The 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum kicked off in the Swiss city of Davos on 21st of January and will be concluded on 24th. The event brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders to discuss the topic under the spotlight: ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’. The theme this year is sustainability, with scientists warning of catastrophic consequences if enough is not done to avert the climate emergency.
The World Economic Forum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year at a time of great uncertainty. The Forum’s founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab, warns the world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is quickly closing. A year of extreme weather events and mounting evidence of global heating has catapulted the climate emergency to the top of the list of issues worrying the world’s elite.
The World Economic Forum’s annual risks report found that, for the first time in its 15-year history, the environment filled the top five places in the list of concerns likely to have a major impact over the next decade. Borge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum said in a statement that the political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks.
While thinking on climate change may be shifting, by some metrics the corporate elite that always makes up a large contingent at Davos still has a lot of work to do. According to a study published in December by the Davos organizers, only a quarter of a group of 7,000 businesses are setting a specific emissions reduction target and only eighth are actually reducing their emissions each year.
Awareness of this issue may be growing, but with global emissions continuing to raise governments are falling short on tackling them. Drought, water scarcity, climate change, extreme weather and other environmental factors are among the biggest risks to society and industry, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, an annual survey of nearly 1,000 leaders in business, government, academia, and international organizations.
A United Nations climate change report published in October last year noted that earlier projections of the pace of warming and environmental change were too conservative. The UN also reported that carbon emissions rose in 2017 and countries are neither on track to avoid two degrees Celsius of warming, nor to meet the Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation.
Those goals envision safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all by 2030. Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Each of the five environmental risks including extreme weather, failure to respond to climate change, biodiversity loss/ecosystem degradation, natural disasters, and manmade environmental disasters such as an oil spill is rated as both highly likely and highly damaging.
Water crises, categorized as a societal risk because of their far reaching consequences, also rated as highly likely and highly damaging. It is the eighth consecutive year that water crises were a top-five most damaging risk. Serious action against climate change required by 2050 net zero will involve lifestyle and livelihood changes that will look like up front sacrifices to benefit future generations or, at first, other regions of the world from the Ganges delta to Australia. IMF plans to emphasised governments to take more consideration of climate factors when they create national statistics. However,
the IMF and other multilateral organisations urgently need to discuss whether they can help finance the transition costs for poorer countries to mitigate the risks from emissions and climate change. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also revealed that the world needs to prepare for a surge in refugees with potentially millions of people being driven from their homes by the impact of climate change.