Date: 28.11.2023



Business has a critical role in tackling climate change – reducing emissions, adapting and responding to impacts, and directing finance flows to accelerate action. The fact that business engagement at the annual climate conferences (COPs) has increased in both number and sectoral representation brings significant opportunities to drive ambition and action.

However, as record numbers gather in Dubai for COP28, many are concerned about a growing separation between the corporate and the intergovernmental spheres and the risk of failing to maximise the potential synergies. Therefore, the question arises: How can we leverage business better for enhanced climate action?
This is vital: it is poor value for business and, more importantly, for the climate if business only turns up for a pavilion, a panel, and some prosecco. Many business representatives are deeply committed to tackling the climate crisis and are bringing genuine solutions to the table; it is in everyone’s interests that these are leveraged to drive progress in the negotiations and on the frontline.



The research project


The Centre for Multilateral Negotiations has interviewed representatives from businesses, trade bodies, governments, and the media to explore this question in detail. This includes several organisations and brilliant individuals who play a vital role in representing business views to governments and de-mystifying the intergovernmental process. The first stage of the work – discussed here in Dubai – focuses on strengthening engagement and the connective tissue between business and the intergovernmental process at COPs. The next phase of the work will broaden how businesses and governments can leverage their mutual positive value beyond the annual COPs and deepen collaboration for implementation.



Core aspects to effective, meaningful business engagement at COPs


  1. Taking the opportunity to listen to those you don’t usually meet – from activists to marginalised communities, you can engage more broadly and more profoundly at COP than in your office block back home;
  2. Being sensitive to the baggage of business engagement – there is still more to do to build trust and confidence in the intentions of corporates at COP;
  3. Committing to initiatives – be clear whether it is a signal (‘firework’) or a coherent process with effective follow-through (‘framework’);
  4. Understanding and championing the intergovernmental process, particularly its legitimacy and inclusiveness; 
  5. Helping articulate to governments the specific national policies you expect to see and need to deliver on international commitments.



Steps to strengthen the connective tissue between business and the intergovernmental process at COPs


  1. Create more opportunities for formal and informal collaboration, building on effective ‘technical dialogues’ and ‘world café’ formats;
  2. Embed a more robust structure for follow through of commitments and initiatives with expectations of progress reports by business to enhance credibility and demonstrate progress;
  3. Encourage and enable more significant private-sector representation from the global south;
  4. Greater transparency to overcome the notion of ‘dark room’ negotiations between business and government;
  5. Focusing on the unique setting of the COP for business: how it is different from and how it complements other corporate gatherings and climate weeks