Friday, February 3, 2023

Greenwashing at COP27?

by Paul Ray G. Donaire | November 30, 2022

Climate change is a real-deal environmental issue proven by science, with empirical results debunking opposition. Take for instance the phenomenon of global warming. If it continues, massive blocks of ice in Antarctica will gradually melt, causing other continents to sink due to the rising sea levels. What will then happen to Earth, our only home? 

This is a question that has been asked repeatedly, and the gravity of it has brought attention to a jarring decades-old issue that continues to intensify with each passing minute. Over time, answers to this pressing question have been formulated, which ultimately brought about numerous pleas calling out for help in the spirit of reforms made over the last 27 years. 

“I’m not going to COP27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited,” Greta Thunberg said when asked about going to the climate summit. 

“The COPs are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing,” she added. 

Thunberg is a Swedish climate activist who skipped this year’s 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP)—an annual event that brings leaders together from all over the world who have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—which took place on Nov. 6-18 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. She is well-known for her unapologetic speeches against corporations and world leaders about the environmental crisis. With her presence unseen at the summit, it has raised many questions about COP’s quality, which the organization has resiliently built since 1995. 

It is worth noting that this year’s venue was surprisingly weird to many activists—a country under full dictatorship that has local climate activists imprisoned, according to Naomi Klien, a Climate Justice professor at the University of British Columbia.

With the intent to understand what action has to be taken in developing countries, the commitments shared and agreed upon during the COP26 meeting in Glasgow fell short, according to Prof. Dave Reay, a chair in Carbon Management & Education and director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute. For this reason, Thunberg aims to bring awareness to the unfulfilled pledge to reduce carbon emissions in the pursuit of 100% renewable energy. 

This time, COP27 presented itself as more words and less action. Hany Mostafa, an Egyptian climate activist from the Environment and Climate Changes Research Institute, raised concerns about the delay in conducting research due to a lack of resources. “My colleagues are attending COP27 and delivering a presentation … But we’re only doing research—we cannot change policies. We have heard enough promises in previous COP meetings,” Mostafa expressed. 

On the other hand, another Egyptian climate activist, Mohamed Salem Nashwam from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport, Cairo, said that hosting COP27 in Egypt could shed light on the environmental issues that his country is facing. In addition to that, he also shared that this would provide national awareness on climate issues, which would mean a lot to their research projects and make them more valuable. However, the only thing he is concerned about is that everything will go back to its depressing state by the end of COP27—that this annual event will just become another stunt for the sake of the public.

Despite the apparent irony of flying around the world while addressing climate change, COP exists for a reason and has relatively well served its purpose of fostering collective action in combating climate change. However, is COP27 really the way to go, or has it just become another “show-off” that climate activists, such as Greta Thunberg herself, condemn? 

So, what else can we do?

“In order to change things, we need everyone—we need billions of activists,” as Thunberg claimed. But activists, as seen around the world, could only do so much. This global issue must be addressed not only at the grassroots level of social structure but also at the institutional level, particularly in the high-emitting industries. Words of affirmation won’t change anything when “these” collective efforts we seek are not shared by those who hold political power and authority. That is why it is high time that we step up to the challenge and push everyone—our leaders, our fellow citizens, and ourselves—to take part in addressing the climate crisis and carry out collective actions that will save planet Earth, our only home capable of sustaining life.

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