The World Economic Forum said on Monday, one day before the event kicks off in Davos, Switzerland, that: “The climate crisis is going to be one of the dominant themes this week.”
Its website prominently features Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is due to appear this year after criticising world leaders and urged them to act at last year’s event.
“How to Save the Planet” is one of the seven “key” themes up for discussion.
And the overall theme of this year’s event is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.”
But as the world’s financial elite, political leaders, and celebrities descend on the small town, the question is whether their transport choices can at all work with what the event – and many of those leaders – say they want to achieve for the planet.
The World Economic Forum recorded more than 600 plane journeys that can be attributed to Davos in 2019 – a figure that does not “take into account public figures such as presidents and prime ministers.”
“There were around 60 of these but they tend to use military planes and land at a nearby military base, which makes it impossible to get flight numbers,” Davos said.
Aviation is expected to contribute to 22% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2050 .
World leaders, business leaders, and world-famous personalities are largely unlikely to copy Thunberg and take the train, as she did last year.
That lack of willingness to make changes was condemned by Thunberg at last year’s event, when she stunned the world’s most powerful people at a lunch by pointing at their power to help fix the crisis.
“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we will have created, but that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” she said.
“Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular, have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
The World Economic Forum says its offsetting the carbon from flights, and taking other environmental steps
The WEF said it is “constantly looking to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Doing so involves “offering incentives to participants who come by train” and “includes offsetting all air travel by purchasing carbon credits” for both private and commercial flights, funding emissions-reducing projects.
CNN reported that the cars that will bring VIPs around the town are now 88% electric or hybrid, and that the event is monitoring food waste, eliminating single-use plastics, and refurbished its main conference center to use renewable energy.
And the WEF says it uses “locally-sourced food suppliers, introducing alternative sources of protein to reduce meat consumption, sourcing 100% renewable electricity, and reducing or eliminating the use of materials that cannot easily be recycled or re-used, such as carpets and introducing more electric vehicles.”
And Davos disputed reports that 1,500 jets flew to the conference in 2019, and said that figure recorded some jets twice, masking an actual a 20% reduction in the number of jets between 2018 and 2019.
But Lucy Gilliam, a shipping specialist at European clean transport nonprofit Transport & Environment, criticized the idea of carbon offsetting to CNN.
“You’re not actually removing the emissions that have been created by that plane,” she said. “The plane will have burned that fuel, and the carbon has been released into the atmosphere.”
Thunberg marched in Switzerland with 10,000 protesters on Friday before her journey to Davos, warning: “You have not seen anything yet.”
This year’s meeting – which takes place against the backdrop of devastating fires in Australia, US President Donald Trump formally announcing he is withdrawing his country from the Paris Climate Agreement, and increasingly dire warnings about the future of our planet – will be her latest effort to convince world leaders.
“So, we are now in a new year and we have entered a new decade and so far, during this decade, we have seen no sign whatsoever that real climate action is coming and that has to change,” Thunberg said on Friday.
“To the world leaders and those in power, I would like to say that you have not seen anything yet. You have not seen the last of us, we can assure you that. And that is the message that we will bring to the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.”