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Hopenhagen: Climate Greenwashing With UN Approval

Posted by keith on June 27th, 2009

hopenhagen message

A new campaign was launched a few days ago, with the blessing of the United Nations: it’s called Hopenhagen. There is clearly a huge level of creative genius behind the name (ok, I’m being sarcastic), as you can tell it is a portmanteau word, consisting of “hope” and “copenhagen”, and indeed it is intended to be the start of a massive advertising push to provide “a platform for individuals around the world to participate and have a say in the future of the world.”

That last bit was extracted from the Hopenhagen press release, as issued by IAA Global:

(June 23, 2009 – Cannes, France) The United Nations, together with the International Advertising Association and a coalition of the world’s leading advertising, marketing and media agencies today launched Hopenhagen – a movement that empowers global citizens to engage in the December United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen – at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Hopenhagen is a global marketing and communications initiative that will inspire and generate mass activation around the world.

“Climate change is one of the epic challenges facing this and future generations. World leaders will come together for the Copenhagen climate change conference in December and every citizen of the world has a stake in the outcome. It is time to seal a deal. We need a global movement that mobilizes real change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Hopenhagen is about more than hope. “It is about global action for a global climate treaty and a better future for humankind,” Ban added.

Delegates from 192 nations will meet in December in Copenhagen to ratify a new international global climate treaty, which will take effect when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Recognizing the tremendous role that communications will play leading up to and during the Conference, the United Nations engaged the global advertising and media industry through the International Advertising Association (IAA) to develop a comprehensive communications program to drive public awareness and generate action. Hopenhagen will complement the UN’s “Seal the Deal!” campaign, which calls on world leaders to “unite to find a solution to climate change that is fair, balanced, effective and science-based.”

“Climate change is a universal challenge, and we believe the world’s citizens are ready to act – they are just seeking the right platform,” said IAA Executive Director Michael Lee. “The strategy and stunning creative concept for the Hopenhagen idea came from WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather team, digital framework and direction were developed by MDC Partner’s Colle+McVoy, and the global PR and messaging plans spearheaded by Omnicom’s Ketchum. The collaboration that has taken place among the world’s leading agencies to develop this campaign for the United Nations is unprecedented and a testament to the significance the industry places on the need for action to address climate change.”

This raises a hell of a lot of questions: not least that if Hopenhagen is the brainchild of an industry that depends on continuous consumer spending for its existence, how could it be sustainable in any way? More worrying, though, that the advertising industry seems to have the support of the United Nations.

While on the surface Hopenhagen appears to have United Nations approval, there is actually nothing on the press release that links the two organisations (IAA and UN) directly. Have they used authority by association? It turns out that the UN are actually a big part of this. A United Nations press release from 2008, says:



A new public awareness partnership to support United Nations-led efforts to promote a new global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen next December was launched today by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than 20 advertising industry leaders of the international advertising community.

Initiated by the International Advertising Association (UN-IAA), and timed to coincide with the opening of the sixty-third United Nations General Assembly and the fifth annual Advertising Week in New York, the new partnership marks a milestone in private sector support for action on climate change. The partnership builds on the International Advertising Association’s social responsibility programmes with the United Nations, a desire by the organizers of Advertising Week to galvanize the forces of the advertising community for a common, larger good, and support from the most powerful leaders of the global communications industry to come up with strategic solutions to one of the most important issues facing the planet today.

Michael Lee, Executive Director of the International Advertising Association, said, “It has become increasingly clear that the complexities of climate change issues present a communications challenge with both policymakers and the general public. The global ad community can make a significant contribution to help change consumer behaviour, influence public policy, and help the UN make further progress on this issue. The ultimate selling proposition might just be saving the planet.”

Mr. Ban stated, “We need action on climate change, and I applaud the determination of the advertising industry to help. As climate change affects everyone, everywhere, the UN needs partners in the private sector and in civil society to mobilize and spur action. Now is the time for action, and we welcome this assistance from the advertising community, which will bolster our present capacities.”

