We have actively participated in the 43th edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which took place last week in Davos, Switzerland. This was considered the "first normal Davos" since the start of the crisis. This forum, created in 1971, boasts achievements such as having catalyzed the creation of the UN Global Compact in 1999.
We had try to get some of the Davos 2014 protagonists views on what has Davos made for a low carbon economy. Many, point to the need to change the way the economy grows, increase the role of women and introduce a new version of the "cradle to cradle" concept, now labeled the circular economy. Sustainability and climate change initiatives have also reached a tipping point in the corporate world, although a lot needs to happen for it to influence day-to-day business at the right scale. Perhaps, as noted by Jo Confino from the Guardian Sustainable Business, "we desperately need much more dynamic coalitions." Not surprisingly, one of the most common criticisms leveled at Davos is that, despite its undeniable ability to bring together world leaders in sustainability, it ends with almost nothing specific to show for it.
From a different vantage point, Kyle Balkissoon, Director of Quantitative Strategy at Corporate Knights Capital, considers that “unfortunately, the world has not made the necessary progress to a low carbon economy and will not until we can get policies in place in emerging markets such as China and India to drive this initiative.”
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in turn underscored for The Guardian that “what the WEF has realized is that climate change needs to go back to the top of the political agenda for two main reasons: (a) because the threats of climate [change] are a serious threat to the global stability and (b) because of the opportunities afforded by addressing climate change, that actually has so many more co-benefits for growing the economy.”
In remarks to ACCIONA, Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner for Climate Action stated, "In Davos, I was encouraged that so many international leaders, such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Jim Kim of the World Bank, OECD chief Angel Gurría, and so many company CEOs get it that climate ambition is also the best long-term economic strategy. There are many opportunities out there, among others, greater energy independence and the ability to avoid much higher costs of inaction."
For Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) (Acciona Chairman is a member of the Executive Committee), the result is more encouraging. He told us: “for the first time ever the WEF has dedicated a full day to Climate Change. Prepared between the UN, WEF and WBCSD. This trip will continue until Paris 2015, making the low carbon economy a reality within our reach."
Sandrine Dixson, Director of The Prince of Wales’s EU Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change (EUCLG) agreed "including important climate challenges on the Davos agenda was key in demonstrating that climate change is part of today’s economic discourse. However, the message that seemed to resonate in the halls of Davos is that while there has been some progress, we are still nowhere near meeting the urgency and scale of the climate challenge. At an EU level, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the Green Growth Platform both recognise the pressing need to unlock key barriers to low carbon economic development by clearly showing that the reduction of GHG emissions can be de-coupled from growth and that jobs and competitiveness will be enhanced not hampered. I very much hope that all of the noble declarations made in Davos will help further this narrative to be translated into low carbon action”.
Acciona Chairman & CEO, José Manuel Entrecanales, in turn noted that "the general feeling is clearly favorable to the adoption of measures necessary to tackle climate change. Regardless of the opposition from conventional industrial and energy sectors, the trending topics at Davos included the need for using more sustainable energy sources, advancing towards a low carbon economy, reducing the ecological footprint and seizing the opportunity for social and economic progress which these objectives afford. Again, it has been very rewarding and important for a global company such as Acciona to participate in the intense debate over what strategies to follow to achieve those goals."