The ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) returned to Davos, Switzerland, earlier this week to engage entrepreneurs, researchers, corporate bosses, and political leaders in discussions about global issues for the year ahead.
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According to Reuters, more than 600 CEOs will be attending the 52nd annual meeting, including Wall Street executives such as JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon, David Solomon from Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley's James Gorman.
Established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation by Klaus Schwaab, WEF is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The foundation is mostly funded by its member companies. Schwaab promoted the term “stakeholder capitalism” as “a form of capitalism in which companies do not only optimise short-term profits for shareholders, but seek long-term value creation, by taking into account the needs of all their stakeholders, and society at large.”
According to WEF, its focus is on “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas."
Ahead of the annual meeting, the WEF released, ‘The Global Risks Report 2023’ on January 12, with key findings about the impact of the climate crisis and the lack of action. According to the report, this year highlights “polycrisis, where risks are more interdependent and reciprocally damaging than ever.”
The world is currently grappling with the aftereffects of COVID-19 and the Ukraine war which have led to skyrocketing inflation and triggered a global energy crisis, as pointed out by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The price of natural gas reached record highs, and oil prices hit their highest level since 2008. The current economic era could further increase the gaps between rich and poor countries and lead to significant consequences for governments, businesses, and individuals.
The report shows that the next decade will be characterised by crucial climate risks. ‘Natural disasters and extreme weather events’ are highlighted as the second-most severe risk that the world needs to gear up for in the next two years.
Even though climate risks remain the primary focus, they are also the ones the world is least prepared for, according to the report. ‘Failure to mitigate climate change’ and ‘failure of climate change adaption’ are the most severe risks projected for 2033. One of the fastest deteriorating global risks over the next decade is ‘biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse’.
There is a lack of collaborative progress on climate action targets, which is scientifically necessary to achieve net zero, the report elaborates. Among the respondents in the WEF report, 70% said existing measures to prevent or prepare for climate change have been “ineffective” or “highly ineffective”. iN 2018, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had stated that the chance of breaching the 1.5°C target by as early as 2030 stands at 50%.
As floods, heatwaves, droughts, and other extreme weather events have become more severe and frequent, more populations will be affected over the next ten years, according to the WEF report. It also highlights insufficient progress toward the support required for infrastructure and climate change-affected populations. Notably, adaptation has not been adequately funded, with “34% of climate finance currently allocated to adaptation worldwide.”
The report also emphasised that social and political polarisation may also further reduce the opportunity for collective problem-solving to address these global risks.
However, climate change has often been pushed down the priority list at Davos, and this trend might continue this year, as according to the report, the cost-of-living crisis is the most severe risk that the world will be facing in the next two years.
While those with greater access and riches are gathered in the resort town to discuss the annual plans, climate activists have been holding continued protests against the role of big oil firms at the Forum, accusing them of hijacking the climate talks.
Earlier this week, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Greta Thunberg of Sweden, and Luisa Neubauer of Germany launched an online ‘cease and desist’ campaign demanding that energy firms stop any new oil, gas or coal extraction projects or face possible legal action. More than 880,000 people had signed the petition led by the four climate activists by Thursday morning.
"Enough is enough," Gualinga told AFP earlier this week. "We have to leave oil under the earth."
Thunberg was among a group of people hauled away by police on Tuesday while protesting near the German village of Luetzerath, which is being taken down to make way for a coal mine expansion. On Thursday, Thunberg, along with Gualinga, Nakate, and Neubauer, will meet with IEA executive director Fatih Birol for the planned round-table event.