'A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy' is one of the key themes at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos.
Climate and Nature

Climate, nature and energy at Davos 2024: What to know

Deep dive

'A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy' is one of the key themes at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos. Image: Unsplash/Prateek Keshari

Ross Chainey
Content Lead, UpLink, World Economic Forum
Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • 'A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy' is one of the key themes at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos.
  • Swift and decisive leadership, as well as urgent action, is needed to combat the climate crisis and ensure energy security.
  • Davos 2024 will bring leaders together to discuss ways to ensure a long-term future that is inclusive, net-zero and nature-positive.
  • Check back here for regular updates throughout the week and use the navigation bar on the right to catch up on what you've missed.

As 2023 drew to a close, the words ‘phase out’ dominated global news headlines. The UN’s COP28 climate conference went into overtime to debate the wording for an agreement to end fossil fuel use and reduce emissions.

In the end, ‘phase out’ was toned down and became ‘contribute... to transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner’, but the very inclusion of fossil fuels was seen as a landmark moment.

COP28 was being held in Dubai at the same time scientists confirmed 2023 had been the hottest year on record. The Earth’s global average surface temperature was more than 2°C higher than pre-industrial levels in November for the first time.

Global surface temperature: increase above pre-industrial level (1850-1900)
How annual average temperatures have risen over five decades. Image: ECMWF

The Forum's Global Risks Report 2024 finds that environmental risks make up half of the top 10 risks over the next 10 years, with extreme weather events, critical change to Earth's systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse being the top three.

Top 10 Global Risks
Environmental risks dominate the next decade. Image: Global Risks Report 2024
Agenda

These are the top 3 climate risks we face — and what to do about them

Over the past 50 years, the climate crisis has caused more than 2 million deaths and $4.3 trillion in economic losses, according to the United Nations, as well as the destruction of vital natural ecosystems. It’s only going to get more intense - and is having an impact on access to the most vital of human resources: food and water.

Setting the world on a path to reaching climate targets, while enabling growth and fostering energy, food and water security, requires a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewables, improving energy efficiency and cutting all greenhouse gas emissions, as the International Energy Agency asserts.

A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy is one of the core themes being dicussed at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2024.

Leaders will gather to discuss how we can develop a long-term systemic approach to achieve the objectives of a carbon-neutral and nature-positive world by 2050 while providing affordable, secure and inclusive access to energy, food and water.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Davos the phase-out of fossil fuels would not only be essential, but also inevitable - but we must act to ensure a just and equitable transition to renewables.

The Forum's community of UpLink innovators is helping to meet global environmental targets - and play a critical role in reviving momentum in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Since its launch in 2020, UpLink has raised almost $43 million to support early-stage entrepreneurs with solutions to critical challenges such as freshwater shortages, ocean degradation, and deforestation and biodiversity loss.

These include protecting more than 56 million hectares of natural habitats and the treatment of more than 350 million liters of wastewater.

Read more about UpLink's impact here.

Live updates on key sessions

Dive into the key quotes, tweets and YouTube clips from Davos sessions on climate, nature and energy.

What to know from Day 2

By 2050, estimates indicate that the global economy will have doubled in size and will be serving a population of over 10 billion people. Improving energy efficiency is critical to delivering an affordable, secure and climate-aligned future.

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said it was a "dream" that attention on energy efficiency is growing. He listed four reasons why energy efficiency is very important:

1. To protect consumers from high energy bills.

2. For energy security: "If you use less energy, you import less energy."

3. For the competitiveness of industries.

4. To reduce environmental footprints, to address climate change.

"It's a no-brainer. But we have not seen enough policy attention on energy efficiency. So today is a very good day."

As the human dimension of climate change takes centre stage, panellists discussed the approaches, evidence and data needed to mitigate the health impact of the climate crisis today.

"The climate crisis is a health crisis," said Vanessa Kerry, Co-Founder and CEO of Seed Global Health.

Brazil's Minister of Health, Nisia Trindade Lima said: "In order to build resilient health systems, we need to conceive systems that focus on equality and that are going to be developed and implemented hand-in-hand with government, civil society and the private sector so that we can have plans that reduce carbon emissions, that implement sustainable measures in the health system itself."

"We have to stop talking about [the climate crisis] in terms of degrees Celsius and start talking about it in lives," added Bill Anderson, CEO of Bayer AG.

