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Davos 2023: What to expect for climate and nature action

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Climate change is threatening life on Earth as we know it Image: Unsplash/Dawid Zawiła

Gim Huay Neo
Managing Director, World Economic Forum
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, with rising temperatures and ecosystem degradation threatening life on Earth as we know it.
  • We need a global, collaborative and inclusive approach to action on climate and nature in order to help restore our planet and protect our future.
  • Davos 2023 offers the ideal opportunity for government, business and civil society to work together and forge partnerships for effective action.

The night before a COP27 session on the net-zero transition, Mads Nipper’s team at Ørsted advised him to hold off on joining a new effort to decarbonize the concrete and cement industry.

The company was already working to address hard-to-abate sectors as a founding member of the First Movers Coalition, a World Economic Forum initiative, but his team said there too many unknowns about this new challenge.

“Why not now?” the Group President and CEO asked. “Exactly because we don’t know how, we should move now.”

It is this kind of courage in the face of uncertainty that is critical to drive forward climate and nature action on a global scale.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time

Today’s leaders are faced with the greatest collective action problem of our time – to address climate change and the collapse of our ecosystems.

We know how devastating the effects of warming temperatures and ecosystem degradation will be for life on Earth. But there’s also a lot we are yet to understand how once we are past the tipping points of planetary boundaries, life for humanity will change irreversibly.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about nature?

We cannot allow fear and uncertainty to paralyse us. The urgency of the climate crisis means that we need to strive for pragmatism and agility, in our response to Earth’s ‘new normal’.

Most importantly, we need to break down our silos and work together with a global, collaborative and inclusive approach to make progress to restore our planet and protect our future.

Davos 2023 sessions on these main themes

  • Philanthropy: A Catalyst for Protecting Our Planet - How can public and private sector players better harness the power of catalytic philanthropy to close the $100 trillion gap for equitable climate and nature solutions by 2050? Tuesday 17 January, 08:30-09:15CET
  • Unpacking the Polar Crisis - Explore the connection between the health of the poles and the health of the planet and how Indigenous communities are promoting harmony with nature in their way of life. – Tuesday 17 January, 15:00-15:45CET
  • See you in Court! The Rising Tide of Climate Litigation - Could this rapidly evolving field create a tipping point in climate law? And what could be the potentially far-reaching implications for shaping the climate response of countries and companies, including with regard to the much discussed issue of loss and damage? – Tuesday 17 January, 15:15-15:45CET
  • Future by Design - What lessons learned could be deployed globally in the age of exponential change? – Tuesday 17 January, 16:15-16:45CET
  • Open Forum: Propelling Planetary Prosperity - How are youth harnessing their creative potential to innovate for the prosperity of the planet? Tuesday 17 January, 18:30-19:30CET
  • Leading the Charge through Earth's New Normal - What visionary leadership is needed for systems thinking, transformative solutions and global collaboration to build a more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future? – Wednesday 18 January, 14:00-15:00CET
  • Defending Transparency - How can good governance mitigate corruption risks to better support people and planet? – Wednesday 18 January, 15:00-15:45CET
  • Youth Agency Over Earth’s Future - How are young people around world taking up the mantle of climate leadership, from advocacy and education to entrepreneurship and innovation? – Thursday 19 January, 09:00-09:45CET
  • Open Forum: In Case of Fire, Use Stairs - How can the climate emergency be turned into an opportunity for inclusion? – Friday 20 January, 11:30-12:30CET

1. Here’s how we can act now:

We must accelerate climate action for the net-zero transition and adapt to the climate realities of today

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report makes clear that the world is set to reach the 1.5ºC within the next two decades. Drastic cuts in carbon emissions now are critical to avoid an environmental catastrophe.

Even as we pursue mitigation and decarbonisation solutions, we must also adapt to the realities of climate change and proactively address the risks of disrupted weather cycles and degraded land, water and ocean systems.

We must provide support, especially for the climate vulnerable communities, to avoid a humanitarian crisis. Increasing business investment in climate adaptation efforts to $1.8 trillion could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits by 2030.

Pledges and commitments need to be translated into concrete plans and actions. This requires dedicating resources and capital to develop strategy, build partnerships and put in place capabilities and structures to track progress and measure performance. Investing in people, cultural change and organizational structure will be paramount.

