International Ski Federation President Johan Eliasch has promised that sustainability is one of his main priorities ©Getty Images

Newly elected International Ski Federation (FIS) President Johan Eliasch has warned that his sport does "not have the luxury of waiting on the sidelines" for politicians to deal with climate change.

Eliasch, elected to succeed the long-serving Gian-Franco Kasper as FIS President in June, issued his message following the conclusion last weekend of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

"While there were, as always, many differing opinions on details, the one thing everyone could agree on is the time to act to protect the environment is now to keep 1.5 degrees target alive," Eliasch said.

"Another clear message to emerge is that Governments cannot do this alone.

"The goals can only be reached with the private sector, individuals and International Federations, like FIS, taking direct initiatives to reduce carbon footprints; not only its own but to also engage in projects that will serve to reduce our global greenhouse gas footprint.

"When I was elected the President of FIS five months ago, sustainability was a main pillar in my manifesto.

"Being an outdoor winter sport, we do not have the luxury of waiting on the sidelines for others to make policy and act, we need to set the example for others to follow.

"I am pleased to say that in the last two weeks, FIS has indeed set the tone with two major announcements that are shaping our sustainability actions.

"The first was the signing of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Sports for Climate Action Framework.

"This is something FIS has been a part of since 2019.

"But this year, our commitment goes one step further.

"As a part of the Framework, FIS has pledged to join the ‘Race to Zero’ and reduce our organisations carbon emissions in half by 2030."

The FIS has committed to halve its carbon emissions by 2030 ©Getty Images
The FIS has committed to halve its carbon emissions by 2030 ©Getty Images

Eliasch also believes that winter sports needs to adopt a broader outlook to help combat climate change.

"The second major announcement was the FIS Rainforest Initiative," he said.

"FIS carried out an estimation of its carbon footprint across all of its events and has committed to becoming carbon positive by compensating for our emissions by investing in rainforest conservation projects.

"Put simply, the FIS Rainforest Initiative is aimed at preventing future deforestation at an equivalent of many times the estimated carbon emissions that FIS activities generate each year.

"There are several people that may ask why a Ski Federation, known for dependence on the snow, would invest in a rainforest project a world away.

"We live in a world that is fully connected.

"To be a good citizen of our planet, we can’t just think that this is our sole responsibility to protect the snow-covered mountains, that would be both short sighted and selfish.

"The world’s ecosystems are completely linked and any action, be it in our back yard or on the other side of the world will have a positive impact.

"Additionally, the FIS Rainforest Initiative is aligned with the stated objectives of both the Paris Agreement and the agreement reached in Glasgow.

"The importance of protecting biodiversity and its impact on climate change is undisputed.

"In fact, protecting our biodiversity is at least as important as mitigating temperature increases."

Eliasch, a Swedish billionaire who was the chief executive of sporting goods company Head before being elected as FIS President, has promised other initiatives designed to help ensure sustainability.

"Moving ahead, our next steps will be to work with our organisers and other stakeholders to measure the impact of FIS activities on the environment, and more importantly engage in an education process to reduce the carbon footprint of all FIS events and activities," he said.

"This will take time and it will take commitment from every FIS stakeholder.

"But I am positive we will be able to live up to our promise to reduce our FIS organisations carbon emissions in half by 2030, as well as helping the larger FIS Family achieve the same.

"We will also continue to compensate for the emissions that are generated as a result our activities.

"It is important that we don’t just focus on the reduction of our emissions, but also take immediate action to ensure that FIS is climate positive. 

"I am under no illusions that these two projects are enough.

"There is always more that we can - and will - do.

"Every step, and every action counts. I encourage each and every person reading this to take even the simplest steps to reducing their own carbon footprint and to be climate positive.

"The time for all of us to act is now."