Have European banks cashed in on deforestation and slavery?

Environmental campaigners have dragged controversial investments into the spotlight, claiming that major European banks are linked to businesses that harm threatened species, engage in deforestation and other questionable environmental practices.


European banks, including Switzerland’s UBS, the UK’s HSBC and Spain’s Santander, have been thrown into the spotlight after two recent reports linked them to significant environmental damage.

The revelations come as these “green” investments, so called because they were made to fund environmentally friendly activities, are increasingly falling under scrutiny: The UK Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the sustainability-linked loans market, while a new European Green Bond Regulation is coming into effect next year – a gold standard that aims to eliminate any greenwashing from the bond market.

How Brazilian ‘green bonds’ link European banks to allegations of deforestation and slave labour

At the centre of the allegations is the green bond market in Brazil, which environmental campaigner Greenpeace says UBS and Santander, among other non-European banks, have acted as intermediaries in.

The banks helped investors to purchase green investment assets, according to a report by Greenpeace’s investigative journalism project Unearthed, which generated funds that were ultimately used to finance controversial companies including deforesters, land grabbers and ranchers accused of slave labour in Brazil.

The banks orchestrating these bond transactions define the price of the bonds and sell them to investors in exchange for a fee, which is usually 3% to 5% of the total offer.

The allegations focus on so-called Agribusiness Receivables Certificates (CRA) – an asset backed security which represents investment in agribusiness, financing those on the ground in the hope of a hefty return on investment.

These are referred to as green bonds and they were initially created to support small-scale, sustainable farmers’ practices in Brazil.

But in reality, the market has swollen by around €8 billion and the bonds often finance large companies and their suppliers.

It’s these bonds that have linked European banks to claims of deforestation and even slave-like working conditions.

According to Unearthed, UBS helped Brazilian grain trader Caramaru to raise funds worth of €66.5 million in CRAs in October 2021.

Part of the money ended up in the hands of Caramuru’s soy suppliers, Unearthed said, some of whom have a history of illegal deforestation and land grabbing. Another has even been sued for alleged slave-like labour.

Caramuru denies wrongdoing, claiming that it monitors the environmental compliance of all its suppliers and that the company hasn’t done business with all of the suppliers. As such, “it is possible to state that soy was not acquired from places with issues of illegal deforestation or land grabbing, nor from farms with work similar to slavery,” the company said.

For its part, UBS said it does not “knowingly provide financial or advisory services to clients” associated with damages to high conservation value forests, child labour and forced labour, among other practices.

UBS isn’t the only European bank caught in the crosshairs. Spain’s Santander was involved in raising funds to the tune of €280 million in CRAs for JBS, the largest meat processing enterprise in the world, in August 2023, according to Unearthed.

JBS admitted in 2022 to buying cattle from a farmer that prosecutors dubbed “one of the biggest deforesters in Brazil”, despite saying it has strict, self-imposed rules on who it does business with.

Santander also helped Uisa, one of the largest ethanol and sugar producers in the world, to issue a R$150 million green CRA, for a fee of roughly €710,000.

Uisa has received a dozen environmental fines for illegal deforestation, and was also responsible for leaking toxic material into a river that is vital to the Umatina Indigenous people in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

Like UBS, Santander claims to have a strict rulebook to eliminate environmental and social risks in its business, the latter stating that CRAs are regulated by the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission.


“Santander has strong governance processes in place to ensure that required market standards are adhered to,” the bank said in a statement.

How European banks may be further harming threatened species

Aside from the Unearthed report, a new study from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has linked 62 banks and financial institutions, including some in Europe, to harming threatened animal species.

The report states that the banks have invested in three companies that produce traditional Chinese medicine, using leopard and pangolin parts. Both animals are classified as highly threatened species – a stone’s throw from being considered endangered.

UBS is once again named as having invested in the companies, but so are UK lender HSBC and Germany’s Deutsche Bank. All three are members of The Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife (UfW) Financial Taskforce, which was launched in 2018 to stop the trafficking of wildlife, according to the report.

While HSBC and Deutsche Bank are not direct investors in the Chinese companies according to the report, they are linked to them via asset management companies. They claim that these investments came about through passive funds – a type of automatic investment, that is channelling money in shares based on a linked index, the BBC reports.


