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In the room where it happens

8 December, 2023

As we hit the midway point of COP28, the past week has seen a whirlwind of private sector activity as business executives from around the world convened in Dubai. As the C-Suite leaves and the focus shifts to the intergovernmental negotiations of the upcoming week, let’s take a moment to discuss the evolving role of businesses at COP.

Over the years, COP has transformed from a gathering of world leaders to include diverse sectors such as health, food, water, and nature as well as bringing in NGOs, academics and businesses. The summit has also witnessed increased participation from senior bankers, showcasing the growing importance of finance in climate-related projects and CEOs and executives from leading global companies are in attendance.

There are calls to slim down COP and narrow the focus to climate negotiations. Some critics of the conference view COP as little more than a “business conference where oil deals are struck” and when the conference is hosted by one of the world’s leading oil-producing countries it’s easy to see why. But COP isn’t just about the back and forth of climate negotiations; it provides an opportunity for business leaders to engage in discussions, share ideas, address challenges, and showcase their products. In the end, business involvement in climate solutions is essential; it brings innovation and technology, influence through supply chains, the ability to change consumer behaviour and advocacy to the table.

So while it’s reasonable to look at the 80,000 registered attendees and wonder if some of their time, energy and carbon emissions could have been better focused elsewhere, business involvement in these events is a necessary (though of course not sufficient) part of the tapestry of change that is needed.  It’s the connections forged over coffee, chance meetings in the exhibition centre, and the listening and learning from other people that lay the groundwork for the step change in climate action that we so badly need.

By Meg Seckel

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