Climate change at Davos, What you need to know

world economic forum
A logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is seen stuck on a window at the congress center in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos in 2012. The upcoming WEF will be held from January 20 to 23 (Flickr/ WEF)
The global elite gathers at the World Economic Forum for a four-day summit – and energy transition is high up the agenda

January 20, 2016 — ‘Mastering the fourth industrial revolution‘ is the umbrella theme for a series of discussions at the Swiss ski resort of Davos from Wednesday.

How leaps in technology are transforming society and economy will be a top talking point for the 40 heads of state and hundreds of business leaders slated to attend. So too the tumult of Chinese stock markets, the strength of America’s recovery and a destabilizing Middle East.

But it’s climate change that will feature the most in years as delegates unpack a new global warming accord and its signal to fossil fuel producers.

A WEF survey of 750 economists last week picked a climate-induced catastrophe as the greatest threat to the world economy in 2016.

The UN’s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, who will be in Davos, said the agreement struck in Paris last year was a watershed moment in realigning markets towards clean energy sources.

“There is no sector that is not interested in the impacts of climate – no sector that has not woken up to the fact we have a transformational moment,” she told Climate Home.

“I will be speaking to every sector – oil gas, mining, insurance… you name it – and I am sure all will be asking: what can we do?”

industrial revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolutions focuses on how expanding digital platforms, robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology, are changing how we interact and work

Business leaders will come to Davos eager to talk through the low-carbon transition, said a senior source at the WEF. The forum was set up in 1971 by Klaus Schwab as a management conference. Today it describes itself an international institute for public-private cooperation.

“After the success of Paris, the question on the mind is what next? For some, it will be carbon pricing. For others it might be standards, or the speed of transition, or what technological costs will be acceptable,” the source said.

“The theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution obviously has many different components, but some are very congruous with the evolution to a low carbon economy.”

Some 300 open discussions will be held, with about 100 webcast (see below), which is billed as the premier networking event. Closed-door discussions are equally big. Last year fossil fuel chiefs chewed over how a climate deal would affect their businesses at a exclusive dinner.

How to shift the trillions of dollars needed into clean energy investment to avoid dangerous levels of global warming is one key point.

Making banks and pension funds declare their exposure to risks posed by a warmer planet is another. Michael Bloomberg was appointed chair of a Financial Stability Board task force at the Paris summit.

Delivering on the Paris agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals run through discussions. Goal number 7 is to ensure access to cheap and sustainable energy for all.

Announcements may be few, nor are leaders likely to make firm commitments. But the event offers a candid space to take on the opportunities and challenges of countering climate change.

by Alex Pashley | Climate Change News