So has the advertising industry decided to abandon its work ensuring infinite economic growth and stop working with corporations; has the United Nations gone corporate and made the 2009 Copenhagen Summit a front for business as usual; or has the IAA stymied the UN entirely, leaving the UN thinking (with its collective mind) this is a really good idea for the planet?

The first question is easy to address — go to the IAA Global website, and straight away you see who the big players are in the organisation:

Hopenhagen IAA

I also know, from various experiments carried out, that any anti-corporate messages on the laughable “global community” message page are deleted from the message list (that doesn’t mean I don’t encourage you to try and ruin the database). After getting the message total up to 90,000 — with the help of a few good friends — the counter was reset overnight, and the list became moderated. In fact, I suspect that now the only reason the counter is going up is because members of IAA are adding their own messages. Clearly any dissenting views will not be tolerated: we can Hope for change, but it won’t happen through Hopenhagen.

Which means that either the UN is a corporate body; or they have been greenwashed.

It would be tempting, if not satisfying, to think the latter — surely the United Nations wouldn’t take the corporate shilling in place of standing up for the planet in general, would they?

But they would. As I showed in this article about the Climate Group (“businesses and civil society are all discovering that the move towards a low-carbon economy, far from costing the Earth, can actually save money and invigorate growth“), Ban Ki-Moon doesn’t miss an opportunity to mention economic growth in his speeches — listen for yourself, next time he speaks. But here’s the real clincher: the UN’s own Seal The Deal campaign (basically a petition) which was mentioned in the Hopenhagen press release above is, above all, an attempt to ensure the global economy can continue growing (my emphasis below):

On December 7, world leaders will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to respond to one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: climate change and sustainable economic growth. But how to protect the planet and create a green economy that will lead to long-term prosperity? The negotiations in Copenhagen will need to answer this question. Our existence depends on it.

Reaching a deal by the time the meeting ends on December 18 will depend not only on political negotiations but also on public pressure from around the globe. Public support must be galvanized. To do this, the United Nations has launched “Seal the Deal”, a campaign that encourages users to sign an online, global petition which will be presented to world leaders. The petition will serve as a reminder that world leaders must negotiate a fair, balanced and effective agreement in Copenhagen, and that they must seal a deal to power green growth, protect our planet and build a more sustainable, prosperous global economy that will benefit all nations and all people.

If you know what “green growth” means then please tell me, but as is very clear indeed; economic growth is what has caused the global environmental situation we see now. As I wrote in a recent Earth Blog article:

“The rich and powerful have no intention of changing; they want things to carry on as they have done since Industrial Civilization was first created. For them, the worst thing that can happen is for the Economy that has fed their – and our – dreams to power down and fail. For the planet, and every single natural habitat, food web and species on it, the best thing that can happen is for that destructive thing called Economic Growth to be turned on its head, and buried for good.”

As for this horrible little, advertising driven campaign known as Hopenhagen: it’s greenwashing, and nothing more.

26 Responses to “Hopenhagen: Climate Greenwashing With UN Approval”

  1. michael kelly Says:

    You mean brain washing don’t you. Screw you and your cap and scam tax. Go green my ass!

  2. keith Says:

    Screw me, Michael; or screw them?

    I don’t remember ever supporting cap and trade/tax/scam/pollute – that’s what governments do.

  3. Pranab Says:

    Hopenhagen is the corniest name ever. I’m usually rational about such things, but sorry – I just can’t get past the silliness on the name.

  4. Jim Reid Says:

    The recent release of hacked e-mails showing fraud and decite in the
    claim of global warming give me hope that this insanity about human
    caused global warming is beginning to end. Future generations will
    laugh at the ridiculous claims made and will pay closer attention to
    how science deals with problems in the future.

  5. keith Says:

    Hi Jim

    If you could just point me in the direction of the emails that undermine the scientific basis for anthropgenic global warming then I’ll be sure to read them.



