The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum, where the political and economic elite come together in Davos, Switzerland to exchange ideas and set agendas, will take place from January 22nd to 25th. This year, the WEF gathering takes the theme ‘The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.’
Ahead of the meeting, many are already anticipating a significant focus on climate change at Davos. The program for the conference features nearly two dozen sessions on climate mitigation and adaptation, and Friday is set to be themed ‘Climate Day.’
Climate change and related environmental crises, including water scarcity and extreme weather events, have been highlighted as a top threat facing the world in 2014 according to a WEF analysis. In its latest Global Risks report, the WEF identified climate change as both one of the top five most likely risks and one of the top five most impactful risks. This dual categorization indicates that the world is especially vulnerable to the reality of climate change.
In the past, the WEF has moved proactively to draw attention to energy and environmental issues amongst both the public and private sectors, especially by publishing in-depth, agenda-setting reports and by bringing key leaders together.
The WEF created the Green Growth Action Alliance (G2A2), made up of both NGOs and high powered members of both the public and private finance sector.
In 2013, the G2A2 released a report calling for investments in green growth to increase to $700 billion annually. The report confirmed that there is too much money going to carbon heavy industries, and also confirmed that the cost of investing in climate solutions is far less than the cost of dealing with the consequences of climate-intensified natural disasters. It included information and analysis regarding how to unlock private finance to meet the $700 billion goal and catalyze investor leadership.
The WEF’s pivot towards climate change is now amplified in 2014. According to reporting by Climate Wire, this year’s climate focus at Davos could initiate a renewed global political push to take meaningful action. Many of the attendees are looking ahead to the UN Secretary General’s September leaders’ summit, where states are expected to bring newer, stronger emissions reduction commitments to the table. The end of 2014 also holds the next round of international climate negotiations in Peru, the last of such talks before nations reach their 2015 deadline to agree to a new climate treaty in Paris, that would take effect in 2020.
The WEF is indeed a place that could foster the necessary momentum for climate action amongst political, business, and finance leaders. Although the WEF is not a decision-making body, it has brought together key stakeholders in the past to create partnerships and commitments to action. Private sessions and side events can also produce important decisions between attendees.
And because the WEF has presented attendees with clear information regarding the major risks of climate change, as it did in its Global Risks 2014 report, attendees can be held accountable to that information, even beyond of the gathering in Davos.