COP28 Solutions Event Series

Future Economy Forum at COP28

Regardless of how one evaluates the outcomes of COP28’s official negotiations – where each nation has a veto right – we are grateful for all the results the Future Economy Forum was able co-create with our many partner institutions and the more than 1,000 senior leaders who joined our diverse programs at our COP Blue Zone Pavilion, the beautiful Green Zone Terra auditorium and rooftop terrace, kyu House in Dubai’s art district and the magical garden and fireside majlis of our Emirati friends. 

Building on our COP27 Solutions Dialogues in Sharm el Sheikh, at COP28 in Dubai, UAE, the Future Economy Forum co-created eleven days of diverse opportunities to enter into real dialogue and connection across diverse stakeholders, and therefore also to advance resilient partnerships and initiatives that implement hands-on solutions.

We are grateful to all who contributed and look forward to our ongoing collaboration.  

A few of FEF’s COP28 highlights on the following topics:

  • COP Breakthrough for Regenerative Agriculture and Food Systems
  • Scaling Successful Initiatives to Co-create a New Mainstream of Agriculture
  • Scaling Financing and Policy in Support of Regenerative Food Systems
  • Whole System Carbon Plus Credits to Finance the Transition
  • Regenerative Innovation Labs for Successful Business and Leadership
  • Launching a Regenerative MBA for the UAE and the MENA region
  • Cinema Club on Regenerative Agriculture and Food Systems 
  • Journalist Lunches with Food Tank
  • Successful Regenerative Farmers Learning From and With Each Other 

Testimonials

“Working together here at COP, we got done in 2 weeks what normally would take a year,” said Vijay Kumar, leader of Andhra Pradesh’s Community Managed Natural Farming that we are scaling together around the world. 

“This was the best session I joined at COP,” said Fiona Harvey, The Guardian’s environmental editor about the dialogue we hosted with Food Tank for journalists, regenerative farmers and food system experts. 

“Thank you very much for hosting and facilitating so many interesting meetings and conversations,” wrote Michiel Bakker, Vice President, Google  

Highlights

COP Breakthrough for Regenerative Agriculture and Food Systems
Together with renewable energy and efficiency, regenerative agriculture and food systems are the second pillar of climate solutions. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, regenerative agriculture is the most beneficial way to actually reduce carbon in the atmosphere while also strengthening biodiversity, food and water security, human health, women’s empowerment, farmers incomes and regional economic development. Yet regenerative agriculture is receiving much less attention and funding than renewable energy and efficiency. Therefore it is of particular significance that we have collectively managed over the past years to position regenerative agriculture and food systems into global investment and policy agendas. At COP28 it was widely discussed and recognized for its crucial role in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change and therefore finally included into COP’s official Global Stocktake agreement. This is an important step that we can build on together!  

Scaling Regenerative Agriculture to Become the New Mainstream  
While we also support small scale innovation initiatives, our main focus is on helping to cross-pollinate, spread and scale around the world the financing and implementation of successful methodologies to millions and eventually to hundreds of millions of small holder farmers, as well as to those who farm very large properties. While we are humbled by the enormity of the task, anything less than co-creating a new mainstream in agriculture and related industries does not match the challenges and opportunities we are all facing.One example that demonstrates the realism of such ambitions is our hands-on collaboration to support the national and international funding, adaptation and implementation of Andhra Pradesh’s Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF) initiative, where after only 7 years of work, already one million farmers are benefiting from these positive system impacts, including higher productivity and incomes in the first year of transitioning from chemical to regenerative agriculture. 

Scaling Offer and Demand, Financing, Policy and Culture for Regenerative Food System   
In our Blue Zone Pavilion and during a series of summits and dinners at the beautiful and climate neutral Terra Pavilion in the Green Zone, we hosted a series of high-level dialogues, working sessions and dinners with farmers, corporate owners and C-Suite leaders, investors, bankers, government and multilateral leaders to scale blended finance solutions that integrate private sector investments and bank financing with government and foundation funding. We also considered what policies can support the massive scaling of these funding and implementation solutions, and how to shift subsidies and public sector purchasing from chemical to regenerative farming and its products. And we considered how we can strengthen demand among direct and indirect clients whose purchasing preferences strongly influence the offer. We also went beyond market behavior into the rich ancient and contemporary cultures that underlie the transition to increasingly regenerative agri-cultures. Here, three larger-scale evening dialogues and dinners that addressed these mutually reinforcing aspects of the transition.    

Whole System Carbon Plus Credits to Finance the Transition   
As part of our work to scale and activate private sector funding, at last year’s COP27 we supported Sekem to generate the necessary support by Egypt’s government, its stock exchange, largest bank as well as international corporations and the UN to scale the transition from chemical to regenerative agriculture from 2,000 to 40,000 Egyptian farmers. Sekem aims to expand that number to 250,000 farmers which may be enough to reach critical mass for the shift to a new mainstream of Egypt’s agriculture, a model in the region.This transition is enabled by what we call ‘Whole System Carbon Plus Credits’ that offer regenerative farmers finally a fair compensation for their diverse ecosystem services, which includes carbon sequestration and the strengthening of biodiversity, food and water security, health of farmers and consumers, social and economic development. We help Sekem to market these credits to companies who seek high quality, high integrity credits that represent a whole system solution in which each aspect of the solution is mutually reinforcing with other aspects. 

