Members of Sultan Al Jaber’s team suggested that Wikipedia editors remove reference to a multibillion-dollar oil pipline deal he signed in 2019, the Centre for Climate Reporting and the Guardian have revealed.
They also added a quote that said Al Jaber – the United Arab Emirates minister for industry and advanced technology – was “precisely the kind of ally the climate movement needs”.
Al Jaber is CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), which is carrying out a major expansion of the UAE’s fossil fuel production, as well as the UAE’s climate tsar.
A series of anyonymous Wikipedia edits since March last year sought to play down his involvement in the oil business.
One unknown user, who revealed they were being paid by Adnoc, suggested editors remove a reference to a $4bn agreement Al Jaber signed in 2019 for the development of oil pipeline infrastructure with US investment firms BlackRock and KKR.
The user also recommended that editors delete a quote from the Financial Times, which pointed out the conflict between Al Jaber’s role as climate tsar and CEO of Adnoc. They suggested that the page instead say the company was using the profits from this increased oil output to “invest in carbon capture and green fuel technologies”.
Cop28 will be held in Dubai in November. Last week, 130 US and EU lawmakers called on Al Jaber to be removed from his post as the summit’s president.
“Oil companies and their CEOs are taking greenwash to a whole new level – seizing control of global climate conferences, then getting their own employees to airbrush out criticism of their blatant hypocrisy on Wikipedia,” said Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP.
A spokesperson for Adnoc told the Guardian: “We are very proud of Dr Sultan’s achievements as a global energy leader and regularly review content to ensure accuracy. Update requests were submitted to Wikipedia in the spring and summer of 2022, which were fully transparent and compliant as per Wikipedia’s guidelines.”
However, the general public is keen to weed out those that are greenwashing from the ones that are genuinely dedicated to sustainable practices.
So, what exactly is greenwashing?
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing refers to forms of advertising and marketing that deceptively claim a company is dedicated to being environmentally friendly.
In other words, it is when businesses make false or misleading statements about their sustainability practices to encourage consumers to spend more money on their products or services. Politicians, fashion brands and oil companies among others are often accused of adopting greenwashing strategies to cover up the reality of their unsustainable practices.
The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network analysed 500 websites in 2021 and found that up to 40 per cent of environmentally friendly claims might be misleading customers.
Greenwashing has increased in recent years to meet consumer demand for environmentally friendly products.
Why have the Cop climate summits been accused of greenwashing?
This year’s UN Cop climate summit is not the first to be hit with controversy.
They believe that Egypt, which has been deemed authoritarian by numerous watchdogs and accused of violating human rights, was using the climate change conference to seem more environmentally friendly and ethical.
The current Egyptian government is estimated to have imprisoned 60,000 political prisoners including environmentalists and climate activists.
The US state department previously revealed that it had noted significant human rights issues in the country, including unlawful killings, forced disappearances, torture and life-threatening prison conditions.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined thousands of others and signed a human rights coalition petition asking Egypt to open up civic space and release its political prisoners.
The summit was also sponsored by Coca-Cola, which was named the “world’s top polluter” in an audit from Break Free From Plastic. More than 250,000 people signed a petition for the sponsorship to be revoked.
The company admitted in 2019 that it uses three million tonnes of plastic packaging a year.