Davos Agenda

Safeguarding our planet and people: A call for climate action at Davos 2022 

Climate action needs to be taken now to stay within the 1.5 ℃ Paris Agreement target.

Climate action needs to be taken now to stay within the 1.5 ℃ Paris Agreement target. Image: World Economic Forum

Lukas Bester
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • A high-level panel of climate leaders, including US and Chinese Special Envoys John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua, joined World Economic Forum president Børge Brende for a discussion on climate action at Davos 2022.
  • To stay within the 1.5 ℃ Paris Agreement target and avoid climate catastrophe, countries must drastically scale up their efforts.

"It isn't just about words anymore - it is about action. Climate action, now, is critical." These words by Xie Zhenhua, China's Special Envoy for Climate Change, were a call to arms to all people, and especially global leaders, to radically transform the way the global economy functions if we're to avoid climate catastrophe.


What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

John Kerry, who, himself, has played a critical role in convincing global leaders to push for stronger climate action, was unapologetic about what needs to be done: "Emissions went up in 2021 by 6%, while coal usage expanded by 9%. This is unacceptable. We realize that countries are concerned over energy security, but we can't jeopardize the planet by investing in legacy fossil fuel projects that will cause irreparable damage." Kerry and Xie have been working closely on finding climate solutions, with Kerry noting that "For at least the next 8 years, we must radically change our economic system and our reliance on fossil fuels if we're to stay aligned to Paris Agreement targets. This is the real battle of our time."

Mark Benioff, Co-CEO of Salesforce and a key proponent of the First Movers Coalition, said: "We need a new form of environmental capitalism wherein all companies commit to net-zero and start relying exclusively on renewable energy sources." Something which, he said, can only be achieved through massive investments in clean technologies and the initiatives of 'eco-preneurs' - a term for innovators who develop eco-solutions technologies.

In an emotional appeal to world leaders, Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder of the Green Generation Initiative, stressed that climate change is already a daily reality for millions of people: "The humanitarian crisis has only worsened since COP26. Over 3 million Kenyans and 20 million Africans are facing extreme hunger due to the effects of climate change. The war in Ukraine will only exacerbate these terrifyingly high levels of food insecurity."

Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder of the Green Generation Initiative talks about climate action
Elizabeth Wathuti, Founder of the Green Generation Initiative emphasises on climate action Image: World Economic Forum

Agreeing with Wathuti, Royal DSM NV's Co-CEO, Geraldine Matchett, laid out a worrying reality: "There is a food crisis as we speak. The current global food system can reasonably feed 3 billion people, 3 billion more struggle to feed themselves, while up to 1 billion faces real undernourishment. The reality is that this inadequate and unsustainable food system is worsening climate change, while climate change, in turn, will decimate our food system."


Offering a glimmer of hope, Kerry noted that meeting climate targets is still possible, but only through collective climate action: "The reality is that 20 countries are responsible for 80% of emissions. We have the technology to change, we need the political will. If we can harness this, we can still avoid the worst effects of climate change."

As a parting thought, and speaking as a mouthpiece for future generations and the planet's most vulnerable people, Wathuti added that: "Political action and technology may help yes, but, what we really need is a change in our relationship toward our planet and its people. When we reshape our economic systems, we must be respectful to all life on earth. Compassion must play a central part in our decisions."

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