Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum, explains the main theme of the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos will be “Globalization 4.0: Designing a New World Architecture at the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (Photo by Michael Buholzer courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use.
By Sunny Lewis
DAVOS, Switzerland, January 29, 2019 (Maximpact.com News) – Even before the World Economic Forum started at Davos on January 22, the scene was set for environmental issues to suck up most of the energy at the conference. The annual Global Risks Report 2019 declared that humanity was “sleepwalking its way to catastrophe” as extreme weather, failure to act on climate change, and natural disasters plagued the world last year. The report connected these environmental risks with the achievement of human health, economic growth, and security.
Sir David Attenborough at the 25th Annual Crystal Awards. He said, “Movements and ideas can spread at astonishing speed. … My next series, “Our Planet,” which is about to be launched, will go instantly to hundreds of millions of people in almost every country on Earth via Netflix. January 21, 2019 (Photo by Manuel Lopez courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use.
On the day before the World Economic Forum meeting, Sir David Attenborough, 92, received a Crystal Award for his leadership in environmental stewardship and used his acceptance speech to call for action on climate change, oceans, and biodiversity.
The British broadcaster and natural historian is best known for writing and presenting, with the BBC, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together are a complete survey of animal and plant life on Earth and he has done many other natural history documentaries, including a series on man’s influence on the natural history of the Mediterranean basin, The First Eden, in 1987.
He startled the audience at the World Economic Forum by stating, “The Garden of Eden is no more,” as he urged thousands of political and business leaders from around the world to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable.
Born in the Holocene period, Attenborough declared, “The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.”
Attenborough warned that the only conditions that humans have known are changing fast and admitted that even he has been surprised by the speed of the damage. “We need to move beyond guilt or blame, and get on with the practical tasks at hand,” he advised.
Opening the event on January 22, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum, said, “We must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril.”
Climate change and environmental challenges remained a hot topic in Davos as public figures such as the UN
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, spoke of the urgent need to protect the environment and detailed the actions they were taking, or intend to take, to accomplish these goals.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will host this year’s G20 meeting, told the Forum that climate action would be a top priority at this year’s G20. He also announced that Japan would use its G20 Presidency to work towards a global commitment to reduce plastic in the oceans.
Five important movements made themselves felt in Davos this year:
- 1) The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), a public-private collaboration mechanism and project accelerator that wants to quickly create the circular economy, published a report on creating a circular economy for e-waste.
The coalition of more than 50 leaders was co-chaired by the heads of Royal Philips, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment and hosted by the World Economic Forum.
Their joint report, entitled, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” calls for a new vision for e-waste based on the “circular economy” concept, whereby a regenerative system can minimize waste and energy leakage.
“E-waste is a growing global challenge that poses a serious threat to the environment and human health worldwide”, said Stephan Sicars, director of the Department of Environment at the UN Industrial Development Organization. “To minimize this threat, UNIDO works with various UN agencies and other partners on a range of e-waste projects, all of which are underpinned by a circular economy approach.”
The report finds that the world produces more electronic waste every year than the weight of all the commercial jet planes ever built. Every year the e-waste weighs more than 125,000 Boeing 747 jumbo jets – 44.7 million tonnes in total. That’s enough to build 4,500 replicas of the Eiffel Tower. Every year.
“A circular economy brings with it tremendous environmental and economic benefits for us all,” said Joyce Msuya, acting executive director, UN Environment Programme. “Our planet’s survival will depend on how well we retain the value of products within the system by extending their life.”
Africa, in particular, has become a “dumping site” for e-waste. Thousands of tonnes of e-waste are shipped illegally to Nigeria inside used vehicles, reported IMPEL, the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law last April.
At Davos, the Global Environment Facility announced a partnership with the government of Nigeria, UN Environment, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and Philips. The GEF has invested $2 million and the partners plan to raise another $13 million from the private sector.
The world’s e-waste is a huge problem. It’s also a golden opportunity, the PACE report points out.