  6. Jim Reid Says: The listed web site is to help Keith and anyone else who doubts read the truth. A google search is also

  7. keith Says:

    Jim, I am being very fluid with my comment policy (should stick to the article in question) only because this is very topical, please don’t veer off this thread. I would rather not use the opinions of WSJ as they have a history of climate change denial, so instead I would recommend their (albeit selective) page of raw emails:

    The problem here is that they are all out of context. Granted, the people involved have been monumentally stupid in using certain phrases, and (undoubtedly) suggesting hiding data, but without the entire threads of conversation it’s pretty difficult to know the basis on which the phrases were used. Don’t forget there is an ongoing, and very nasty battle going on between the industry-sponsored (and government approved) denial position, and a load of scientists who are trying to be as objective as possible. How would you feel if for every peer-reviewed article you produced there were 100 articles that had not gone through the same rigours taking the opposite position, mostly in tabloid newspapers and on astroturf web sites?

    I would be pretty pissed off, and very defensive. In fact I would probably develop a bit of a siege mentality, which is what the emails seem to be suggesting. In essence, the people named in the emails are trying to make sure there is nothing at all that the denialists can use against them that is not in the public domain: remember that most observations are actually publically available, so if the denialists wanted to create their own opposing data sets and models then they could easily do so, but they are conspicuously absent.

    The emails look bad, but the raw data hasn’t changed, and so the outcomes remain the same.

  8. keith Says:

    [N.B. Accidentally deleted this comment from Jim Reid (see above) so posting as myself, unedited]

    The whole idea of global warming is based on “speculative science”. This means
    creating “models” not based on any kind of scientific fact. This is your “raw
    date” whatever that means.

    “Taking our of context” is the only defense so far for the despicable manipulations
    described. Since you don’t know the context they were written in and the “hacker”
    does it makes more sense to believe the hackers. If the scientists involved ever
    get around to putting all statements “in context” I will look forward to reading it.

    In the meantime and until the global warming advocates prove their point it makes no
    sense to damage our economy and give Al Gore billions. Not to worry really as I just
    returned from India and their increase in emissions will continue to offset your savings
    as they develop. They aren’t dumb enough to believe that the science that can’t forecast
    weather three days in advance have the answer to screw future generations. Obama is on
    his own.”

  9. keith Says:

    Ok, Jim, this is my last response, and only for readers’ benefit, because there is no point me trying to change your mind.

    Paragraph 1: Yes, if forecasting the future. However, there have already been changes to the climate which have been very accurately correlated with regression models. Feel free to ignore the changes up to now, or ascribe them to subspots, axis tilt or volcanic eruptions, but you’ll need to find a correlation first.

    Paragraph 2: The hacker probably doesn’t know the context because (s)he (or rather the company that paid them) will have stolen the entire mail database and reassembled it on another server. It’s a bastard picking up the threads using this approach, hence the cherry-picking. Michael Mann has already put his statements in context on DeSmogBlog; I too look forward to hearing what the others have to say.

    Paragraph 3: Don’t you understand? If people *really* understand what it will take to stop AGW then the mainstream advocates will be off like a shot. Gore, Obama et al want to continue economic growth; but it cannot continue – it has to shrink. Please read this: And even if you don’t believe we are changign the climate; maybe you’d like to comment on the diminishing fish stocks; the denuded rainforests; the toxic spoil tips polluting groundwater and rivers worldwide; the polluted Chinese and Indian city air; the accelerating species extinctions: all a product of your beloved Economic Growth.

    Perhaps you would like to take your message to the millions of people in rural northern India that depend on the regular growth and then melting of Himalayan glaciers; the glaciers that are no longer growing enough.

    “Glacier retreat was dominant in the 20th century, except for a decade or two around 1970, when some glaciers gained mass and even reacted with re-advances of a few hundred metres. After 1980 ice loss and glacier retreat was dominant again. In Bhutan, Eastern Himalaya, an eight per cent glacier area loss was observed between 1963 and 1993 (Karma et al. 2003). Berthier et al. (2007) used remote sensing data to investigate glacier thickness changes in the Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalaya. They found an annual ice thickness loss of about 0.8 m w.e. per year between 1999 and 2004 – about twice the long-term rate of the period 1977–1999. In China, the overall glacier area loss is estimated at about 20 per cent since the maximum extent in the 17th century (Su and Shi 2002). The area loss since the 1960s is estimated to about 6 per cent, and is more pronounced in the Chinese Himalaya, Qilian Mountains and Tien Shan, but with rather small recessions in the hinterland of the Tibetan plateau (Li et al. in press). Over the 20th century, glacier area is estimated to have decreased by 25–35 per cent in the Tien Shan (Podrezov et al. 2002, Kutuzov 2005, Narama et al. 2006, Bolch 2007), by 30–35 per cent in the Pamirs (Yablokov 2006), and by more than 50 per cent in northern Afghanistan (Yablokov 2006).”


    The northern Indian, Nepalese, Bhutanian and Bangladeshi people already see what is happening to their water supply.

    Oh, and by convoluting weather with climate you have formally made your argument bunk :-)

  10. Jim Reid Says:

    Earlier Keith said “The emails look bad, but the raw data hasn’t changed, and so the outcomes remain the same.” Well, it was reported today that when the peer review asked for this
    “raw data” the environmentalist scientists admitted they had destroy it.

    The expose goes on. Keith relies on just a bunch of political hacks under
    the name of science. Just like old snake oil salesmen.

  11. keith Says:

    Jim has commented twice more – I am not showing these as they are simply perpetuating a conversation between two people which no one else is reading. Jim, please go to Real Climate where this is currently actively being debated.

  12. Jim Reid Says:

    I attempted to make a comment, following the instructions,
    but nothing appeared. Mine should have been #345 according
    to the count. I was commenting on an op/ed by E. Robinson
    that appeared today and this is my answer.

    There can be no honest climate debate until the recent e-mail scandal is investigated
    that suggests a fudging of the statistics and a cover up. Mr. Robinson makes no
    mention of this which is central to a current discussion on climate change.

    He relies on statistics which indicate developing countries are the biggest contributors
    and, it has been reported, they will oppose any new required standard that would
    harm their development.

    Fortunately only liberals seem to believe that economic suicide by the developed
    economies is the only way to solve a problem that we may not be able to do
    anything about should it exist in the first place. Developing economies seem to
    place the welfare of their populace over an unproven idea.

  13. keith Says:

    I’m sure your comment will appear, Jim – they do allow all sorts of opinions.

    Development is fine so long as it benefits an entire population; “development” based on trade always harms the general population in the poorest countries because power is taken away from the individual and put into the hands of commerce.

  14. Jim Reid Says:

    A reading of your last sentence is so far off the wall
    it makes no sense. Trade is the ONLY way for poor countries
    to improve the conditions of their poor. China is a great
    example of success and Africa is also an example of a failure
    to develop any trade.

    No country can exist by being self contained. Albania failed
    and they kept everyone out. Cuba is a great example of
    failure as is Zimbabwe which at one time was prosperous but
    blew it.

  15. keith Says:

    And there you show your true colours, Jim: “improve the conditions of their poor”, as if the government owns the people. China is a great example of economic success; and slave labour, filthy air, driven out villagers, urban clearances, prisoners of conscience…all in the name of “progress”.

    There is currently a reverse flow taking place from the slums of the Chinese east back to the rural heartland, by those who have been exploited in the name of economic growth. Those who benefit are the turds the top of the barrel; this is nothing to do with benefitting the people, it is all about benefitting the elite, and I suspect you know this but can’t bring yourself to imagine that the precious industrial / technological manifestation of human society could do anything but good for all mankind.

    N.B. Zimbabwe failed because it was led by a despot who decided that trading in tobacco and feathering his cronies’ nests was more important than allowing people to feed themselves and their communities. The failures of a heirarchical system are writ large in both this and the Albanian dictatorship. Cuba is not quite that simple – it nearly became self-sufficient in food, but also wants to embrace the Western lifestyle, so imports a lot of oil.

