For the first time in the 15-year history of the Davos risk report, the top five global risks are all environmental, according to the latest survey published on Wednesday (15 January) ahead of the World Economic Forum next week.
According to the Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental concerns dominate the top long-term risks by likelihood among the 800 members of the World Economic Forum surveyed for the study.
The top risks highlighted are extreme weather events with major damage to property, infrastructure and loss of human life; failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses; human-made environmental damage and disasters, including environmental crime, such as oil spills, and radioactive contamination; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (terrestrial or marine) with irreversible consequences for the environment; and major natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and geomagnetic storms.
“We do not want to face continued political and economic disintegration, we do not want to reach the tipping point of irreversibility on climate change and we do not want that the next generations to inherit a world which becomes ever more hostile and ever less habitable,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
The report came on the heels of the announcement of the EU’s €1-trillion investment plan intended to make its economy ‘greener’ and carbon neutral by 2050.
“Tackling climate change will be the defining task of this [European] Commission,” the Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, said on Tuesday.
European leaders will show their green credentials next week before business leaders and 53 heads of state or government attending the 50th edition of the Davos forum on 21-24 January.
According to a European Investment Bank Report, almost 50% of EU citizens selected climate change as the biggest challenge facing their country, ahead of unemployment and access to healthcare.
US President Donald Trump, who pulled his country out of the Paris Agreement intended to control CO2 emissions, will be back at the exclusive meeting next week.
The Global Risks report warned that “climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected.”
“Alarmingly, global temperatures are on track to increase by at least 3°C towards the end of the century—twice what climate experts have warned is the limit to avoid the most severe economic, social and environmental consequences,” the survey said.
“Recent environmental disasters fueled by climate change like the fires in the Amazon and Australia and the floods in Indonesia and Venice serve as unfortunate reminders that we cannot afford to wait when it comes to our commitment to slow global warming,” said Sebastian Troëng, executive vice president at Conservation International.
“The business world is finally waking up to the impacts of climate change and nature loss, and it’s encouraging to see sustainability take centre stage at this year’s World Economic Forum,” he added.
In regard to the short-term risks, meaning those expected to increase in 2020, the Davos community also selected extreme heat waves and the destruction of ecosystems as number three and four.
The top of the list was held by “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarisation”.
For Davos’s younger constituents, the Global Shapers Community, environmental issues are an even greater concern, as they came on top of both the short and long-term lists, signalling the growing importance of the ‘green agenda’ for the younger generation.
Along with the worsening of the climate challenge, the “increasing risk of economic stagnation”, or even the resurge of health risks, the Davos report also warned that governments are adopting nationalistic responses and protectionist agendas.
“Amid this darkening economic outlook, citizens’ discontent has hardened with systems that have failed to promote advancement,” the report said, recalling last year’s protests across the world.
“The world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast,” added Schwab.
Against this darkening outlook and the failing multilateral system, the Davos forum once again made a plea to leaders to urgently cooperate in global solutions to tackle these challenges when they meet in Davos next week.
From the EU side, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will lead a delegation including her Trade chief Phil Hogan and Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.
European Council President Charles Michel will also travel to the ski resort.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki are among the European leaders who will also attend the gathering.
As it happened in 2018, Trump will is once again likely to steal the spotlight. The US president faces an impeachment process back home, where he has been accused of abusing his presidential powers to benefit his reelection campaign.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was involved in the Trump scandal, will also be in Davos.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who had been due to attend, cancelled his visit as global tensions rose after a US drone strike killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
Swedish teenage ‘green’ activist Greta Thunberg will be back again to renew her call to stop subsidising fossil fuels.
After some criticism last year over the number of private jets bringing political and business leaders to the summit, organisers set up for the first time a temporary railway station to encourage participants to use public transport.
Solar panels and geothermal heating have been also introduced in the Congress Centre to reduce the carbon footprint.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]