The business sector has not been seen as a true partner at climate conferences but Cop28 will seek to change that, Cop28 Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy has said.
Badr Jafar, a leading Emirati business executive, said business representatives can be treated like “people who are really unwanted” and that perspective needed to shift if the world was to tackle climate change.
Mr Jafar said both sectors could help smooth the disruptive “discontinuity” between annual climate summits.
“Cop28 is working to see how we can institutionalise, as part of the Cop process, business and philanthropy engagement to make sure we are moving from pledges, accords and announcements to impact and implementation,” said Mr Jafar, who will head the Cop28 business and philanthropy climate forum.
Speaking on the sidelines of the “Unveiling Cop28" event in Dubai on Wednesday, Mr Jafar also spoke about a “trust gap” in the global climate conversation, why financial entities such as the World Bank are not seen as representing the views of all, and why criticism of the UAE as hosts of the crucial talks was “cloaked in hypocrisy”.
First turning to climate finance, Mr Jafar said many previous pledges have been “completely forgotten”. Nations have still to commit to the $100 billion a year in annual climate finance but experts believe trillions of dollars are needed a year.
Enter business and philanthropy. The forum takes place on December 1 and 2 during the leaders summit and aims to “break down barriers between policy and business”, he said. About 500 business leaders are set to attend and the aim is for them to pledge to act in specific areas where they feel they can make a difference.
A collective announcement is also in the works. Details will not be announced until Cop28.
“We are trying to think of collective announcements that will be meaningful and measurable,” said Mr Jafar.
“How can we track the progress of that over Cops? Maybe we can look at a private sector stocktake.”
Criticism has been 'cloaked in a lot of hypocrisy'
Turning to what he described as a “trust gap” in the climate conversation, Mr Jafar said there were 600 million people without access to electricity in Africa.
“If one doesn’t understand and appreciate what some of those realities on the ground are, there is no way we will bring in as partners the vast majority of the world,” he said.
Mr Jafar, also the chief executive of Crescent Enterprises, said it was “not a secret” there had been a lot of criticism towards the UAE hosting Cop28. But a lot of that has been really “cloaked in a lot of hypocrisy”.
“One is the energy transition. There are some as part of this politicised rhetoric that are preaching to Africa, if you will, that they need to completely decarbonise their energy systems when their systems to a large extent haven’t even got going yet,” he said.
“This had become even more 'unpalatable' in the wake of the Ukraine war when you see many nations and their politicians scrambling and really visiting many other nations including in Africa, to try to figure out how to supplement energy imports.
“On one hand, [they are] asking them to produce more energy so they can supply to Europe and [are] happy to finance the production of those additional sources conditional to Europe but if this is local resources for local needs the finance suddenly dries up or is simply not affordable.”
Mr Jafar said Cop28 was pushing for financing mechanisms and institutions, such as the World Bank, to be affordable, accessible and acceptable.
“They have to be depoliticised. Because if you infuse politics into them, we know for a fact they are not going to represent most of the world,” Mr Jafar said.
“Is the World Bank seen as a bank that truly represents the world as in its name or not? If the answer is yes, then I don’t think you’d be seeing some of those challenges with who is going to be the custodian of this loss and damage fund,” he added, referring the deadlocked talks.
Mr Jafar said new entities were also needed as trillions of dollars in climate finance were required to safeguard the 1.5°C warming goal. The philanthropy element was crucial, he added.
“I often refer to it as the forgotten child of the capital system. But it is a lot of money. Today it is at least a trillion a year but probably more,” said Mr Jafar.
“So this myth that it is too small to make a difference is nonsense. It is far nimbler, far more risk tolerant, equitable and far more long term.”
Razan Al Mubarak, Cop28 UN High-Level Champion, who also spoke at the event, said extreme weather events this year had shown that the effects of climate change are real and disproportionally affecting the world’s poorest and those that contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is only fair that we act now to ensue climate change doesn’t consistently get worse,” she said.
The day-long event, co-hosted by Cop28 special representative for business and philanthropy and the Young Presidents Organisation, a global community of chief executives, also featured discussions on the built environment; energy transition; food systems and nature; and the role of technology with now just over 20 days to go before Cop28 starts.
“Cop is not a 12-day event but the beginning of a year-long process,” said Mr Jafar, adding that the Cop to Cop period also had to be considered.
“That journey has to be consistent.”