The role design can play in the COP summits and beyond

With COP28 kicking off, Michael Johnson from Johnson Banks reflects on the impact of the conferences, the responsibility designers have, and the limitations of design in the climate space

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC is holding its 28th conference this year. Running from today until December 12, this time COP28 takes place in Dubai, which has stoked controversy with critics saying it’s a conflict of interest to have Sultan Al Jaber, the head of the UAE’s national oil company, taking charge of the most important climate conference of the year.

While it’s unknown what impact this will have on the conference, in a creative sense there’s been a lot of talk recently around the role of design in the climate and environmental space, and how the visual language in this sector has been evolving.

“Done well, and communicated carefully, I think that design and communications can make a difference. But it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of greenwashing, overclaiming, and bluff and bluster, so it’s beholden on communicators and clients to be careful what they take on, for whom, and how they do it,” says Michael Johnson, founder of Johnson Banks.

Top and above: COP26 identity. All images Johnson Banks