‘Complete farce’: UN accused of allowing Coca-Cola ‘unchallenged platform’ for ‘greenwashing’ at Cop27

‘Summits are for urgent negotiations, not multi-million dollar jamborees for corporate polluters’, campaigners say

Harry Cockburn
Environment Correspondent
Thursday 06 October 2022 16:35 BST
<p>Coca-Cola has been named the world’s number one plastic polluter</p>

Coca-Cola has been named the world’s number one plastic polluter

Campaigners have reacted angrily after Coca-Cola has been named as a sponsor of the United Nations’ Cop27 climate summit in Egypt later this year.

The vital climate conference, described as the "last chance saloon" for keeping runaway global warming in check, has been accused of providing Coca-Cola with an "unchallenged platform" on the global stage.

The firm – one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters, using around 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year – has been accused of "greenwashing", and a petition has been launched calling for their removal as a sponsor to the event.

Almost 13,000 people have signed the petition, which accuses the company of spending "millions of dollars greenwashing their brand, making us believe that they are solving the problem".

Georgia Elliot-Smith, an engineer who started the petition, said: "COP conferences are supposed to be gatherings of national leaders, engaged in urgent negotiations to prevent climate change, not a multi-million dollar jamboree for corporate polluters and their lobbyists."

Steve Hynd, policy manager at City to Sea, a member of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, told The Independent the Egyptian Department for Foreign Affairs should "can this embarrassing decision".

He said: “Coca-Cola pumps out billions of throw-away bottles a year, millions of tons of GHGs, and is consistently named the biggest plastic polluter in the world. To offer them an unchallenged platform amounts to the gravest dereliction of duty that the organisers have to our natural world as we enter the last chance saloon in tackling the climate crisis.”

He added: “The climate crisis demands that we all play a part. When you centre a company that has actively avoided engaging with trade unions, its human rights record, let alone the devastating environmental impact of its business model, you actively exclude other important voices. It’s time we stop centring corporate paymasters and start centring those communities most likely to be impacted by the climate crisis.”

In August, campaign group Surfers Against Sewage named Coca-Cola the number one polluter among the "dirty dozen" brands whose waste litters UK shores.

Amy Slack, head of campaigns & policy at Surfers Against Sewage told The Independent: “Our brand audit found that Coca-Cola are responsible for a fifth of the packaging waste strewn across the UK’s open spaces, the worst offender by far, so it’s a complete farce that they’ve been allowed to sponsor COP27, which is vital to keep our hopes of 1.5C alive.”

“This is greenwashing from Coca-Cola, plain and simple, all whilst they fill the ocean with plastic pollution and emit huge volumes of carbon by using virgin oil in their production of plastic packaging. The public aren’t fooled by this greenwashing and we won’t stop calling it out until the era of companies polluting for profit comes to an end.”

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told The Independent: “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 every one we sell – regardless of where it comes from – by 2030.

"That’s why 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, in early 2022, signed an updated statement, and just two weeks ago helped launch the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty.

"Our support for COP27 is in line with our science-based target to reduce absolute carbon emissions 25 per cent by 2030, and our ambition for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Packaging represents around 30 per cent of our carbon footprint, so our World Without Waste and carbon reduction efforts go hand in hand.”

The Independent has also contacted the UN for comment.

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