Business leaders call for higher ambition and tangible delivery plans at COP28


Major businesses and civil society organisations are calling on the UK Government to use its leadership position to push for high ambition outcomes at COP28. Leaders representing a range of sectors are urging international governments to accelerate progress on phasing-out fossil fuels, scaling-up climate finance, trebling renewable energy capacity and strengthening measures to address deforestation. The UK has an important role to play in delivering these outcomes, all of which are crucial to keeping the 1.5°C target alive.

This year’s summit will feature the first global stocktake of progress towards the Paris Agreement since its adoption in 2015. The findings of this assessment must be used as an opportunity to renew climate action, raise ambition, and put robust delivery plans in place.

Initial conclusions from the technical dialogue of the stocktake suggest that nations are not cutting emissions fast enough, developed countries are not providing the necessary climate financial support for loss and damage, and the world is not sufficiently prepared for climate impacts [1].

In its latest Emissions Gap Report, the UN Environment Programme finds that current unconditional country plans (NDCs) would put the world on track for limiting temperature rise to 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels this century. [2] There is therefore an essential need for countries to raise their ambitions and accelerate an economy-wide net zero transition. The UK has a responsibility to use its leadership position to help correct the course we are on globally and drive faster action to address these issues.

Business leaders recognise that acting now is vital to not only mitigate the impacts of climate change, but also to create the stable policy landscape needed to maximise the economic opportunity of the net zero transition. The right policy approach has the potential to deliver significant economic and social benefits in the UK and beyond, ending reliance on volatile fossil fuels and unlocking invaluable investment in low-carbon industries. This is alongside lowering future climate risks and the potential for major economic disruption. Governments must therefore work together to deliver on important progress across a number of vital areas as well as committing to more ambitious NDCs.

This call follows a similar intervention from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Environment, led by the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, which issued a list of nine priorities for the UK Government at the summit. [3]

Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Chair of the Aldersgate Group, said: “COP28 must galvanise renewed action from the international community to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement. Global emissions are not falling at the pace required to prevent climate breakdown, and we are already seeing consequences of this through extreme weather events and associated economic damage. Ambitious targets, clear delivery plans, additional climate finance and loss and damage support must be progressed at the summit to keep the commitment of 1.5°C alive. Accelerating progress will also alleviate ongoing economic challenges faced by many nations, from the rising cost of living to increasing energy security.”

Gabrielle Giner, Head of Environmental Sustainability at BT Group said: “Looking ahead to COP28, we need to see leaders who are prepared to take bold action to keep the intention of limiting global warming to 1.5°C alive. Now is not the time to lose momentum. That’s why we need businesses, policy makers, NGOs and investors to work together to meet the need and urgency of the task that lies ahead. At BT Group, we stand firm in our net zero commitments and are excited for the upcoming COP to listen, learn, and share our sustainability experiences.”

Sarah Mukherjee, CEO at IEMA, said: “Green skills are vital if we are to make the changes we need to move to a sustainable UK and global economy. The UK Government has a great opportunity to highlight the need for investment in green skills and jobs at the crucial talks in Dubai.”

Emma Hoskyn, Head of Sustainability and Executive Board Member at JLL, said: “We encourage the Government to deliver ambitious, robust net zero policies and a stable landscape to enable the real estate sector, from investors to occupiers, to have confidence in, and capitalise on, the opportunities that a rapid transition to net zero can provide.”

Dorothée D’Herde, Director of Responsible Business at Kingfisher, said: “At Kingfisher, we are working towards ambitious climate targets and collaborating with our peers to drive progress in reducing emissions across our industry. Companies’ capacity to deliver on their targets is dependent on clear and stable policies, and an ambitious global agenda. COP28 needs to live up to that ambition, requiring governments to show leadership, courage and vision along with concrete action and progress. Only through a race to the top between countries on their ambition, will we be able to stay on track to meet the critical 1.5 degree goal.”

Dr Adam Read, chief external affairs and sustainability officer for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK said: “There has never been a more pressing need for the Government to take bold action and accelerate our efforts in tackling the climate emergency. The COP28 programme has energy, climate finance, and a clear focus on people and nature at the forefront of the agenda – but it presents a missed opportunity to not have resources as a key theme to underpin these priorities, as resource efficiency and sustainable consumption of our finite resources are pivotal to us making meaningful progress in our fight against climate change and are crucial for all sectors transitioning to more sustainable practices. The UK must use its global leadership position to set an ambitious course for us to deliver on our climate commitments, and it’s critical that the Government advances the resource agenda on a global scale so we can deliver net zero together. We are currently consuming three planets worth of resources which is simply not sustainable, we need to see materials being kept in use for longer, with reuse and repair made more accessible to benefit the economy, society and the future health of our planet, greater recycling is simply not enough.”

Roger Hattam, director of retail banking at Triodos Bank UK, said: “The efforts of governments, the financial sector and businesses must intensify; mere pledges are insufficient. Carbon prices, regulation, phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and transparency can speed up this transition. We cannot permit any more delay. The costs would become even higher and tipping points in the climate crisis will be reached more frequently. It is time the world agrees to inclusive action, before it is too late.”

Beverley Cornaby, Director of the UK Corporate Leaders Group, said: “As the impacts of climate change are felt around the world, the transition to a net zero economy is increasingly urgent and impossible for leaders in business or politics to ignore. Solving this problem represents an economic and political opportunity. The UK has historically played a leadership role both at home with ground-breaking legislation and on the world stage through promoting greater climate ambition. The UK cannot afford to reverse this trend or to deviate from this aspirational pathway. Instead we need accelerated implementation in line with our ambitious goals and for commitment levels to rise and spread internationally. This will require a joint endeavour between business, Government and the financial sector – areas where the UK is especially well-placed to show global leadership.”

Kathryn Brown OBE, Director of Climate Change and Evidence at the Wildlife Trust, said: “Nature is moving up the COP agenda; we saw the first references to nature-based solutions in the decision text at COP27, and a myriad of nature events and agreements at COP26. But we want to see real action, not words. We need greater commitment to avoid global deforestation, investment for nature’s recovery and a focus on supporting nature’s role in adaptation at COP28. Above all, we know that the world must put everything it has at its disposal on the table to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement – to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C. We will be watching for that action, along with thousands of global NGO observers at COP28, representing millions of people.”

Julia Barrett, Chief Sustainability Officer at Willmott Dixon, said: “After the celebration of the Paris Agreement, global progress against the Nationally Declared Contributions remains too slow. To limit global temperature rise, we must start taking rapid action, underpinned by a stable policy landscape to deliver the changes to buildings and energy systems, to green transport and biodiversity. Delivering net zero is key to solving the energy crisis and revitalising the UK economy. Making energy efficiency in homes and buildings a priority can accelerate a just transition for all. There’s no time to lose. In the words of our own strategy: it’s Now or Never.”

David Symons, UK Director for Sustainability at WSP, said: “We warmly support ambitious climate action and encourage governments to be brave and bold with their activity during COP28, as communities across the world look to them to deliver positive outcomes on tackling climate change. We know from the Stocktake that we need to make faster progress, and three ambitious commitments on doubling energy efficiency, tripling renewables roll-out and phasing out fossil fuels must be key priorities. Alongside many other businesses, WSP is taking action and will have a strong presence at the conference, making clear the need for decisive leadership on the climate crisis.”


[1] UNFCCC, Technical dialogue of the first global stocktake. Synthesis report by the co-facilitators on the technical dialogue
[2] UN Environment Programme (2023) Emissions Gap Report 2023
[3] Independent (15 November 2023) UK must ‘double down’ on climate leadership at Cop28, MPs say