Badr Jafar Question & Answer on COP28

Published 30 November 2023


Photo: Badr Jafar


1000 top CEOs and philanthropists will gather at the inaugural COP28 Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum, marking the first-time business and philanthropy has been included within the official COP agenda, alongside the World’s Leaders Summit. What does the Forum’s inclusion signify and how do you hope it impacts the broader global climate action agenda?

For too long, the climate narrative has been seen through the prism of, activism equals good, and capitalism equals bad. Whether you think that is fair or not, the reality is that this kind of adversarial thinking doesn’t get us anywhere nearer to solving the problem. That is why the COP28 President, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, has called for a new paradigm based on the concept of actionism, which embraces the dynamism, capital and action networks that business and philanthropy can provide. 

One of the most prominent examples of that approach is the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum, which will be held on 1-2 December 2023, in parallel with the World Climate Action Summit. This CEO-level Forum will bring together 1,000 leaders from across business and philanthropy to exchange ideas, co-create solutions and drive tangible climate action. By hosting this event directly alongside the heads of state/government summit, the Forum aims to ensure that the private sector, which encompasses business and philanthropy, can be a full partner in the process from now on.  

In terms of objectives, the agenda of the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum mirrors the four pillars laid out by the COP28 Presidency, including fast-tracking the global energy transition, transforming climate finance, putting nature and people at the heart of climate action, and delivering the most inclusive COP ever. Specific proposals on the table are expected to include ways to accelerate technology transfer, de-risk green investments, enhance nature capital, boost green SMEs and start-ups, and increase investment in resilience for vulnerable communities. 

Ultimately, the Forum is part of a broader effort to enable business and philanthropy stakeholders to move beyond pledges and declarations and into the much more important work of sustained action and implementation.


  • Public-private partnerships (PPP) have been instrumental in achieving positive climate contributions and net zero goals. How can business more effectively leverage their innovation and green skills within these collaborations? 

Governments at all levels will always have a leading role to play in overseeing responses to climate change. However, that doesn’t give the private sector a free pass. On the contrary, business has an equally, if not more important role to play in helping the world to meet its climate and nature goals.    

Public-private partnerships can be an attractive way for businesses and governments to collaborate, and they allow government entities to draw upon the private sector’s expertise, operational efficiency, innovative thinking and financial resources to deliver projects at a scale and on a much faster timeframe than they otherwise could. 

PPPs have been hard wired into the UAE’s national economic strategy for decades, and they will likely be central to enabling us to meet our net zero targets in the future. PPPs are also enabling much-needed investment in climate-smart infrastructure in emerging economies around the world.  

However, what I think PPPs really demonstrate is the power of blending capital and capabilities across sectors, and finding new ways to scale up these types of creative and blended approaches is high on the agenda of the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum.


  • The Forum aims to foster entrepreneurial innovation to address critical climate issues. What steps need to be taken to further mobilize and support entrepreneurs in this mission?

I am not alone in believing that the private sector holds the greatest potential to accelerate the implementation of the world’s climate and nature goals, and that innovators and entrepreneurs will be integral to realising that potential. 

The interesting thing is that we know exactly what it takes to cultivate entrepreneurial ecosystems, because we have seen it work in many different industries and geographies. We just need to channel more of that entrepreneurial energy and creativity towards developing solutions to our climate and nature challenges specifically, and to provide financing and support to entrepreneurs in more parts of the world, including in the Global South.    

The good news is that this is already happening. If you just look at the UAE, in a report we recently commissioned at Crescent Enterprises, we discovered an eleven-fold increase in venture funding towards green tech over the past 5 years, with 144 new green tech start-ups enabled by $650m in venture funding. This is an encouraging trend, and the more that we can continue to debunk the myth that the greener something is, the less profitable it will be, then the more capital we will see flowing into the green tech sector.

The COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum is also working to accelerate this process. The Forum has released a set of 22 actions that business and philanthropy stakeholders can take to help support the climate action agenda. Several of these are aimed directly or indirectly at supporting entrepreneurs, including initiatives focused on strengthening innovation ecosystems in the Global South, funding climate and nature moonshots, and accelerating innovation related to water, agriculture and food. 


  • Private philanthropy plays a pivotal role in closing the annual $4 trillion financing gap to achieve key goals from net-zero emissions and environmental restoration, already outpacing government assistance fivefold. What strategies can enhance philanthropy’s impact in this arena?

Fixing climate finance is one of the key priorities of COP28, and by extension, of the COP28 Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum. We know that we have a big hill to climb here. Global investment of over 3 trillion dollars a year will be needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and it is estimated that developing countries alone will require investments of 2.4 trillion dollars annually through to 2030 to meet Paris Agreement Goals. 

It is clear that we will need to unlock additional sources of capital, and this is one area where philanthropy could play a transformative role. It is estimated that the total amount of philanthropic capital flowing through the global financial system each year is well over one trillion dollars. Redirecting a portion of these funds towards climate-focused projects and initiatives could make a significant contribution to closing the climate finance gap. 

It is also not just the quantity of philanthropic capital that sets it apart from other forms of funding. By its nature, philanthropic capital can often be deployed in more flexible, risk-tolerant and patient ways than other forms of finance. When we combine philanthropic capital with business or public sector capital, or both, we can create a multiplier effect that produces outcomes that not one of these funding sources could achieve on its own. 

We still have a long way to go, though, with recent estimates suggesting that less than 2% of philanthropic giving is currently focused on climate-related causes. Over time, though, climate philanthropy has the potential to become part of the glue that binds business, government, and civil society together in a concerted effort to achieve our net zero and nature positive goals. 


  • Given the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, and the connection between gender justice and environmental issues, how could a focus on inclusivity and equity lead to more effective solutions in the fight against climate change?

The UAE has made no secret of its ambition to make this most inclusive COP ever. That is not a talking point. It’s a genuine commitment that has shaped every aspect of COP28, including the design of the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum.

In relation to women specifically, a number of important steps have been taken to elevate women’s voices in the COP process and to empower women around the world, including in the Global South, to play a leading role in the global response to climate change.

For example, the COP28 Presidency has called on all participants to assemble gender balanced delegations that include youth, indigenous and subnational representatives. It has also committed publicly to ensuring that gender diversity is represented in all COP28 workstreams and events. COP28 will feature a dedicated Gender Day, which coincides with Finance Day, on which stakeholders will make a joint commitment to ensuring a gender-just transition and expanding direct access to climate financing for women and girls around the world. Informed by its consultations, the COP28 Presidency has also identified a need for higher quality, gender-disaggregated climate data, and is looking at various ways to address this. 

Ultimately, this is yet another example of why we can no longer afford to separate the human development agenda from the climate and nature agenda. They are two sides of the same coin, and the edge of that coin is conducive and inclusive climate policy that embraces a greener evolution of all of our systems, while ensuring equitable opportunities for the billions of people who have not always been afforded them in the past. 

Badr Jafar is the COP28 Special Representative for Business & Philanthropy, and CEO of UAE-based Crescent Enterprises Badr Jafar is a renowned billionaire and philanthropist. He is Special Representative for Business, Philanthropy & Private Sector to the COP28 summit, and host of the COP28 Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum on 1-2 Dec which will be opened by King Charles. He is a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, a member of the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education and CEO of Cresent Enterprises. He is a signatory to the Bill Gates and Warren Buffet Giving Pledge.

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