By The Drum Team | Editorial

November 3, 2021 | 18 min read

Daily review of news from Cop26.

The UN’s Climate Change Conference 2020 is underway in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Drum will be on the ground covering the event between November 1-12. Everyday we’ll post an update of the key takeaways and announcements from the event as it relates to the advertising industry.

You can also read our in-depth coverage from Cop26, including interviews, analysis and opinion columns, here.

Day 12: November 12

On the final day of the conference, the final draft of the summit’s agreement has been met with mixed feelings.

Friends of the Earth say the draft is ”highly disappointing and full of doublespeak”. It adds: ”Developed countries are refusing proposals that account for historical responsibility and equity. Reference to enhancing finance ambition or loss and damage is lacking.”

60% of the UK’s largest listed businesses are now signed on to the Race to Zero and that the Race to Resilience. But the UN secretary-general says these ”promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies”. He also urged countries to ”pick up the pace” on reducing emissions and fighting climate change.

Meanwhile, More than 700 activists packed the main hall at the summit and then joined protesters outside, demanding that nations make more ambitious climate pledges and address global inequities. “The time for words without action has come and gone,” was their message.

Today marked one of the only events of the conference solely dedicated to the advertising industry as industry network Purpose Disruptors premiered its documentary Advertising A Good Life in 2030.

The documentary seeks to account for adland’s impact on the environment through the promotion of consumption and the acquisition of ’stuff’, and pleads with the industry to think carefully about the steps it wants to take in future if it is to be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Day 11: November 11

The previous day’s optimism following an agreement of cooperation from the US and China was somewhat diminished by UN secretary-general António Guterres criticizing the lack of ambition at the summit.

Pledges revealed on methane, coal, transport and deforestation could nudge the world 9% closer to a pathway that keeps heating to 1.5C, according to a study by the world’s most respected climate analysis coalition. But, it still leaves the world heading towards climate catastrophe.

In more positive news, Denmark and Costa Rica launched an ambitious alliance today to phase out coal and gas. Six full members – France, Greenland, Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and Wales – also joined the group known as the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA). Campaigners hailed the move as a turning point while urging more countries to join.

Day 10: November 10

Day 10 of the climate conference saw the first draft of its overarching agreement released, which included a surprise pledge from the US and China to work together on addressing the climate crisis.

However, the draft has largely been slammed for being unambitious and setting the world on a path to 2.5 degrees.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson returned to Glasgow to plead with delegates to come together, while Saudi Arabia continues to push back.

Several of the world’s largest automotive companies have quashed the idea that Cop26 could see the beginning of the end for the combustion era.

Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Nissan refrained from signing a declaration that aimed get governments, manufacturers and investors to promise to “work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission globally by 2040, and by no later than 2035 in leading markets“.

Day 9: November 9

Day 9 of the conference marks Gender and Science Innovation Day and saw indigenous women and politicians, including Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, demand increased investment in the education of girls and women.

Angelica Ponce, executive director of the Plurinational Authority for Mother Earth in Bolivia, said: “The world as designed by men has destroyed many things. The world should begin thinking like women. If it was designed by a woman, it would end violence against women and children.“

Meanwhile, major brands have thrown their weight behind demands that Cop26 leaders and technology giants take action to stem the flow of climate misinformation.

An open letter penned by the Conscious Advertising Network (Can), a voluntary coalition of brands and civil organizations, has been signed by household names including Ben & Jerry’s, Virgin Media O2, Sky and SSE, which call out the association of lucrative ad spend associated with accounts and pages propagating climate misinformation.

Supporters list three key demands for the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow to address, including universal definition of climate dis- and misinformation. The letter has been prompted by a realization that climate misinformation has become a business, with nefarious social media accounts capitalizing on the attention and publicity afforded to the conference by driving alternative conspiracy theories.

At the same time, a new report into the impact of marketing on carbon output has found that successful ads add an extra 28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK.

Purpose Disruptors – a network of ad industry workers looking to reform the sector to tackle climate change – are behind the report. It reveals that Advertised Emissions in the UK in 2019 were responsible for more than 186m tons of carbon dioxide equivalents – almost half the size of the UK’s total domestically-produced emissions.

It is equivalent to 47 coal-fired power plants running for one year and is adding an extra 28% to the annual carbon footprint of every single person in the UK.

Over in APAC, half of Australians now consider a brand’s stance on social, political and environmental issues before buying products or services.

In addition, 94% believe that a brand’s honesty and transparency are important when it comes to purchasing decisions, according to research by Trustpilot.

Finally, a powerful short film featuring the Huni Kuin people of Brazil, created by Sage Foundation, is sending a warning to the western world during Cop26: nature is not for sale.

Through the campaign, which is in partnership with One Tree Planted, the non-profit organization aspires to give a voice to the many indigenous tribes that call the Amazon home and have devastatingly witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change on their habitat.

Day 8: November 8

The arrival of former US president Barack Obama opened the second week of the conference. His speech urged world leaders to “step up and step up now” to avoid a climate disaster and leveled criticism at China and Russia for “declining to even attend the proceedings.”

