The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently hosted its annual meeting in Davos, attracting corporate titans and their bankers to turn a spotlight on just how quickly they are moving to combat climate change.
The number of organisations pledging to reach net zero emissions by mid-century has soared in recent years (up 60% to more than 11,000 in September 2022) UN figures have shown. Yet the world remains on course to miss its climate goals.
Several bankers and executives attending the event said they were looking for ways to speed up the transition to a greener future. Increasingly, they said conversations in C-suites and with financiers had turned to the risks that climate change presented to businesses.
“Suddenly people have realised that it is something that’s not just a way of presenting things, but that it is a necessity for survival,” said André Hoffmann, vice chairman of Swiss drugmaker Roche (ROG.S).
While there is unanimous agreement on the need for change, people were divided on the pace that is needed to address the global problems. Climate activist Greta Thunberg made the journey up the Swiss Alps to call on the global energy industry and its financiers to end all fossil fuel investments.
Regulators across the world are bringing in tougher rules to better police ‘sustainable’ activities and with more bad practices being challenged in court, executives in the Swiss mountain resort said they were focused on sustainability.
Suni Harford, the president of UBS’s asset management arm who leads the bank’s sustainability efforts, said her conversations at Davos suggested no let up in focus on climate, despite the shorter-term pressures.
“Clients are becoming ever more informed on the energy transition, demand for sustainable and green products has held up well, and clients are increasingly looking to measure the impact of their portfolios.”
Despite the continuous growth in pledges, the world is currently on course to miss its goal of capping global warming at 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial (1850 – 1900) average, heading instead towards 2.8 °C, the UN secretary-general told delegates.
António Guterres gave a fresh warning about the dangers of deceptive corporate efforts to get to net zero emissions and called for faster action.
“Put forward credible and transparent transition plans on how to achieve net zero – and submit those plans before the end of this year,” Guterres said in a speech. “The transition to net zero must be grounded in real emissions cuts.”
Davos is the first of five climate events the WEF will be involved in this year with stops in Geneva, London, New York and more along the way, culminating at the World Climate Summit at COP28 hosted by Dubai in December.
- World Resilience Summit, Geneva – 24 May
- Climate Investment Summit, London – 28 June
- World Biodiversity Summit, New York – 20 September
- World Energy Transition Summit, New York – 21 September
- World Climate Summit (The Investment COP), Dubai – 3 December
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