Davos Sees Climate Change Initiatives Launched – Defying Doomsayers

Britain’s Prince Charles picked up the climate gauntlet from Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg on Wednesday, calling on global political and business leaders to confront the “approaching catastrophe”, on day two of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“What good is all of the extra wealth in the world gained from business as usual if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?”  said the Prince of Wales, in remarks that contrasted in tone and style with that of the young Swede, but carried the same message.

He was speaking at the launch of a new sustainable markets initiative at Davos, which aims to bring businesses together to “accelerate the transition to sustainable markets and rapid decarbonization.

“I need your help, your ingenuity and your practical skills to ensure that the private sector leads the world out of the approaching catastrophe into which we have engineered ourselves, said the elder Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, appealing to his own generation to consider the complaints of youth activists.

Prince Charles speaking at the World Economic Forum 2020

“Everything I have tried to do over the past 50 years has been done with our grandchildren and children in mind, because I didn’t want to be accused by them of doing nothing except prevaricate and deny the problem. Now of course they are accusing us of exactly that.

“So put yourselves in their position, ladies and gentlemen, we simply cannot waste any more time.  The only limit is our willingness to act, and the time to act is now.”

His remarks followed a 24-hour period which saw climate hovering at the top of the WEF agenda, with activist Thunberg verbally sparring with US President Donald Trump over the issue on Tuesday. Thunberg, in her remarks, urged global leaders to stop “cheating and fiddling around with numbers”, related to counting climate emissions. “Our house is still on fire and you’re fuelling the flames.” she said.

Trump, meanwhile, urged the world to ignore “the prophets of doom.”

“They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers,” Trump said of climate scientists warning about runaway warming and its impacts. “These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control ever aspect of our lives.”

Greta Thunberg, Climate and Environmental Activist, Sweden speaking in the Averting a Climate Apocalypse at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 21 January. Congress Centre

EU President & Others Speak on Deforestation And Sustainable Economic Transition

But there was little debate about the urgency of the climate agenda among other economic and political leaders that spoke out on the issue Wednesday.

Naysayers are behaving “as the orchestra of the Titanic.” one panellist at a session on climate justice quipped. The panel noted that climate change is also widening economic inequality across countries as poor nations bear the brunt of decreased economic output.

“We need to act, we feel the urgency, the evidence is overwhelming if you look at the droughts, the floods, the fires, the rising oceans… there is still scope to address these risks but the window of opportunity is closing.  We have to act now said European Union Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. She said the EU’s new European Green Deal would invest trillions to make the region the first to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The climate emergency is a disaster that knokws no borders and we’re the last generation that will be able to address it effectively,” said the recently re-elected Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, speaking to the forum on Wednesday morning.

Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez

Health Insurance Giants – Moving For Net-Zero Carbon Economy

Despite being accused of doom mongering, Wednesday’s climate discussions were peppered with a series of bold new initiatives on climate action, many of them under WEF sponsorship. The goal was to foster action and greater climate optimism, their proponents stressed.

Christine Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Commission and a founding partner of the NGO, Global Optimism, was part of a panel that described the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance initiative. The group, which includes some of the world’s largest insurance investors, has pledged to ensure that their portfolios are carbon neutral by 2050. The alliance includes major players in health insurance markets such as Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd. as well as the Allianz Group.

“Yesterday the headlines were dominated by Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump”, said WEF moderator of the session, Geog Schmitt, “but it’s also important to have a look at what the private sector is doing in that space.”

One Trillion Trees – Major Afforestation Initiative Launched

Meanwhile, Ivan Duque, president of Colombia and renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall, emphasized the need to accelerate the battle against deforestation, which has eroded vital sections of the Amazon, as well as wreaking massive destruction in other important forests across South-East Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia, as a result of drought and wildfires, as well as illegal logging and clearance activities.

“We will not be successful in facing climate change, until we defeat deforestation around the globe,” said Duque, speaking at a press briefing on a new One Trillion Trees initiative launched by the WEF at Davos. The initiative aims to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees by 2030.

“Colombia sees this initiative as a very important milestone.  If we make the whole world conscious about reforestation and about planting and protecting ecosystems we can make a difference….. We have 50% of our country in tropical jungle.  We have seen deforestation taking place for a long time, and we want to make a difference with a big goal. We want to plant 180 million trees by August 2022,” he said, noting that his administration had planted nearly 25 million so far, and plans to plant another 60 million this year.

New Decade of Action on Food Systems, Climate and Health

The Davos event also saw the launch of new initiatives to support a transition to healthier and more sustainable food systems, as part of a New Agenda on Food – Decade of Action:

“What is urgently needed is to move away from a model of food production that simply focuses on producing as much food as possible, as cheaply as possible…to a food supply that is healthier for all of us as humans, more sustainable for the planet and also improves the lives of those in rural areas,” said Sean de Cleene, head of Future of Food, in the WEF Executive Committee.

“Unless we do this, food insecurity will continue to rise. Diet-related costs will be insurmountable and the impact on our natural world, it’s water supply… will add to the environmental crisis that we currently face.”

Food-related WEF initiatives launched or discussed at Davos include:

  • Incentivizing Food System Transformation – a report that outlines four pathways for incentivizing transition to more sustainable systems;
  • Food Economic Commission – to support the transition to healthy inclusive sustainable food systems by providing a comprehensive assessment of food system economics;
  • Food Action Alliance – a new coalition of organizations and initiatives to support country level action to promote food system transformation.

“As we are seeing with pension and investment funds stepping away from fossil fuels, we need to promote investment in sustainable food. And governments must be smarter in using subsidies to promote this move to more sustainable food sources and encouraging a healthier way to eat,” said de Cleene.






Image Credits: World Economic Forum / Manuel Lopez, World Economic Forum / Christian Clavadetscher, WEF.