back to news

BLOG: COP28 – A review and implications for small businesses

19 December 2023

Sajjad Khan, LLEP Innovation Board member, attended the first three days of COP28 held in Dubai earlier this month. He has provided his review of the event here as well as thoughts on the implications for our small business community.

An Asian man in blue shirt and dark jacket

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change recently concluded in Dubai. This article looks at key decisions taken at COP28 and their respective impact, especially on small businesses.


COP28 followed a year of extreme weather events in which temperature records were being repeatedly broken and climate impacts felt. As such COP28 was expected to stress the importance of collective action to stop climate change and the critical role of finance in the low-carbon transition.

Almost a representative of every country was here to agree on ways to address the climate crisis such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, helping vulnerable communities adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

With this in mind the President-Designate, Dr Sultan Al Jaber of the UAE, had stated that COP28 is intended to be an ‘inclusive COP’- a critical enabler to achieving transformative progress across the climate agenda.

The World Climate Action Summit was attended by 160+ world leaders and heads of state who delivered speeches and pledges, emphasising the critical nature of the climate crisis.

One of the most striking speeches was however the reading of the address of Pope Francis who could not attend due to illness.

The address started with:

“Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired.  Even so, I am with you, because time is short.  I am with you because now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose.  I am with you because the destruction of the environment is an offence against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations.  I am with you because climate change is “a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life” (Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, 3).  I am with you to raise the question which we must answer now: Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?  To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal:  Let us choose life!  Let us choose the future!  May we be attentive to the cry of the earth, may we hear the plea of the poor, and may we be sensitive to the hopes of the young and the dreams of children!  We have a grave responsibility: to ensure that they not be denied their future.”

The Address then outlined the causes of climate change resulting from human activity:

“The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation.  The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this illusion of omnipotence.”

Closing with:

“Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces!  And with God’s help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day.  Thank you.”

Key outcomes agreed:

  • Commitment to clean energy transition

Fossil fuel dependence was high on the agenda and for the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, nearly every country agreed to transition away from fossil fuels. However, the final agreement did not include a clear call for a phase-out of fossil fuels leading to some frustration among participants.

Currently more than 115 countries have pledged to triple their renewable-energy capacity by 2030. Whilst 20 have committed to double their nuclear capacity by 2050. This reflects a growing emphasis on sustainable energy solutions.

It also stated the intention of “accelerating and substantially reducing non-CO2 emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions. Fifty oil and gas companies have committed to achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030. This is a critical step, considering methane’s potent impact as a greenhouse gas.

The Global Cooling Pledge was endorsed by 66 countries, aiming to reduce cooling-related emissions by 68% from current levels.

  • Climate Finance

Financial commitments have been high on the agenda in Dubai and this was evident in the amount of money being pledged.

The UAE’s $30 billion fund is aimed at fostering global climate solutions, with an ambitious target to attract $250 billion in investment by 2030. COP28 announced that $83bn in commitments to climate solutions have been made so far.

The conference operationalised the Loss and Damage Fund, which was established by COP27 in 2022. This fund was set up to provide financial assistance to vulnerable nations suffering from loss and damage caused by climate change. The COP has also pledged nearly $700m to this cause. The World Bank committed to increasing its use of climate finance and has agreed to relax rules that allow countries hit by disasters to pause their debt repayments.

There is still however a huge shortfall and governments will have to work to close the $18 trillion investment gap, prioritizing long-term gains over the costs in the short to medium term. This means setting yearly targets to ensure pledges are met. Private funding and investment will also have a pivotal role to play.

  • Health and Agriculture

Nearly 120 countries backed the COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration to protect health from climate impacts whilst more than 130 countries signed a declaration to include agricultural emissions in their climate plans represents a significant step in acknowledging and addressing the substantial carbon footprint of the agriculture sector.

The collaboration among leading food and agriculture organizations to promote regenerative agriculture is crucial. This approach involves practices that restore soil health, enhance biodiversity, and sequester carbon, thereby reducing the overall environmental impact of farming.

Implications for small businesses:

One closely watched area in Dubai was on carbon markets. Carbon markets are systems where countries or entities can buy and sell carbon credits, representing a reduction of greenhouse gases, to meet their climate targets. These markets can encourage cost-effective emissions reductions by providing financial incentives for emission-reducing projects.

However, due to credibility concerns around how credit markets would be supervised and how different types of credits would be accounted for, no agreement was reached and as such will need to be re-addressed at COP29. This is unfortunate for those seeking to build vibrant and high-integrity carbon markets.  However many other opportunities were identified:

1. Transition to Renewable Energy: The commitment to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency may lead to more affordable and accessible clean energy options. Small businesses can benefit from reduced energy costs and potential incentives for adopting renewable energy sources.

2. Climate Finance and Funding Opportunities: The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund and other financial pledges could open new funding opportunities for small businesses, especially those focused on climate adaptation, resilience, and sustainable practices.

3. Market Shifts and Consumer Trends: As global policies increasingly favour sustainability, there’s a growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products and services. Small businesses can capitalize on this trend by adopting greener practices and positioning themselves in the sustainability market.

4. Regulatory Changes: With the emphasis on transitioning away from fossil fuels, small businesses in sectors reliant on fossil fuels may need to adapt to new regulations and shifts in the energy market. This could mean investing in energy-efficient technologies or exploring alternative energy sources.

5. Opportunities in Agriculture and Food Systems: The Declaration on Agriculture, Food, and Climate suggests a shift towards more sustainable farming practices. Small businesses in the agriculture sector might have access to new resources and technologies aimed at reducing emissions and enhancing food security.

6. Health Sector Opportunities: The Climate and Health Declaration indicates a growing intersection between climate and health sectors. Small businesses in healthcare or related industries might find new opportunities in products or services that address health issues exacerbated by climate change.

7. Global Cooling Pledge: Small businesses in manufacturing, construction, or house building could be impacted by the Global Cooling Pledge, which aims to reduce cooling-related emissions. This may lead to new standards or opportunities in efficient cooling technologies.

8. Adaptation and Resilience: Small businesses, particularly in vulnerable regions, will need to focus on adaptation and resilience to climate impacts. This could involve modifying operations, supply chains, or business models to withstand climate-related disruptions.

9. Networking and Collaboration: COP28 has highlighted the importance of collective action. Small businesses may find value in networking with peers, joining industry alliances, or collaborating on sustainability initiatives to amplify their impact.

In summary, COP28 outcomes suggest a shift towards a more sustainable, low-carbon economy, presenting both challenges and opportunities for small businesses. Adaptation, innovation, and a proactive approach to sustainability will be key for small businesses navigating this changing landscape.

With huge thanks to Sajjad for this article and images.

palm trees

large screen

building with large arches