Davos 2016: The Fourth Industrial Revolution signals new climate for energy

Photo credit: The Climate Group.
By Alexander Lewis-Jones
At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last month – the first gathering of global leaders since the successful COP21 climate talks in Paris – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Paris Agreement gives businesses “unprecedented opportunity” to invest in clean energy.
WEF Global Risks 2016 was launched at the start of Davos. The key takeaway is that climate change has been ranked the highest risk in terms of impact, higher than mass migration, WOMD, cyber security, or other economic crises for example.
While a number of other economic priorities took center stage at the annual four-day meeting of world leaders, the momentum for climate action that had gathered at COP21 has clearly not softened. Governments, businesses and civil society representatives alike reunited in Davos to push for immediate efforts to develop a climate-resilient, low-carbon global economy.
This year WEF was themed ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ to highlight the considerable technological breakthroughs occurring across sectors. This prompted numerous leaders to speak of the potential the Paris Agreement has now created for a clean energy ‘revolution’.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, UN, called for urgent low carbon growth as he opened a panel session entitled ‘The New Climate and Development Imperative’. “Some people may seem to believe that the Paris Agreement is the final destination. That is the wrong perception,” he stated.
“The Paris Agreement gives the private sector an unprecedented opportunity to develop clean energy and climate-resilient economies.”
On the same panel, Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, agreed that “now we have to deliver”. The celebrated President of COP21 explained: “The decisive factor is when everybody will have understood that now the time has come to invest in new technologies, in economics, in energy. It’s a new world.”
The French foreign minister thanked and congratulated fellow panel member, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, for the advances his business has made on the sustainability agenda. The CEO was representing the business community on the panel and said: “business reacts very quickly and very efficiently to the right market signals. The private sector understood not only what the enormous costs were or threats to business models by not acting, but even more importantly, the enormous opportunities by changing our system.”
Representing civil society for the session, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, was keen to emphasize the necessity of climate action for workers, affirming: “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”
However, Sharan Burrow was quick to highlight the parallel opportunity for workers in a clean energy revolution. “There are great jobs in the transition. The good news is the jobs in renewable energy are outpacing the jobs growth in other sectors by up to 20 times.”
At a separate event during WEF, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary for the UNFCCC, also stressed the urgency of climate action post-Paris. Addressing the session entitled ‘A New Climate For Doing Business’, she said: “We have a ticking clock and we need clear progress. We are at risk. Now the real work must begin.”
Doug McMillon, Walmart’s President and CEO, also reaffirmed the business case for acting on climate: “We are trying to make the difference and lead by example”, he remarked. “We want to influence the companies we do business with,” Doug McMilon said. “We can lower costs and be more efficient”, he concluded.

First published by the Climate Group.
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