Climate change is top worry for Davos elite: Poll

In a picture taken on Jan 22, 2019, former US Vice-President and Climate Reality Project Chairman Al Gore speaks as he attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
In a picture taken on Jan 22, 2019, former US Vice-President and Climate Reality Project Chairman Al Gore speaks as he attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.PHOTO: X90184

LONDON • Risks posed by climate change and environmental destruction top the concerns of world decision-makers as they prepare to head to this year's meeting of the global elite in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, an annual survey found.

For the first time, the report found the top five concerns were all environmental - from extreme weather to biodiversity loss and events like oil spills and radioactive contamination.

That came as trade wars and the rise of nationalist politics worldwide were also cited by the panel of over 750 experts and decision-makers surveyed as making it harder for countries to work together on solutions.

"The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning," said World Economic Forum (WEF) president Borge Brende, urging more collective action.

This year's Davos, which runs next week, has chosen sustainability as its main theme and comes as campaigners like teenager Greta Thunberg ramp up pressure on businesses and governments to act on climate change and other environmental threats.

At the same time, the world's leading economies are behind on pledges to cut carbon emissions arising from the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Activists remain wary of empty promises, pointing to the huge subsidies and private funds still on offer for fossil fuels.

US President Donald Trump is expected to attend, although some world leaders will skip this year's Davos. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told his ministers to avoid an event seen by many as elitist, a source in his office has said.

In a bid to pre-empt criticism that its jetset guests are part of the problem, the WEF said this year's Davos would use offsets to be fully carbon-neutral and line up more electric vehicles.

Environmental concerns have been rising up the list of its perceived long-term risks in recent years, a marked change from a decade ago when the West's biggest economies were hit by the financial crisis. Inequality was the top concern from 2012 to 2014.

Immigration loomed large in the 2016 survey as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Europe, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

 

Aside from the environment, the 2020 survey highlights concerns about shortfalls in governance of the technology sector, struggling health sectors and doggedly high inequality.

In its methodology for the survey, the WEF said a "global risk" was defined as one that could cause major harm to several countries or industries within the next 10 years.

Two-thirds of the respondents were male, with a majority from Europe and North America and most aged between 40 and 59.

For the first time, the survey included results from 200 under-30s around the world identified as future leaders in various fields.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Climate change is top worry for Davos elite: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe