Fossil Fuel Friendly Daily Mail Firm Handed £500k Government Contract to Run UK COP28 Events

The company, which organises conferences for the oil and gas industry, was awarded the contract without competition.
The Dubai Exhibition Centre where COP28 opens today. Credit: UNFCCC (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The UK’s events at this year’s COP28 summit will be hosted by a Daily Mail events firm that specialises in organising exhibitions for the oil and gas industry, DeSmog can reveal. 

Government records show that dmg events, which is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), will be paid £545,000 for “commissioning and delivering pavilion and office space for the UK’s COP28 delegation taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)”.

The contract was awarded without being advertised, according to the government records. The reason for this is not stated explicitly, but the notice says that it may have been “because for example only one supplier is capable of delivering the requirement, or due to extreme urgency brought about by unforeseen events”.

The government told DeSmog that dmg events was providing “logistical support” for all countries represented at COP28, suggesting that officials were not allowed to open the contract to competition. 

Over 70,000 delegates are descending on the UAE this week for the 12 day COP28 summit, running from 30 November to 12 December, with world leaders attempting to forge an agreement on how to restrict global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a rapidly diminishing window.

Only UN-accredited individuals – world leaders, country representatives, media and NGOs – are able to access the ‘Blue Zone’, where the UK will host its pavilion. These spaces provide governments with a pop-up station for the fortnight to promote their energy vision to delegates and host talks and other networking events. 

The UK pavilion will feature 62 events on subjects including green finance, offshore wind, and phasing out coal power. 

Dmg events, which is headquartered in Dubai, organises an array of events for the oil and gas industry. The firm’s energy events brochure lists 40 flagship conferences that it is organising for the energy sector between October 2023 and November 2024. 

In its annual accounts, the DMGT lists the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) as the company’s biggest event. Hosted by Adnoc, the UAE’s state-owned oil and gas firm, ADIPEC is reportedly the world’s largest energy exhibition.

It appears that dmg events has worked on ADIPEC since at least 2012. 

Adnoc intends to increase its oil production by more than any other fossil fuel firm in the world, according to data from the Global Oil and Gas Exit List (Gogel). Adnoc said that Gogel’s data and assumptions were “incorrect and misleading” but has not provided its own figures.

Dmg events boasts of having a “global database of 2 million global energy contacts”, and runs a series of energy “clubs” for oil and gas executives. “The invitation-only energy clubs are specifically intended to offer exclusivity and privacy for the industry’s most senior executives and influential individuals,” the firm’s energy brochure says.

Dmg events hosts energy clubs for Adnoc and for Saudi Arabia. Like the UAE, which is the world’s 11th largest oil and gas producer, Saudi Arabia is a major oil and gas producing nation. 

“The choice of contractor for this work is baffling,” said Tom Brake, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy. “Why choose a company which works so closely with the oil industry to work at COP? But what is equally astonishing is the grounds on which the contract was awarded without being advertised.”

Brake said that he would be asking the National Audit Office, the UK’s independent state spending watchdog, if the government followed the correct procedures. 

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “dmg events are providing logistical support for all countries represented at COP28 and they have no role in the design of the UK pavilion events programme. The cost of the contract is covered entirely by private sector sponsorship.”

The firm has also been awarded a £59,000 contract for “commissioning and delivering office space for the negotiating groups supported by the UK-funded Climate Ambition Support Alliance (CASA) programme at COP28”. This contract was also awarded without competition.

The dmg events energy events brochure says that “We are committed to creating a sustainable future for our planet and our communities”. It also states that many of its events are focused on the transition to renewable energy.

The DMGT, dmg events, and the Daily Mail were approached for comment. 

The Daily Mail

Dmg events is a wholly owned subsidiary of the DMGT, which also owns the right-wing newspaper the Daily Mail. 

The DMGT annual accounts for the year ending September 2022 state that the firm generated £100 million in revenue on events and exhibitions in 2022 – an increase from £34 million the year before.

Gastech is listed as one of the firm’s biggest events – an annual trade show that claims to be the world’s largest “energy exhibition and conference for natural gas, LNG, hydrogen, climate technologies, and low-carbon solutions.”

The 2023 event, hosted in Singapore, featured an exclusive “fireside chat” with former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is currently a Daily Mail columnist. 

Dmg events boasts of the success of the Daily Mail in its energy events brochure. It states that “with origins as one of the UK’s most successful newspaper companies, we now have a large and engaged audience in the UK and globally. As the digital world changed the face of media we extended the Daily Mail brand online, where it is one of the world’s most popular newspaper websites.”

The Daily Mail has been a prominent critic of climate policies in recent months. 

Nearly a third (30 percent) of the Daily Mail’s online editorial comment pieces, expressing the newspaper’s views, published this year contained climate scepticism, DeSmog found.

All 37 comment pieces written on environmental topics were anti-green – they undermined net zero targets, mocked environmental protests, or underplayed the impacts of climate change.

The paper attacked the “true cost of reaching net zero”, without addressing the cost of delaying action on climate change. The reaction of campaigners and experts to the UK government’s approval of North Sea oil and gas licences was dubbed “a predictable outpouring of hysteria from the green lobby”. Another editorial article celebrated Rishi Sunak’s delay on the ban of new petrol and diesel cars as a “stunning victory” for the paper and its associated campaign.

There is no evidence of a link between the Daily Mail’s editorial stance towards green issues and the commercial interests of dmg events. 

This year’s COP summit has already been marred by controversy. The COP presidency is held by Sultan Al Jaber, head of Adnoc, and leaked documents this week revealed that the UAE planned to use the summit to strike oil and gas deals. Al Jaber has denies these claims.

Al Jaber has previously stated that fossil fuels should “continue to play a role in the foreseeable future” – a statement labelled as “very dangerous” by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.

The UK was also this week accused of trying to reset the country’s climate credentials ahead of COP28, after announcing a hunt for a new national park in England. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rolled back a number of net zero targets in September, and in July approved hundreds of new oil and gas licences, a move campaigners said would send a “wrecking ball” through the UK’s climate commitments.

Additional research by Joey Grostern

Sam is DeSmog’s UK Deputy Editor. He was previously the Investigations Editor of Byline Times and an investigative journalist at the BBC. He is the author of two books: Fortress London, and Bullingdon Club Britain.
Phoebe Cooke headshot - credit Laura King Photography
Phoebe joined DeSmog in 2020. She is currently co-deputy editor and was previously the organisation's Senior Reporter.

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