Davos 2023 sessions on climate action for net zero

  • Mastering New Energy Economics - As decision-makers worldwide strive to craft energy strategies for the year ahead, how can they reconcile energy resilience, affordability and sustainability? – Tuesday 17 January, 08:30-09:15CET
  • Open Forum: Protecting the Climate Vulnerable - Listen to the voices of our global youths on what leaders must do to promote justice and provide support to communities most affected by the climate crisis. – Tuesday 17 January, 12:30-13:30CET
  • Bending the Emissions Curve - Which solutions will be most effective, both in cost and time, in lowering emissions over the next decade? – Tuesday 17 January, 17:30-18:15CET
  • Open Forum: Mobilizing for Climate - What concrete steps are needed for coordinated global climate action? – Wednesday 18 January, 12:30-13:30CET
  • Putting Health at the Heart of Climate Action - What steps are needed to place health at the heart of climate action and protect individuals globally? – Wednesday 18 January, 13:15-14:00CET
  • Keeping the Pace on Climate - Between Sharm el-Sheikh and Dubai, what are the imperatives to ensure global cooperation on climate action in the face of multiple pressures and crises? – Wednesday 18 January, 16:15-17:00CET
  • Open Forum: Energy Transition Rush - What is needed to ensure access to affordable, sustainable and clean energy solutions for all? – Wednesday 18 January, 18:30-19:30CET
  • Open Forum: Energy Transition Rush - What is needed to ensure access to affordable, sustainable and clean energy solutions for all? – Wednesday 18 January, 18:30-19:30CET
  • Open Forum: Pack Up and Go – Climate Migration - How can we address climate migration and reduce the risks for those displaced by the nature and climate crisis? – Thursday 19 January, 09:30-10:30CET
  • A Crucial Year to Focus on Adaptation - How can the climate COPs in Africa and the Middle East unlock scaled-up multistakeholder partnerships for adaptation, with a particular focus on emerging and frontier markets? – Thursday 19 January, 10:15-11:00CET
  • Decarbonizing Supply Chains: Leaving No One Behind - How can emerging economies harness frontier technologies to support supply chain decarbonization and ensure sustainable movement of goods? – Thursday 19 January, 17:30-18:15CET

2. We must take immediate steps to create a nature-positive economy

Addressing carbon emissions and climate change is critical, but not sufficient. There is an equally urgent need to advance public-private action on the issues of biodiversity loss and land-degradation.

The environmental crisis calls on a larger demand for humanity to restore our relationship with nature. Healthy and balanced ecosystems provide a social equalizer, promote happy and stable societies, and preserve and create inter-generational wealth.

There’s a clear benefit to investing in nature. Moving toward a more nature-positive economy in areas including regenerative agriculture, forest economy, environment and infrastructure design and resource circularity could add $10.1 trillion of business opportunities and create 400 million jobs globally by 2030.

Davos 2023 sessions on a nature-positive economy

  • Open Forum: In Harmony with Nature - How do we mobilize action towards climate-positive lifestyles? – Monday 16 January, 18:30-10:30CET
  • Don't Let Greenwashing Fears Stall Credible Action - How can data, regulation and Indigenous knowledge spur investors to channel resources towards quality conservation and restoration at scale? – Wednesday 18 January, 11:30-12:15CET
  • Open Forum: Nature Heals - What are the effects of current lifestyles on the man-nature relationship and the overall human health and wellbeing? – Wednesday 18 January, 09:30-10:30CET
  • Land Matters - What are the strategies for integrating more sustainable approaches for land management to provide for food, feed, fibre and fuel? – Wednesday 18 January, 15:00-15:45CET
  • Business Action in Nature - From assessing nature-related risks and disclosures to investing in nature to create enduring value and sustainable growth, how are businesses pursuing nature-positive transitions as part of their competitive strategy? – Thursday 19 January, 11;30-12:15CET
  • The Earth Data Revolution - What are the promising possibilities and partnerships to harness data for climate insights and action? – Thursday 19 January, 09:00-09:30CET
  • Open Forum: The Evolution of Urban Life - How can we ensure the cities of the future are environmentally sustainable and socially resilient? – Thursday 19 January, 12:30-13:30CET
  • 30x30 Ambition: Next Steps after Montreal - What are the economic approaches and innovative financing arrangements needed to deliver on this bold ambition? – Thursday 19 January, 17:30-18:15CET
  • The Amazon at a Crossroads - How to strengthen collaboration and enable the bio-economy of the Amazon to deliver sustainable benefits for people and planet? – Thursday 19 January, 17:30-18:15CET

3. We must regenerate our food, water and ocean systems

Food, water and ocean systems are key enablers and impact multipliers for sustainability, and are inextricably linked to climate change, biodiversity, livelihoods and inclusive development. Agri-food systems alone are responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions, more than 70% of freshwater use and 80% of tropical deforestation and habitat loss.

