U.N. climate talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, known as COP27, get underway this week, with many of the parties looking for concrete pledges to combat the damaging effects of climate change. It's a trend that's been seen since the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, where progress is yet to be made despite many workshops, summits and conferences. "Moving from negotiations and pledges to an era of implementation is a priority," said COP27 President Sameh Shoukry, adding that now was the time to put the money on the table.
Snapshot: Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide reached new record highs in 2021, while increasing temperatures, a loss of biodiversity and extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes are said to be growing in intensity. It doesn't help that the globe is dealing with an energy crisis at the same time that fossil fuel manufacturing usage is being outsourced to developing nations, where deregulation of environmental protections has been used to advance their economies. This can even be seen among countries that are powering the green revolution, like nickel smelting for EV batteries, with further criticism being leveled at the sustainable commitments of some of the world's most profitable companies.
Backlash against Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), one of the planet's biggest users of plastic, erupted as soon as the multinational announced that it would sponsor the COP27. While the company has pointed to its signing of a global treaty meant to tackle plastic waste through a "holistic, circular economy approach," as well as plans to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030, many say the policies are misleading and fall way short. Coca-Cola currently produces 120B single-use bottles per year, resulting in 3.3M tons of plastic packaging (its plastic use even rose by 8.1% between 2019 and 2021).
Go deeper: Greenwashing claims aren't limited to corporations. At a U.N. climate summit 13 years ago in Copenhagen, rich nations promised to hand developing countries $100B each year by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change, though that hasn't materialized yet (last year's COP26 pushed the target to 2023). The negotiations ultimately boil down to questions of fairness and trust, as well as accountability and enforcement mechanisms that will ensure the money will be spent appropriately. On tap this year are also talks centering around climate reparations, or "loss and damage" payments, to countries that cannot afford to defend themselves against climate risks.