The perils of greenwashing and climate delay

Greenwashing refers to false claims being made by organizations in order to deceive people that their products and decisions are environmentally friendly. Climate delay deals with governments making tall claims about environmentally conscious decision-making, whilst in reality, they are only paying lip service. The continuously rising levels of GHG emissions despite numerous agreements to curb them are a clear indication of climate delays and greenwashing.

Nearly 50 years ago, world leaders united in Stockholm to discuss the relationship between man and the environment. It was one of the historic moments in the history of environmental consciousness, which paved the way for environmental legislation and sustainable development. Yet many resolutions and protocols later, we find ourselves still on a self-destructive trajectory. The average global temperatures have risen to dangerous levels, the air we breathe is becoming increasingly toxic, our water is becoming contaminated and oceans are polluted with plastic, all the while our carbon sinks are depleted and turned into huge enterprises of carbon emissions. As a result, Nature has turned hostile on us with frequent floods, droughts, storms, tsunamis, wildfires, pandemics, and disease outbreaks wreaking havoc on our planet.

What is clear from the status quo is that the world can not afford to continue on this unsustainable path and immediate action needs to be taken in order to change course. According to scientists, if all countries commit to their current Nationally determined contributions (NDC’s) still we are going to experience a rise In global temperature beyond 2 degrees Celsius. That’s why COP 26 is crucial from this perspective and requires nations to come up with even more ambitious NDC’s so that the drastic rise in global temperature can be controlled. Yet climate activists have accused world leaders in even this round of conservation, currently underway in Glasgow, as attempts of greenwashing.

There is absolutely no space for greenwashing in today’s world and the world cannot afford anymore ‘’BLAH, BLAH, BLAH’’ as stated by Greta Thunberg. There is no longer any scope for paying mere lip service to environmental commitments, instead, we need results to be delivered. For that we require a strict compliance mechanism in place, this time, to oversee the implementation of the agreement and to ensure the delivery of results. Another important factor is mobilizing finances towards the developing world along with technology transfers and capacity building to ensure that they can effectively implement their NDC’s.

At the corporation level, there is an imminent need for stricter regulations so that consumers do not fall prey to corporate greenwashing. Environmental protection agencies (EPA) require ramping up their efforts and ensuring environmental accountability. An effective strategy to ensure sustainable development is carbon taxation. By taxing GHG emissions (those exceeding the set limits), industries have to cut back output as the marginal cost of production increases due to the tax. This reduction in output leads to environmentally sustainable levels of production. Despite its effectiveness, carbon taxation is rarely implemented because of the strong lobby against it. And since big industrialists finance political campaigns, politicians are usually reluctant to impose such legislation.

Currently, around 27 countries have implemented carbon taxation, while big emitters like US and China are yet to implement such taxes. It, therefore, needs to be implemented uniformly in order to disincentivize corporations from investing in unsustainable modes of production. And to make the transition to cleaner sources, subsidizing environment-friendly equipment is an effective and much-needed tool.

At the individual level, consumers have to understand that rampant consumerism cannot continue in the era of sustainability. We all must do our role in climate action by limiting consumption and using resources efficiently. On the other hand, we should buy environmentally friendly products but must make sure that a mere trademark or sticker doesn’t misguide us. Therefore, consumers must spend their money on transparent firms and products rather than blindly picking up anything with a green logo.

Cop-26 might be the last opportunity the world has to change our destructive course and limit the rise in global temperature to dangerous levels. It therefore must be utilized and our commitments to climate action must be adhered to the fullest.

The world needs to act before it's too late.


Sarah Saleh

An ardent environmentalist, economist, and sustainable development enthusiast.