Coca-Cola faces outrage over sponsorship of COP27 climate conference
Environmental campaign spokesperson: "It’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.”
This year's UN climate conference, known as the COP27, struck a sponsorship with Coca-Cola, which has been labeled as the “world’s top polluter” by environmentalists. The event has been accused of 'greenwashing' by campaigners.
“Coca-Cola sponsoring the Cop27 is pure ‘greenwash’. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic.", said Emma Priestland, the coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, which is a global coalition of organizations and individuals fighting for the environment, who added: "Over four years, we’ve found Coca-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter in our annual brand audits... it’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.”
Sponsorships by corporations for the COP events have caused controversy and confusion among environmental campaigners, with a petition already initiated in the last COP in Glasgow for the removal of the soft drink company from the list of sponsors. Oceans campaign director at Greenpeace USA, John Hocevar, commented: “It is baffling that Coca-Cola – the world’s biggest plastic polluter in all global Break Free From Plastic brand audits – will sponsor this year’s UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Egypt. Coca-Cola produces 120bn throwaway plastic bottles a year – and 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, worsening both the plastic and climate crisis".
During the signing ceremony of the cooperation at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Coca-Cola’s vice-president of operations for North Africa, Ahmad Rady said: “Coca-Cola’s firm belief that working together through meaningful partnerships will create shared opportunities for communities and people around the world and in Egypt.” This came as a shock to both environmentalists and social media as it would be ironic for a corporation that is known to be one of the world's biggest plastic producers to support a global event aiming to tackle the climate crisis that corporations like itself and others have caused.
Hocevar urged that “they have yet to even acknowledge that this is a problem or explain how they will meet their climate goals without ending their plastic addiction. This partnership undermines the very objective of the event it seeks to sponsor.”
Ironically as well, just days ago, the UK was warned by Egypt against “backtracking from the global climate agenda”, in a significant intervention prompted by fears over Liz Truss’s commitment to net zero.
Unilever was the main partner at last year's COP26 while AG Barr, manufacturer of Irn-Bru, was the main soft drink and water supplier at two convention centers in Glasgow during the conference which included surprise support from US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she was handed a can by the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Sponsorship of COP26 was said to have been worth about £250m ($248m), with other endorsements from firms like Sky, Hitachi, National Grid, ScottishPower, Microsoft, NatWest, Sainsbury’s, and Unilever.
In response to the widespread criticism of the recent Coca-Cola said: “We share the goal of eliminating waste from the ocean and appreciate efforts to raise awareness about this challenge. We are prepared to do our part and have set ambitious goals for our business, starting with helping to collect and recycle a bottle or can for everyone we sell – regardless of where it comes from – by 2030. In 2020 we signed a joint statement urging United Nations member states to adopt a global treaty to tackle the plastic waste issue through a holistic, circular economy approach … Our support for Cop27 is in line with our science-based target to reduce absolute carbon emissions by 25% by 2030, and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
However, Hocevar said: “Cutting plastic production and ending single-use plastic is in line with the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. If Coca-Cola really wants to solve the plastic and climate crisis, it needs to turn off its plastics tap.”
The world’s main forum for heads of governments, businesses, and environmental organizations to discuss and find solutions for the anthropogenic climate emergency, is due to be held in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6-18.