COP26: How are digital platforms tackling climate change?

Posted on Wednesday 10 November 2021 | IAB UK

Some of the biggest players in the digital advertising industry share how they're supporting COP26 and working to maintain momentum around sustainability initiatives in the long-term.

Over the past couple of weeks, the heat has been on world leaders to agree how global communities are going to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis. COP26 has gained significance as the first COP to take place since the Paris Agreement and billed as our last chance to establish concrete measures that will keep the earth’s temperature below 2 degrees. 

Within our industry, the drive to meet net zero by 2030 is already in motion. Just last week, advertisers, platforms, publishers and technology leaders came together at Ad Net Zero to explore what more can be done to ensure we reach this target. As Dentsu UK’s Hamish Nicklin said at the event: “Our power is not just in our ability to sell stuff but our ability to change the way people think, feel and act."

A big part of this challenge lies in making sure people are informed, stimulating debate and capturing people’s attention  - and with so much of our lives now playing out online - what are the big digital players doing to mark COP26, keep moving the conversation forward and drive action?

Let’s start with Google. Prior to COP26, the company shared a blog post on how it would be bringing the conference to people everywhere. This includes a partnership with the COP26 Presidency to livestream the conference via YouTube and Google Arts and Culture. 

YouTube creators at the conference have been creating content to share with global audiences, while videos, imagery and artworks from “the green zone” — the centre of COP26 activity — are being shared via a new page on Google Arts and Culture. As Google says, this initiative is “inviting people everywhere to learn about the discussions and activities taking place”. 

Meanwhile, YouTube Original show ‘A Seat at the Table’ with Jack Harries, is bringing the climate struggle to life with videos on how the crisis is affecting us all and farming that is reversing the effects of climate change

In the longer-term, Google is making changes to ensure that it is supporting climate progress beyond COP26. Last month it announced new policies to prohibit users from being able to monetise climate denial content on its platforms, while a raft of new products have been launched to help people make more sustainable choices. This includes bringing carbon emissions information to Google Flights, being able to pick the most fuel-efficient route on Google Maps and the launch of Nest Renew to help users automatically shift electricity usage for heating and cooling to times when energy is cleaner. 

On TikTok, climate-related campaigns are inspiring and empowering young people. For #OneStepGreener, TikTok has partnered with the UK Government to encourage people to take actions that have a positive impact on the environment. From @bakingherman creating low waste and sustainable meals, to Glaswegian brand @rejeandenim showing how they create zero waste denim, the TikTok community has been demonstrating how we can all live life a little greener.

In addition, TikTok launched #ClimateAction in the lead up to COP26 to encourage its global community to join the climate conversation and have a positive impact on the planet. As part of this creator-led approach, TikTok is asking users to share how the climate crisis is affecting their lives and what they’re doing about it. As a result, #ClimateAction has been trending on TikTok’s Discover page in the UK, with 170 million views and rising. 

To bring its audiences even closer to COP26, the platform has also been hosting TikTok LIVE from the COP26 GreenZone. Two TikTok creators have attended the conference, with access to shoot behind the scenes content for the @tiktokforgood channel.

Over to Twitter, which has partnered with established news outlets like The Telegraph to create relevant and informative Spaces that amplify important voices on the climate challenge. The platform has also been running a pilot training scheme around COP26 called #Engage - its first dedicated training series for partners tackling climate change, including personalised best practice sessions and expert advice on how to optimise campaigns on the platform to address climate change and sustainability.

By partnering with COP26 and UNFCCC, the conference is being live-streamed on Twitter and a series of dedicated Spaces are hosting in-depth analysis and discussion of the events taking place. Features introduced by Twitter for the duration of the conference include a COP26 emoji and an event page providing high-quality information and resources to users about climate change, the environment and sustainability. It has also provided pro-bono ads for charities to help them build support and drive action. Find out more about Twitter’s COP26 activity here

For Meta, the emphasis at COP26 is on helping people find accurate, science-led climate information by sharing and amplifying experts’ views. The company has a live studio at the event where it’s hosting a series of conversations with leading voices on climate change, while new podcast series ‘Climate Talks’ features Meta team members, partners, scientists, climate activists and influencers.

On Facebook, a ‘Say It With Science’ conversation on Facebook Live covers health and climate change, while on Instagram an editorial series called ‘Our Planet in Crisis’  features the stories of activists and organisers who are dedicated to spreading awareness and empowering others to take action in their local communities. 

The company has also been building on previous initiatives in light of COP26. Last year, it launched the Climate Science Center to connect people with factual resources from the world’s leading climate organisations. It is now expanding it to more than 100 countries and will continue to add information labels to posts about climate change. Meanwhile, it is utilising keyword detection so climate-related content is easier for fact-checkers to find — noting that speed is especially important during events like COP. 

Looking beyond COP26, Meta is launching ‘Green Boost’ for small businesses - a sustainability training programme to support businesses on its apps to take climate action, reduce carbon emissions and help grow their business in a sustainable way.

Last but certainly not least, Snap Inc. renewed its commitment to sustainability in the lead up to COP26, aiming to achieve net zero for scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2022. By 2030, it aims to achieve net zero for all emissions scopes, and will invest at least $1 million a year through 2030 in carbon removal to help scale the carbon removal industry. It will use removal credits that these investments yield to go beyond net zero and make Snap net negative by 2030. This means that it will be removing more carbon than it is emitting. A signatory of The Climate Pledge, Snap is also building out a climate action plan to reduce its own emissions - in addition to carbon removal - and to encourage its partners to do the same.

So as scientists, politicians and the media weigh up whether the last two weeks will result in lasting change, the challenge now is how we maintain momentum. By sharing information, elevating voices and inspiring action, the above examples demonstrate the role that digital platforms are and will continue to play as we look beyond COP26 to face the challenge ahead.

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