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WEF President: New Technologies Key to Fighting Climate Change

WEF President: New Technologies Key to Fighting Climate Change

Brende Told Asharq Al-Awsat ‘Global Cooperation’ Biggest Lesson of the Pandemic
Saturday, 22 January, 2022 - 05:30
Børge Brende says the greatest lesson of the pandemic has been that global cooperation is a necessity.

From fighting climate change, to building an inclusive post pandemic economic model and managing migratory flows, the President of the World Economic Forum highlights the importance of ‘Global Cooperation’.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, on the sidelines of this year’s “Davos Agenda” week, Børge Brende warned of the high cost of climate inaction, and emphasized the need to decouple future energy growth from that of CO2 emissions. He added that the Middle East has a unique opportunity to position itself at the heart of global climate efforts, hailing the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative as vital components of global efforts to reduce emissions.

Despite growing tensions on the international stage, Brende displayed cautious optimism, saying there were “signs that key actors are looking for opportunities to work together”.

The Global Risks Report identified ten most pressing risks, many of them were climate related. Do you worry that the progress seen in COP26 might lose its momentum?

Climate concerns come through clearly in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report this year, as the costs of climate inaction are high. We are faced with real challenges. We need to decouple future energy growth from growth in CO2 emissions — and at the same time secure sufficient electricity for the 700 million on our planet that don’t even have access to basic electricity. New technologies such as carbon capture and storage and renewables will play a major role in this puzzle.

Many countries in the Middle East have announced ambitious climate friendly policies, with Saudi Arabia leading the way with a zero-emission target by 2060. How do you view these commitments?

The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative are vital components of global efforts to reduce emissions. The hope is that the clear economic advantages of investing in green emerging technologies early, combined with the devastating costs of climate inaction, will spur all nations to accelerate their energy transitions. In this respect, the fact that the region is to host the two upcoming COP meetings—in Egypt in 2022 and the UAE in 2023—is a unique opportunity for the Middle East to position itself at the heart of global climate efforts, especially considering that it is projected to be one of the most affected by global warming.

It is so important that we take meaningful action now. Only by protecting our planet and people today, will we advance our shared prosperity tomorrow. The Forum is working to launch a community of government and business leaders to drive action on sustainability in the Middle East, where we hope Saudi Arabia will play a leading role.

This year’s Davos Agenda takes place in a difficult geopolitical atmosphere, with rising tensions between the West and Russia on the one hand, and the West and China on the other. Are we witnessing the precursors of a new cold war?

Geopolitical tensions are a concern, especially at a time when the world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.

But while I am realistic about the geopolitical landscape, I am also optimistic because there are signs that key actors are looking for opportunities to work together.

For instance, this week at the Davos Agenda, China’s President Xi Jinping said, “The right way forward for humanity is peaceful development and win-win cooperation.” And late last year, we saw the US and China release a joint statement after COP26 pledging “firm commitment to work together” to achieve the aims of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

As the international organization for public-private cooperation, the World Economic Forum serves as platform for dialogue among global leaders. The fact that over 80 leaders from the public and private sectors joined the Davos Agenda this week is testament to the strong desire for collaboration in addressing the climate crisis, pandemic, and economic challenges, among other issues.

The pandemic, which brought the world to a halt is hopefully on its way out, despite the raging Omicron wave. Has the world as a collective learnt anything from the biggest health crisis in a century?

The greatest lesson of the pandemic has been that global cooperation is a necessity.

The miraculous speed at which safe and effective vaccines were developed—in under a year—was the result of research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and governments aligning their objectives and working together. The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is made up of 280 components from 19 different countries. This is a clear example of public-private cooperation at work.

Hopefully we will heed this lesson and work with one another to address shared challenges and unlock opportunities. Technology is one area where there is enormous potential. If actors work together, artificial intelligence, for instance, can boost GDP by 4.4% this decade and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4.0%, according to PwC.

Excessive debts, staggering inflation, slow growth… The economic picture causes worry around the world. Are these temporary consequences of the pandemic in your view, or symptoms of a fundamental economic problem?

In 2020, the global economy contracted by 3.1%, causing devastation for many communities. While global growth is expected to be 5.9% for last year, the International Monetary Fund downgraded initial projections of 6.0%, warning of divergent recoveries across countries and industries. So, while some countries are on the road toward recovery, lower income economies are still at risk.

The World Economic Forum has long called for a more inclusive and sustainable economic model, and we have championed Stakeholder Capitalism – the idea that business should account for the interests of all stakeholders in society.

The growing popularity of this way of thinking is reflected by our Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics initiative, which offers a universal set of stakeholder capitalism practices that companies can use and report on. Launched in 2020, over 100 companies have already shown support for the initiative and over 50 companies included the metrics in their 2020-2021 reporting materials.

And earlier this year, the Forum brought together leading technology and financial companies, along with government entities, to launch the EDISON Alliance. This first-of-its-kind platform is working to foster affordable digital access for everyone by 2025.

Cyber security is another risk associated with this year’s forecast. How can countries regulate the cyber space, and do we need a new international body to govern it?

We have become increasingly dependent on digital systems globally in recent years, a trend which has only accelerated during the pandemic. However, at the same time, cyber-crime has also surged. According to the World Economic Forum’s new report, The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022, ransomware attacks rose by 151% in 2021, and there were on average 270 cyberattacks per organization during this same year - a 31% increase on 2020.

The best way to address these challenges is through collaborative efforts—between companies, policymakers, and regulators. Over 90% of respondents to a recent survey we conducted of 120 global cyber leaders pointed to receiving actionable insights from external information sharing groups.

To this effect, our Center for Cyber Security works on heightening cyber-security cooperation between key stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors. Our Network of Centers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution— active in 15 countries and growing—brings together governments, leading companies, civil society, and innovators to address these types of challenges around technology adoption and governance.

Migration has resurfaced as a contentious subject in many countries, despite the growing need for employees and trained workers. Is this a manifestation of identity politics, or a wider issue?

Over the last decade, the number of international migrants has grown consistently, from 221 million people in 2010 to 281 million in 2020. Economic hardship, climate change, conflict and political instability are some of the driving factors. The increasing risk of climate change related displacement may only aggravate the issue over the coming years. These trends are reflected in the Global Risks Report, where “involuntary migration” is ranked as a top long-term concern.

Accordingly, better international collaboration around the management of migratory flows is vital. More efficient and orderly channels for migration—including coherent legal and policy frameworks, cross-border cooperation and alignment, and better enforcement against smuggling operations—could prompt closer political ties and collaboration between countries on this sensitive and complex issue.

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