For the first time, the UK is playing host to the UN’s 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties (Cop26) in Glasgow on November 1-12.
The climate talks will be the biggest international summit the UK has ever hosted, and will bring together heads of state, climate experts, business heads, marketers, trade unions and activist groups from around the world to tackle the urgent issue of the climate crisis.
However, as the conference draws nearer, attention is turning to corporations and the marketing industry that drives their businesses to address their complicity in the climate crisis and outline their plans to correct course in the imminent future.
So what do workers within these industries need to know about the Cop26 summit? And what will brand presence at the conference involve?
How will Cop26 be structured?
Cop conferences are organized into two zones – Blue and Green.
The inner Blue Zone is cordoned by security, and only ministers and accredited government officials, plus other accredited individuals and organizations, are permitted access. The main focus within the Blue Zone is the international negotiations over climate change agreements and actions, however large corporations such as sponsors will be permitted a presence.
Within the Green Zone, organizations that can afford it and secure space will have their own pavilion where they can showcase what they are doing about climate change or get their climate change message to a wider audience. This area is expected to have a large amount of media coverage, especially from those outlets that can’t gain access to the Blue Zone.
Outside of the official zones there will also be an unofficial program of events taking place across the city. Large-scale protests are expected, with some estimates suggesting up to 300,000 people will be in attendance.
Corporate presence at Cop26
UN events don’t often require corporate backing, however previous editions of the Cop summit have received it and this year’s will be no exception. A Cop26 spokesperson recently told The Guardian that corporate sponsorship of the summit boosts its value for taxpayers and helps to shrink its financial costs.
The UK government has not disclosed the sum paid by brands attaching themselves to Cop26, however a study suggests that corporate presence at the Paris summit in 2015 accounted for $17.7m – around a tenth of its overall cost.
This year’s sponsors include energy behemoths Hitachi, National Grid, Scottish Power and SSE, as well as tech giants such as Microsoft, and FTSE brands including GSK, NatWest, Reckitt, Sainsbury’s and Unilever. Other lower-tier partners include Jaguar Land Rover and the Swedish furniture retailer Ikea.
In return for Cop26 sponsorship, businesses and brands may receive UN ministers at their events and promotional spaces within the Green Zone. However, complaints have been received by corporate sponsors condemning the summit as “mismanaged” and claiming that planners seemed underprepared to host businesses.
Some brands including Hitachi have also been aggrieved that while many companies including itself have gained access to the Green Zone, many competitors will be received in the Blue Zone.
The UK government has notably blocked fossil fuel companies from taking on sponsorship or any official role at the climate summit, saying that their decarbonization plans are not robust. Activists have rebutted that this is not good enough and that the summit should be holding energy companies and polluter brands included in the roster to the same standards.
Furthermore, brands maintaining a presence at Cop26 will have public skepticism to contend with as YouGov research has found two-thirds of Brits don’t believe companies sincerely want to help the environment.
Media presence at Cop26
Media coverage of the summit is set to be significant, with official media partner Sky setting up a dedicated channel, Sky News Climate Live, for its coverage. Sky has made a series of green pledges, including going net carbon zero by 2030. It will also apply the ‘planet test’ to champion sustainability within its own productions.
Several other organizations, including DMGT, The Evening Standard, The Independent, News UK, Reach, The Telegraph Media Group, The Guardian and the News Media Association, have joined the Ad Net Zero 2030 initiative, headed by Newsworks, which aims to cut carbon emissions in advertising operations by 2030.
The New York Times has created its own media center, which will be held in Glasgow’s SWG3 venue, and is described as a place for leading business and cultural thinkers and leaders to come together to debate and discuss. However, the hub has been criticized for being inaccessible to many Glasgow residents, as unlike the official Green Zone events at Glasgow’s Science Centre, the NYT hub requires payment to access, with tickets at £25 per day, or £2000 for the full two-week period.
The Drum will be on the ground across the conference, reporting on the latest events as it affects the creative, marketing and advertising industries. You can follow our coverage of events as they unfold on our new Cop26 hub here.