability as a ‘stand-alone’ aspect for design and facility operation – we continue to work with various departments across the Government to showcase the many ways in which our sector supports the Net Zero agenda, as well as other closely linked policy areas such as ‘Build Back Better’ and the Government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, ‘A Fairer, Greener Scotland’ and the wider work of the Climate Change committee.

 Responding to climate change is not an easy task but there’s no choice here. The sport and physical activity sector is a force for good and has a major contribution to make.

For more information, please contact me at