E-waste is defined as anything with a plug, electric cord or battery from toasters to toothbrushes, smartphones, fridges, laptops and LED televisions that has reached the end of its life, as well as the components that make up these end-of-life products. E-waste is also called waste electrical or electronic equipment, or WEEE.
E-waste may contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel as well as rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium. A lot of these metals could be recovered, recycled and used as secondary raw materials for new goods. The challenge is the incredible complexity of doing this; a product can be made up of more than 1,000 different substances.
E-waste may be only two percent of solid waste streams, yet it can represent 70 percent of the hazardous waste that ends up in landfills. Up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in complex electronics, such as smartphones, with many being technically recoverable.
For instance, there is 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than in a tonne of gold ore. The Earth’s richest deposits of valuable materials are sitting in landfill sites or people’s homes.
Looking at the market for smartphones, 1.46 billion were sold in 2017. At retail, each unit contains electrical components worth more than US$100. This represents a lot of value entering the market each year. If just the raw
materials are recycled, they could be worth up to $11.5 billion.
The latest forecasts show that e-waste is worth US$62.5 billion annually, which is more than the GDP of most countries. It is also worth three times the output of all the world’s silver mines.
Today, the total number of people working informally in the global e-waste sector is unknown. Still, according to the International Labour Organisation in Nigeria up 100,000 people are thought to be working in the informal e-waste sector, while in China that number is thought to be 690,000.
A total of 67 countries have legislation in place to deal with the e-waste they generate. And this year, at Davos, 10 global companies have pledged to take back the electronic waste from their original products.
Swedish student climate activist Greta Thunberg told the World Economic Forum, “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” January 22, 2019, Davos, Switzerland (Photo courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use.
In 2016 alone, 435,000 tonnes of phones were discarded, despite containing billions of dollars’ worth of recoverable materials. To capture this opportunity, it will be important to move towards a circular economy for electronics, the PACE report states.
- 2) Young people made themselves heard as they stood up for the health of the planet and their futures.
Six of the co-chairs from the Annual Meeting were from the Global Shapers community, a network of young inspiring young people all under the age of 30 convened by the World Economic Forum.
Akira Sakano, CEO of Zero Waste Academy in Japan, told Davos that younger generations don’t have to stop and think about whether to take action for the environment, “it just comes naturally, like breathing.”
In partnership with 21 other organizations, they launched a new global campaign #VoiceForThePlanet
It calls for people around the world to raise their voices for nature and to show leaders in business and government that they have support from their citizens, consumers, and employees to raise the level of ambition and action for safeguarding nature, protecting our oceans and forests, and tackling climate change.
Sixteen-year-old Swedish student climate activist, Greta Thunberg, addressed the Davos audience with a heartfelt, urgent, message. “Here in Davos – just like everywhere else – everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns.”
“At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag,” Thunberg said.
“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly,” she said.
“Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. Either we do that or we don’t.”
“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis,” Thunberg declared. “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
- 3) The difficult, demanding work of actually protecting the climate was taken up at Davos by a group of 50 global CEOs responsible for generating more than $1.3 trillion in revenue and with operations in 20 economic sectors across more than 150 countries and territories.
They met to discuss the practical things they could do reduce emissions. Having so far reduced their collective emissions by nine percent since 2016, they developed “climate governance” principles to help corporate boards manage climate change by translating climate risks into business processes. As they say, what gets measured, matters.
This less glamorous work at Davos should help set the stage for more ambitious announcements at the next big moment of truth on the climate change calendar – the UN Secretary-General’s climate summit in September this year, say Forum organizers.
- 4) Food systems that offer all the world’s people enough to eat were another important focus at this year’s Davos meeting. A new initiative was launched to develop and scale-up policies and finance for innovation within the global food system.
The Innovation with a Purpose platform focuses on Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations to address challenges such as lack of traceability across food supply chains, environmental impact, and food safety.
