COP28: Mid-market firms should seize the opportunity from adaption and innovation

Ivri Verbin
Ivri Verbin
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Each COP has its similarities and differences. One constant is the two underlying streams of influence and change at the United Nation’s Climate Conference – the negotiations between states and governments, and the negotiations and exchange between businesses from around the world, with many of the policy outcomes often driven by business objectives.

Ivri Verbin, Co-chair of Grant Thornton’s Global Sustainability Solutions Steering Committee reflects on what has made this year different.

“One of the differentiators of COP28 has been the new set of voices from a more diverse population of delegates in terms of national representation, almost certainly because of the location in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates is a pivotal location both in terms of its geography – being at the corner of three continents, as well as its geopolitics. For there to be meaningful change and for workable global energy transition solutions, collaboration from as many corners as possible is vital.

“COP28 is also the first time there has been a global stocktake on progress against the Paris Agreement. Like any stocktake, it’s a moment of evaluation and reflection and to understand what else we need and what needs to be done. And here lies the big opportunity for mid-market firms who have the potential to be a large part of the sustainability ecosystem.”


What made COP different this year?

There was a notable move in the discussions and agreements this year from funding transition to funding adaptation. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said, "Let us give Adaptation the money and attention it deserves".[i] This also translates into how businesses are approaching climate change and environmental initiatives, with a bigger part to play for mid-market firms. Whilst the large conglomerates and global corporations take up much of the airtime and headlines at the conference, mid-market companies will provide a significant amount of the tech and innovation needed to enable adaptation. 

Ivri, added, “Mid-market firms are more agile and able to adapt their strategies – even thriving from change. Their scale and approach position them for innovation and trying new ideas. They are often also more in tune with consumer needs and opinions.” 

Another reason that mid-tier businesses are likely to make the biggest impact is that they make up the majority of the supply chain of global trade and logistics. Whilst it may be the large firms who can access the large sources of capital, the push for sustainability is a big commercial opportunity for mid-market firms which link together the global supply chain mechanism. If the supply chain logistics can become more efficient and effective, this will greatly reduce the world’s carbon emissions. 

The funding arising from this year’s COP, for example the ‘Innovate for Climate Tech’ platform, represents a big opportunity for mid-market firms.[ii] Likewise, the Green Shipping Challenge announced a number of new Green Shipping Corridors between the US, UK, Canada, and South Korea; and Norway announced it will invest $20 million to support emerging markets to decarbonise shipping.  Although the details are still emerging, this funding will help fuel the research and development needed to transition to low carbon business models and processes. Adopting sustainable approaches also helps attract capital from other sources such as public and private markets. 

COP has always been an exchange platform and meeting place for the global civic and business sector, igniting cooperation, awareness and resource, and much of the power to change can be fuelled by the mid-market.


i. - "Let us give Adaptation the money and attention it deserves": Simon Stiell at COP28 event on Adaptation Gap Report - 05.12.23
ii. - Innovate for climate tech