Is COP26 Greenwashing?

COP 26 was a summit held in Glasgow the first two weeks of November 2021. It aimed to discuss climate changes and create a framework to transition to more sustainable systems that steer away from the emissions of fossil fuels, which are slowly killing us. This summit was described as “the last chance” to save us from this environmental crisis. 

But did COP26 really have an impact on changing the economic systems that were established during the industrial revolution and that continue to be still in place today?

Environmentalists and activists are saying that COP26 is just a big stage for greenwashing. Greta Thunberg described the summit as a major failure and just a bunch of “blah blah blah.”

Some Reason Why Many Think COP26 Is Greenwashing
  • COP26 excluded key groups from attending the summit. Environmentalists, academics, indegenous and climate activists groups were all denied attendance to these climate negotiations. These groups are the boots on the ground that actively fight everyday to protect the planet that we all live on. Politicians, on the other hand, are more susceptible to their country’s lobbyist and financial interests.  The fact that only politicians were included in negotiations without any representation of the civil society and frontline voices has resulted in the summit being a lot of talk without any substantial commitments by world leaders. For true change to happen environmentalists, academics and key groups on the front line must attend these negotiations with world leaders, who are in power to transition their country’s practices in a way that doesn’t further damage the planet for financial gain. 
  • The largest contingent present at COP26 were lobbyists from coal, oil and gas companies. Over 500 representatives tied to over a 100 fossil fuel companies were present during the negotiations to protect their interests.  This group lobbying for the fossil fuel industry “had two dozen more people than the largest country delegation” present. (CNN World News)
  • 3rd greatest carbon emitting country, India, wants another 50 years to continue polluting. India announced that it aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2070. Responses to this have been justifiably quite harsh and that we are consciously “digging our own graves” and “treating nature like a toilet” (UN secretary general Antonio Guterres). 
  • 1st greatest carbon emitting country, China, didn’t even attend the summit. China emits almost 30% of the world’s carbon. In 2018 alone they released over 10 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. China is a key player to reaching the goals set forth by the Paris agreements and yet it isn’t taking impactful actions. The country submitted a plan to aim for neutrality in 2060, in about 40 years from now. The plan also aims to have fossil fuel emissions peak by 2030. 
  • 4th greatest carbon emitting country, Russia, was also a no-show. Russian leaders also didn’t attend the summit even though the country makes up for 5% of the global Co2 emissions. President Biden criticized the country for not being committed to the climate goals. 
  • US and EU to continue emitting CO2 until 2050. The US is the 2nd greatest carbon emitting country. Although their plan seeks to be carbon neutral 10 to 20 years before other major countries, it still leaves almost 30 years of planned pollution. 
  • Over 100 countries agree to continue deforesting the world until 2030. 13 million hectares of forest (which is about the size of Greece) are being destroyed every year according to the European Commission. They are being destroyed for profit. Trees are the best natural solutions that combats climate change by absorbing CO2 emissions. Many environmentalists believe that more impactful measures need to be taken. The forests need to be protected.
  • Leaked COP26 documents show countries trying to alter climate change reports. BBC News announced leaked reports that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are lobbying to downplay the need to reduce their fossil fuel production. 

When looking at all of these facts, it makes you wonder whether all of this was just for show or if any real impactful actions will take place. When you look at the surface level reports from COP26, you can see that all the key buzzwords like “reforestation,” “carbon neutrality,” are there. But is the proposed framework enough to create the impactful change that is needed now? Waiting till 2050,2060 or 2070 to become carbon neutral allows for decades of continued abuse on our natural resources and on the planet that is keeping us alive.

Systems need to change now. Our forests, our home need to be protected. 

To find out more about what is greenwashing, click here.

Sources: World Meters – Emissions by Country, BBC article Greta Thunberg on COP26, BBC article India 2070 pledge, BBC article deforestation pledge by 2030, BBC Article on document leak, Business Insider article on COP26 Analysis, The Guardian article on COP26, The Guardian article on the COP26’s exclusion, SkyNews article on Russia and China absence, New Scientist article on China’s 2030 plan, EU Commission report on deforestation, CNN World News article on fossil fuel lobbyist at COP26

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin


OTP logo white

GDPR Compliance