Over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts participated in the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on 20-23 January.
Under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution” the event agenda comprised over 300 sessions. It was first major international meeting after the landmark agreement on climate change reached in Paris in December.
In the WEF Global Risks report 2016 (issued few days before Davos talks started) climate change and the failure of mitigation and adaptation actions have been ranked the highest risk in terms of impact for the near future. This is the first time since the report was published in 2006 that an environmental risk has topped the ranking, ahead of weapons of mass destruction (2nd), water crises (3rd), large-scale involuntary migration (4th) and severe energy price shock (5th).
The number one risk in 2016 in terms of likelihood, meanwhile, is large-scale involuntary migration, followed by extreme weather events (2nd), failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (3rd), interstate conflict with regional consequences (4th) and major natural catastrophes (5th).
In Davos other pressing economic and political priorities such as weak oil prices, migrations and raising global tensions took center stage but a number of sessions were dedicated to climate change and sustainable development issues including implementation of the Paris mandate, clean technologies and the role of business and companies in building a low-carbon and climate resilient global economy.
Addressing a panel session titled “The new Climate and Development Imperative” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the two important milestones achieved in 2015, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. The climate deal reached at COP21 gave the private sector “an unprecedented opportunity” to foster a race to the top of climate ambitions, he said. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said that companies “understood the enormous costs and threats involved, but also the enormous opportunities presented in changing our system”. World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, focused on carbon pricing developments, pointing out that many corporations are already operating with an internal price on carbon.
A global carbon price would have been a deal-breaker for climate negotiations in Paris, according to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres speaking at the session “A New Climate for Doing Business”. She stressed the importance of having a unanimous deal that “brings everyone under the tent”, governments and business, richer and developing countries. “It is the developing countries that represent our biggest opportunity to support their growth in a clean, predictable and safe way,” she said. “This is where the change is really going to happen.”