UBS has not responded to a request for comment.

Both the EIA and Unearthed reports are just two of many which claim to shed light on the impact that major banks’ business practices have on the environment.

The worsening dangers of climate change have prompted investors and companies across the globe to increasingly turn towards green financial products, including green bonds, and present themselves as sustainable businesses that care about the environment.

Yet the concept of greenwashing – which refers to when a company makes misleading claims about the positive effect it has on the environment – is looming large too.

The number of instances of greenwashing by banks and financial service companies around the world has risen by 70% in the past 12 months, according to RepRisk, a Swiss environmental, social and corporate governance data provider.


EU to put a stop to greenwashing

The European Union is hoping to stem the flow of greenwashing with its new European Green Bond Regulation, which is due to come online in 2024.

It will introduce legal sanctions for any misleading business practices related to sustainability and the environment.

The newly-approved rules against greenwashing in the bond market include a registration system and supervisory framework.

Under the new regulations, companies issuing green bonds will have to disclose more information about their practices with special regards to show how these investments feed into the companies’ plans to transition to a net zero carbon emissions economy.

The new law also specifies that at least 85% of funds raised would have to be allocated to activities that are sustainable according to EU law.


At the same time, the European Banking Authority will require banks to publish their so-called green asset ratio, a percentage of environmentally sustainable assets, in their books. 

A common classification system – the EU’s taxonomy – will define what makes a ‘green’ asset.

Swiss banks campaign for self-regulation

The EU isn’t alone in wanting to regulate greenwashing: Reuters reports that the Swiss government will consider the matter as part of a plan to introduce overall state regulation on sustainable finance in the country.

Switzerland, a huge centre for asset and wealth management, accounted for sustainable investments totalling around 1.6 trillion Swiss francs (€1.69 trillion) in 2022, according to industry association Swiss Sustainable Finance.

The Swiss Bankers Association, which represents lenders like UBS and Julius Baer as well as Switzerland’s smaller banks, wants to continue with self-regulation rather than be subject to tighter government rules, according to Reuters.


UBS, the country’s biggest bank with $5.5 trillion in invested assets, also supports self-regulation, saying it sets a “minimum standard”.

“There is a wave of regulation coming to Swiss banks…it will really hit (them),” said Daniel Schmid Perez of banking consultancy ZEB.

He estimates the total cost for lenders to adjust their processes would be around 100 million to 200 million francs. Yet many consider the cost worth it to boost sustainability in the effort to avoid climate disaster.

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A new green EU directive could see circular washing go down the drain

If passed, the law will ban generic claims — from “environmentally-friendly” and “eco” to “natural” and “biodegradable” — from being made without evidence. This is a much-needed step in the right direction, Ana Birliga Sutherland writes.

Regulators are finally cracking down on advertisers making false green claims, in a series of moves dubbed the end of the “greenwashing era”. 


These claims — from the vague (“all natural”) to the hard-to-verify and seemingly omnipresent (“carbon neutral”)—often mislead increasingly climate-conscious consumers. 

The desire for more environmentally friendly goods is growing rapidly, with nearly 90% of Gen X consumers willing to spend more on sustainable products, compared to 34% in 2020. 

And at the same time, the circular economy — an economic model that designs out waste, cuts material use and keeps materials in the loop for as long as possible — is becoming increasingly mainstream.

This begs the question: as greenwashing is kicked to the kerb, does this allow space for its more insidious cousin — circular washing — to creep in? 

A ban on vague, misleading and unfounded claims is on its way

Keen to profit from consumers’ changing ethos, brands are adding circular claims to their arsenals. 

These can be even more harmful: what’s branded as “circular” isn’t always good for the environment, especially if it features an over-reliance on recycling rather than substantial cuts in material use. 

Advertisers can tend to focus on a single aspect of their product or service, but a holistic approach to circularity is most effective: claims that a product contains recycled materials, for example, may not show the whole picture, drawing attention away from other not-so-circular features.

The EU’s move to tackle greenwashing has drawn attention from proponents and critics alike: the proposal for the new “Green Claims” directive was voted in plenary with a huge majority, setting the foundation for a finalised law in the coming months. 

If passed, it’ll ban generic claims — from “environmentally-friendly” and “eco” to “natural” and “biodegradable” — from being made without evidence, requiring brands to verify their products’ merits through third-party certification schemes. 

