COP 28 Climate Talks: The imperative role of the banking sector in addressing climate change and nurturing a greener future

  • 25 Nov 2023
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Paul Russo

The forthcoming 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference more commonly known as COP28, scheduled for the end of this month in Dubai, demands special attention. We must reflect on the key takeaways from last year’s round of global climate talks to see the progress being made. This event serves as a stark reminder of the pressing need for all nations to intensify their efforts in tackling the climate crisis and mostly support Africa in this journey.


In a world beset by a myriad of environmental challenges, it is abundantly clear that the banking sector must now step into the forefront of climate change mitigation, transitioning from a mere moral imperative to a strategic necessity.


Last year’s COP 27 in Egypt witnessed the convergence of nations, experts, and passionate activists, all with a shared objective: to forge a collective path towards combatting climate change. While various commitments and resolutions emerged from the conference, it was the resounding emphasis on “Finance” that captured the collective consciousness. The lesson learned was unequivocal – without robust and sustained financing, the lofty climate goals outlined in previous COP meetings risk remaining nothing more than eloquent rhetoric.


One region that exemplifies the dire consequences of climate change is Africa, which stands particularly vulnerable to its impacts. The continent grapples with climate-related disasters such as droughts, floods, and extreme weather events that wreak havoc on its nations and people. Kenya, for instance, faces the daunting challenge of adapting to the ever-changing climate landscape. Disruptions to agriculture, water scarcity, and infrastructure damage have become part of their everyday reality. Climate finance emerges as the essential lifeline to address these formidable challenges, yet Kenya’s climate finance gap looms large, an obstacle that threatens to undermine its path to sustainability and resilience.


Climate financing has risen to prominence as a pivotal factor in shaping a sustainable future. The banking sector, both on a global scale and within the African continent, finds itself at the nexus of financial services and environmental responsibility. It must transition from a passive bystander to an active participant in the global climate action movement. Banks possess the unique potential to leverage their vast resources, financial acumen, and extensive reach to channel funds into sustainable projects and investments, thereby mitigating climate change and aiding African nations in adapting to its impacts.


As Africa eagerly awaits the promised loss and damage fund, they must assert their capacity to provide local solutions for their people and the importance of the banking sector’s involvement in bridging the climate finance gap cannot be overstated. Banks stand at the heart of economic activity, and their role in facilitating the flow of capital towards sustainable initiatives and projects is pivotal. This includes their support for renewable energy development, sustainable agriculture, and the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure. Furthermore, they play a transformative role in creating financial instruments that align with the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus making sustainable endeavours more attractive to investors.


Banking institutions are uniquely positioned to serve as catalysts for sustainable development. KCB Group has taken up this mantle, demonstrating its unwavering commitment to addressing climate change and fostering sustainability. We have set forth ambitious goals, aiming to accelerate immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and avert a climate catastrophe. This commitment aligns with the global imperative of halving global emissions by 2030 and reducing emissions by mid-century to preserve the 1.5°C target. Through its active participation in COP 28, KCB intends to broadcast a resounding message of climate ambition and contribute to the scaling and acceleration of climate action in the regions it operates.


The banking sector needs to work closely with Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to facilitate their transition to sustainable, cost-efficient, and more resilient operations. This collaborative effort focuses on supporting renewable energy, green building, sustainable infrastructure, transport, and climate-smart agriculture technologies. The vision is to usher in a future where sustainability and financial prosperity coexist harmoniously and grow the portfolio going to sustainable projects.


The banking sector’s role in advancing sustainability is irrefutable. Their pivotal position in providing and allocating capital, assessing risks, and influencing business practices underscores their indispensability in the global transition to a more sustainable world. Together, with collective resolve and strategic collaboration, we can lay the foundation for a more sustainable future that will endure for generations to come.


As leaders in our respective industries, we stand at a critical juncture where the decisions we make today not only shape the future of our businesses but also contribute significantly to the well-being of our planet and communities.


The integration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles into business strategies, has therefore become increasingly recognized as crucial for companies looking to attract investors. Investors and other stakeholders are increasingly showing interest in the commitment towards sustainable finance.

The conversation today must be aligned with how we safeguard the Planet and People even as we pursue Profits. The private sector has the opportunity, the manpower and the assets to enable our communities to thrive. While we are committed to making a positive impact, we have learned that sustainable practices should also be economically viable in the long run.


As COP 28 looms, the world awaits the banking sector’s transformative actions in the fight against climate change, echoing the urgency of our times and the potential for a brighter, more sustainable future.


The writer is the KCB Group CEO.