Curtains just fell on COP 27, namely the 27th edition of the United Nations supreme decision-making body on climate change. The conference, held this year in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, is the most important global summit on this topic: it gathers world leaders, professionals and civil society to negotiate the strategy and implementation of our climate action.

What has brand got to do with all this?

First of all let’s highlight the fact that COP27 didn’t just collect the interest of the insiders, but, most notably, it captivated media attention for the whole two weeks of its duration.
This may seem predictable: if it’s really such an important yearly event, it surely must interest the media. I partially agree with that as the track record of previous COP tells a different story.

As we mentioned, this is the 27th edition: going back a few years, who actually knew about COP besides the insiders and professionals? Very few.
Not to mention media coverage: limited and partial.
So when did it become a mainstream phenomenon?

A first hint can be found in 2015, thanks to the Paris Agreement, the outcome document of COP21: such a settlement was so groundbreaking for our global climate action that for the first time the media started massively talking about international climate diplomacy.
Hence, in the following years, the climate negotiations began to break out of the insiders’ bubble and attract the attention of the general public, also thanks to a growing sensitivity to environmental issues.

Flash forward to August 2018: one leaden Friday in Stockholm, a little girl decides that she will not go to school that day in protest, to draw attention to a huge but unheeded problem, to shake up the adults who, helpless, seem not to notice (or care about) the storm on the horizon. That little girl is Greta Thunberg and we didn’t know it yet, but climate change was about to become popular.

She repeats the strike the following week, then the week after, and soon there is no longer just Greta but other people join in, in different cities, in different countries. The action of the individual becomes a movement and Fridays For Future is born, the climate movement spreads like wildfire globally and we have all heard of it at least once. But there is not only Fridays For Future: movements, organisations, climate groups and associations are springing up and demanding attention to the climate crisis.

Public opinion is clamouring for attention to environmental issues and the brands, freshly reeling from the palm oil scandal, are trying to meet this new demand.
Greenwashing is becoming common practice and the SDGs enter the corporate agenda.
At the 2019 COP the civil society massively enters the dialogue and COP is now at the center of the debate.

What happens next we all know: in 2020 we face the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and among the emergency that year’s COP is postponed.

Yet climate movements did not pause: they gathered more and more attention and in just a few years, since the first COP meeting in 1995, the conferences have grown from small to a fair-trade style kind of event, with over 30.000 participants.

In 2021, after a year-long pause, COP eventually took place in Glasgow.

This edition is anticipated by an unheard momentum and build-up, mainly for two reasons:
it is the first COP after the pandemic forced-stop and the first one after the birth and establishment of climate movements;

These elements changed everything: COP is no longer just a high-level technical gatherin, but one of the largest international meetings in the world, with attentive participation from civil society. COP has a logo, social media accounts, events and side events: it has become a little more noisy, expensive and polluting than before, and we may ask ourselves if it also has become more or less effective and what kind of progress is actually made.

What’s sure is that since Glasgow, and again in Egypt, it has become a marketing opportunity for governments, companies and civil society to position themselves on the climate discussion. What’s most appalling is the lack of interest for similarly important conferences, such as Biodiversity COP15, currently happening in Montreal: our eyes are far from pointed at this summit, though crucial for our planet’s health, yet we are already speaking about the next COP28, speculating on its unfolding and following it like a TV series, waiting for the next season. The real issue is if this new role has distracted us from the real purpose of COP: delivering climate solutions to build a better future for all.