Over 1,000 industry leaders and changemakers from 30 countries came together at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Future Sustainability Forum to engage in crucial discussions aimed at driving collective action in preparation for COP28. 

“With great wealth comes great responsibility,” a modified statement borrowed from Spider-man’s books, and eloquently put by Satya Tripathi (Secretary-General of the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet), encapsulates the Forum’s spirit.  

Over the course of the 2 days, we heard the role of sustainable finance being mentioned a handful of times at every session. During the Forum’s inauguration, his Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, hinted that several sustainable investment announcements are lined up for COP28. The DIFC’s recognition of finance as an accelerator for positive change was reiterated by Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC. Additionally, H.E. Mariam Almheri from the COP28 Presidency team announced her ongoing collaboration with the private sector to mobilize financing for the COP28 Food Security Agenda, led by the Emirates Declaration on Resilient Food Systems, Sustainable Agriculture, and Climate Action.  

The Forum underscored the importance of finance as the missing catalyst for various initiatives, from sustainable infrastructure development to technological solutions for compressing data used to support sustainable disclosure obligations. However, a major takeaway was the region’s dedication to addressing the finance gap.  

Regarding Islamic finance and the region’s strides in sustainability, Abdelilah Belatik, Secretary General of the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, highlighted an impressive 25% growth of the sustainable Islamic finance sector (with green sukuk making up 20% of all sukuk issuances), outpacing the growth conventional sustainable finance. We also heard DP world FZE sharing the news of the issuance of their first $1.5 billion green Sukuk last month to transform their shipping assets in order to facilitate a greener logistics business. 

Another significant takeaway from the event was the clear demonstration by the speakers of a comprehensive understanding of the necessity for a holistic sustainability transformation. The discussions have not only fixated on climate-related issues, but they also equally focused on the preservation of nature and biodiversity and addressing social concerns. To justly transition to net zero, there was a crucial understanding of the interlinks between people’s objectives, resources, and existing technologies and addressing them accordingly. 

H.E. Mariam Almheri spoke with optimism about Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, COP28 President’s commitment to negotiating with the global North to fulfill their $100 billion dollar commitment to the Global South well before COP28. However, a critical question arises: is further indebting developing countries a positive step forward? While it’s commendable to see efforts from the public sector, there’s a growing recognition that financial innovation led by the private sector has the potential to offer better scale and management in addressing climate finance challenges. 

In a captivating fireside chat centered on financial innovation aimed at bridging the finance gap and rethinking debt and interest models, James Fierro, representing ECO Capacity Exchange, delved into an intriguing concept: the evolution of money. He articulated how money transformed from being a simple medium of exchange into an instrument for generating wealth. ECO, an enterprise-backed credit obligation, introduces a compelling alternative to traditional money—a means to return money to its foundational purpose while harnessing untapped capacity, all without the burden of interest (an opportunity for Islamic finance?). Such innovative models have the potential to provide a more accessible means of financing climate adaptation and mitigation while also unlocking latent trade opportunities. 

Having launched the Path to COP28 campaign in partnership with the DIFC in October 2022 and having been engaged in the sustainability conversation for several years, it is great to witness the region’s progress. We eagerly anticipate all the announcements and developments that will unfold at COP28. 

For additional information about the Path to COP28 Campaign and our events during COP, please visit: https://www.globalethicalfinance.org/our-work/path-to-cop28/