This weekend will see the start of COP27 in Egypt. The 27th UNFCCC Conference of Parties calls on governments around the world to “to rise to the occasion and tackle effectively the global challenge of climate”

“I deeply believe that COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation.”

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

However, before it has even begun, COP27 has been heavily criticised and campaigners have little hope that it will bring about the action we desperately need to address the climate crisis. 

COP26 Progress (or lack of!) 

Despite some progress being made at COP26 last year, with nearly 200 countries signing the Glasgow Climate Pact and pledging to cut emissions and increase funding to those countries most affected by the impacts of climate change, little concrete action has happened since. So far only a handful of countries have strengthened their emission reduction plans and the question of funding for loss and damage is still proving to be a major source of conflict. 

Greenwashed, but still dirty

COP summits are often accused of greenwashing, allowing host countries to present themselves as green leaders whilst doing little to actually improve. However, the choice of Egypt as this year’s host country has caused unprecedented concern, due to their human rights record as well as environmental record. Many believe they are using the opportunity to present themselves as climate champions whilst in reality the oppressive regime continues to clampdown on activists and repress scientific research

Delegates are being welcomed to Sharm el-Sheik with images of a green oasis, outdoor showers, and electric vehicles. Meanwhile Egyptian civil society representatives have been vetted by the government in order to attend and allegedly asked to speak only on certain topics and avoid politically unwelcome subjects such as Egypt’s coal-powered cement plants, military business, or industrial pollution. 

Coca-Cola sponsorship – unbelievably “It’s the Real Thing”

Speaking of greenwashing, you might ask what Coca-Cola are hoping to achieve in sponsoring the summit – are they really hoping that people will forget about the environmental impacts of their business and believe that they are serious about tackling the climate emergency? 

Coco-Cola are widely recognised as being the world’s worst plastic polluter, as well as having been heavily criticised for excessive water use in their production facilities. Not to mention the fact that the scale of their production is estimated to produce the same amount of carbon emissions as 1.1.million cars each year.  

Needless to say the announcement of their sponsorship was met with howls of disbelief from the environmental community. A letter signed by over 240 global environmental groups was delivered to governments demanding that they stop accepting big polluter sponsorship, and a petition calling for Coca-Cola to be removed as sponsors has gathered nearly 250,000 signatures.  

Human rights violations

Egypt has a bad record when it comes to human rights and sadly little has changed since the 2011 uprising which resulted in the resignation of then-President Mubarak. Protest in Egypt is effectively banned by a series of draconian laws, and thousands of activists, journalists, academics, and innocent people have been imprisoned and are being kept in inhumane conditions. In 2021 alone, Egyptian courts issued 356 death sentences. 

The United Nations Committee Against Torture stated that “…all the above lead to the inescapable conclusion that torture is a systematic practice in Egypt” which begs the question; why did the UNFCCC choose a country with such a lack of basic human rights as COP host? 

COP Civic Space has come together as a coalition of groups aiming to use COP27 as an opportunity to push for improvements in human rights in Egypt. Their demands include the opening up of civic space for climate justice, and the release of individuals being arbitrarily detained. 

Frontline voices must not go unheard 

The hosting of COP27 in Africa should provide an opportunity to highlight the impacts of climate change on developing countries – those who have done little to cause the crisis but who are bearing the brunt of the effects. However, sadly, many MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) activists will be unable to attend – either because of lack of financial access, or because of the limitations placed on delegates by the organisers. 

It is vital that we give a voice to the people on the frontlines, rather than letting the dialogue be controlled by powerful corporations and western governments. Fridays for Future MAPA are campaigning to bring 75 activists from 60 countries in the Global South to COP27 to represent marginalised and vulnerable communities. Youth non-profit Force of Nature have also created a google doc with details of over 200 young activists from all over the world who will be attending the conference. 

Be Curious!

  • Follow and support COP27 Coalition, a group of Egyptian, African, and Arab campaigners demanding climate justice. 
  • Sign the petition calling on COP organisers to drop Coca-Cola as a sponsor. Whilst it may be too late to change their sponsorship, the more people that speak out against it the better, as it will show the UNFCCC and our political leaders we don’t want dirty corporations having a say in climate policy. 
  • Donate to the Fridays for Future crowdfunder raising money to help MAPA activists attend the conference. They need to raise £265,000 to ensure the voices of the people most affected by the impacts of climate change are heard at the summit. 
  • Support the COP Civic Space campaigns by sharing on social media. 
  • Read more about MAPA activists and issues in our series ‘Stories from the Frontline’. 

(Feature image: Image by WikiImages from Pixabay)

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