07 February 2020

Davos Focuses on Climate

Welcome back. You probably saw that President Trump attended the recent Davos 2020 conference. I thought you might be interested in a little background and review of the conference, especially since this was the 50th annual meeting and its focus was climate and sustainability.

(I’ll skip Mr. Trump’s contribution. His speech largely ignored the conference focus, instead repeating exaggerations and falsehoods and making it easy on fact checkers.)

What is the Davos Conference?

Davos, Switzerland, site of the World
Economic Forum’s annual meeting

(from images.app.goo.gl/w2yFFjwPVjbbYt1a9).
The conference is the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which I described in the blog post, Emerging Technologies. It’s referred to as Davos, the municipality in Switzerland where the conference is held.

At the beginning of each year, the invitation-only conference brings together thousands of business, political, academic and cultural leaders to shape global, regional and industry agendas, with the goal of improving the state of the world.

Defining the Conference Focus
Davos 2020, held 21-24 January, was preceded by the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Perception Survey of the Forum’s network of business, government, civil society and thought leaders. The Forum received more than 1,000 survey responses to whether the risks associated with 40 issues would increase or decrease this year relative to last year; the likelihood and potential impact of 30 global risks in the next 10 years; and the 3 to 6 most interconnected global risks.

Top 10 global risks over next 10 years (from www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/top-global-risks-report-climate-change-cyberattacks-economic-political/)
The resulting Global Risks Report 2020 named failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change as the key concern, ranking it number one of the top 10 risks by impact and number two by likelihood over the next 10 years. In all, 6 of the top 10 risks in both categories related to climate and the environment.

The risk report, released ahead of Davos 2020, urged governments and organizations to address the impact of specific threats and make preparations to contain potential fallout.

Davos 2020 was planned to give concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism,” assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate and the Sustainable Development Goals and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance. The conference program prioritized several key areas, the first of which was How to Save the Planet.

Increased Emphasis on Climate
Although climate change was labeled a risk in the survey as early as 2011, fires, heatwaves, storms and the extraordinary costs of climate-related disasters, as well as the effect on business planning of not knowing how or if policymakers will respond, appear to have converged to raise the concern for Davos 2020.

Before the conference, for example, the Net-Zero-Asset Owner Alliance, an international group of institutional investors managing $4 trillion in assets, committed to transition to a zero-emissions asset portfolio by 2050.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, stated that climate change would lead to a “fundamental reshaping of finance.”

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, announced financial support for a World Economic Forum’s global reforestation initiative, One Trillion Trees.

Wrap Up
Davos 2020’s focus on climate and business leaders’ response are encouraging, albeit decades late. There is widespread agreement, however, that governments must intervene in a major way.

Will governments take steps to reduce emissions? One decisive action reviewed in multiple conference sessions was a carbon price--a cost applied to carbon emissions to encourage greenhouse gas reductions, imposed either as a carbon tax or via carbon emission trading.

Are governments prepared to make stronger commitments to reduce emissions? We’ll find out by next November at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glascow, following up on the Paris Agreement.

Thanks for stopping by.

Articles on Davos 2020:
World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020: www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risk_Report_2020.pdf
Example fact-checker article on President Trump at Davos 2020: www.bbc.com/news/world-51192999

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