How COP28 aims to unlock trillions for businesses offering climate solutions

Green Climate ambassador Alice Wanjiru(in maroon blazer) with other children prepare seedlings ready to plant during the World Children's Day celebration at Afro-Sayari, Nairobi on November 22, 2023. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Over 70,000 delegates from around the world are about to converge in Dubai for COP28. In the lead-up, the UAE’s COP28 Presidency has made no secret of its ambition to make this the most consequential COP.

While much of that effort has elevated historically underrepresented communities, and rightly so, a lesser-known determination of the COP28 Presidency is about transforming how the COP process engages with the private sector.

COP28 will feature the biggest gathering of business and philanthropy devoted to solving climate change in history, at the inaugural Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum.

Held in parallel with the heads of state level World Climate Action Summit, the forum will bring together 1,000 heads of business and philanthropy – alongside policymakers and other stakeholders – to spur tangible climate action.

While COPs have traditionally been seeing as a political process, opening the COP28 summit with this forum will set an entirely new tone. For transformative action, the forum will include a set of 22 actions that CEOs and philanthropists can take right away.

The goal is to provide an accessible way for the private sector to move beyond declarations, into implementation. From the outset, we’ve established global partnerships with major players who will help galvanise business communities around the world. They include Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), International Finance Corporation (IFC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Economic Forum, Asian Development Bank, Africa Finance Corporation, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and XPRIZE.

Fixing climate finance is a priority. Global investments of over USD 3 trillion per year will be required to enable the world achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The private sector could play a key role in generating the multiplier effect to take us from billions to trillions.

For long, business and philanthropy have been relegated to the periphery of global climate negotiations, often dismissed as a part of the problem. But this is a missed opportunity. Private capital markets have more than doubled over the past decade, reaching over $23 trillion.

Philanthropic capital alone flowing through the global financial system every year is well above $1 trillion dollars. The latter can often be deployed in more flexible, risk-tolerant and patient ways than other forms of finance.

Combined, these 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.        

The COP28 Business & Philanthropy forum will support governments, businesses and philanthropists to work together and in parallel, collaborating where they can while playing to their respective strengths. No individual stakeholder can succeed alone. Only when we blend capabilities and capital across these sectors, can we produce positive outcomes. 

The writer is COP28 Special Representative for Business and Philanthropy and CEO of UAE-based Crescent Enterprises

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