Regenerative Innovation Labs for Successful Business and Leadership 
Building on our decades of experience to advance regenerative business and leadership innovation, COP28 became the opportunity to develop a long-term strategic Partnership for a Regenerative Economy with the outstanding kyu Collective that includes some of the world’s leading design and innovation consultancies. This partnership will complement our collaboration with leading companies and some of the world’s largest trade fairs: www.innolabnow.com

Our joint initiative with the kyu Collective was to offer daily Innovation Labs at our Blue Zone Pavilion in which NOW Managing Partner Merijn Dols partnered with senior kyu leaders of Atölye, BEworks, Gehl, IDEO, Lexington, Neol and SYPartners. The Labs addressed topics including: Creating Cities for Community and Planetary Health; Scaling Sustainability through Desirability; Designing Climate Positive Policy and PR; Empowering Climate Pioneers; The Inner Work Required, and more.    

Launching a Regenerative MBA for the UAE and the MENA region
In collaboration with senior next generation leaders in the private and public sectors of the UAE, we are developing an executive MBA program that supports the full integration of the regeneration of people and nature with business success and economic development. 

As one corporate leader put it: Everybody tells us we should do sustainable business. Yet nobody helps us to do it profitably. But without economic success all the talk about regeneration will remain a nice PR story instead of becoming the new economic mainstream, which we want and need but don’t know how to implement. 

This program will be adapted to the local economic and cultural context of the region, which significantly differs from North America, the UK and Europe where most high level MBAs originate. The program builds on our own experience of developing the USA’s first fully accredited MBA in Sustainable Management and hundreds of other leadership programs around the world, and more importantly, on running and working with companies in the Global South and North who have successfully implemented this integration.  

Cinema Club on Regenerative Agriculture and Food Systems
At our COP Blue Zone Pavilion we launched together with our partners from the Food Systems Pavilion and EIT Food, the European Union’s Innovation and Technology Institute, a film series that made Regenerative Agriculture and its amazing impacts on nature and people tangible. Supported by the filmmakers, producers and protagonists, viewers first experienced and then entered into dialogues that they said went deeper than many COP discussions, because the films’ experiential impact opened their hearts alongside their minds. 

The series featured two world premieres: Guardians of the Soil and Six Inches of Soil and recent releases like Respect Farms and Abundance and Classics like Kiss the Ground and The Biggest Little Farm. The Ellen McArthur Foundation offered short films on Circular Design for Food, and NOW Partners Foundation featured its Regenerative Leadership interviews with Brazil’s large scale regenerative farmer Leontino Balbo who produces ⅓ of the world’s organic cane sugar and Brazil’s environment and climate minister and COP30 host Marina Silva with whom we are collaborating to scale a regenerative bioeconomy in the Amazon and beyond.  

Stills from ‘The Guardians of the Soil’ by Elisabetta Illy, Jaqueline Illy & Federico Gariboldi. World premiered at the Future Economy Forum’s Cinema Club at COP28  

Journalist Lunches with Food Tank
Another innovation to our COP program was a series of dialogs that we co-created with our partner Danielle Nierenberg and the Food Tank team. It brought together senior correspondents from the Global North and South, including from Time Magazine, Forbes, Kenya’s Nation Media Group, the UAE’s Khaleej Times and New Zealand’s Newsroom with regenerative farmers and food system leaders. Hosted as real dialogues, participants shared that new understandings and relationships developed. Fiona Harvey, The Guardian’s environmental editor said: This was the best session I joined at COP.  

Successful Regenerative Farmers Learning From and With Each Other
We used this COP again as an opportunity to finally bring together leading regenerative farmers who otherwise don’t find the time to deeply discuss their practices and learn from and with each other. In one example, we used the free day in the middle of COP to bring together APCNF’s Vijay Kumar and Sekem’s Helmy Abouleish with global regenerative agriculture experts Hunter Lovins, Merijn Dols, who led Open Innovation and Circularity for Food Systems at Danone and HE Sheikh Dr. Majid Al-Qassimi who developed the UAE government’s food security policy. Together, we visited the UAE’s most successful organic farm and restaurant as well as other farmland where, as a result of our partnerships with Sheikh Dr. Majid, we will co-create regenerative agriculture projects that will be integrated with the food and health systems and other industries. 

The point is not only to supply the regional market but to demonstrate that regenerative agriculture can be more productive and profitable for farmers also under the challenging natural conditions of this region. As they say: Seeing is believing! The UAE is already one of the world’s largest investors in renewable energy. Together, we want to support it to also become one of the largest funders of regenerative agriculture and food systems around the world.

Lastly, we want to thank all of the leaders from diverse stakeholder organizations who helped us to launch the Future Economy Forum as a platform for real dialogue, resilient collaboration and concrete action!