The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th of its kind. After a Covid-related postponement, it was held this year in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 and November 12. Dr Chris Maughan has been in Glasgow for the first week of the event and reflects on the links between ‘corporate greenwash’ and the ‘net zero’ agenda, as well as what this means for social movements seeking just and agroecological transitions.
COP is a notoriously difficult process to grasp – is it genuinely a space of negotiation, or just political theatre? And where does it happen? Is it in the negotiating arena of the ‘Blue Zone’, or is it somewhere else? Should we look to the ‘fringe’ events, the streets, or even Twitter to follow its tangled process?
While some impressive noises have been coming out of the Blue Zone this week – commitments to halt deforestation and reduce methane emissions by 2030, for example – or even the $100bn per year of ‘Climate Aid’ promised (but not yet delivered) to the Global South – similarly attention-grabbing noises could also be heard outside these spaces, from social movements articulating their own visions of climate justice, or those emphatically rejecting the mainstream process.
As COP26 draws to a close, this blog offers some reflections on the fraught relationship between the mainstream process and the social movements, and what this means for the fight for a just and agroecological transition.
COP26: A ‘Greenwash festival’?
Even before the event kicked off, activists were already preparing to highlight the inevitable wave of greenwash that would envelop COP26, warning of undue influence of the corporate sector. Upon stepping into the centre of Glasgow, the extent of the greenwash was hard to ignore. Almost every billboard implored me to believe that the corporates ‘had it covered’ – or at least would do if we chose to buy their product.
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