Climate Action

What's happening to Greenland will affect the whole world - and our leaders need to understand why

The Jakobshavn ice fjord near Ilulissat.

Meltdown … the Jakobshavn ice fjord near Ilulissat. Image: REUTERS/Bob Strong

John Dutton
Head, Uplink; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
Silje Ditlefsen Zanni
UpLink Programme and Impact Lead, World Economic Forum
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“The stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted,” David Attenborough said recently. If anyone still thought they could ignore the climate crisis, recent reports and drastic changes to our planet should shatter that perception. Nowhere is this more visible than in Greenland. Today a group of 20 Young Global Leaders heads for Greenland to witness devastating local changes that have global consequences, and commit to being part of a movement to reverse these trends.

Why Greenland?

Because it’s essentially one big sheet of ice – the second largest ice sheet in the world in fact. Covering 81% of the island, and 2.3 km thick, it makes Greenland the keeper of roughly 8% of all of Earth’s freshwater, and contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 7.3 metres, threatening to inundate many of the world's biggest coastal cities. Between 1993 and 2016, this ice sheet lost an average of 286 billion tonnes of ice per year, and April 2019 has just been acknowledged as the month when sea ice in the Arctic shrunk to a record low as early as April. With Arctic air temperatures rising twice as fast as anywhere else, this ice sheet is critical to our survival. What happens in Greenland will not stay in Greenland: it affects people everywhere.

Despite these undeniable facts, many global leaders have yet to awaken to the climate crisis and what needs to be done. But younger generations know that their future is at stake and have shown over the last 10 months that they are up for the fight and will hold our leaders accountable for their policies and decision-making. Nonetheless, more people in leadership positions need to take these younger generations seriously, to step up and act. We need to champion leaders who are strong-willed and interested in taking the lead, in order to make a difference in this dash for human survival.

The Forum of Young Global Leaders (YGLs) every year highlights 100 global leaders under the age of 40 who have showcased strong ethical and responsible leadership in their fields. From Catherine Howarth, who is working to make investment a force for good and ensure investors take responsibility for where they put their money, to Rhea Mazumdar Singhal, who took on the single-use plastic market in India, this community is already pushing boundaries and represents an unparalleled cadre of impact-oriented leaders. The five-year leadership programme equips next-generation leaders to address our most important global challenges. It provides access to world-class executive education, opportunities to learn with and from an unparalleled cadre of impact-oriented young CEOs, professors, political leaders and civil society changemakers as well as access to the World Economic Forum’s network of events and activities. But this isn’t enough. It is time for us to push the environmental challenges to the top of the agenda and we have evolved the YGL activities to stimulate this shift.

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Strengthening collaborations and mobilizing commitments to global compacts, like the Convention on Biodiversity, are vital, and each one of us has a role to play in making the environmental agenda come alive. But how do we move from talking to action? How do we move from learning to understanding, and how do we bridge the process of knowledge to practice?

Too many leaders today are taking decisions about issues originating hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away that they have never experienced or seen up close. It is more important than ever to understand how nature works and how we can and must help it for our own survival.

To accelerate our progress, we need therefore to accelerate learning and understanding. At the Forum of Young Global Leaders we have developed a series of Impact Expeditions that challenge our members to confront, contextualize and assess how they, and the institutions they represent, can make a tangible different to nudge the world in positive directions.

From 23-27 May, the Forum of Young Global Leaders will lead, in partnership with Three Squares Inc, and Active Philanthropy, 20 YGLs from 16 countries to Greenland to experience the effect of climate change first hand. They will visit the city of Ilulissat, where the Jakobshavn glacier is located. The glacier is one of Greenland’s 12 protected areas and one of the four key glaciers contributing to the freshwater loss of the overall ice sheet. The YGLs will meet with Inuit leaders to discuss the effect of climate change on Greenland’s inhabitants. They will be challenged to connect what they see to taking action in their own sphere of influence with industry, regional and even global impact.

Vivid experiences such as the Impact Expeditions have been proven to dramatically impact an individual’s mindset. It increases engagement levels; it is personal and influences emotions as well as enhancing knowledge and skills. The participants will be immediately involved in taking ownership for the future of the planet.

Discover

What is a YGL?

What can you do?

Act now and be part of the solution. Get inspired through the Our Planet series and engage your family, community or organization and add your voice through the Global Shapers-led Voice for the Planet movement.

Become knowledgeable about the Global Deal for Nature and support the YGL-led initiative to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 by influencing the leadership in your country to sign up to these goals.

Help us ensure that what happens in Greenland, doesn’t stay in Greenland. Get this message out by following and sharing our journey across the social media spectrum at #greenland2019

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