In an unprecedented turn of events, concerns, and demands for the removal of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber from the presidency of the 28th Conference of the Parties COP28 are mounting, with various organizations and climate activists worldwide calling for his ouster. Aljaber, known for his leadership in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) oil and renewables sectors, is facing severe backlash for his alleged manipulation of public relations (PR) campaigns to bolster the UAE’s image on the global stage.
This year’s COP28, a crucial global climate summit, is set to take place in the UAE, putting the spotlight on Aljaber’s controversial leadership. Recent revelations by investigative journalists Ben Stockton and Amy Westervelt, published in The Intercept, shed light on the extensive PR efforts behind Aljaber’s ascent to the helm of COP28.
It has come to light that Aljaber has benefited from three decades of PR collaborations with major American agencies, significantly shaping the UAE’s reputation and influencing his career. Behind the scenes, Aljaber’s management style has been described as domineering, with alarming reports of laptop-throwing incidents and allegations of bullying by former COP28 team members.
Furthermore, there are growing concerns that the boundaries between Aljaber’s role in the oil industry and his position as the overseer of climate negotiations have blurred. Aljaber has adamantly refused to step down from his position at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) despite mounting calls for him to do so due to perceived conflicts of interest. The connection between Adnoc and COP28 is raising eyebrows, with allegations that the COP team operated out of Adnoc headquarters at one point.
Even the UNFCCC raised questions about Adnoc’s access to strategic COP28 documents, revealing that Adnoc employees were still being consulted on how to handle media inquiries related to the summit months after the fact.
In a shocking twist, it has been revealed that one of Aljaber’s advisers at Adnoc, Oliver Phillips, played a key role in steering PR efforts for COP28 while still employed at the oil company. Phillips, while attending a U.N. conference, represented Adnoc without declaring any affiliation on his LinkedIn profile.
The situation further escalates as American PR firms, including APCO, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Edelman, and Teneo, involved in enhancing the UAE’s image, have been found to have blurred the lines between their work for COP28 and their ties with Adnoc and Masdar. According to sources and filings with the U.S. Justice Department, some agencies engaged by COP28 were acting on behalf of Adnoc and Masdar, raising questions about transparency and accountability in the handling of such a critical international event.
With growing criticism and allegations of PR manipulation, it remains to be seen whether the international community will rally to remove Sultan Aljaber from his role as the head of COP28 and address the concerns surrounding his leadership. The controversy has cast a shadow over the upcoming climate negotiations, with many questioning the integrity of the event and the potential consequences for global climate action.