ABU DHABI — After leaving SC Johnson last year, Alan VanderMolen has relocated to Abu Dhabi to lead communications for the UN's COP28 climate talks in November. 

VanderMolen was brought in earlier this year as senior advisor and communications director for COP28 UAE. He reports to COP28 CEO Adnan Amin, while the event is headed by president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber — whose role has attracted criticism from climate activists because of his existing position as CEO of Abu Dhabi state-owned oil company ADNOC.

VanderMolen confirmed his 18-month role with PRovoke Media, which includes an ongoing tender to identify two PR firms to provide communications and social media support, respectively. COP28 UAE previously hired Edelman to handle its launch communications efforts, although that contract ended in April. 

VanderMolen told PRovoke Media that he took on the position because of the "transformational opportunity", and brushed aside the sustained criticism that Al Jaber's role has received — including from the former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, who described the latter's approach “dangerous”.

"There's a real opportunity for the UAE to deliver a transformational COP," said VanderMolen. "It's the first global stock take, which will tell us we're off track. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I believe in the COP and the UAE's ability to deliver it.

"The criticism is an unnecessary and unfortunate distraction from the important work," he added. "It would be nice if we could all unite to fight climate change instead of finger pointing, and get the world back on track."

VanderMolen claimed to be unsurprised about the scrutiny of Al Jaber, describing it as "lazy reporting." "If you dig a little bit deeper you can see the rationale and resolve," he said. "At the end of the day, let's just let the results speak for themselves."

VanderMolen previously spent almost three years as chief communications officer at SC Johnson, before leaving the CPG company at the end of last year. He earlier worked for Edelman for 13 years, prior to a three year stint as WE's international president.

VanderMolen leads external communications for COP28, including global media relations, policy communication, and social media, leading a team of more than 30 professionals, including external consultancies. 

Edelman also supports the UAE's state-owned renewables company Masdar, which is chaired by Al Jaber.

The FT earlier reported that COP28 had brought in former Downing Street aide David Canzini in a senior communications role. Canzini's role is understood to be part of COP28's contract with CT Group, the lobbying company led by right-wing political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby. VanderMolen confirmed both developments.