    I will give you one reply and then close this thread. If you want more information about the delights of the free market, I suggest you read “The Shock Doctrine”.

  16. Jim Reid Says:

    First you condemn trade then free markets. You have
    no idea what you are talking about. NO command
    economy has ever succeeded. If command economies
    were to succeed the Soviet Union would dominate the
    world today.

    I spent most of my working life active in international
    trade. I know what I am talking about. I have been to
    China numerous times, Cuba twice and have watched the
    success of free trade and free market capitalism bring
    once impoverished countries out of the depths of failure.

    Your claims are not worth any more discussion as they are
    not based on reality. You obviously fall into the failure

  17. keith Says:

    Correction: you don’t know what *I’m* talking about. Have you never heard of community?

    How very silly.

  18. Naomi Neu Says:

    Well, that was a startling confirmation of a serious doubt that flashed into my mind today when I saw the Hopenhagen campaign billboard. It occurred to me that the serious predicament could be a ‘good market’ and seriously manipulated on a corporate basis. Money is the universal language of our age and enough smart talk of an ecologic economy could lead a huge swell of consumerism, the very thing we must eradicate to propagate clean living and ensure our planet’s habitation. The effects of such could be disastrous…but then I thought in relief, no. The Copenhagen Summit is overseen by the UN and therefore impermeable.

    To those who question the validity of of global-warming: wake up. The evidence is overwhelming and the window for research grows smaller with each day. There is no need to live in smog-filled cities any more, we have evolved beyond the murky past of the industrial age when even air was sacrificed for money. Who can even entertain the possibility of drought and floods? It’s not necessary, everything we need for a clean life is within reach. Green is the best possible future anyone could wish for.

  19. Jim Reid Says:

    It is well established that the “raw data”
    scientists have used to justify their speculative
    forecasts has been manipulated and the orginal
    data destroyed as admitted by the e-mails.

    [Jim, you need to substantiate this with something more than speculation: saying “It is well established” doesn’t make something true. “It is well established that AZT causes AIDS”, is something certain alternative-remedy suppliers would love people to believe, but the “establishment” is only in their heads.]

    Naomi Nue can’t seem to distinguish between global
    warming and the foul air caused by smog. No one
    advocates all the chemical compounds released in the
    air be increased. Carbon which is the focus of global
    warming is the substance of life.

    [That’s the CEI line – “we call it life” – to which I respond, “So go and stand in a room full of carbon dioxide.”]

    You want a reliable non polluting source of energy?
    Nuclear is your answer but the “greens” can’t stomach
    that truth. They have a different agenda.

    [Depends what you mean by “non polluting” – is excessive radiation not pollution, then?]

    Naoomi and I do agree on one proposition. Al Gore heads
    an evil corporation that makes huge sums off of the

    [What are his audited tax returns compared to, say Exxon, DuPont, Duke Energy, GE etc?]

    By the way Naomi you didn’t list the awful effects of being
    in the path of a recent hurricanes. I guess you know the season
    just ended and none of the hurricanes reached our coast. Let’s
    give credit to the global cooling that has been happening
    over the last 10 years that can be credited for reducing this

    [Or you could just listen to the majority of climate scientists who said (after Katrina) that they could not put hurricane increases down to global warming just yet, because there are not enough data points to correlate weather events accurately with global warming. Also, bear in mind, that local conditions are far more important for weather events over the short term – it helps having taught meteorology :-) ]

  20. keith Says:

    I’m rather enjoying this :-)

  21. Jim Reid Says:

    The admission that destruction of “raw data” occured
    is contained in the e-mails

    [Please quote these emails and state how important the data is]

    Carbon is necessary for life. Asserting “room full” is just
    plain silly for hundreds of reasons

    [I only want twelve of these reasons for now]

    Excessive radiation is another canard. Radiation does NOT

    [Please stand beside a uranium rod then]

    No dispute that Al Gore makes hundreds of millions of dollars
    providing nothing but fear. Careful about GE. They are broke
    and can only survive with “green energy” dictates.

