How much climate change in Davos this year?

The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, closed on Friday after four days of meetings and conferences attended by more than 2500 among business leaders, politicians, diplomats and celebrities.

The impressively varied agenda of this year’s WEF (more than 100 pages including around 300 sessions and events) featured only a few dates dedicated to climate change and related issues. The most notable ones: “What’s Next? A Climate for Action” on Wednesday (Jan. 21), led by Al Gore and hosting the pop star Pharrell Williams:

“Closing the Climate Deal “ on Thursday afternoon (Jan. 22) where among the speakers there were Felipe Calderón, Laurent Fabius and Christiana Figueres:

And a panel discussion on Friday titled “Tackling Climate, Development and Growth”  with Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations among others:

With respect to last year, other issues such as the economic slowdown seemed to have pushed climate-related topics down the agenda, as noted by the economics editor of The Guardian in Davos, but global leaders reaffirmed their intention to address the issue and speed up the pace toward the COP21 in Paris at the end of the year.

Former US vice-president and Nobel Peace Prize Al Gore opened his intervention on the first day saying that “This is the year of climate” and announcing with Pharrell Williams a Live Earth “Road to Paris” event to “build public will for an agreement”. According to Reuters,they said concerts will take place on June 18 across six cities (Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Sydney and Cape Town) and seven continents, including Antarctica.

Speaking to the Guardian, the president of the World Bank Jim Kim called for rich and poor countries to “put aside their differences over tackling climate change”. “There is a huge challenge ahead for the rest of this year,” Kim reportedly said. “The key is coming up with a vision of how we are going to finance mitigation and adaptation to climate change”. “We have got to get away from the mutual accusations between rich and poor and move towards cohesive collaboration. Things are different and if we can find ways of being creative, particularly on funding, we are more likely to find agreement. What we don’t want is to get to a situation where developing countries are saying to the rich countries: ‘where’s that $100bn a year you promised us’.

The economic point of the issue was taken up also by Lord Stern who called for governments to consider climate action as an opportunity for “discovery, innovation and investment” that would lead to economic growth, the Guardian reported.

In his remarks to the Forum’s plenary session on climate, development and growth on Friday (Jan. 23) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders to maintain their focus on a broad range of climate, development and gender equality issues. “2015 is a year of global action” the Secretary-General said. “We are faced with multiple crises in this world – geopolitical, socio-economic and sustainable development. The year ahead must be a time for our strong commitment and global action”.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres addressed a more specific argument considering current low oil prices as “both a threat and an opportunity”, Reuters reported.

“Some renewable energy projects which aren’t completely bedded down are certainly being delayed but at the same time, (the low oil price) is already taking off the market very expensive oil projects” Figueres said, adding that tar sands or exploration in the Arctic have become less attractive due to the oil price crash. Mature renewables sectors, such as wind and solar, “will likely weather the storm” as their technology costs have fallen dramatically over the past few years. The oil juncture is also a “fantastic opportunity” for governments to cut subsidies on fossil fuel consumption, Figueres said.


(Image: Davos, Switzerland, January 2015. Photo credit: Eugene Kaspersky/Flickr)