How COP28 Aims to Unlock Trillions for Climate Solutions by Centering Business

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By Badr Jafar

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

From 1-2 December this year, COP28 will feature the biggest gathering of business and philanthropy devoted to solving climate change in history, at the inaugural Business & 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 seen as a political process, opening the COP28 summit with this Forum will set an entirely new tone. To expedite the pathway to transformative action, the Forum will include a set of 22 actions that CEOs and philanthropists can take right away. These include game-changing climate ‘moonshots’ and breakthrough technologies, expanding indigenous peoples’ direct access to investment, accelerating food supply chain transformation across the Global South, accelerating technology transfer, de-risking green investments, enhancing natural capital, boosting green SMEs and start-ups, and increasing investment in resilience for vulnerable communities around the world. 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 galvanize business communities around the world. They include the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Economic Forum, the Asian Development Bank, the Africa Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and XPRIZE.

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

For far too 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 terrible 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. 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.

That’s why the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Forum will support governments, businesses and philanthropists to work together and in parallel, collaborate 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 outcomes with the required scale and timeframe.

Business and philanthropy hold the greatest untapped potential for accelerating the implementation of the world’s climate and nature goals. It’s time to mobilize the world’s private capital in service of the planet.

Badr Jafar is the COP28 Special Representative for Business & Philanthropy, and CEO of UAE-based Crescent Enterprises 

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