SEED at COP28: Advocating for the role of SMEs

SEED organised a variety of events at COP28 and contributed to others

SEED’s Contribution to COP28

On December 3rd, in the context of the MENA Hub by the COP28 UAE Secretariat, SEED participated in an event on “How Small and Medium Enterprises Can Change the Course of Action in the Climate Fight” and focused on the important role of women and youth, who constitute about 50% of the entrepreneurs which SEED is working with.

On December 4th took place the event “Accountability in the Built Environment: Integrating Financial Security& Sustainable Trade”, organised by the Emirati Environment Group, where SEED highlighted the critical role of the SMEs in the lifecycle of buildings and the necessity to seriously collaborate with enterprises and enable them to implement their ideas. Countries and large corporations need to provide support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), if they want to effectively approach the net zero issue in the built environment which remains a low-hanging fruit for decreasing CO2 emissions.

On December 5th, SEED organised an event in French on “Les PMEs, partenaires essentiels pour une transition juste vers une économie circulaire sobre en consommation d’énergie”, organised in collaboration and with speakers from Institut de la Francophonie pour le Développement Durable, UN BIT/ILO, SME Climate Hub, UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan/MedWaves and EU Interreg MED. The event was focused on exploring the untapped potential of eco-inclusive businesses and acknowledging their capacity as drivers of green innovation and local resilience in transition to a sustainable, low-energy circular economy

On December 6th, SEED organised and event on the “Role of SMEs in the transition to circular and low carbon economies”, in collaboration and with speakers from the Federal Ministry of Germany for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection BMUV/Germany, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), International Trade Centre (ITC), SME Climate Hub, Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) and Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and a Senior Energy Expert from the Middle East.

Furthermore, SEED also contributed to an event organised by the Institute for Sustainable Development of the European Public Law Organisation on Climate Investments and Finance, where we explained how SEED supports start-ups and SMEs in the circular economy, and what role innovation plays in this sector, insisting on the need for the finance sector to focus on the SMEs small tickets requirements, starting by prioritising low-cost innovations that can deliver quick and long-lasting impacts. 

On December 8th, another SEED event on “SMEs, Gamechangers in a Just Transition to circular and low carbon economies” was organised in collaboration and with speakers from the Federal Ministry of Germany for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection BMUV/Germany, ILO, UNCTAD, International Organisation of Employers/IOE, CAREC (Central Asia Reg. Env. Centre), Habitat for Humanity, IUCN, Euro-Med Economists Association/EMAE.

One more event was co-organised on the same day by ILO, SEED and UNEP, focusing on “Circular economy: How SMEs can transform the economy for people, planet and prosperity”. The event highlighted how the circular economy model has increasingly been considered a useful – if not necessary – way to respond to environmental and social challenges. Meanwhile, a circular economy transition may represent the largest labour market shock towards a green and sustainable future. During this event, SEED revealed how its tailored support to SMEs has demonstrated that it makes good economic, environmental and social good sense to further enable green SMEs in their actions, including job creation and social inclusiveness. Bringing SMEs in the just transition is essential to limit job losses and optimise employment while achieving the transition to a green economy.

SEED also manged to contribute to an event in “Cascading Climate Action in Supply Chains with Innovative Practices to Empower SMEs to Decarbonise”, organised by the COP28 and SME Climate Hub for MENA. We spotlighted the need to focus on the decarbonisation achievable and achieved by the locally rooted SMEs, and consider their multiplier effect by scaling up, which can have a major impact, most probably most important than what large corporations could deliver.

Key Takeaways from the Events

In these events, the role of SMEs was discussed in depth, through their pivotal role and the need to provide them with relevant tailored support and enabling capacity, while considering technical support and financial literacy as well as policy, financial and market ecosystems so as to secure adequate framework for their effective contribution to a transition pathway towards circular low carbon economies and sustainable development.

A number of key ideas and conclusions have been made, which are based on the fact that SMEs are key drivers for innovations, mainly locally relevant innovations, replying to local challenges and needs, and building local resilience. It has been clearly defined that SMEs, the Missing Middle, should be given more serious attention in the climate discussions and expected actions.

More Action is Needed in the Immediate Future

COP28 events have also shown that it is crucial to provide more space for the SMEs to be visible, heard and valued for their critical role as key partners in the transition to circularity and sustainability. This would enable SMEs to address their needs, which have also been clearly identified during COP28 discussions.

To take meaningful actions a number of key actors will have to perform their role in the process of supporting SMEs. Governments need to enact and implement policy frameworks in support to SMEs and their innovations, including relevant incentives and procurement policies. Business companies need to consider the role of and support to SMEs in the value chain if aiming seriously to sustainability. Finally, the financial sector needs sector to “give a space” for the SMEs, creating tools dedicated to SMEs for their access to financial needs, with focus to low-cost innovations with higher impact through multiplier and scaling mechanisms. 

We have to empower SMEs in their pivotal role during the transition to a sustainable, low-energy circular economy, as it becomes clear that Net Zero and Circular Economy cannot be achieved without support for SMEs and Special Containment Procedures (SCP). While scaling up is necessary to reach visible impact, collaboration and partnerships are necessary to enhance and consolidate synergies and joint actions, since united action for the shared goal of supporting SMEs is critical to structure a collective action catalyst.