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Greenwashing at COP27?

From November 6 to 18, the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) will take place again, this time in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. And as usual, in the days leading up to the start of the summit, the world community is taking stock of its efforts to protect the climate and ensure the survival of humanity.

But is there time for that this year? Since Russia has attacked Ukraine in February this year, the world has been plunging from one crisis to the next: the pandemic just halfway over, another famine looms in Africa, while the energy crisis already has the world firmly in its grip. Add to that chaotic days in the British government, landmark elections in Brazil, no less important midterms in the U.S., and so on. All over the world, the focus seems to be elsewhere than on climate protection.

Suitably in addition messages made the round some days ago, who does not travel to Egypt this year. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg announced that she would not be attending. She accused the conference of being a forum for greenwashing, and that the COP events were not really intended to change the system. She also blames restrictions on civil protests in the Egyptian venue for her absence.

Newly elected British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, too, wanted to stay away from the summit, saying he had "other pressing domestic commitments". Yet it would be important for him to be present as the UK representative, because in the new figures presented shortly before the event, as usual, the G20 come under criticism.

According to a new report by Bloomberg Philanthropies and BloombergNEF (BNEF), the 19 member countries of the G20 supported fossil fuels to the amount of $693 billion in 2021, torpedoing progress towards the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Climate Policy Factbook, now released, assesses the progress of each G20 country in three specific policy areas: 1) phasing out support for fossil fuels, 2) putting a price on emissions, and 3) enforcing climate-risk disclosure. The report aims to increase transparency and set policy priorities ahead of the G20 Summit in Indonesia and the COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt.

There is no end to support for fossil energy in the G20 countries (Graphic: BNEF).

As a result, Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, sharply attacked G20 governments, saying: "Governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels – undermining the pledges they’ve made, harming public health, and shrinking our chances of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. We need to dramatically speed up the shift to clean energy and away from coal and other fossil fuels, and this report highlights some of the most important steps governments can take."

So the G20 countries, already responsible for about 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions anyway, continue to diligently support the coal industry. This is despite the fact that there are already substantial commitments to scale down these investments. "The G-20 and G-7 governments have announced a range of seemingly more ambitious commitments to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies," said Victoria Cuming, head of global policy at BloombergNEF and lead author of the factbook. "But they always seem to include imprecise language and caveats, giving governments wiggle room to interpret these pledges as they wish. BNEF’s analysis shows that there seems to be little evidence of those countries delivering on their promises."

And so Thunberg's accusation that the world climate summits are greenwashing with many promises without subsequent action cannot be dismissed.

After all, the advisors of the British prime minister have meanwhile suggested to him that a complete absence from the summit would be inappropriate, so that he made a 180-degree turn yesterday and will now be going to Egypt after all.

Katrin Radtke
Egypt, COP27, climate change, energy crisis, UK, summit, G20, G7, nation, humanity, global, emissions, greenwashing

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