CAN, a still fragile ecological laboratory

On almost every artery of Abidjan, the economic heart of the country, advertising panels glorifying the Elephants (the Ivorian football team) or praising the “CAN of hospitality”, the name given to the 34th edition of this intoxicating high mass of African football

CAN, a still fragile ecological laboratory

On almost every artery of Abidjan, the economic heart of the country, advertising panels glorifying the Elephants (the Ivorian football team) or praising the “CAN of hospitality”, the name given to the 34th edition of this intoxicating high mass of African football.

Few posters, however, on the "CAN of cleanliness" desired by the government which, through its Minister of the Environment, Jacques Assahore Konan, urges supporters to "think environment" during the tournament and to adopt “eco-responsible actions”. “Although behavioral changes take time, people are starting to understand the message,” observes Gustave Aboua, a senior official at the ministry.

Raising awareness, mainly in stadiums and on social networks, remains the main lever used by the authorities. Other measures have certainly been taken but, according to Edi Boraud, in charge of climate issues at the Ivorian Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises (Fipme), “no one really looked at the ecological dimension of the competition before it won’t start.”

On the issue of waste, abundant with the estimated 1.2 million tourists during the tournament, the National Waste Management Agency (Anaged) signed a partnership at the beginning of January with the CAN organizing committee (Cocan) to their recycling after collection in and around the six stadiums.

“Too timid” initiatives

On the transport side, the government has deployed a fleet of public buses in each host city to reduce individual journeys. “This lasting measure represents real progress in decongesting and cleaning up roads,” promises Gustave Aboua. In Abidjan, some 600 shuttles were mobilized by the Société des transports abidjanais (Sotra) to, in theory, drop off supporters near the Ebimpé stadium, on the edge of the city.

Despite these notable efforts, it is difficult to speak of a “green CAN”: in the fan zones, CAN villages and other festive gathering places, the deployment of 10,000 young volunteers, in charge of the good management of the place, does not compensate not the absence of trash cans. And on the roads, which are always congested, the individual car remains king.

Initiatives in favor of the environment remain “too timid”, believes Kherann Yao, co-founder of the environmental NGO Green Ivoiry. “There have been no real changes,” adds Edi Boraud, taking the example of stadiums which remain lit day and night, whether matches are held there or not. A mixed result therefore for a country which aims to become “a champion in the fight against global warming”, as announced by the Ministry of the Environment.

Failing to have really anticipated the ecological cost of its CAN, Ivory Coast intends to make it a subject of study via the Afrik-ecolo initiative. Led by Fipme and supported by the executive, the project seeks to evaluate the level of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted during the competition in order to define an action plan to reduce them during future major events, in the country and across the continent.

“Greenwashing”

“We want to evaluate everything,” enthuses Eli Boraud, citing among others “the construction of stadiums, the airline and hotel sectors, lighting in fan zones, etc. ". Around fifteen members of Afrik-ecolo are busy collecting data in the host cities. This study, scheduled for December 2024, must become “a national and sub-regional reference” for its promoter.

One avenue has already been put forward: voluntary carbon offsets, a tool supposed to encourage those involved in polluting activities to engage in return “in virtuous projects”, such as reforestation or the construction of carbon-free infrastructure. Mobilizing communities is therefore essential, as is involving, if not forcing, the private actors of the CAN, TotalEnergies in the lead.

Present in around forty African countries, the event's first partner is notably accused by Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs of "greenwashing" to hide the "climate bombs" generated by its oil and gas activities. For the moment, the companies have not communicated any data on their actions. “No sponsor reacted” to Edi Boraud’s requests.

Raise awareness, measure, anticipate... The work is laborious, but essential for Ivory Coast, a country already highly exposed to climate change. Without drastic measures, 1.63 million Ivorians could fall into poverty by 2050 due to extreme weather events alone, says the World Bank, which estimates “the cost of climate action at 22 billion, or a annual average cost of around 2% of GDP”.

The count is not there, but “the government’s ambitions are laudable,” admits Kherann Yao. The country recently enhanced its climate action plan with the objective of reducing its emissions by 30% by 2030, in particular by adopting an energy mix composed of 45% renewable energies. In addition to investing, among other things, in solar energy, the country is relying on technological progress to decarbonize its industry and its “Whale” offshore oil field, an abundant energy source and colossal financial windfall for the State. Without being victorious and still in its infancy, the ecological question has entered into the competition, before perhaps it really imposes itself on the political agenda.