Innovations are emerging in the food system, but these desperately need to be scaled-up because food systems are currently responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions, nearly a third of all food produced globally is wasted, and yet 800 million people are daily undernourished.
A new report, developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, identifies emerging technology innovations that have the potential to drive rapid progress in the sustainability, inclusivity, efficiency and health impacts of food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Focusing on 12 key technology applications, it estimates the concrete benefits that could be delivered in terms of reduced water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and food waste; increased productivity and farmer income; and reduced obesity and undernourishment of consumers.
It highlights the economic, environmental and health benefits that could be realized through the broad adoption of certain technologies and enabling actions that can support and scale them.
Paul Bulcke, chairman of the Board, Nestlé, Switzerland, said, “Ensuring traceability is vital to providing transparency and building consumer trust in the content, quality and sustainability of the end-to-end food supply chain. New technologies, such as blockchain and satellite imaging, can strengthen traceability programs and lead to better transparency and value across the supply chain.”
It recognizes that technology is just one of a wide range of solutions that need to be applied in tandem to transform food systems and that a “systems leadership” approach is needed to engage all stakeholders towards that shared goal.
Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, said, “The NGO community is mobilizing to give companies and governments the information they need to implement sustainability commitments. Technology is unlocking new opportunities to help fulfil these commitments by improving traceability in supply chains – and demonstrating the value of doing so.”
- 5 )Peru took action to protect the Amazon rainforest. The Government of Peru announced it was joining forces with the 150 public and private partners of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 to reduce deforestation stemming from the production of commodities and to support sustainable rural development.
The move is important because Peru has 69 million hectares of forests – more than half of the country’s land area – and has the second-largest amount of Amazonian forests after Brazil.
Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in Peru; the government aims to reduce deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon by 30 percent by 2030.
“As the country with the second-largest extent of tropical forest in the Amazon, we are conscious of the global importance of forest conservation and of the consequences of climate change for people who live in and depend on forests,” said Peru’s Vice-President Mercedes Aráoz.
The move builds on a number of pilot projects Peru has put in place for forest conservation and will see the government partnering with both the private sector and civil society to reduce the deforestation that accounts for more than 50 percent of Peru’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Justin Adams, director of the Tropical Forest Alliance, said, “By joining the Tropical Forest Alliance, Peru sends a strong signal that the government is committed to partnering with the private sector and civil society towards sustainable production and deforestation-free commodity supply chains.”
There were many new technologies explored at the Forum, from bitcoin and blockchain developments, to robots, to drones – all considered part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Dileep George, artificial intelligence and neuroscience researcher, said, “Imagine a robot capable of treating Ebola patients or cleaning up nuclear waste.”
The World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Mobility System Initiative seeks to enable safe, clean and inclusive use of drones for delivery, mobility, aerial data capture and transportation of people. It will achieve this by, among other moves, creating a Drone Innovators Network composed of progressive civil aviation authorities and supported by industry to accelerate regulatory innovation and create a toolkit of best practices.
Robert Shiller, 2013 Nobel laureate in economics, Professor of Economics, Yale University, told the audience, “You cannot wait until a house burns down to buy fire insurance on it. We cannot wait until there are massive dislocations in our society to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a term used to describe technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 3D printing and the internet of things.
Schwab published a book in 2016 titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and used the term at the Davos meeting that year. Schwab argued a technological revolution is underway “that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.”
Finally, the Global Risks Report 2019 presents the results of the Forum’s latest Global Risks Perception Survey, in which nearly 1,000 decision-makers from the public sector, private sector, academia and civil society assess the risks facing the world.
The survey, conducted before the World Economic Forum, found that environmental threats are now considered the greatest danger to the global economy, and concern is mounting that co-operation between countries on environmental issues such as climate change is breaking down.
Nine out of 10 respondents expect worsening economic and political confrontations between major powers this year. Over a 10-year horizon, extreme weather and climate-change policy failures are seen as the gravest threats.