Lessons From COP28 for Business Leaders – What Happens Next?


Telesto CEO & Founder, Alex Kruzel, was in Dubai this December for COP28. She reflects on the key learnings from her time at the conference and what it means for business leaders in the US and globally.

Now that COP28 in Dubai, UAE has wrapped its first ever Global Stock Take and its headline commitment to transition away from fossil fuels has reached consensus, it is time for business leaders and board directors to determine what this means for their organizations. Moreover, with so many dynamic sub-plots and a range of commitments made, there is much to track. A selection of the most significant headlines include:

  • Tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency will take business leadership. Strong goals were set by countries to triple renewable energy deployment to 11 TW and double energy efficiency by 2030, which also includes accelerating clean hydrogen and nuclear energy
  • US recognizes its leading and outside role on global climate stage. The US delegation and its business leaders were far more vocal this year about the “outsized” role it should play given its outsized responsibility in global climate outcomes. They called for bi-partisan and bicameral support on US climate goals and to depoliticize climate-, sustainability-, and ESG-related activities for business
  • Progress on voluntary carbon markets stalls. There was still no formal agreement on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which would allow trading of carbon credits. Many found this to be a setback. Leading conservation and climate NGOs signed a letter endorsing high-integrity voluntary carbon markets as a source of climate finance for the Global South. As such, a taskforce was launched to investigate targeted international taxes to fund green investment in emerging economies
  • Cities are moving faster than national policy. Despite the ongoing critique that the COP28 commitments did not go far enough to ensure the achievement of limiting global warming to well below 1.5˚C, leadership teams from various cities across the world demonstrated an astounding array of new policy tools, initiatives, and ability to tap into national-level financing pools
  • Reducing methane and GHG emissions has gained broad global consensus. Countries committed to reducing GHG emissions in different industries and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions (although those definitions are still a work in progress)
  • Capitalization of loss and damage avails new climate finance. Building on discussions at COP27, countries have pledged more than $792M to provide resources to the countries and communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – rising sea levels, floods, fires, droughts, etc.
Alex Kruzel participating in panel on Resilient Cities at COP28 in December 2023 in Dubai

With more global attention and actors focused on the climate agenda, business leaders must be more focused on climate, sustainability, and ESG questions for their organization.

So, what will this mean for your organization? Key recommendations for business leaders are:

  • Businesses must embrace a renewable future as the transition from fossil fuels gains broad support globally. The transition away from fossil fuels gives a clear signal to organizations, C-level leadership, and boards to consider the opportunities from incorporating renewable energy into business operations and responding to growing investor demands for transparency on the carbon-intensity of current models. Over 400 organizations have already committed to going 100% renewable, which will provide a robust peer group from which to learn and share best practices
  • Net Zero Taskforce means more pressure on Corporate Net-Zero. The formation of the Taskforce on Net Zero policy supports the creation of effective policy and regulatory frameworks to underpin net-zero commitments and accompanying transition plans by non-state actors, including businesses. C-level leadership and board directors should prioritize their own planning to develop defensible and science-aligned transition plans. The UN intends to hold non-state entities accountable for emissions reduction commitments and has signaled increasing expectations and requirements for corporate transition plans, similar to recent trends for sustainability reporting. Moreover, governments, investors, and civil society are increasingly demanding businesses to disclose transition plans and climate commitments, now tracked by the Net-Zero Data Public Utility (NZPDU) launched at COP28
  • Review built environment portfolio and anticipate energy efficiency requirements. Global leaders agreed to double the average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements from nearly 2% to more than 4% every year until the end of the decade. From a policy perspective, we can expect to see this come from national, state, and local leadership. For those companies with significant real estate portfolios or those in corporate real estate as a vertical, focused attention on how these ambitious targets will be reached need to be prioritized by C-level and board planning
  • Consider spinning off and/or investing in renewable deployment businesses. With commitments to expand renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11TW by 2030, more services, infrastructure, management, and deployment of existing technology will be needed immediately. For businesses with high carbon intensity, there is a very clear rationale. Even for those with less carbon-intensive models, there will need to be funding to incentivize these activities globally and in the US
  • In addition to climate risk and emissions reduction, nature and biodiversity gain momentum. With increasing stakeholder expectations to disclose nature-related corporate information, board directors and C-level leaders should consider reviewing whether nature is included within the organization’s net-zero strategy and whether it is a topic to raise in the boardroom. Business leaders should also keep in mind that governments may suggest or enforce nature-related disclosure for businesses by potentially adopting recommendations from the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which launched its sector guidance at COP28
  • Climate finance tops agendas, opportunity for greater private sector engagement. It’s been clear for years that public funds alone will not be sufficient to cover the required climate mitigation and adaptation action needed to deliver the binding commitment of the Paris Agreement. The UAE committed US$30 billion in public funding to mobilize US$250 billion of private funding through a new investment platform called ALTÉRRA. These investments will primarily support emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs). Board directors may suggest their organization look at options to access blended financing solutions, particularly in relation to operations in EMDEs
  • Expect more on carbon markets in early 2024. Although there were no major breakthroughs on carbon markets at COP28, it remains a critical to-do for countries, and public and private leadership plan to submit views in early 2024 on pragmatic next steps for voluntary and non-voluntary carbon market development. Business leadership should take this opportunity to review existing tools to support climate finance such as green bonds and internal carbon pricing in the immediate term and continue to track what US Climate Envoy John Kerry predicts as the greatest business market in the history of humanity.

With so much to take on, in addition to their existing slate of priorities, in can be increasingly difficult for business leaders to filter through the noise and focus on what will create most ESG impact and long-term financial return for their organizations. We encourage them to review Telesto’s ESG Maturity Model for a reference point on how to frame and pace their initiatives, and we welcome any questions by sending us an email at

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