On 23 October, GEFI’s Pre-COP28 Climate Finance Stocktake exclusive session, held at the DIFC Academy, gathered renowned experts in the field, including Dame Susan Rice, Peter Smith, Cara Williams, Christian Kunz and Omar Shaikh. The event provided a platform for impactful discussions and insightful remarks on climate finance. Here, we highlight the key takeaways from the session.  


Opening Keynote: Leadership and the Role of Finance at COP28 

Dame Susan Rice, Chair of the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, delivered a compelling keynote address. She emphasised the crucial distinction between culture and values statements, stating, “Avoiding greenwashing sits in our culture and not the values statements that sit on our walls.” Dame Susan underlined the significance of international standards and raised critical questions about reporting and data validation.

While she recognized the need for a clear regulatory framework to navigate complex issues of materiality, supplier reporting, and data validation, she emphasised that regulations alone could take us only so far. It is an organisation’s ESG culture that can genuinely integrate ESG considerations into the fabric of finance.


Climate Finance: Global Landscape 

Cara Williams from Mercer presented a comprehensive overview of the global climate finance landscape and regional commitments compared to the international scene. Cara’s insights also focused on the role of blended finance in providing solutions to climate challenges.   

In addition, Cara highlighted the significance of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in encompassing the entire ESG ecosystem, stating that meaningful connections are being formed through commitments, not just financial resources. While she noted the increasing adoption of the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) by countries, she emphasised the difficulty of gathering comprehensive data for reporting. 

The launch of Mercer Green Infrastructure in Africa during Climate Week reflects a commitment to shifting funds from the global north to the global south, where sustainable initiatives are in dire need. Sustainable finance training for thousands of staff further underscores the growing commitment to ESG principles. 


Climate Finance: Regulatory Developments in UAE and Dubai  

Peter Smith, representing the Dubai Financial Services Authority, shed light on regulatory developments in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai. While he acknowledged significant progress in strengthening sustainable finance, he emphasised that the journey is only beginning. The DFSA’s focus is on creating an environment where sustainable finance can make a meaningful impact, anchored by a clear and pragmatic regulatory framework. 

Efforts are underway to bolster sustainability taxonomy, with regulatory and supervisory expectations communicated to the finance sector. These expectations will soon be translated into official supervisory guidelines. The goal is to adopt principles before COP28, aligning with sustainable bond and sukuk issuance expectations. Peter Smith highlighted ongoing vigilance against greenwashing, employing a proactive messaging approach. The future appears promising, with an anticipated increase in green and ESG sukuk issuances and growing interest from investment funds.


Panel Discussion: Transforming Climate Finance Fireside 

The panel discussion delved into the critical role of organisational culture and leadership in promoting sustainability. Participants emphasised the need to understand the tools used to assess culture and the importance of leaders demonstrating sustainable practices through their actions, not just their words. 

The panel discussion also touched on the actions regulators and financial centers can take to drive progress. Key points include the importance of communication between regions and avoiding duplication of efforts. Cooperation through taxonomies is essential, but recognising the unique priorities of emerging markets is vital.

The tension between local and international regulatory approaches is acknowledged, with responses largely driven by national boundaries. While a global approach is challenging, it was encouraged to consider commonalities for more consistency. The panelists also recognised that the focus is currently on the environmental (E) aspect of ESG, but the social (S) and governance (G) elements should not be overlooked.

As COP28 approaches, the speakers expressed their expectations. Cara called for more investment in adaptation, Peter anticipated a COP of action led by the COP presidency, and Susan urged that the opportunity of a COP in one’s hometown should not go to waste. 

The sentiment expressed is that COP28 is an opportunity to seize, not merely an occasion for virtue signaling. The world awaits concrete and impactful steps towards addressing the climate crisis.

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