Davos shows climate change back on global agenda

Intro

Despite the plethora of private jets, climate change is firmly on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. Falling oil prices, massive growth in renewables and the unveiling of new research showing the poor state of the earth have all driven the need and possibilities for climate action to the forefront of many attendees’ minds. The most high profile moment has been the announcement by Al Gore and US popstar Pharrell Williams of a second round of Live Earth concerts to promote climate action. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, used Davos to urge the international community to help developing nations cope with climate change, highlighting that 2014 was the hottest year on record. But despite such headline-grabbing pronouncements, business clearly needs to step up its action with climate failing to feature in a list of top risks in a CEO survey released in advance of the meeting. The science presented at the World Economic Forum is unambiguous: the world is in trouble. But researchers also believe that hope is at hand, that societies are reaching a tipping point for mobilisation and that many policymakers support immediate and profound action to decarbonise the global economy. With studies showing the benefits of climate action for the planet, people and profit, it is time for everybody to get cracking.

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Key Points

  • Climate is at the top of the global agenda and is there to stay. In recent years climate change has been noticeably absent from the Davos agenda and the fact so many delegates arrived by private jet shows there is more work to do. But in addition to the considerable number of sessions focussed on climate, energy and sustainability, big names have made climate change the focal point of their presentations. Al Gore warned the world is in denial over climate risks, president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim urged developed and developing nations to work together on the issue, and UK economist Lord Stern highlighted the importance of the UN climate talks in Paris later this year.
  • The science is unequivocal – our climate and humanity is in trouble and the chaos caused by climate change will impact business and investors. As the recent New Climate Economy report suggested, there is no such thing as business as usual. Politicians and business leaders now need to agree a clear direction of travel to a clean energy economy to provide: a credible regime for reducing and managing climate risk; certainty to corporate and investment decisions; and confidence in a global shift which speaks to supply chain and competitiveness concerns. Such discussions are being kicked off in Davos and should continue in the run up to Paris and beyond.
  • Help is at hand for the climate and it makes good business sense. Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, argued in Davos today that societies are reaching a tipping point for mobilisation and support for climate action from policymakers. Further, the potential opportunities from addressing climate change are impressive. Research by We Mean Business shows that returns on low carbon investments average close to 30 per cent across all sectors in every corner of the world. Bringing these opportunities to the fore will help set the ground for Paris to deliver a durable agreement that can scale up ambition in the future and keep global warming below 2degC.  

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Key Quotes

  • “Earth is now in a quantifiably new state. We have identified nine boundaries. More worryingly, we assess Earth has now transgressed four of these boundaries, including two core boundaries, climate and biodiversity. This means the two-degree climate target nations are set to agree in Paris this year, is critical. On current carbon dioxide levels of around 400 parts per million (ppm) there is a substantial risk that we are already committed to a two-degree world when you include all other greenhouse gases. Indeed, the risk of a more significant temperature rise cannot be ruled out.It is important to recognise that reaching 450 ppm holds a less likely, but significant 1.6 % probability (according to the IPCC 5th assessment) of resulting in 6 ºC warming, which is beyond any doubt a catastrophic outcome for humanity.” – Johan Rockström, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • “The good news is that the challenge is crystal clear: we need to meet the needs of a growing population through a just development model that preserves the integrity of the Earth’s life support systems. We all need to embrace this common cause, government needs to start thinking globally and businesses and consumers need to stop behaving as if we live in a limitless world. When we all pull together, anything is possible.” – WWF Director General Marco Lambertini.
  • “The only effective strategy to ensure human prosperity is to safeguard the remaining beauty on Earth. The oceans, rainforests and wild areas are the life support system for humanity.” – National Geographic photographer and WWF ambassador Mattias Klum
  • “We are seeing the accelerated impact of climate change. Last year was the hottest on record. That matters. Extreme weather is real. It’s a complete no brainer to move towards cleaner more liveable cities.” – Jim Kim, president of the World Bank.

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