COP28

Business booms on the sidelines of COP28

Reuters

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Business booms on the sidelines of COP28

STARTUP VILLAGE. People walk in the Startup Village in the Green Zone during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 11, 2023.

Amr Alfiky/Reuters

Businesspeople far outnumber government officials at COP28, which has drawn more than 90,000 registered attendees, a record number

A stand in the COP28 “startup village” has proved the arena to gain high-level access and even clinch deals on the sidelines of United Nations climate talks that are striving for an agreement as countries argue over the future use of fossil fuels.

Four-month-old British company Clean Air By Resysten is among the many that have found a ticket to the climate talks is the fast-track way to an executive meeting.

After receiving no response to an emailed pitch to Dubai’s DP World, Clean Air by Resysten received an executive from the state-owned ports giant at its stand.

The executive agreed to a demonstration of the company’s spray-on surface coating that breaks down air pollutants and repels dirt to treat its solar panel arrays.

Resysten said it has also found prospective clients from Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. DP World had no immediate comment.

“I expect the pipeline coming out of COP at approximately $5 million, which is incredible,” London-based Will Tyler, a director at Clean Air by Resysten, said. The company has yet to agree any contracts at the talks.

Among those representing the sectors hardest to decarbonize, Hamburg-based entrepreneur Thomas Demmel, who runs a concrete business called Bton Holding GmbH, said he had received unprecedented access.

“We have gained reach within this conference that was completely beyond our expectations; private equity, banks, massive project developers, construction companies, concrete and cement companies,” Demmel said, adding that he also unexpectedly met Bill Gates when he was walking by.

Demmel said he expected his attendance at COP28 to double the company’s value based on the business leads so far.

COP president and oil boss

Climate campaigners have questioned the neutrality of this year’s UN talks as they are hosted in oil power United Arab Emirates and presided over by Sultan al-Jaber, who is also head of the state oil company.

They have also said the talks resemble a trade fair as businesspeople far outnumber government officials. Figures from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) show more than 90,000 registered attendees, a record number.

Large corporations – including banks, oil and gas companies, and consultancies – were at the summit, as well as the climate tech startups.

Jaber has vehemently denied media reports he planned to use the talks for commercial dealmaking and has presented his closeness to industry as a useful bridge in facilitating a deal on the future use of fossil fuels.

For the first time, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil attended this year’s climate summit.

Contracts signed by the larger corporates included deals on nuclear power technology, natural gas, renewables, and the pharmaceutical supply chain.

UAE’s state-owned Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation signed separate non-binding agreements with US companies X-Energy and TerraPower to bring nuclear technologies to the UAE.

Egyptian Electricity Holding Company and Norwegian renewables company Scatec ASA, meanwhile, agreed on a solar and battery project.

And Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation agreed to develop a liquefied natural gas project with Chinese company Wison Heavy Industry Co. Ltd.

Greener business?

Some campaigners saw a chance for greener business, while remaining wary.

“While their engagement is essential given the scale of the challenge, their burgeoning presence at these conferences often serves more as a distraction than a catalyst for effective policymaking,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at nonprofit Climate Action Network International.

“Not all businesses may try and slow down climate policies, but definitely those in polluting sectors do.”

The United Nations has also encouraged business participation at its annual climate summits and in 2020 launched the Race to Zero, a coalition of non-state actors including businesses, to halve emissions by 2030.

Nigel Topping, who worked on that launch and advises the UAE official responsible for connecting government with non-state actors, said it was important to include the people with the “money and resources.”

“People say it’s a trade show, it’s a jamboree, but it’s a collaborative effort to find and accelerate the solutions to get to net zero,” Topping said.

The We Mean Business Coalition, a forum for companies pushing for pro-climate policies set up in 2014, coordinated a letter from over 200 business leaders to the UNFCCC ahead of COP28 calling for the phaseout of fossil fuels. – Rappler.com

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