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John Kerry at Davos 2023: Climate transformation to be on industrial revolution scale

"This is going to be the biggest transformation, economically, since the industrial revolution," said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, on a Davos 2023 session.

"This is going to be the biggest transformation, economically, since the industrial revolution," said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, on a Davos 2023 session. Image: World Economic Forum / Boris Bal

Chris Hamill-Stewart
Writer, Forum Agenda
Spencer Feingold
Digital Editor, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum
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SDG 13: Climate Action

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Combatting the climate crisis was a major topic at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos.
  • "This is going to be the biggest transformation, economically, since the industrial revolution," said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
  • Robust action, experts say, is necessary to keep the world on track for COP28 goals.

Delegates at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2023 expressed cautious optimism that market forces and innovation, spurred by meaningful policymaking, will see the world survive the climate crisis — but they acknowledge that much work is yet to be done.

“We can hit 1.5 [degrees warming]," said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. "We are not on track to do it now, and it is not absolutely clear that we will get on track. Globally, we are heading to 2.5 right now. And we really must turn that around.”

Kerry was speaking on a panel at the Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, alongside other business leaders, activists and government officials. The panel was dedicated to discussing the robust action needed to keep the world on track for COP28 goals and milestones to combat climate change.

“I don't think there will be much choice, because the instability that will continue to be created by these impacts, real instability for people, deaths of our people and ecosystems, are going to keep the pressure up," said Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s State Secretary and Special Envoy for International Climate Action.

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Enabling the private sector

The climate experts also stressed the need for the private sector partnerships to ensure a successsful economic transition.

"I really feel more confident about the direction we’re moving in. The marketplace of the world is moving," Kerry stated while speaking on the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). "This is going to be the biggest transformation, economically, since the industrial revolution.”

The US IRA, signed into law in August 2022, unlocks significant climate financing and establishes major incentives for the private sector and investors to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors.

The private sector is absolutely key to our ability to be able to win this battle.

John Kerry

Technology is set to play a major role, too, experts said at Davos. “Technology, knowledge and the capital is there, the question is what we do, and how can it work in several dimensions at the same time,” Morgan stated.

The Indigenous perspective

Helena Gualinga, an Ecuadorian environmental and human rights activist whose work focuses on Indigenous communities in the Amazon rainforest, took a different view.

“Putting business first is exactly what has led us to the point where we are at right now,” Gualinga said. “We can talk about cutting emissions all we want and come up with clever calculations and do it on paper, but if we don't keep fossil fuels underground, we will not meet 1.5°C.”

The solution to the climate crisis, Gualinga said, is not as complex as new technologies, carbon pricing or complicated funding structures: “Let the forest stay standing. That is the most simple solution we can find. We find that solution in nature. It’s already there.”

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalClimate ActionNature and Biodiversity
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