Published 1 year ago.
About a 6 minute read.
Image: Dominik Ruhl
Promising developments in expanding the blue economy, philanthropy for climate action, and heavy industry net-zero commitments were among hopeful highlights from the annual gathering.
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), held in the
Swiss-Alpine resort of Davos every January, still matters. In the fight
to tackle inflation, the cost-of-living crisis and climate chaos, world leaders
must reimagine globalization. As McKinsey’s Tracy
puts it: “Today’s biggest challenges don’t respect borders; there are no
solutions to the world’s largest problems that don’t involve the leaders of the
world’s largest companies and national and international policymakers.”
Climate activist Greta
Thunberg sees it differently,
of course. Speaking on the sidelines of the week-long event, she made the point
that our world leaders are “the people who are mostly fuelling the destruction
of the planet … And yet, somehow these are the people that we seem to rely on
solving our problems.”
For now, rely on them we must. At least there appears to be appetite to step up
to the challenges we face. 52 years since the first Davos meeting, the 2023
gathering convened a record number of leaders from governments, businesses and
civil society — including 47 heads of state. The idea has always been to discuss
the priorities for the year ahead, to debate possible outcomes, and to come up
with solutions in the spirit of openness and inquiry.
So, what came out of Davos 2023? Here are 5 key takeaways that will interest
companies engaged in the climate fight.
While the Global Risks Report 2023 ranks cost of
living as the most severe, short-term global risk for governments and
businesses, talk about the climate crisis — and the failure of both mitigation
strategies and adaptation options — dominated meeting discussions. A point
raised and echoed continuously throughout Davos 2023 was that while investment
in cleantech steadily increases, it is being
by support for fossil fuels. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said:
“Fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production,
knowing full well that this business model is inconsistent with human survival.”
Good news came in the form of an announcement by heavy industry, which is
responsible for around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. WEF proudly
claimed that nine new industrial clusters across Europe, Asia and
North America have joined its Transforming Industrial Clusters Towards
initiative. The project aims to bring 100 industrial clusters together to secure
net-zero commitments by the middle of the century. Right now, there are 17
clusters that collectively pump out 451 million metric tonnes of CO2e a year.
Another exciting development came in the form of the Global Battery
Alliance — which launched a proof of concept
for its Battery
which will hopefully give buyers and investors more confidence when it comes to
producing, recycling and reusing electric vehicle
When it comes to solving our climate, energy, nature and sustainability
challenges, leveraging corporate giving remains a key strategy for business and
governments. However, of the $810 billion handed out by philanthropic
organisations in 2021, just 2 percent went towards GHG-reduction projects,
according to WEF estimates.
This year, Davos saw the launch of a new scheme designed to unlock many more
dollars to support climate action. Giving to Amplify Earth
(GAEA) aims to close the $3 trillion annual finance gap between current
levels of support for climate and nature initiatives and what is actually needed
to meet international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. So far, 45
philanthropic funds have signed up — including the IKEA Foundation, the
the BMW Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.
The opening kick-off concert gave a major clue as to one of Davos’s central
themes this year. Called “I Sea
the event used the stage to urge policymakers to protect our oceans and restore
Keen to promote the so-called blue economy — which
assigns a value to marine resources, thereby attracting more investment in its
protection and restoration — WEF’s Ocean Action Agenda announced a new
with the Government of Indonesia to help scale conservation projects. The
partnership hopes to stimulate demand for, and access to, high-quality
blue-carbon credits and projects by bringing together stakeholders that can help
to close deals and grow the market. As Ocean Action Agenda’s Kristian
Teleki explained: “Blue carbon
holds immense potential for marine ecosystem restoration and coastal community
resilience, while contributing to climate mitigation and helping raise critical
funds to advance the urgent needs for ocean protection and conservation.”
A key message that came through loud and clear during Davos was that many of
the changes to our climate and weather patterns is now ‘baked in’; even if we
are successful in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we will still need
to adapt to changes that have already happened.
The issue of climate adaptation — or more accurately, the failure of
climate adaptation — dominated COP27 negotiations late last year. Again, here,
governments and businesses were urged to renew their focus on preparing for an
increase in the frequency and severity of weather events. It is a position
backed by WEF’s latest Global Risks Report, which highlights failed climate
adaptation second only to failed emissions reduction as the biggest global risk
when looking ten years out. Natural disasters and extreme weather events were
“They are prioritising self-greed, corporate greed and short-term economic
profits above people and above planet. These people are going to go as far as
they possibly can as long as they can get away with it. They will continue to
invest in fossil
they will continue to throw people under the bus for their own gain.”
Thunberg was talking about the world’s leaders at Davos, of course.
at the event that made her a household name four years previously, the
campaigner said it was “absolutely ridiculous” that Sultan Ahmed a-Jaber —
CEO of United Arab Emirates’ state-owned oil company — will chair the next
later this year. Although a COP28 spokesperson was quick to defend the decision,
insisting that al-Jaber was “uniquely qualified to deliver a successful COP28,”
Greta’s riposte — echoed by many other activists in Davos across the week —
offered a stark reminder to the business community: Attempt to
at your peril.
Published Jan 23, 2023 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Tom is founder of storytelling strategy firm Narrative Matters — which helps organizations develop content that truly engages audiences around issues of global social, environmental and economic importance. He also provides strategic editorial insight and support to help organisations – from large corporates, to NGOs – build content strategies that focus on editorial that is accessible, shareable, intelligent and conversation-driving.