Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Climate Focus at The World Economic Forum in Davos

The World Economic Forum (WEF)in Davos is once again bringing its considerable resources to bear on the problem of climate change. This annual meeting has become a grand event that attracts some of the most powerful people and organizations in the world. This is a far cry from it origins in 1971 when it was billed as a management conference by its creator academic Klaus Schwab. The small Swiss ski resort community has a population of only 11,000, but receives 30,000 guests during this period. More than 1,000 of these guests are CEOs or Chairmen and more than 40 world leaders are also in attendance. No matter how you slice it the meetings in Davos are a high profile, high powered affair.

In addition to networking and secret parties, Davos is the place where some serious issues are discussed and some important solutions are advanced. The 300 plus open discussions (one third of which will be webcast) will address issues ranging from technological and economic issues to global problems.

No issue is more important to those assembled in Davos than climate change, this includes both threats and opportunities. This year the topic is particularly prescient in the wake of the COP21 deal signed in Paris. One of the things that can be expected at the conference is a discussion of what the agreement means for the transition to a low carbon economy and more specifically what are the implications for fossil fuel production.

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

UN climate head Christiana Figueres, is in Davos, said: "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...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?"

Business leaders will come to Davos eager to talk through the low-carbon transition,1 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.

Some of the issues that are sure to come up in Davos are carbon pricing, standards and expediting the low carbon transition. One thing is clear, trillions of dollars of investment capital will be required to make the transition. Davos is the place where multi-stakeholder deals are conceived.

While some malign the meeting as a festival for the rich and powerful, others see the Davos forum as a new model of global problem solving. This is the view of Don Tapscott. In a piece written for the Toronto Star Tapscott said, "I find Davos productive for a number of reasons. It’s intellectually stimulating and I can’t wait to engage in discussion and debate around this year’s theme of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yes, there is great networking, too. But what drives me and, I’m guessing, most people, is that the forum helps me make a difference in the world. If you are a defender of the status quo, you’re not going to have a very good time at Davos, because the discussion is a lot about change."

Tapscott should know, not only is he a best selling author, most recently of The Digital Economy, he is Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and the chancellor of Trent University. He has been to the WEF more than a dozen times. He explains

"To me, the forum is an example of a new model of global problem solving, co-operation and governance that not only holds vast potential, but is already making a global difference."

Things get done in Davos through what Tapscott has called the Global Solutions Network (GSN). These are international collaboration networks with the resources to see things through. Perhaps most importantly the mechanism by which Davos works transcends the traditional approach involving nation states and the politics that goes with it.

Any time you bring together the top minds in business, policy, media and more, it is an opportunity to address issues and reality test meaningful solutions.

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