“Their national plans seem to reflect a dangerous lack of urgency and willingness to maintain the status quo, and that’s a shame,“ he said.

Elsewhere, the fashion industry united to make a commitment into how marketing and communications should evolve in order to meet the sector’s wider sustainability targets.

Fashion is one of the largest contributors to the climate and ecological crisis, responsible for between 2% and 8% of global carbon emissions. On its current trajectory, it is expected to miss the 2030 emissions reduction targets by 50%.

Over 160 companies were involved in a series of draft recommendations for those working in marketing, advertising, PR, creative direction, visual media, content and social media within the fashion sector, as well as influencers and other news and digital media platforms.

The recommendations include:

  • Committing to accurate reporting and transparent communication efforts

  • Avoiding any form of exaggeration or omission to appear more environmentally or socially friendly

  • Championing positive changes and demonstrate accessible solutions to help individuals live more sustainable lifestyles

  • Spotlighting new role models and notions of aspiration or success

  • Celebrating the ecological, cultural and social values of the industry

  • Focusing on inclusive marketing and storytelling that encourages a more equitable industry

  • Motivating and mobilizing the public to advocate for broader change

“Fashion is one of the most powerful marketing engines on earth. What brands, designers and media share, influences how individuals appear, feel and act around the world. As communicators from across all aspects of the fashion sector, we must come together and use our powers responsibly to motivate the wide scale shift in attitudes and behavior change that’s necessary to address today’s code red for humanity,” said Lucy Shea, chief exec at Futerra, the consultancy that worked on the project.

“This is fashion’s opportunity to be a wider part of the solution; to use its marketing prowess and position as architects of desire to shape new cultural norms and expectations.”

Days 5,6 and 7: November 5-7

Cop26 headlines from the weekend included a report from climate campaign group Global Witness that found there were more delegates from companies with links to fossil fuels than from any single country. Campaigners said these delegates are there to lobby for oil and gas industries and their presence should be banned.

“The fossil fuel industry has spent decades denying and delaying real action on the climate crisis, which is why this is such a huge problem,“ Murray Worthy from Global Witness told the BBC. “Their influence is one of the biggest reasons why 25 years of UN climate talks have not led to real cuts in global emissions.“

At a protest in the city, campaigner Greta Thunberg branded Cop26 a failure, saying: “This is no longer a climate conference. This is now a global greenwashing festival.“

On Saturday (November 6), British fashion brand Burberry used the event to reveal a new biodiversity strategy to help it become ‘climate positive‘ by 2040. It said it will follow ‘Nature Based Solution Principles and Guidelines‘ developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy, starting with a regenerative agricultural program with wool producers in Australia.

On the same day, over 100,000 people, led by Colombian indigenous group Minga Indigena, marched in Glasgow as part of the Global Day of Action for the Climate.

The We Mean Business Coalition, Exponential Roadmap Initiative, the International Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Race to Zero collaborated to launch the SME Climate Hub, which will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on climate education and offer free emissions measurement and reporting.

Meanwhile, People Just Do Nothing and Kurupt FM stars Allan ‘Seapa‘ Mustafa and Hugo Chegwin released a special climate-focused episode of their hit podcast, ‘Chattin’ Shit’, in partnership with Virgin Media, O2 and environmental charity Global Action Plan. The goal to encourage more young people to get involved in the debate – particularly young men who, research shows, feel excluded from the conversation or are reluctant to engage online. The show answered some of their questions, including what climate change actually is, what is Cop26 and how to get more involved in conversations online without fear of being called out or ‘cancelled’. Listen to the podcast here.

Day 4: November 4

The headline news from day 4 of the conference came from The International Energy Agency, which said that if the pledges made by political leaders during Cop26 come to fruition it could limit global temperature rise to 1.8°C, a figure lower than the 2°C prediction made earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, leading sporting organizations including Fifa, The English Premier League and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions and reach net-zero by 2040. However, Fifa was the target of criticism for its involvement in the pledge after making a major push to expand the World Cup. It wants to host it every two years rather than four, and to expand it to 48 teams for the 2026 tournament.

In a radical move, the UK Treasury also proposed that all large UK firms, including all those with shares listed on the London Stock Exchange, will have to make plans showing how they intend to move to net-zero. By 2023, the Treasury wants them to have to set out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future and meet the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

The Vegetarian Butcher was back with another activation, this time in partnership with Sainsbury’s. Both Principal Partners of Cop26, the brands united to create an ‘Carbon Footprint Personal Shopper’ service in select Sainsbury's stores. Customers will be guided on the small actions they can make with each grocery shop to reduce their carbon footprint.

Day 3: November 3

With many of the world’s leaders having left Glasgow, day three of the summit turned its focus to finance and how the world can fund the transition to green economies.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the UK is to become the first net-zero aligned financial center, adding that developed nations will deliver $500bn of climate finance over the next five years – acknowledging that pledges to boost aid have not happened ”soon enough”.