This is a much-needed step in the right direction: a 2020 study found that a massive 53% of green claims were vague, misleading or unfounded, with a further 40% entirely unsubstantiated. 

But will the directive take on circular washing — and consequently encourage true circularity as well?


The Green Claims directive will cover all manner of sins — circular washing included

The proposed directive rides along a wave of initiatives that aims to make “environmentally sustainable products and business models the norm, and not the exception”; complemented by circular design interventions, an upcoming ban on planned obsolescence and another proposed directive on common rules for the repair of goods.

The need to tackle greenwashing has emerged as a priority under the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan and also supports the goals of the European Green Deal — and to this end, the directive succeeds at covering any number of false environmental claims and boasts the much-needed nuance. 

The sustainability of a part does not equal the sustainability of the whole, but certain aspects — recyclability, repairability, and durability, for example — can be featured as benefits, if substantiated. 

The proposed directive highlights the “fast-changing area of environmental claims by means of a single method”, as well as its flaws: rolling out a single method, like environmental footprinting, may not do credit to a product’s genuine performance, whether positive or negative.

Claims omitting hidden trade-offs might mislead consumers

This sentiment has been echoed by environmental NGOs, which have expressed that single environmental scores mustn’t be used to “hide trade-offs”. 


This is addressed in further detail by the directive, which notes that consumers could be misled if claims point to environmental benefits while omitting the fact that those benefits lead to hidden trade-offs. 

For example, an environmental claim on textiles containing polymer from recycled PET bottles, if the recycled material may be otherwise used within a closed-loop recycling system for food packaging — the more beneficial option from a circular economy perspective. 

While bottle-to-bottle recycling is the ideal, the market for recycled plastic fabrics is growing — and not always first discerning whether higher-value reuse or recycling options are feasible.

The proposed directive calls for nuance in determining products’ environmental — or circular — performance, noting that comparative claims between similar products with different raw materials and production processes must take the most relevant life-cycle stages into account. 

For example: impacts within the agriculture and forestry industries are relevant for bio-based plastics, while oil extraction comes to the fore for fossil-based plastics. 


While bio-based plastics certainly can be greener than their fossil-based counterparts — particularly in terms of their carbon footprint — concerns about the land-use requirements needed to grow the plants potentially competing with food and feed production and the potential risk of increased monocropping have come to the fore. 

These are the kinds of trade-offs the proposed directive hopes to shine a light on, especially as these claims are rising and are more often than not misleading.

The caveat: tackling false claims may lead to green — or circular — ’hushing’

Can a good thing go too far? Critics of the directive have honed in on the potential for “greenhushing”: brands deciding not to declare all the sustainable steps they’re taking due to steep costs or even fear of legal pushback for making (unintentional) false claims. 

While the proposed directive does mention protection for SMEs — noting that EU member states should provide adequate information on how to comply, as well as targeted, specialised training and financial support — smaller businesses may stand to lose out without knowledge of the right steps forward. 

While navigating new legislative waters may prove tricky, transparency and willingness to learn will be key along the way.

Additionally, companies should leverage their preparation for the CSRD. Adopted in late 2022, the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive will require nearly 50,000 companies across Europe to report on sustainability, resource use, and circular economy performance. 

Many companies’ sustainability-related data will come to the surface, providing new opportunities for transparency — but also showing where there’s room for improvement. 

Data collected for the CSRD can help companies make informed decisions about what to report and may open them up to attracting new customers and uncovering new ways of doing business. 

It’ll also lay bare businesses’ transgressions, making it more difficult to hide behind false claims.

The EU won’t be a safe haven for unsustainable businesses

While the Directive’s efficacy at quelling greenwashing and circular washing has yet to be seen, its existence in the broader legislative landscape of new EU bills is promising. 

With sustainability reporting requirements just over the horizon (businesses will be required to report on circularity from 2025) and a new ecodesign regulation — which will ban planned obsolescence — receiving broad support in parliament, it seems the EU is shaping a new standard for companies doing business across the continent. 

The next step: making this new standard the new normal.

Ana Birliga Sutherland is Writer and Editor at Circle Economy, a global impact organisation with an international team of experts based in Amsterdam.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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COP28 UAE Presidency | Why are Western lawmakers opposing Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber’s appointment?

