In January, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it would host the COP28 UN climate summit later this year and that Sultan Al Jaber, UAE climate envoy and CEO of state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, would be the summit president. The fact that a major oil-producing country will be organising the world’s most important climate event in a critical year for climate action has not gone unnoticed among climate NGOs and policymakers around the world.
Since then researchers have found evidence of the UAE’s COP28 team possibly leading covert influence operations online by attempting to edit Wikipedia pages, as well as “unusual” Twitter behaviour. Speaking on these ‘greenwashing’ accusations, ISD’s Head of Climate Research and Policy, Jennie King, says to CNN: it “raises a lot of alarm bells about how much these kinds of influence operations are going to ramp up and become more sophisticated and complex as we get nearer to the time.”
The article references Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD)’s research flagging more than two dozen Twitter accounts that seem to be associated with the UAE’s public relations efforts ahead of the summit. These accounts have exhibited an “unusual quote-tweeting behaviour,” amplifying either the UAE’s COP28 main Twitter account or other accounts posting about COP28. Jennie highlighted that these accounts “seem to align uncannily with the key messages that are coming out of petrochemical states and in particular, the UAE,” although it isn’t possible to confirm that they are affiliated with the UAE.
“The country is responsible not only for physically hosting people and setting the tenor and the tone of the event, but also for coordinating the agenda and setting out what the key articles of negotiation and focus are going to be over the next six to eight months, is very clearly working against its own economic business model in hosting the event.”