‘Alarming’: Businesses rank keeping 1.5C alive bottom of COP28 priorities

The survey polled the largest 100 businesses in terms of revenue across 14 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. It also included qualitative interviews with more than 1,300 of these businesses.

In these latter interviews, just 5% of the companies mentioned keeping 1.5C alive as a key priority theme for COP28. 1.5C is the more ambitious of the Paris Agreement’s two temperature goals.

In comparison, 20% of the companies mentioned clean technology and 30% argued that they would like greater private sector engagement with the COP proceedings.

When it came to quantitative research, in which businesses were asked to rank six COP28 priorities, private sector engagement was consistently chosen as the top priority, and keeping 1.5C alive was, in addition to being chosen as number one the least frequently, consistently ranked last.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that warming exceeding 1.5C would be a death sentence for the most-affected island states, and would also lead to cascading socio-economic impacts across the world.

COP26 in Scotland in 2021 placed much onus on reaching an agreement that would keep 1.5C in reach. Summit president Alok Sharma believes it did so, but that the goal was “on life support”. The consensus following COP27 in Egypt last year is that the world is still on track to exceed both Paris Agreement goals, with current policies aligned with a 2.7C trajectory.

Impact and Influence conducted today’s new interviews in partnership with East & Partners. Impact and Influence’s founder and chief executive Rishi Bharracharya said: “It’s alarming that ‘Keeping 1.5 C Alive’ ranks so low among global corporates just two years after COP26. This suggests they may be pricing in an overshoot.”

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Organization warned that a temporary breach of the 1.5C limit is likely within four years. We are already at 1.1C – 1.2C, but 1.8C is possible this decade, it warned.

Following the science – or the money?

As noted above, 30% of the businesses polled mentioned in qualitative interviews that they would like the private sector to be more involved at COP28.

Official negotiations on the main texts at COP are made solely by representatives of countries, regions and states. However, COPs also play host to so-called ‘non-state actors’ including businesses at side events. Their size and prominence have grown significantly since the Paris Agreement was ratified in 2015, it has been noted.

Impact and Influence’s Bharracharya argued that “ensuring business involvement in the climate conversation is more crucial than ever, as their participation increases the likelihood of success in addressing climate change”.

Of course, the private sector will need to decarbonise rapidly if the Paris Agreement is to be delivered. But concerns are mounting, ahead of COP28, that the hosts may let corporates push for an agreement that benefits their bottom lines regardless of alignment with climate science.

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) pick for COP28 president is Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the chief executive of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation (ADNOC). Jaber is also the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and minister for industry and technology.

It has been reported that at least a dozen other ADNOC employees have been given prominent COP28 organising roles.

At COP27, fossil fuel exporters including the UAE pushed for a final text with weakened language on fossil fuels. The text stopped short on committing to a phase-out of oil and gas in the long term and also left loopholes for fossil fuel nations to rely on carbon capture rather than transitioning their energy sources.

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