The story so far: Almost a week after the United Nations’ crucial climate meetings in Bonne, Germany from June 5 to 15, which are considered the halfway mark to the COP climate summit in November, questions over the COP28 Presidency of United Arab Emirates (UAE) Industry Minister Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber still remain. While the UAE leader did say in Bonne that COP28 was going to be “inclusive” and deliver a “game-changing outcome” to tackle climate change, he did not talk about a concrete plan to phase out fossil fuels or address his links to the fossil fuel industry.

Each year, the host country for the COP summit nominates a president to helm the climate negotiations with almost 200 countries. The UAE announced Mr. al-Jaber, the State oil company CEO, as its pick in January, a move that has faced backlash from Western lawmakers, leaders of some countries, as well as civil society groups.

Notably, more than 130 lawmakers from the United States and the European Parliament last month wrote a letter to European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden asking them to urge the UAE to withdraw its appointment of Mr. al-Jaber as the COP28 President. They argued that the move could risk undermining the climate negotiations and asked the world leaders to help restore “public faith in the COP process severely jeopardised by having an oil company executive at the helm.”

Who is Sultan al-Jaber?

Mr. al-Jaber, who is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) since 2016, was appointed as UAE’s Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology in 2020, a new department established that year.

The leader, who has a chemical engineering and economics background, was serving as a Minister of State in the UAE government since 2013. Also in 2020, he was for the second time appointed as the UAE’s special envoy for climate change, a role previously held by him from 2010 to 2016.

The Minister is also serving in a contrasting role, as the Chairman of Masdar, a renewable energy firm in Abu Dhabi, which he helped start in 2006. According to the BBC, Masdar is now active in more than 40 countries and has invested in mainly solar and wind power projects of a total capacity of 15 gigawatts, which it notes, is capable of displacing more than 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

In July 2020, Mr. al-Jaber was also appointed Chairman of the Emirates Development Bank, which according to his Ministry’s website, provides financial services for the sustainable economic and social development of the UAE.

The Guardian reported late last month that Mr. al-Jaber’s team was being accused of attempting to “greenwash” his image. It emerged that members of his team had edited Wikipedia pages that talked about his role as CEO of ADNOC; they were accused of inserting a quote from a Bloomberg editorial that said he was “precisely the kind of ally the climate movement needs.”

Why is Sultan al-Jaber’s appointment as the COP28 president facing criticism?

Climate campaigners and groups have been voiced their discontent with the appointment of an oil executive to head a summit responsible for brokering global partner negotiations to mitigate climate change and build a framework to meet the ​​countries’ pledge at the 2015 summit in Paris to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as against pre-industrial levels.

Scientists are near-unanimous that carbon emissions need to be halved by 2030 and ‘net zero’ emissions reached mid-century if the goal has to be achieved. Another agreement within the scientific community and many world leaders is that reducing the production and use of fossil fuel resources— coal, oil and gas— is the way to meet the promises of the Paris Agreement.

However, as the CEO of the state oil firm ADNOC, Mr. al-Jaber’s 2030 strategy for the firm is to build a more “profitable upstream, more valuable downstream and more sustainable and economic gas supply,” which essentially means more fossil fuels.

Critics, like Michael Bloss, a German member of the European Parliament and one of the 133 lawmakers who signed the open letter, argue that appointment was “a scandal” and a “perfect example of a conflict of interest.” The member of the German Green Party says, “It’s like putting the tobacco industry in charge of ending smoking.”

“The decision to name as president of COP28 the chief executive of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies—a company that has recently announced plans to add 7.6 billion barrels of oil to its production in the coming years, representing the fifth largest increase in the world— risks undermining the negotiations,” says the letter by lawmakers to Mr. Biden and Ms. Von der Leyen. The signatories also include the likes of U.S. senator Bernie Sanders, veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among others.

The letter pointed out how “at least 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered to attend last year’s COP—an increase of more than 25% over the previous year.” While the number of attendees representing the fossil fuel industry was largelast year, there are concerns about increased space for such interests at the upcoming summit, considering the new leadership.

According to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), ADNOC pumped 2.7 million barrels of oil per day in 2021 and has ambitious plans. It is vying to nearly double its daily output to five million barrels by 2027 — a deadline which was moved forward from 2030 this year by Mr. al-Jaber.

