Climate change takes centre stage at Davos

30 January 2007

The snow came late to Davos - but just in time to give the impression of a more normal winter for the 2,400 delegates attending this year's World Economic Forum (WEF).

Climate change took centre stage with meetings covering everything from corporate action to hurricanes. Setting the tone, German Chancellor Angela Merkel put climate at the heart of her keynote speech saying that 'responsibility grows with economic success'.  The WEF Young Global Leaders Group launched a book and film targeting chief marketing officers by setting the positive case for brands to engage on climate. And Claudia Schiffer brought some glamour to proceedings when she spoke of the need to fight global warming, stating that the fashion industry should start to lead on everything from eco-friendly packaging to energy efficient buildings.

Significant steps were taken that went beyond debate, including the launch of a new international partnership, the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), designed to create a framework for the standardized reporting of climate risk-related issues by corporations.

The framework will help streamline reporting and allow companies and investors to better compare and analyse information. CDSB partners include The Climate Group, California Registry, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Ceres, IETA, WEF, and WRI. The initiative has support from a range of companies including Duke Energy Corp, JP Morgan Chase, and Swiss Re who helped kick start the process.

Progress was also made with the Gleneagles climate dialogue, which was initiated by Prime Minister Blair at the G8 in 2005. A diverse group of business leaders and senior government representatives from China, Chile, Germany, India, Japan and the UK met in Davos to explore opportunities around behaviour change, public and private sector investment and the post-2012 policy framework. Findings from the session are being submitted to the G8 summit process in Japan in 2008.

Whilst the momentum that is building is impressive, the challenge that remains was brought into sharp focus on several fronts. A Chinese Government representative indicated that while every effort will be made to reduce emissions growth by 2020, China's emissions could be more than triple today's levels by then. A PWC poll of CEO attitudes towards major business issues indicated that only 18% were concerned about climate change (against a global average of 40%). In fact, 4 out of 5 US CEOs were not even "somewhat" concerned.

This, and the fact that the IPPC is likely to announce later this week that we are currently on track for 3°C warming, shows that we are still some way from realising Chancellor Merkel's vision of a world where economic progress and increased responsibility are fundamentally interlinked. Climate change will continue to build profile at the World Economic Forum, and elsewhere, until we are broadly confident that this has been achieved and that we are clearly on track to a low carbon future.

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