Despite many of us thinking that COP27 in Sharm El Sheik would not be a big COP, the attendance levels were much higher than anticipated. More than 50,000 delegates made the trip over to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, as well as more heads of state compared to some other COPs. Science and recent weather events helped to emphasize the urgency around the need to stay below 1.5°C. Even if no major step forward was agreed in terms of climate mitigation, there was no backsliding from the Glasgow agreement – which was feared at one point. COP27 was mainly marked by the agreement to set up a loss and damage fund to help poorer countries facing the harmful effects of climate change.

Outside of the negotiation rooms, the picture was much more positive:

  • The links between climate and nature, solutions in food & agriculture, in mobility and in built environment, were given strong focus and many positive signs of progress were presented.
  • One of the most impactful announcements came from the UN’s High Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Commitments of Non-State Actors. Their report “Integrity Matters” will become the reference within the UN for what “good looks like” with respect to net-zero commitments from business.
  • Aligned with this were the discussions around the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), set to finish its climate disclosure framework in early 2023 for subsequent adoption by the International Organization of Securities Commissions. This will start a movement toward one global baseline for climate disclosures.

Unfortunately, this year was no different from any other COP. The clock speed in the official negotiations is much lower than the clock of actors of the real economy. In the real economy, the discussion is all about the how to speed up transformations and how to get finance to flow. What is different, though, is that there is really no time to waste anymore. We can’t afford any other way than a way forward, toward 1.5°C.

This year, my one word that summarizes the COP for business is “ACCOUNTABILITY“. The High Level Expert Group, the ISSB and the strong interest from Capital Market players in understanding climate risk exposures will make it inevitable for leading companies to get ready to be held accountable for the progress they are making toward a net zero world:

  1. We need more companies to set science-based targets,
  2. Any company that sets a target without a transition plan toward implementation is no longer seen to have a credible target,
  3. Any transition plan without transparent disclosures on the progress toward the target will soon no longer be accepted by financial markets.

We will put in our best efforts to mobilize as many business leaders as possible to join the COP28 meeting next year.

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)