Climate change is a major current affair for which recent United Nations climate conferences aim to build consensus and develop international solutions. The objective of this article is to compare, through the theoretical lens of social representations, the way in which French and German media, specifically newspapers, represent the Bali climate conference. We use the triangulation of data analysis to take both the pragmatic and the semantic aspects of media discourse into account. Results show that German media adopt both a local and a global vision of climate change and of the conference. Religious metaphors highlight a moral dimension of the conference, suggesting anchoring in human and political categories. In contrast, in French media, we identify that conflicts between countries render the stakes of climate change concrete by war metaphors. The French discourses examined are shown to be organised through the anchoring of political and financial categories. Results are discussed in relation to the history of green movements in the two countries and in relation to practical implications. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.