Coca-Cola sponsors COP27 in Egypt, drawing criticism

CAIRO — Egypt’s decision to sign a agreement with Coca-Cola, one of the worst polluters in the world, making the American multinational one of the main sponsors of the United Nations climate change conference (COP27) to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November, has sparked controversy over social media and among environmental activists and organizations. The choice was widely condemned as paving the way for corporate greenwashing at the summit, and calls were made in Cairo to reverse the trend.

Cairo justified its decision by saying that the private sector has an important role to play in promoting sustainable business models to support global climate goals. Yet the company has been ranked among the best in the world plastic polluting company for years and has been blamed for running campaigns to mislead the public on issues such as recycling and for rolling out voluntary initiatives and targets that he consistently fails to meet.

Environmental groups in Egypt have made tackling plastic pollution one of their top battles in recent years, as the country is estimated to mismanage more than 40% of its waste.

“This climate meeting is called the African COP, but companies like Coca-Cola, work hand in hand with big oil, are flooding Africa with plastic,” Angelica Carballo, Global Media Manager for Greenpeace’s Plastics-Free Future Campaign, told Al-Monitor. “Ending the reliance of businesses on single-use plastic is an important part of moving away from fossil fuels, fighting climate change and protecting communities.”

Major environmental groups such as Greenpeace noted that Coca-Cola has not yet admitted to the problem of its plastic pollution, and the Environmental Justice Foundation has said that Coca-Cola’s business model “is based on fossil fuels.” For its part, Extinction Rebellion worn irony to speculate whether the deal was due to Coca-Cola announcing its commitment to go plasticless ahead of the upcoming COP28. Environmental groups in Egypt, where criticism is routinely suppressed, have been largely silent on the decision.

The agreement also led to the launch of a online campaign withdraw Coca-Cola as a sponsor of COP27. The petition, which had been signed by nearly 70,000 people at the time of writing, says Coca-Cola is spending millions to whitewash its brand while behind the scenes it has a long history of lobbying to delay and make derail regulations.

“It has long been clear that the voluntary actions of plastic polluting companies pretending to take action have not worked and still do not work. Governments must pass strong laws to prevent Coca-Cola and companies like it from dumping plastic in our environment, not reward them by allowing them to reinforce false ‘green’ credentials,” Steve Trent, founder and CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation, told Al-Monitor.

Al-Monitor has contacted the COP27 Presidency and the Coca-Cola Company for comment, but neither had responded at the time of publication.

Coca-Cola was not one of the main sponsors of the last editions of the COP. But the level of pollution of the main corporate sponsors of the event is a recurring subject and also sparked controversy and criticism last year in Glasgowfor the presence of companies like Iberdrola, Hitachi and Unilever, and at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, for the presence of coal companies.

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