Ecopreneurs are finding innovative solutions to address environmental challenges, from fast-tracking decarbonization and scaling nature-based solutions to addressing plastic pollution. This session looked at how we can bring more early-stage venture financing to rapidly deploy innovations at scale.

Forests represent a third of carbon sequestration potential to address the climate crisis and many local benefits if paired with steep emissions cuts from human sources.

Four years since 1t.org was launched by the Forum with the mission of conserving, restoring and growing a trillion trees by 2030, primatologist Jane Goodall came together with conservationists to discuss how to safeguard forests and coastal ecosystems and protect local livelihoods.

"It's not about how much land can you buy and how many trees can you bang in there. It's about how can we make nature the economic preference for local communities across the planet," said Tom Crowther, Professor at the Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich.

"When that happens, it thrives and it spreads, and you cannot help gain optimism when you experience these indigenous populations and farmers and livelihoods thriving in every ecosystem across our planet. A degraded ecosystem is less valuable to people than a thriving one."

Protecting forests and planting trees is one of the very important ways that we can begin to slow down climate change, said Goodall, but she stressed that protecting existing forests is crucial, particularly old growth forest with its rich biodiversity.

"We need to think long term so planting trees is equally important. It will take them time to grow to the stage where they can sequester the amount of carbon of a full grown tree. But we need to start now."

What to know from Day 3

For leaders focused on climate adaptation, leveraging technology will be the principal source of value creation and value protection. Mission-critical applications already exist in the form of AI-powered early warning systems, supply chain optimization, agricultural forecasting and more. This session looked at the frontier, novel applications emerging that will transform adaptation efforts around the globe.

Fast-tracking a net-zero, nature-positive economy requires philanthropic and development support that are early-stage, risk-taking and catalytic.

John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, joined this discussion on the ways governments, development finance and philanthropic institutions can partner with private capital to avert climate collapse.

Catch up with the full session here:

Leaders are increasingly called upon to transform the current growth and development models to better steward the global commons and serve humanity.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF, joined Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist, Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Public Policy, Texas Tech University, Jesper Brodin, CEO, Ingka Group (IKEA), and Ajay Banga, President of the World Bank Group, were among the panellists in this discussion about how we can enable a net-zero, nature-positive future that regenerates Earth’s finite resources and safeguards its peoples.

Renewable capacity must increase threefold in the next six years to meet climate and energy security goals. However, for countries to succeed in pursuing this massive infrastructure deployment, the transition must deal with questions on permitting, land use, community acceptance and biodiversity.

John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, joined panellists to discuss the strategies that leaders can deploy to make the transition rapid and responsible.

What to know from Day 4

In its ambition to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050, the European Commission led the rollout of era-defining green legislation during its current term and aims to mobilize at least €1 trillion in sustainable investments over the next decade. As the European Green Deal faces political headwinds in the run-up to the 2024 parliamentary elections, what does its future look like?

Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, joined Maros Sefcovic, Executive Vice-President for European Green Deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, European Commission, and business leaders to discuss.

Mitsotakis said renewables are so cheap now in Greece, there are hours in the day when they have negative prices. "There is a general understanding we need to push forward."

At times of geopolitical uncertainty, you have to be even bolder, said Ester Baiget, President and Chief Executive Officer, Novozymes A/S.

We are competing now over who will be able to store energy better, and get more renewable energy into our grids, said Sefcovic.

The promise of net zero in energy, transport, agriculture, housing and infrastructure will be unmet if the societal impact on jobs, access and affordability is not considered.

Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation, joined Luc Triangle, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO, ManpowerGroup and Josu Jon Imaz, CEO, Repsol SA, to discuss how we can align ambitious sectoral transitions with equitable and socially responsible outcomes.

Developed countries have to assist in the financing of climate action in the developing countries, because if we don't do that, this inequality will only grow and you will have winners and you will have losers... Rebuilding trust cannot be limited to only a number of countries. It has to include the whole world.

Luc Triangle, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

In the 1980s, in the US alone there were three $1 billion climate disasters a year; in 2023, this rose to one every two weeks.

With climate-related financial risks incurring unprecedented costs, panellists including UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, and Group CEO of Swiss Re, Christian Mumenthaler, discussed how decision-makers around the world are future-proofing the financial system.

From cities to products, we've built the world on Earth's finite resources, said Andersen: "Nature does everything."

