Driving the sustainability transition: 2023 FIA American Congress looks at perspectives for a cleaner future

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The second joint session of the 2023 FIA American Congress focused on the challenges to drive the transition towards more sustainable sport and mobility and started with an inspiring keynote by Director del Instituto de Cambio Climatico de Guatemala Dr Alex Guerra who explained how the sugarcane industry is playing a key role in advancing sustainability in Guatemala and offering a holistic solution to address the challenges of decarbonisation. 

Dr Guerra highlighted how sugarcane can create two types of cleaner energy: ethanol, and electricity. Indeed, sugarcane ethanol is a biofuel that is produced thanks to the fermentation of sugars found in sugarcanes. It holds many advantages as a low carbon renewable energy — sugarcanes can be harvested every year and sugarcane ethanol is cleaner than corn ethanol. As it can be used as a fuel on its own for flex-fuel vehicles or blended with gasoline it can reduce carbon emissions and contribute to the decarbonisation of transportation. 

Another clean energy that sugarcane can produce is electricity through a process of bagasse-based cogeneration. The bagasse is the fibrous residue that is obtained after crushing the sugarcane to extract its juice. When burnt in dedicated facilities it is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Today, 15% of the electricity used annually in Guatemala comes from the sugarcane Dr Guerra said. 

He explained that it is estimated that sugarcane allows to avoid a 4 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions every year in the country. He also added that the sugar industry is financing of project in favour of soil conservation and reforestation among other things. The sector is also actively engaged in finding solutions to improve the sustainable use of water resources.

This compelling presentation laid the ground for FIA Members from the Americas to share their experience and highlight their commitment to sustainability. 

Automóvil Club del Ecuador (ANETA) Head of the Sustainable Mobility Department Ana Dávila highlighted the work carried out by ANETA to calculate its carbon footprint and put in place measures to be implemented to maintain a sustained reduction of its impact on the long term. 

Underlining the important role Clubs can play in driving sustainability forward, she talked about ANETA’s experience implementing the FIA Environmental Accreditation Programme as the Club — which had participated in the Mobility Clubs’ pilot phase of the programme — renewed its 3-star accreditation last April. She explained that the programme, and more broadly the introduction of sustainability in operations, bring many benefits to the Clubs as it allows them to reduce their impact, build trust and improve their image, anticipate on restricting legal requirements, empower talent by engaging staff, save costs but also generate revenues by attracting partners interested in their commitment to a greener future. She concluded by saying that the programme offers the perfect framework to put that transformation into place. 

Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Public Affairs Senior Director Kristine D’Arbelles then took the floor to present the largest-ever survey of Canadian Electric vehicles’ drivers that the Club conducted this year with PlugShare Research and that was supported by the FIA Sustainable Mobility Programme funded by the FIA Foundation. The survey found that 90% of the more than 16,000 respondents prefer their EV vehicle and would buy electric again, but that 44% still worry about lack of public charging and 67% of them still also own a gas vehicle which they are more likely to use for longer journeys. The findings of the survey got a tremendous coverage in the press, they facilitated public education about EVs, assert the position of the CAA as a leading voice and supported its advocacy mission by enabling the Club to approach the government with evidence-based data.

Touring y Automóvil Club del Perú (TACP) Presidente de la Comisión Deporte Automotor Enrique Freire concluded the session by sharing the sport perspective. Freire explained that to make sport more sustainable in the country, the Club is concentrating its efforts on education with the aim of creating a culture of sustainability among youngsters, competitors, and in the sporting associations and on advocacy. To do so, the Club has promoted the FIA Introductory Guide for Sustainable Events. It also promoted electric racing by using electric cars for the Auto Slalom qualification phase of FIA Rally Star organised in the country. The Club has also established a partnership with Legado, a governmental sporting organisation, and is working with the Peruvian government to promote sustainable motor sport events as part of the Grupo Impulsor de Jóvenes ante el Cambio Climático del Ministerio del Ambiente (youth promotion group on climate change of the Ministry of the Environment). TACP is also active at the international level as its President, Ivan Dibos, is a honourary member of the International Olympic Committee.