Cop28: Business should be at the centre of climate negotiations

Not only is there no time to waste, there is no need to wait

Solar panels at the Expo 2020 site in, Dubai. EPA
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This week, more than 70,000 people from around the world will converge in Dubai to participate in the climate summit Cop28. In the lead-up to the event, the UAE’s Cop28 Presidency has made no secret of its ambition to make this the most inclusive and consequential Conference of the Parties. And while much of that effort has focused on elevating the voices of historically under-represented communities, and rightly so, a lesser-known determination of the Cop28 Presidency has involved transforming the manner in which the Cop process engages with the private sector.

Most notably, Cop28 will feature the inaugural Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum on December 1 and 2, held in parallel with the World Climate Action Summit. Hosted by the Cop28 Presidency, the Forum will bring together 1,000 leaders from business and philanthropy, along with policymakers and other stakeholders, to exchange ideas, co-create solutions and spur tangible action to support the climate agenda.

Not only is there no time to waste. There is also no need to wait. There are abundant opportunities for business and philanthropy actors to meaningfully engage. In fact, Cop28 and the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum have developed a set of 22 potential actions that chief executives and philanthropists could take right away.

From supporting game-changing climate "moonshots" and breakthrough technologies, and expanding indigenous peoples’ direct access to investment, to accelerating the transformation of food supply chains across the Global South, among many others, the options are diverse and run the gamut of climate and nature-related immediate needs and opportunities.

Most importantly, they provide an accessible way for private sector leaders to move beyond pledges and declarations and into action and implementation, in ways that are suited to their capabilities and competencies.

Naturally, the Forum’s agenda is aligned with the four pillars outlined by the Cop28 Presidency, including fast-tracking the global energy transition, transforming climate finance, putting nature and people at the heart of climate action, and making inclusivity a hallmark. Some of the key areas that will be fleshed out over 100 sessions include: accelerating technology transfer, de-risking green investments, enhancing natural capital, boosting green small and medium enterprises and start-ups, and increasing investment in resilience for vulnerable communities around the world.

Importantly, the outcomes are intended to extend far beyond Cop28. To that end, the Cop28 Business and Philanthropy Forum has established global delivery partnerships with organisations as geographically and functionally diverse as the Sustainable Markets Initiative, International Finance Corporation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Economic Forum, Asian Development Bank, Africa Finance Corporation, Inter-American Development Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and XPrize.

UN chief calls for 'pivotal' Cop28 as global warming effects intensify

UN chief calls for 'pivotal' Cop28 as global warming effects intensify
Philanthropic capital can often be deployed in more flexible, risk-tolerant and patient ways than other forms of finance

Arguably, one of the most substantial impacts that business and philanthropy stakeholders could make is to help fix climate finance. It is estimated that global investments of more than $3 trillion per year will be required to enable the world to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Under the right conditions, the private sector could play the most consequential role in generating the multiplier effect required to take us from billions to trillions and meet that shortfall.

However, for far too long, business and philanthropy have been on the periphery of global climate discussions, often dismissed as a part of the problem. Some may have been OK with that, as it helped them avoid the thorny politics and in some cases even thornier choices involved in addressing the climate crisis, but even those that did want to engage with the process in a constructive way could not always find a way in.

This is a terrible missed opportunity. Private capital markets have more than doubled over the past decade, reaching more than $23 trillion. Philanthropic capital alone flowing through the global financial system every single year is well above $1 trillion dollars. By its nature, philanthropic capital can often be deployed in more flexible, risk-tolerant and patient ways than other forms of finance. Combined, these private capital flows are key to unlocking accessible, affordable and targeted solutions to closing the climate finance gap. And we mustn’t neglect the massive additional contributions that businesses everywhere and of all sizes can make to the climate action agenda through their networks, capacity to innovate, and engagement with local communities.

In the same way that we can no longer decouple the human development agenda from the climate and nature agenda, we can also no longer afford to keep governments, businesses and philanthropists operating in isolation from one another. They must work together and in parallel, collaborating where they can while always playing to their respective strengths. When we get this right, blending capabilities and capital from across these different sectors, we can produce outcomes on the required scale and in a timeframe that not one of individual stakeholder groups could achieve on their own.

Governments at all levels will always have a leading role to play in steering local and global responses to climate change, but there is increasing evidence that the private sector holds the greatest untapped potential for accelerating the implementation of the world’s climate and nature goals. Through initiatives such as the Cop28 Business and Philanthropy Forum, we can engage with this essential community and others in new and constructive ways, in turn creating a more inclusive green agenda that meets our climate and nature goals, while being conducive to social and economic progress in a way that leaves no one behind.

Published: November 27, 2023, 7:00 AM
Updated: November 28, 2023, 12:01 PM