The Conscious Advertising Network’s (CAN) Jacob Dubbins, Harriet Kingaby and Alex Murray attended COP26 in Glasgow. Here, they give an insight into being at COP26, and CAN’s further plans for tackling climate misinformation.
CAN at COP
While much has already been said about the outcomes of COP26, there is more to be said about the poignancy of it all. Kenyan climate activist, Elizabeth Wathuti, asked world leaders to ‘open their hearts, our animals and people are dying and rivers are drying up’. Brazilian indigenous activist Txai Surui said that ‘The animals are disappearing. The rivers are dying. And our plants don’t flower like they did before. The earth is speaking. She tells us that we have no more time.’ Benjamin Francklin Kouame, a Cocoa Farmer from Cote D’Ivoire and chair of Fairtrade International, said ‘The rains do not come. When they do come they destroy everything we have built.’
Hearing first-person accounts of the effects of climate change was extremely emotional and a privilege. It grounds you, and makes the climate crisis very real. But most in the Western world don’t get to experience this — instead, they get their climate change information online and from the media.
This is why climate misinformation and greenwashing is such a large problem — it lulls people into a false sense of security and switches them off from the severity of the issue at-hand. That’s why we campaigned to put climate misinformation on the COP26 agenda, asking COP26 leadership and technology platforms to address it fully. In our open letter, we proposed a definition of climate misinformation for all to agree on, and policies to combat it.
Outcomes of the open letter
We cannot beat climate change without tackling climate misinformation. And, by having a broad coalition of 300+ individuals and organisations sign our open letter, we have embedded the concept and urgency of the issue within the organisations and institutions faced with solving this problem. With signatures including key architect of the Paris Climate Agreement, Laurence Tubiana, Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics and Nobel Peace Prize winning IPCC scientist, Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project, WWF International, COP26 Principal Partners SSE and Sky, activists and campaigners including Friends of the Earth, Avaaz and even Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, and coverage in Forbes, The New Statesman, Marketing Week, Adweek, The Drum, we pushed the conversation around climate misinformation, and advertisers’ role in it.
Throughout COP26, we had meaningful conversations with the different delegations and groups that we met that went beyond just awareness. We spoke to several different country delegations, the UNFCCC and the UK cabinet office. And we could do this with confidence, using the definition of climate misinformation that was supported by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), Greenpeace, 350, Global Disinformation Index and Friends of the Earth US.
Now that all countries must come back with revised targets every year (rather than every five years) there is a real sense of urgency for COP27 in Egypt. While we wanted to see climate misinformation included in the final COP26 document, we haven’t lost sight of what we achieved, and what we need to do to make sure it happens at COP27.
From speaking to those in the know and on the ground, we have a good feeling about misinformation being addressed more formally at COP27. But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that happens.
We will continue to engage with big tech directly — we have a strong mandate to work from based on our work with Google, and we now have a concrete definition of climate misinformation. And, we will continue to work with our members and other advertisers to address the issue.
We want to go to COP27 with several different players to address climate misinformation. With that in mind, we will continue to engage with partners that we’ve worked with on this campaign, in the form of a global alliance that will be calling for immediate action on climate misinformation, including a universally-accepted definition of climate misinformation. If you’d like to join us on that quest, please get in touch.
We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our members, supporters and friends for their ongoing support and commitment to our manifestos. We couldn’t do what we do without them.