18 January 2017, Davos-Klosters, Switzerland – The international community has to meet and build on the commitments countries made in the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, government, business and finance leaders said in a session on climate change at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017. “We have to be honest that we are far from delivering sufficient emission cuts all over the world,” Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, told participants. But “we see the promise of a low-emission society in the future.”
Al Gore, the global leader on climate change action who served as US Vice-President from 1993 to 2001, agreed. “The cost of renewable energy is coming down dramatically – almost as dramatically as computer chips. We need to stop building new coal-burning plants.” He noted that signatories to the Paris Agreement are required to provide information on emissions and to conduct a review of implementation progress every five years.
Gore, who is Chairman and Co-Founder of Generation Investment Management in the US, proposed that the international community build on the collaboration that led to the Paris Agreement and launch a global project to retrofit for greater energy efficiency every building in every community in the world. The Paris Agreement could turn out to be a major catalyst for job creation, said Stuart T. Gulliver, Group Chief Executive of HSBC Holdings in the UK. But “climate change is still seen as a risk that needs to be priced,” he noted. “Without a price on carbon, we won’t be able to move this forward. Pricing carbon is the same thing as transparency.”
Solberg identified carbon pricing as a post-Paris priority. Investments in new technology have to be made over the next few decades to bolster the implementation of the agreement, she explained. “We also need to reduce deforestation globally. It is not possible to have low-emission climate goals if we maintain the same level of deforestation as we have today.” She said that Norway is considering an initiative to help people who live in rainforest areas to secure their livelihoods if deforestation is halted. Norway has a special responsibility to act, she acknowledged. “We are still an oil-and-gas-producing country and we know that we are part of the problem for other countries.”
“For Bangladesh, this is about our existence,” Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, declared. “While we contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, we pay dearly. The Paris Agreement must deliver for low-income, climate-vulnerable countries.” Her country is doing its part, Hasina stressed. “We are shifting to a low-carbon development path.” By 2018, Bangladesh will be the world’s biggest solar-power nation, she observed.
Bangladesh needs support from the international community to help it cope with the impact of climate change and at the same time meet its Paris Agreement commitments. The country requires assistance for marginalized and at-risk communities such as farmers. “What we are asking for is access to life-saving technologies,” Hasina remarked. “If the seas rise, we would have to remove our people from vulnerable areas. The main responsibilities to help vulnerable countries lie with the developed countries.” She defended the ongoing construction in Bangladesh of a coal-powered plant. “We have to develop our country. We have to provide energy to our people.” She invited Gore to visit the site.
The private sector has to play a role in pushing forward the Paris agenda, Yu Xubo, President of the Chinese state-owned food-processing group COFCO Corporation, concluded. “It is time for the private sector to take responsibility – and it is an immense opportunity for the private sector,” he reckoned. In the agriculture industry, this means producing more food while still reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The costs of inaction are much greater than the costs of action,” Yu stressed. COFCO, he said, screens its suppliers to ensure that they adhere to sustainable practices including the commitment not to use deforested land.