How PR Firms Greenwashed the UN’s Biggest Climate Talks


How did an oil baron end up in charge of the world’s biggest climate conference? With the help of the public relations and advertising industry.

That’s the gist of a new report from activist group Clean Creatives, which demands that the ad industry cut ties with fossil fuel clients.

The report builds on a slew of investigative work demonstrating conflicts of interest among leadership of the United Nations climate summit (COP28) and its relationships with major PR and ad agencies. COP28 began Nov. 30 and ends Dec. 12.

“The COP28 talks would not be taking place in Dubai if not for fossil fuel greenwashing provided by advertising and PR agencies,” said executive director of Clean Creatives Duncan Meisel. “Communicating about global climate negotiations is one of the most important communication tasks imaginable, and the conflicted leadership of COP28 has hired a roster of equally conflicted agencies.”

Clean Creatives’ publication highlights 11 previously unreported contracts between agencies and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc)—of which the president of the climate summit, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, is CEO—and Masdar, the United Arab Emirates’ clean energy company (of which Adnoc is a part owner). Contracts for these two energy companies were included in the report due to the overlapping nature of the work inherent in Al Jaber’s concurrent positions.

Reports also show that communications between the companies and COP28 were at times indistinguishable in the lead-up to the event.

PR blitz to mitigate criticism

To build his reputation among global leaders since his 2016 appointment as CEO of Adnoc, Al Jaber has been working with a rotating cast of PR firms, including Edelman, per The Intercept.

Edelman—one of the world’s largest PR firms, with a long history of working on behalf of fossil fuel clients aiming to sow disinformation around climate change—has at least 24 representatives present at COP28, including CEO Richard Edelman, according to the UN’s participant list.

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