    [Hundreds of millions; I’m still waiting for the audited accounts. GE latest profit, October 16: $2.45 billion]

    Nice to hear finally that Keith admits the “raw date” is incomplete
    If he taught anything it helps explain the spread of misinformation
    that has happened throughout our education system.

    [Of course it’s incomplete, how can you collect *all* the data?!]

  22. keith Says:

    Jim has been blocked from commenting further for being offensive and personal – I must have hit a raw nerve.

  23. Pamela Says:

    I see all the petition websites up for “Hopenhagen”..but where do we petition AGAINST IT?? Any help in this area would be a blessing….Have been trying to get the word out about this crazy greed scamm….Hope we are all not too late…Looks like revolution is beginning to me..

  24. rony Says:

    President Obama isn’t about to let a trifle like democratic consent impede his climate agenda.

    With cap and trade blown apart in the Senate, the White House has chosen to impose taxes and regulation across the entire economy under clean-air laws that were written decades ago and were never meant to apply to carbon. With this doomsday machine activated, Mr. Obama hopes to accomplish what persuasion and debate among his own party manifestly cannot.

    OpinionJournal Related Stories:
    The ‘Absurd Results’ Doctrine
    Terms of Endangerment
    Reckless Endangerment
    Obama’s Carbon Ultimatum
    .This reckless “endangerment finding” is a political ultimatum: The many Democrats wary of levelling huge new costs on their constituents must surrender, or else the EPA’s carbon police will inflict even worse consequences.

    The gambit is also meant to coerce businesses, on the theory that they’ll beg for cap and trade once the command-and-control regulatory pain grows too acute—not to mention the extra bribes in the form of valuable carbon permits that Democrats, since you ask, are happy to dispense. Ms. Jackson appealed to “the science” and waved off any political implications, yet the formal finding was not coincidentally announced at the start of the U.N.’s Copenhagen climate conference (see above).

    This ruling has been inevitable since at least April and we warned about it during Mr. Obama’s campaign, but its cynicism and willfulness still astonish. The political threat is so potent precisely because invoking a faulty interpretation of the 1970 Clean Air Act will expose hundreds of thousands of “major” sources of emissions that produce more than 250 tons of an air pollutant in a year to the EPA’s costly and onerous review process. This threshold might be reasonable for traditional “dirty” pollutants (such as NOX) but it makes no sense for ubiquitous carbon, which is the byproduct of almost all types of economic production.

    The White House knows this, which is why earlier this fall Ms. Jackson announced a “tailoring rule” that limits this regulation to sources that emit more than 25,000 or more tons a year like coal-fired power plants and heavy manufacturing. Ms. Jackson claims this unilateral rewrite of a statute is a concession, but its real purpose is to dodge a political backlash while still preserving the EPA’s ability to threaten business and recalcitrant Democrats.

    For now, this decision moves into the courts, and years if not decades of litigation. Yet the decision really is historic: The White House has opened a Pandora’s box that will be difficult to close, that is breathtakingly undemocratic, and that the country, if not liberal politicians, will come to regret.

    [Yeah, rony, love your “With this doomsday machine activated” – really makes carbon sound like the unimportant thing it is. Now back to reality – you basically don’t want to hurt the wonderful capital economy that makes the American Dream possible: correction, the “New American Dream”, the one that’s satisfied by sitting in front of a f***-off 60″ plasma with the air con going and the 4×4 on the drive that you can jump in any time you want to go 100 yards to the shops to buy one of 200 different types of potato chip. Sounds like a nightmare to me; and one that might just be dented a bit by the EPA change :-) ]

  25. keith Says:

    Pamela, you don’t need a petition – petitions don’t make things happen, they just make people thing they have done something. Just keep spreading the word that “hope” is a myth and Copenhagen is just another city, not the keys to our future.

    If you can get this link on Alternet and Indymedia then it might help a lot. People need to get angry, not sign bits of paper or, worse, tick electronic boxes.

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