COP28 – time for business to step up. But are you ready?
By Helen Dodd, Head of Reinventing Responsibility
In November, the UAE will host the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), with the aim of uniting the world towards agreement on bold, practical and ambitious solutions to the most pressing global challenge of our time. COP28 is of particular significance as it marks the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake, a moment of reckoning around the progress the world has made in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
We already know that not enough progress has been made. The most climate-vulnerable countries need a major course correction to ensure that the world responds to the Stocktake with a clear plan of action. The ability of the UAE to act as a “bridge” between developed and developing nations will be put to the test, ensuring that the most vulnerable countries receive the support and financing they require. The world waits to see whether a COP hosted by a petrostate will be the venue where agreement is secured on the eventual phase-out of fossil fuels before 2050.
As in other years, the conference will attract a mix of heads of state, senior government leaders, over 80,000 delegates and more than 5,000 media professionals. But this year, there’s been an explicit acknowledgement that the scale of the challenge and its link to human, economic, environmental and national security requires collective action. This involves everyone from universities and cities to civil society organisations and nature groups, as well as every single sector of industry. These groups will have a formal role in COP28 for the first time.
The stakes have never been higher, but there is a clear window of opportunity to be a part of the solution. In fact, COP28 is set to strengthen calls on the private sector to step up its role in tackling climate change through climate finance, investment in innovation and a faster pace of transitioning operations away from fossil fuels.
What is the role of business at COP28?
Engaging at COP28 sends a clear signal that your organisation recognises the impact of climate change and wants to be a part of the solution. Above all, it’s an opportunity to listen and learn from others about the issues that are vital to the long-term health of the planet and economy – from the actions and targets that will be set for businesses for the first time at COP28, to where the money to finance the clean energy transition will come from and the role that new technologies will play in the energy transition.
Business and civil society participation at COP is well-established. Although as anyone has attended in the past will know, cutting through the noise and complexity is a big challenge. There are certainly no easy answers, but there are a few simple questions you can ask yourself to ensure that your presence helps rather than hinders the climate response:
1. Are you clear what you can bring to the table?
COP is much more than a PR opportunity. It is where real action is taken to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Participants need to be clear on why they’re attending and the role they can play. And, that role can be powerful when businesses put their voices together. Take for example, the declaration made by over 200 business telling COP27 delegates that 1.5C is “a limit not a target”, and that negotiators should work with the private sector to avert the worst of the climate crisis.
2. Where can you lean in to support action or to elevate important voices and messages?
When it comes to climate no single actor can solve the challenge alone. Partnership and collaboration are key, which means knowing who your allies are, building strong relationships based on trust and using your scale and profile to elevate those who might otherwise not have a voice. An inspiring example is UNDP’s Dear World Leaders campaign which was first launched at COP26. It gave a platform to people from all over the world, who posted video messages telling decision makers how climate change is affecting them, and what’s at stake.
3. Have you got your own house in order?
With regulators doubling down on greenwashing, honesty, authenticity and credibility are more important than ever. And we know that scrutiny is increasing. Sustainability claims must align core business values with climate outcomes, to maintain credibility and consistency. As HSBC found when their COP26 ad campaign was found to be ‘misleading’ about the bank’s contribution to the climate crisis, words matter but action is what counts most.
For more information on how our team of international and Middle East-based consultants can support you, email Helen Dodd, Head of Reinventing Responsibility Helen.Dodd@instinctif.com