“We are an emerging upstream company… with a mandate to stay focused on exploring the UAE’s undeveloped oil and gas potential,” the official website of ADNOC reads. Experts also highlight that it is in the UAE’s national interest to continue the production of fossil fuels as the 10th largest oil producers in the world and as a historic member of the influential OPEC+ oil cartel of countries.

Why has Mr. al-Jaber’s advocacy of carbon capture been criticised?

World leaders have faced a dilemma about the best approach to meet international climate goals, with some pushing for a phaseout of fossil fuels as the way to go while others insist on oil and gas continuing to play a role in the future, provided their emissions are somehow curbed. Mr. al-Jaber belongs to the latter school of thought.

Climate campaigners and scientists have expressed caution that technologies proposed so far to capture fossil fuel emissions have not been tested at scale. They also argue that responses do not hit at the root cause of the problem and look at post facto containment once emissions are released, pointing out that they could also divert attention and resources from effective alternatives such as renewable energy.

However, Mr. al-Jaber has talked about the need to tackle fossil fuel emissions, a stand that observers say mark his inclination to industry interest. He has said that the goal should be a global system “free of unabated fossil fuels.” The term ‘abated’ relates to approaches used in reducing or capturing greenhouse gas emissions that result from the burning of fossil fuels.

At the Bonne talks this week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock emphasised that the proposal to tackle emissions shouldn’t take away from the need to drastically cut fossil fuel use, a position shared by other European nations and vulnerable island states where sea levels are rising making them extremely vulnerable to climate impacts.

Stakeholders like Denmark’s climate minister, Dan Jørgensen, say that carbon capture and storage technologies his country is testing in the North Sea should only be restricted to sectors where cutting emissions is extremely hard, such as the cement industry.

Meanwhile, the UAE, while having backed the idea of significantly boosting wind and solar power, has made clear that it wants to keep fossil fuels as an option for the foreseeable future. Mr. al-Jaber said his country wants “a comprehensive, holistic approach to an energy transition that included all sources of energy.”

“We know that fossil fuel will continue to play a role in the foreseeable future, helping meet global requirements so our aim should be a focus on ensuring that we phase out emissions from all sectors whether it’s oil and gas or high emitting industries,” he said. “In parallel, we should assert all effort and all investments in renewable energy and clean technology space.”

He did however say that the phasedown of fossil fuels was “inevitable” while stopping short of advocating a complete ban.

More than 80 countries backed efforts to put oil and gas, not just coal, on notice at the last U.N. climate summit in Egypt. Meanwhile, the U.S and U.K. backed Mr. al-Jaber’s Presidency. Many stakeholders argue that having all voices at the table, including a decisive figure from the oil industry, can make negotiations more concrete and realistic. Developing nations like Bangladesh and the Maldives have also said that fossil fuel-dependent economies are critical to climate negotiation and mitigation efforts, and that they have a more difficult task defining their energy transition strategy.

They are banking on Mr. al-Jaber to help secure climate investments supported by sovereign wealth funds and multilateral development banks. They argue that for the poorer and developing countries, curtailing economic growth is not an option while the rich and developed countries continue to pollute. India, which has been an advocate of climate justice, has also supported Mr. al-Jaber’s appointment.

What plans has Mr. al-Jaber highlighted to tackle climate change as the COP28 President?

While not offering a concrete framework so far, Mr. al-Jaber has emphasised that the summit in Dubai will be “inclusive,” while concerns about greenwashing and freedom for young activists and campaigners in the gulf country during the summit exist.

While taking the immediate phaseout of fossil fuels off the table, Mr. al-Jaber has reiterated the need to double down on renewables. He said in a speech this year that “reaching net zero will deliver the biggest market transformation, greatest economic and human promise since the first Industrial Revolution,” adding that this could be done by tapping into the renewables market.

Supporting the idea that developing nations, while vulnerable to climate change, have their economic and development priorities fulfil, Mr. al-Jaber said one of the important focuses of the negotiations would be to get funds from bigger nations and funding from multilateral development banks, institutions, and to activate already existing corpus funds to which nations have pledged.