Meanwhile, a coalition of 450 financial firms, representing more than $130tn, have pledged to put green investments “at the heart of finance”.

UN climate envoy and former Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the finance industry must find ways to raise private money to take the effort far beyond what states alone can do.

Speaking at the summit, he said: ”Right here, right now is where private finance draws the line. The $130tn announced is more than what’s needed for the net-zero transition globally. A pool of that capital has been carved out for the transition in emerging and developing economies, and not at some distant point in the future, but for this decade.”

While there is a growing consensus that the private sector must mobilize in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, many have criticized the financial pledge, saying it is coming from the same institutions that have financed the fossil fuel industry for years.

”We are really focused on greenwashing,” said Ashley Alder, chair of IOSCO, the global umbrella body for securities regulators, which helped set up the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).

”It’s super important, and if you don’t have basic information on a globally comparable basis, then you increase the risks of greenwashing enormously.”

XR protest

Greenwashing was the word of the day on the streets of Glasgow as climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion marched in protest of the issues – including the “tokenistic solutions” of Cop26’s own sponsors, including Hitchachi, SSE and the National Grid.

“The big polluters use the same marketing companies that told us cigarettes don’t kill you, and now they’re telling us they’re not responsible for the climate crisis.”

The protest occurred hours before the Advertising Association (AA) hosted a panel on greenwashing in advertising featuring senior representatives from regulatory bodies from across the world. It can be viewed here and follows the ASA recently using its greenwashing powers for the first time in an action against Alpro.

Day 2: November 2

The second day of the event brought global leaders together to agree a series of pledges.

First up was the agreement from more than 40 nations to speed the uptake of clean technologies by imposing worldwide standards and policies. Five high-carbon sectors are to be targeted first – steel, road transport, agriculture, hydrogen and electricity – with the hope of attracting significant private investment.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took to a stage to commit to powering its operations by 100% renewable energy by 2025, in addition to converting its delivery fleet to electrical vehicles.

The conference also saw more than 100 world leaders pledge to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Highlighting the impact of deforestation at Cop26 was a campaign launched by Conservation International and Clear Channel, which joined forces to bring the sounds of nature to the streets of Glasgow. The ’Hear Me While You Can’ campaign invited Cop26 attendees to immerse themselves in the sounds of nature by following a QR code featured on the billboards that, once snapped, transports the public to a website where they can listen to sounds from the Amazon rainforest and the South African savannah.

Hear Me

Organizers, however, also faced criticism for allowing oil companies to take part in the event. According to a report published by Open Democracy, representatives of major oil companies including BP, Chevron and Rio Tinto have been allowed to attend and speak at the conference under the umbrella of a trade association, despite past assurances they would not be participating.

Protests also continued away from the venue. Extinction Rebellion activists are reported to have targeted JP Morgan’s Glasgow offices to spotlight the bank’s continued investment in fossil fuels before marching to Morgan Stanley’s offices.

Day 1: November 1

The opening ceremony kicked off the two-week long event and marking the occasion was a film, produced by Analog Folk, which you can watch here. UK prime minister Boris Johnson used his speech to caution that “humanity has long since run down the clock on climate change“.

“It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now,“ he said.

Meanwhile, US president Jo Biden used his opening address to issue a stark warning to delegates: “None of us can escape the worst of what’s yet to come if we fail to seize this moment.“

Away from the conference venue, climate activist Greta Thunberg attended a protest in the city (one of many taking place), telling those in attendance that politicians are “pretending to take our future seriously“.

Scottish brewer Tennent’s used the event to launch a new advertising campaign underlining its commitment to sustainable brewing practices. Ads appearing on OOH sites across Glasgow and on social media feature portraits of Tennent’s staff and suppliers alongside messages highlighting its investment in environmental initiatives.

Brands are also making use of the event for a variety of experiential marketing stunts targeting the estimated 25,000 visitors. One of the first to appear was from Unilever-owned Hellmann’s, which partnered with Israeli-Dutch multi-disciplinary artist Itamar Gilboa to create an installation titled The Food Waste Effect to highlight the damaging impact it has on the environment.

A campaign called ’Elephant in the Room’ has also been launched, backed by companies including Unilever-owned The Vegetarian Butcher and plant-based meat brand Heura. So far it has seen a 140-foot projection-mapped elephant run rampant through the streets of Glasgow, including being projected on to the Scottish Power Building, as well as a mural by Glasgow-based artist Smug to highlight the environmental impact of meat consumption.


Elsewhere, The Times – which has a ’hub’ where it will be running events during the first week of the conference – announced it had created a £1m advertising fund for sustainability SMEs and charities. Five winners will earn £200,000 of prime Times, Sunday Times and Times Radio advertising inventory to promote their products or services, with the titles also offering help and advice on messaging, marketing and branding.

The Advertising Association, together with the ISBA and IPA, launched a training certificate to upskill advertisers and marketers on sustainability issues. Read more about it here.

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