Climate activists have been left “baffled” by Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the COP27 climate conference.
This year’s talks will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt and the country’s government announced the deal last week.
But since then, there has been growing opposition from environmental campaigners who point out that the company is a major plastic polluter.
“It is baffling that Coca-Cola – the world’s biggest plastic polluter in all global Break Free From Plastic brand audits, including Kenya and Uganda – will sponsor this year’s UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Egypt,” says Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign director John Hocevar.
In 2021, Break Free From Plastic audit collected 330,493 pieces of plastic waste from sites ranging from parks and city streets to beaches all over the world. 58 per cent of these items were clearly marked with a consumer brand, and for the fourth year in a row, Coca-Cola came out as the “world’s top polluter” among these brands.
“Coca-Cola produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year – and 99 per cent of plastics are made from fossil fuels, worsening both the plastic and climate crisis,” Hocevar says.
He adds that the company is yet to acknowledge that this is a problem or explain how it plans to meet climate goals without ending its “plastic addiction”.
“This partnership undermines the very objective of the event it seeks to sponsor.”
Why is Coca-Cola sponsoring COP27?
Coca-Cola says it shares the goal of eliminating waste from the ocean and appreciates 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,” a spokesperson told Euronews Green.
Coca-Cola points to efforts including signing joint statements urging United Nations member states to adopt a global treaty to tackle the plastic waste issue through a holistic, circular economy approach. It also says that just two weeks ago it 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 Coca-Cola’s carbon footprint and it says reducing waste goes hand in hand with these commitments.
Campaigners call for an end to all corporate sponsorships
COP26 in Glasgow last year had a range of corporate sponsors including consumer goods giant Unilever, UK supermarket Sainsbury’s and tech firm Microsoft. Altogether these deals were thought to have been worth around £250 million (€286 million).
But the decision to have Coca-Cola as a sponsor for this year's talks in Sharm el-Sheikh has some campaigners asking why deals like this happen in the first place. A petition calling for the end of all corporate sponsorships for COP talks - starting with Coca-Cola - has so far gained around 10,000 signatures.
It accuses the company of spending millions of dollars to “greenwash” its brand, “making us believe that they are solving the problem.”
Georgia Elliott-Smith, a delegate at COP26 who started the petition, writes that these conferences are meant to be gatherings of global leaders engaged in urgent conversations to end climate change, “not a multi-million dollar jamboree for corporate polluters and their lobbyists.”
She says the UNFCCC must stop receiving corporate sponsorship today, “starting with ejecting Coca-Cola as sponsor of COP27”.
Euronews Green has reached out to the UNFCCC for comment on sponsorship deals but is yet to receive a response.