A sponsorship deal between this year’s UN climate conference and Coca-Cola, described by one environmental group as “the world’s biggest polluter”, has been branded “greenwash” by campaigners.
Cop27, to be held in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6-18, is the world’s primary forum for governments, businesses and environmental organizations to address the climate emergency.
Emma Priestland, co-ordinator for Break Free From Plastic, a global alliance of organizations and individuals, said: “Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of Cop27 is pure ‘greenwash’. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s largest users of plastic.
“For four years, we have found Coke to be the world’s biggest plastic polluter in our annual brand audits,” she said. “It is astonishing that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.”
Environmental campaigners described the partnership as confusing. A petition launched by a delegate at Cop26 in Glasgow called for an end to corporate sponsorship of negotiations with police officers, starting with the removal of Coke.
John Hochevar, Oceans Campaign Director at Greenpeace USA, said: “It is baffling that Coca-Cola – the world’s largest plastic polluter in all global audits of the Break Free From Plastic brand – will be sponsoring this year’s UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Egypt.
“Coca-Cola produces 120 billion disposable plastic bottles a year – and 99 percent of the plastic is made from fossil fuels, exacerbating both the plastic and climate crises,” he said.
“They have yet to admit it’s a problem or explain how they’re going to meet their climate goals without ending plastic addiction.” This partnership undermines the very purpose of the event it seeks to sponsor.”
The cooperation agreement with Coca-Cola was signed by the Egyptian government. During the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo, Ahmed Radi, Vice President of Coca-Cola North Africa Operations, 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 “.
The announcement was met with shock and disappointment across social media, where it was condemned as yet another example of corporate greenwashing.
Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company, was the main partner at Cop26 in Glasgow last year, while AG Barr, the maker of Irn-Bru, was the exclusive supplier of soft drinks and water to the two Glasgow convention centers during the conference. The Irn-Brew deal was seen as a marketing coup for the company, which included a surprise endorsement from US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave her a can.
Sponsorship for Cop26 was said to be worth around £250m, with companies including Sky, Hitachi, National Grid, ScottishPower, Microsoft, NatVest, Sainsbury’s and Unilever involved.
Coca-Cola said: “We share the goal of eliminating waste from the oceans and appreciate the efforts to raise awareness of this challenge. We’re ready to do our part and have set ambitious targets for our business, starting with helping to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one we sell – regardless of where it comes from – by 2030.
“2020 In 2018, we signed a joint statement calling on the member states of the United Nations to adopt a global agreement to address the issue of plastic waste through a holistic circular economy approach… Our support for Cop27 is in line with our science-based goal of reducing absolute carbon emissions by 25% by 2030 and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
However, Hocevar said: “Reducing plastic production and eliminating single-use plastics 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 the plastic faucet.”