In 2023, the world will face a worsening food and water crisis, further compounded by ongoing conflicts, supply chain disruptions, fertilizer shortages depressing harvests, and extreme weather loss and damage to farmlands. Already, more than 2 billion people suffer from malnutrition, and these numbers could continue to grow.

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Today, global food, land and ocean use systems represent $10 trillion or more than 12% of global GDP and more than 40% of all jobs, numbers which are grossly underestimated. A regenerative approach to our food, water and ocean systems could unlock the potential for bringing together economic growth and environmental sustainability, especially among emerging and developing economies.

We must invest in our food, water and ocean systems to be more sustainable, more inclusive, more nutritious, healthy and free of pollutants, and more resilient to supply shocks.

Davos 2023 sessions on food water and ocean systems

  • I Sea You - The opening concert is a powerful cultural message of unity and collaboration, and a call to action to world leaders and policy-makers to implement the appropriate and required agreements to protect and preserve the coral reefs of the Northern Red Sea. – Monday 16 January, 18:30-10:15CET
  • Open Forum: Sustainably Served - How can we strengthen the connections between food-nature-health for more affordable, healthy and sustainable diets? – Tuesday 17 January, 09:30-10:30CET
  • The Interplay of Food, Energy and Water - What are the critical vulnerabilities and how can leaders provide targeted interventions through the food-energy-water nexus? – Tuesday 17 January, 17:30-18:15CET
  • Revolutionizing Food Security - What breakthrough technology and innovation ideas could revolutionize consumption patterns in the future? – Wednesday 18 January, 16:15-17:00CET
  • Where the Land Meets the Sea - Can blue carbon projects reverse the loss of coastal habitats and provide the impetus to conserve and restore them? – Thursday 19 January, 09:00-09:45CET
  • Ocean 20: Building a Sustainable Blue Economy - The launch of the Ocean 20 agenda under the G20 Presidency of Indonesia provides a platform for collective action on generating a sustainable ocean economy. This discussion provides the science-business-policy lens on the pressures confronting the ocean and identifies the areas for responsible stewardship – Thursday 19 January, 13:15-14:00
  • Water: The Bloodstream of our Earth System - What are the enabling governance, finance, infrastructure and innovations required to safeguard and restore our freshwater systems? – Thursday 19 January, 16:15-17:00CET

Davos 2023 sessions on advancing resource circularity and addressing pollution

4. We must leverage market mechanisms of finance, data and technology

To achieve a net zero, nature positive and regenerative economy, we need to deploy all the tools and solutions that we have. But we will also need to develop and scale new finance and technological solutions.

Technologies under development will contribute about 40% of greenhouse gas emission reductions, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates. Unfortunately, many of these technologies are still in their early stage, and not yet mature or competitive with existing high-emission alternatives. New investments that are high-risk and capital-intensive will be required to support commercial scale deployment.


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

We must also ensure investments are flowing into emerging markets and developing countries in support of their development agendas and transition plans. In addition, we must come together to harness data to develop insights, strengthen decision making to adapt to and mitigate climate and nature risks, bolster resilience and create long-term business value.

Davos 2023 sessions on market mechanisms of finance, data and technology

  • Twinning Energy with Digital - As energy systems undergo once-in-a-lifetime transformations, what solutions are needed to unlock high-priority applications for digital technologies at scale? – Wednesday 18 January, 11:30-12:15CET
  • AI for Climate Adaptation - What are the most promising AI applications to drive action on climate adaptation? – Wednesday 18 January, 17:30-18:15CET
  • The Age of Net-Zero Energy Technologies - How can we best leverage established and emerging energy technologies to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050? – Thursday 19 January, 09:00-09:45CET
  • How to Turbocharge Development Finance - How can these institutions help scale up financing for the broader economic, environmental and social agenda? – Friday 20 January, 10:15-11:00CET

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 will bring together leaders from governments, business and civil society to exchange perspectives, co-create solutions and forge partnerships for action on climate and nature.

The task before us is complex, ambitious and far-reaching. It is possible if we act together and act today with a sense of purpose and shared destiny.

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