There's not a shortage of finance, but we have a "massive misdirection of finance" in the financial sector. The cost of inaction is so much greater, said Mazzucato.

Security, equity, sustainability - the imperatives of an effective energy transition are constant, but achieving them remains elusive in an environment marked by economic and geopolitical shocks. As the urgency of achieving a low-carbon economy grows, how can the business, economic and societal case be strengthened to create sufficient momentum for energy 2.0?

Alexandre Silveira, Brazil's Minister of Mines and Energy, joined Vicki Hollub, President and CEO, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and business leaders for this panel discussion.

What to know from Day 5

The transfer of knowledge across generations and cultures has shaped our evolutionary trajectory and our interactions with each other and the natural world.

How might intergenerational dialogue inform a path that is simultaneously guided by a realism to see the world as it is and an optimism that there is hope and possibilities in a challenging and uncertain future?

Primatologist Jane Goodall joined a discussion among young Global Shapers.

Here are some of her key quotes:

On climate change

On persevering

On the destruction of ecosystems

How protecting forests can help

Reports you need to know about

“There is no doubt that extreme weather events are exacerbating health issues worldwide and putting strain on healthcare systems already stretched to the limit in some regions,” says Shyam Bishen, the Forum’s head of the Centre for Health and Healthcare in the foreword to this new report in collaboration with Oliver Wyman.

It finds that, by 2050, climate change will have caused as many as 14.5 million deaths - and the economic impact on human health will be more than $12.5 trillion.

The research analyzed six major climate-driven event categories as drivers of negative health impacts: floods, droughts, heat waves, tropical storms, wildfires and rising sea levels.

It finds that floods pose the highest acute risk, accounting for 8.5 million deaths. Droughts, indirectly linked to extreme heat, are the second-highest cause of mortality with an anticipated 3.2 million deaths.

Meanwhile, heatwaves will take the highest economic toll at an estimated $7.1 trillion because of the loss in productivity from the extreme temperatures.

This insight report in collaboration with Bain & Company looks at how a breakthrough model of financing and collaboration supporting farmers can speed up the transition to sustainable food production.

In October 2023, the Forum's First Movers Coalition (FMC) held a three-day workshop in Brazil to discuss how to decarbonize the country’s hard-to-abate steel, aluminium and aviation sectors. The workshop featured over 100 participants from industry, government, finance and civil society. This report presents the workshop’s findings and recommendations.

  • Innovation and Adaptation in the Climate Crisis: How Technology will Enable Leaders to Adapt to the New Normal

Launching on Tuesday, 16 January, this report identifies a set of data-driven and digital technologies emerging as mission-critical tools for climate adaptation. They provide leaders with new forms of intelligence to adapt and build resilience into their communities and businesses. Along the way, first-movers will find that harnessing technology for adaptation is not only a risk mitigation strategy but a source of competitive advantage.

In this paper, the Transforming Energy Demand initiative outlines actions for businesses and countries to enhance energy management, efficiency and carbon intensity reduction. It highlights commercially beneficial levers, implementable with existing technologies, to impact the transition significantly. Adopting measures for energy-efficient output and service delivery is essential for businesses and countries to sustain economic growth and achieve net-zero goals.

The energy triangle. sustainability and climate change
The energy trilemma. Image: Transforming Energy Demand

Initiatives and events to look out for

At COP28, the Forum launched the First Movers Coalition for Food, along with support from the UAE and more than 20 corporate and research partners in the food sector. It aims to create a combined procurement commitment with an estimated value of $10 to $20 billion by 2030, to accelerate the transition of food systems to net zero and nature positive.

You can find out more about the initiative during the Davos session here.

The Global Collaboration Village is a purpose-driven platform powered by next-generation technology, that brings leaders together to solve real-world problems through the collaborative potential of extended reality. The Village is a Forum initiative, in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft.

During Davos, leaders will be able to experience the Tipping Points Hub, an immersive virtual reality space that will help confront the pressing issue of climate tipping points, particularly those located in the polar regions.

More reading on climate, nature and energy

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Climate and NatureDavos Agenda
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Contents
Live updates on key sessionsWhat to know from Day 2What to know from Day 3What to know from Day 4What to know from Day 5Reports you need to know aboutInitiatives and events to look out forMore reading on climate, nature and energy

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