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World Cup bids need to be green, UNEP says

BERNE, Switzerland, Dec 1 (Reuters) - World soccer's governing body FIFA lags behind other international sports organisations when it comes to protecting the environment at major tournaments, the head of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) says.

FIFA 'should take a leaf out of the International Olympic Committee's well-established policy of including the environment in the bidding applications' of countries wanting to host the World Cup, UNEP executive director Achim Steiner told a media conference in Lausanne on Friday.

Presenting an independent report on the 'greenness' of this year's World Cup in Germany, UNEP praised the local organising committee's Green Goal project, saying it had helped to produce the first 'climate neutral' World Cup.

The UN body said it was now down to FIFA to ensure that Germany's efforts were used to form a benchmark for future tournaments.

'Unlike the Olympics, the environment has been something of an outsider at World Cups but this has now changed and to my mind there is no going back,' Steiner said.

'Organisers of future FIFA World Cup events will now have to consider playing the environment up front as one of the leading strikers in their planning and policy strategies. Otherwise they risk own goals and off-sides from domestic and international public opinion.'

The UNEP report said Germany 2006 had successfully offset carbon dioxide emissions both through local measures and through the funding of clean energy schemes in India and South Africa.

Targets for public transport usage were surpassed, with 57 per cent of journeys at the World Cup taking place on public transport.

A 17 percent reduction in waste was recorded, narrowly missing out on the 20 percent target set by the organisers.

Energy reduction of 13 percent also fell short of a 20 percent target, but UNEP said solar power installations at several World Cup stadiums would help to balance out the tournament's energy usage within five years.