We can’t trust the billionaires of Davos to solve a climate crisis they created

(The Guardian, 24 Jan 2020) It’s time to turn away from the World Economic Forum and its mass-polluting ‘affiliates’. We need new, radical solutions.

This week, among the private chalets and deep snow of Davos, the world’s leading politicians and businesspeople have been spending their time at the World Economic Forum (WEF), and they’ve been talking about the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg and Prince Charles have given stark speeches warning of the dangers of a warming world, and CEOs and presidents have promised long overdue action.

For those of us in the climate movement, this shift of focus is no surprise. Last year changed everything. From the wave of schoolchildren going on climate strike, to large scale non-violent uprisings like Extinction Rebellion, 2019 proved to be the year that people in power couldn’t hide any more from the need to act. And then Australia caught fire: no amount of money could put those fires out.

With this sudden focus on climate it’s no wonder that attendees of the WEF have come under fire for their choice of transport in getting there. Prince Charles flew to the summit in a private jet, before demanding new green taxes. And he wasn’t the only one. Figures from last year suggest over 300 private jets landed for the talks – somewhat overshadowing the summit’s eco-credentials, including the carpets made from “end-of-life fishing nets” and the rooms painted with renewable resources “like seaweed”. But though the egregious use of private jets is both deeply hypocritical and climate-wrecking, it shouldn’t be the main focus of our ire.

Instead, let’s look at what those sitting around this year’s mountaintop tables have on their climate record. And let’s be real about how much big corporates can plan for a carbon-free future, in light of the fact that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Just 20 companies have contributed to 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent since 1965 – that’s a third of all emissions. Many of them – including the two largest emitters on Earth – are listed as “affiliates” on the WEF website. And it’s not just big oil – the financial institutions participating in the WEF are responsible for pumping at least $1.4tn into fossil fuel investments since the Paris climate agreement was signed.

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The Guardian, 24 Jan 2020: We can’t trust the billionaires of Davos to solve a climate crisis they created