“How can I make a difference?”

Sofie Junge Pedersen on football and climate action

Sofie Junge Pedersen plays for Denmark and Inter Milan, has been a part of the Common Goal movement since 2018, and is a long-time climate activists. This is a piece she wrote on her climate action journey in football.

If we’re really honest, it won’t be long until football becomes unplayable. Matchdays? Not possible with flooded pitches. World Cups? Not possible with rising temperatures. I remember one training session where I started seeing black dots in front of me. It was 35 degrees, and my body was shutting down. It’s an experience that is becoming a lot more common. Climate change is affecting football, and it will only get worse the way we’re heading. It will become impossible to play under these conditions. 

But that’s not what motivates me to take climate action the most. It’s not about me. What motivates me is that the climate crisis is so deeply unfair. 

The countries and people least responsible for climate change are the ones most affected by it. It’s so sad that we are destroying the planet and the future for many who contribute to climate change the least. 

But just feeling bad about something doesn’t help. It only helps if you turn that into some kind of action. So, four or five years ago I started offsetting my flights. It was a long time coming. Between club and country duties and the ever-growing football calendar, it’s difficult with my job to avoid flying. But I wanted to at least do something and offsetting was a tangible step I could take. 

As I started doing more research and getting more informed through podcasts, books, and reading lots of articles, I decided to bring climate action into football conversations. I did a presentation about climate change for my Denmark national team, and then for Juventus, where I played for four and a half seasons. I talked about why I offset but also other things. I proposed that with all the money in football, maybe, just maybe, some of it could be used for climate action. I could see people getting into it, their curiosity and passion coming out. My teammate's positive impact had a big influence on me. 

So, I thought with the World Cup approaching, we could do something special. That’s when I pitched my idea to Common Goal and Football For Future. I wanted to start a climate action campaign with players heading to Australia and New Zealand. Their support was tremendous. I would have been quite nervous doing this on my own.

But then just days before my World Cup was supposed to begin, I had a tournament-ending injury. It was crushing to be so close to my dream and then watch it slip through my fingers.

But seeing this campaign grow into what it became was a light in a very dark time for me. From just starting as an idea in my head, I can’t believe we created the biggest player-led climate action in history.

More than 40 players from Denmark and countries like Italy, Sweden, Spain, and Canada, including my fellow Common Goal teammate Jessie Fleming, joined me in taking responsibility for their emissions to and from the World Cup. We supported a combination of climate resilience, carbon offsetting and adaptation initiatives run by WWF (Australia, New Zealand) and DanChurchAid (Uganda).

It feels really nice to see this grow into something that transcends borders.

But I don’t want offsetting to be seen as the solution, because it’s not. This is something you can do for flights that are difficult to avoid. However, we need travelling by plane to become truly sustainable. 

What I do hope this campaign shows, is that it’s possible to do something.  

We want to inspire each other and our fans to take action. Nobody is perfect and very few are carbon neutral. But I don’t think you have to be carbon-neutral before you can speak up about climate change. If that was the case, then almost nobody could be an advocate. 

The next five years are incredibly important for our future. What that means is every sector, industry, company, and person has to look at themselves and see what they can do to help mitigate climate change. 

The good news is there are so many things you can do. Basically everything we do contributes to carbon emissions. So, I urge us all to look at ourselves and ask, “How can I make a difference?”