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Paul Polman: The world needs a Marshall Plan to fight climate change–and politicians are failing to show ambition. Business can’t afford to wait

The COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh were a missed opportunity. The pledge to keep global temperature rises under 1.5 degrees is just about alive, affirmed by G20 leaders in Bali–but there’s no clear plan to deliver it.

The Sharm deal doesn’t include a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels or any guarantee that emissions will peak by 2025. Current national carbon reduction targets get us closer to a devastating three-degree rise. A powerful group of blockers–mainly oil-rich governments and companies–were out in force.

There were bright spots. By creating a new fund for “loss and damage,” rich countries are finally taking some financial responsibility for producing most of the emissions already causing mayhem in poorer countries. This is a significant breakthrough for a multilateral system dangerously low on trust. Let’s hope the money follows. 

More governments committed to methane cuts. Enhancing nature and reforming food systems were formally recognized as part of the climate fight. And tighter measures were proposed to avoid greenwashing. 

However, the urgency of the crisis is clearly still lost on many of our political leaders. Collectively, they are failing to deliver the ambition and action on which our planet and future depend. This situation is not going to magically improve. Next year’s COP28 will be held in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates–and will be just as easily hijacked.

There will be no great superpower pact to save us: despite diplomatic baby steps between Washington and Beijing, their cooperation will be limited as long as Russian tanks are in Ukraine and America fears for Taiwan’s security. Even with the U.S., Australia, and Brazil back at the table, ongoing troubles in the global economy and high inflation threaten to push global warming down domestic agendas (even though tackling climate change is the best way to stabilize energy and food prices). 

Business literally can’t afford to sit back and wait for politics to get its act together. Climate isn’t just an environmental issue: it’s the economy, stupid. Extreme floods, heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes cost billions. They send impoverished nations further into debt, while crippling supply chains, disrupting global trade, and destroying the labor force. Whether you are a C-Suite executive, an investor, or the WTO, you have a major interest in getting the world onto a more stable path. There are tremendous gains waiting for those who move quickly. The shift to a low-carbon economy can add trillions of dollars to global growth each year, and create millions of jobs. 

Even as politics stalls, business can still push ahead. Beyond companies getting their own houses in order, there are three immediate things business leaders can do. 

The first is advocating for much-needed reform of our global financial architecture. The idea that we will need a Marshall Plan-style intervention to finance the shift to a greener economy is starting to gain traction. CEOs can help bring it into the mainstream.

The fringes of Sharm saw much discussion of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Bridgetown Agenda, which calls for climate to be fully integrated into the mandates of the post-WW2 Bretton Woods institutions, which would dramatically increase the resilience and capacity of the Global South.

Professor Lord Stern has calculated that, if developed countries significantly increase grants and low-interest loans through expanded aid, it could attract $1 trillion of private investment to help finance the transition. Such proposals warrant urgent investigation–and business can demand it. 

Second, senior executives can do more to lead vital partnerships for change. Across industry, government, and civil society, we will have to collaborate on climate in ways we never envisaged. It’s starting to happen–and it’s time to ramp up the speed and scale of collaboration. 

In Bali, we helped launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance, including the biggest ever single climate transaction, which mobilizes $20bn from governments and private finance to support Indonesia’s effort to close coal mines and peak its emissions early.

Led by the Rockefeller Foundation (where I sit on the board) another coalition of investors, entrepreneurs, and public officials will bring clean energy to 1 billion people, including many in Africa. 

And business and farmers aim to dramatically scale regenerative agriculture and improve livelihoods within seven years through the Regen10 initiative.

Third, is bringing more young people to the table, fast. The young activists I met in Sharm were sharp, determined, and sick of being patronized. They are powerful–as employees and consumers, as our sons and daughters, as the next generation of leaders, and as voters. Many are frustrated with the political process and look to the private sector to empower them in a new, intergenerational alliance that has an impact on the real economy. Here too, business can act: put them on boards, on panels, in leadership positions, and in every room where decisions affecting their futures will be taken.

There’s no need to feel hopeless–but we must recognize that our politics is failing to deliver vital climate action. We must find other ways to close the ambition gap, get the money moving, get business driving urgent coalitions, and make sure young people are firmly in the driving seat. Then, it will be up to politics to catch up.

Paul Polman is a business leader and campaigner, and the author of Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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