Davos could propel crucial climate action

The urgency of Cop26 needs to be re-galvanised, despite global attention on the Ukraine war

Solar panels on the roof of the Congress Center ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The annual gathering of political leaders, top executives and celebrities runs from May 22 to 26. Bloomberg
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Six months ago, at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, there was a united and necessary buzz around the need for climate action, and for all countries to do more to avert an environmental catastrophe. Countries largely agreed to push their national targets higher, whether by vowing net neutrality by 2050 or by offsetting carbon scores. There was a widely felt agreement for individual nations to do more for the collective, long-term health of the planet.

But since February, with Ukraine and Russia dominating headlines, countries have had to understandably adjust their priorities. The pace of climate action talks has arguably slowed a notch to help avert a more immediate humanitarian catastrophe, which is inseparable also from a wheat shortage and a looming global food crisis.

But as the war in Europe will soon have been on for three months, having begun on February 24, the world cannot afford to indefinitely turn its back on climate action. Global leaders and executives who will meet at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos this week know this all too well.

Borge Brende, the WEF president, even called it the most complex geopolitical and geo-economic backdrop in decades – considering the Ukraine war, the climate emergency, a weakening outlook for global economic growth, inflation and the recovery from Covid-19 are among many of the world's current challenges.

The importance of leaders meeting at Davos goes some way to set a global agenda. US climate envoy John Kerry will be in attendance, as will environment ministers from around the globe to discuss more action on global warming. The WEF plays an important role in directing investors to pressing issues such as the environment that, perhaps, cannot realistically be countered without durable private-public partnerships and commitments to mitigate climate change.

As a reminder of the role all countries must play, just this past week at a conservation event in Dubai, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence, said the global community had a "moral imperative" to protect the environment for future generations. And several projects are already under way as explained at the same event by Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, referencing the UAE's National Food Security Strategy, the National Strategy to Combat Desertification, and the UAE General Environmental Policy.

The UAE has been a keen advocate of climate action, evident not least in its pledge to achieve net zero by 2050, the first country in the region to do so, as well as the many crucial steps taken in that direction, and the position the country has earned to host next year's global climate summit Cop28.

Green goals are a clear priority in the UAE at the highest levels of governance. Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan spoke last week of tackling climate change by pushing for a circular economy. The granddaughter of the late UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa, said she is committed to continuing the sustainability legacy started by her grandfather.

Everywhere in the world, climate action is on people's minds. In his election victory speech on Saturday, Australia's Prime Minister-elect, Anthony Albanese, pledged to turn things around in his country, one of the world’s biggest per capita carbon emitters. Mr Albanese’s Labour Party has promised a 43 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, significantly increasing the previous government's target of 26-28 per cent by 2050.

Across the world, hearteningly, there are positive signs that climate commitments could be on track for 2050. And even as it is not conceivable that massive national infrastructure overhauls, such as changes in energy generation, take place overnight or in short periods of time, it remains to be seen how much a forum such as the one in Davos this week can generate the will and the funds in the medium to long term to increased targets at an accelerated pace. Global stakeholders will need to unite and contribute to a crucial common cause – of effectively allowing for the planet to keep its cool. It is the path to ensure that future generations are indeed safeguarded.

Published: May 23, 2022, 2:00 AM