Taking steps to a Just Transition: Naspers-Prosus insights from the COP28

Wednesday 20 December 2023

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place from the 30th of November to the 12th of December. This event presented an opportunity to address the interwoven challenges of climate change and public health. We engaged in a conversation with Gerald Naber, Senior Sustainability Business Partner at Naspers and Prosus Group to explore their insights and experiences related to COP28.

Naspers-Prosus, a prominent global consumer internet group and a significant player in technology investment and operations on a global scale, actively took part in this year's COP28 in Dubai to reaffirm its commitment to net-zero and explore ways to further accelerate the transition.

What were your expectations for COP28? What were some of the key issues you hoped to see addressed?

We hosted three events at COP this year. Firstly, we have a strong focus on the just and fair transition. This is very important for us as a company, as we are headquartered in South Africa and our investment portfolio is operating predominantly in emerging markets in the Global South. It is crucial to get companies and countries in the Global South to join the conversation on defining ambitions, regulations and frameworks for decarbonisation and climate action, like setting science-based targets. Only by including all regions in these conversations, can we ensure regulations and frameworks recognize the disadvantaged position of these companies and allow them to successfully build their pathways to net zero. During our event, we discussed the development of such regional pathways for emerging markets to be able to start taking climate action in line with the science.

Secondly, also part of the just and fair transition, we wanted to talk about carbon accounting. For my first point above to happen, we need all companies to be able and feel comfortable calculating their GHG footprints and understand what it requires for their business to set targets and decarbonize their business. During our event, we discussed how we can help companies in the Global South with carbon accounting, and what is needed for them to overcome the barriers they experience such as lack of knowledge or costs. There was a strong consensus and support for starting with very practical steps to increase the number of companies that are building the groundwork of climate action.

Thirdly, we wanted to use the COP event to accelerate the conversation on the electrification of delivery fleets, in particular of two- and three-wheelers. Naspers-Prosus has a large portfolio of food delivery companies. Decarbonising this business requires switching from fossil fuel driven scooters and cars to electric vehicles. We launched a report how to scale zero emissions delivery and had a fruitful discussion to build an global initiative to scale electric vehicles. 

There was lot of (negative) noise around the COP this year. The location, increased participation from oil & gas majors, heavy lobbying pro fossil fuels, etc. Why did Naspers’ Prosus think it was important to participate?

Personally, I think the results of the COP were slightly disappointing as there was a lot of hesitation about the phasing out of fossil fuels. However, we should not overlook the fact that the narrative is shifting, and that phasing out fossil fuels has become part of the conversation now, though it is yet to be decided how and when.

Additionally, I think the COP being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is not necessarily a negative. In the conversation about sustainability and climate action, everybody needs to have a seat at the table and various perspectives need to be represented. We are building a world in which oil and gas - the main income of the UAE - will be losing its dominant position. It is likely that including them in the conversation for this transformation will lead to less opposition than having to find a way around them. 

What are the main takeaways from the event?

First of all, being at the COP, despite criticism from the outside world, was a very positive experience. There were thousands of parties trying to make progress towards the shared sustainability agenda. I believe this positive energy can extend far beyond the program of the COP itself. 

Secondly, this was the COP with the highest number of visitors, indicating the widespread motivation to accelerate sustainability goals. Throughout the COP there were a lot of privately organized events, which also have a big impact on the direction we are heading in. These smaller events are not always visible from the outside, but can make a big difference. 

For Naspers-Prosus, we feel like we achieved success on with our personal agenda at this COP. It is a challenge to get the right people and organizations at the table for a discussion, but once you do, it can lead to incredibly fruitful conversations. 

After COP, what are the next steps for Naspers’ Prosus?

Regarding our first topic, just and fair transition, we will start very practically by sharing insight, knowledge and tools on how to start carbon accounting in emerging markets, also seeking the right partners to involve in this process. 

The theme of regional pathways is something we will work on by looking for the right local business associations. Those could be the organizations that can work together with the SBTi to develop the regional pathways. 

When it comes to the electrification of delivery fleets, we are working with several partners to scale up the electrification of scooters, cars, etc. To accelerate this process, we want to get as many platforms and NGOs as possible involved. 

How is Naspers’ Prosus working with its subsidiaries on climate action? 

Now that we have set our own science-based targets, we have to roll it out to our subsidiaries. They need to design their science-based targets and evaluate how they can abate their emissions. We need to take all of our portfolio companies on that journey. Once they have their own footprint calculated, they can design their targets and have the discussion on how /when to achieve them. Once this is done, they can get them verified by the SBTi.