Read on to know about the environmental impacts of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and its potential to promote sustainability by its large audience.
On March 31, 2023, the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) commenced with a coin toss by captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni of the Chennai Super Kings and Hardik Pandya of the Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad. With over 20 crore viewers tuning in for the excitement, the IPL has become a cultural phenomenon adored by millions worldwide. While the tournament has greatly contributed to India’s economy through sports tourism, employment opportunities, and infrastructure development, it also has a notable environmental impact.
India has committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 and reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030. Therefore, it is crucial to assess the IPL’s environmental footprint and explore sustainable measures to mitigate its impact, considering it is one of India’s most significant cultural and economic events.
Environmental footprints of IPL
According to studies, each match in the IPL is responsible for emitting between 10,000 tCO2E to 14,000 tCO2E (tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), and the total emissions for an entire season can range from 750k tCO2E to 900k tCO2E. To put this in perspective, it would take an area of tropical forests equivalent to Singapore one year to absorb these emissions. In 2018, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) entered into an agreement to implement a “Zero Waste” or “Green Protocol” to minimize waste generated in cricket stadiums. While this is a positive step, there is a need for further analysis and quantification to make the IPL more sustainable.
Emissions produced by sports venues account for only approximately 5% of the total emissions, whereas digital viewership during events, such as the IPL, contributes to over three-quarters of the total emissions footprint. Moreover, the significant contribution of data centers to emissions is often overlooked, making it the second most significant emitter. The remaining top five emitters include spectator travel, luxury accommodation, and backup generators. Large-scale sports events, like the IPL, have a multifaceted and complex impact on the environment, and the lack of accurate carbon emission data impedes the development of effective policies.
Even simple changes, like replacing traditional LCD screens with energy-efficient LED displays, can lower emissions from each television screen by 35%-40%, leading to a 20% reduction in the overall carbon footprint of highly televised sports like the IPL. Switching to renewable energy sources for data centers and data streaming infrastructure could also cut IPL’s carbon emissions by more than 10%. Encouraging and promoting the use of public transportation to and from stadiums could also play a significant role in reducing emissions from spectator travel by up to 85%.
Global temperatures have already surpassed pre-industrial levels by 1.1 °C, with 11 of the 15 warmest years in India occurring between 2007 and 2021. In February 2023, India experienced its warmest February on record since 1901, with the India Meteorological Department attributing the record heat to global warming.
Climate change is affecting various aspects of cricket. The unpredictable weather conditions are impacting players, spectators, and the condition of the field. For instance, according to a report by the Marylebone Cricket Club’s World Cricket Committee in 2019, climate change is altering the sporting landscape, changing the length of the cricket season, and affecting the playability of pitches. Moreover, the intensifying heat waves and deteriorating air quality in India have raised concerns about players’ safety during matches, particularly given the busy cricket calendar in recent years.
A Scope in Climate Action
The IPL has the potential to make a significant impact on climate action by placing sustainability at the forefront. With its large social platform, the organization can influence attitudes toward sustainability and reach a diverse audience. Through promoting education and awareness of environmental issues, the IPL can encourage a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle.
Climate change is a critical issue for humanity’s survival on Earth, and we are close to or may have already reached a tipping point where action is necessary. Achieving a net-zero society is akin to winning a great match, requiring a team effort from every sector of the economy. An effective multi-sectoral approach is crucial to combat climate change. A high-profile event like the IPL presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the net-zero transition, enhance ongoing efforts, and accelerate progress toward achieving net zero.