Cap­tains of busi­ness and fi­nance will talk about cli­mate in Davos

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT INTERNATIONAL - Javier Blas and Jes­sica Shankle­man

DON­ALD Trump has of­ten ridiculed global warm­ing and promised to with­draw the US from the global ac­cord signed in Paris in 2015.

Yet de­spite the change of po­lit­i­cal weather in Wash­ing­ton, the cap­tains of busi­ness and fi­nance gath­ered in Davos this week will spend a lot of time talk­ing about cli­mate change – and how to make money from it.

The World Eco­nomic Fo­rum is de­vot­ing 15 ses­sions of its 2017 an­nual meet­ing to cli­mate change, and nine more to clean en­ergy – the most ever on the is­sues. It re­flects how much is at stake. For global busi­ness lead­ers, it is not just a ques­tion of bur­nish­ing their green cre­den­tials, but about bil­lions of dol­lars – maybe even tril­lions – in po­ten­tial prof­its and losses. In­sur­ers are start­ing to price-in more fre­quent flood­ing and droughts; en­ergy giants are shap­ing their busi­ness for a world that’s mov­ing away from oil and coal; car mak­ers are putting real money into elec­tric ve­hi­cles; banks want to lend money for re­new­able elec­tric­ity projects.

Raised bar

“The good thing is that the Paris agree­ment raised the bar for ev­ery­one,” said Ben van Beur­den, the head of Royal Dutch Shell, Eu­rope’s largest oil group. “Every­body feels the obli­ga­tion to act.” Achiev­ing the am­bi­tions set out in Paris may re­quire $13.5 tril­lion (R182trln) of spend­ing through to 2030, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency data that shows the scale of the op­por­tu­nity for busi­ness. Only last year, clean en­ergy in­vest­ment stood at $287.5 bil­lion, data com­piled by Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance in­di­cate.

“The scale and scope of the in­vest­ment flows on re­new­ables shows it’s main­stream,” said David Turk, head of cli­mate change at the IEA in Paris and a for­mer se­nior US cli­mate diplo­mat.

With money-mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties ris­ing, tra­di­tional cli­mate change ad­vo­cates – Al Gore and Green­peace ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jen­nifer Mor­gan – will min­gle in panel dis­cus­sions with ex­ec­u­tives such as HSBC Hold­ings chair­man Stu­art Gul­liver and Pa­trick Yu, pres­i­dent of Cofco Cor­po­ra­tion, the largest food com­pany in China.

They will dis­cuss the nexus be­tween the fight against global warm­ing and busi­ness – how to stop cli­mate change and how to profit from it.

“Cli­mate change is ma­te­rial and cen­tral for many com­pa­nies and their boards,” said Do­minic Waugh­ray, head of pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum. “Cli­mate change is a core part of the growth agenda.”

Chal­lenges

Beyond the of­fi­cial pro­gramme, a record 60 chief ex­ec­u­tives are ex­pected to gather in a closed-door ses­sion to dis­cuss the chal­lenges of cli­mate change, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the event, who asked not to be named. In the Alpine re­sort’s congress cen­tre, the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum has built an ex­hi­bi­tion high­light­ing cli­mate change, “from ram­pant emis­sions to ris­ing sea lev­els.”

Michael Op­pen­heimer, a pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton Univer­sity who will help to ex­plain the ex­hibit, said de­spite the ar­rival of Trump, the fight against global warm­ing will con­tinue. “No mat­ter what the US pres­i­dent says, the progress on cli­mate change can have many routes,” he said. “The US can harm progress, but will not stop progress.”

In Novem­ber’s fol­low-up meet­ing to Paris, nearly 200 na­tions, in­clud­ing China and Saudi Ara­bia, vowed to step up their ef­forts to fight global warm­ing, fac­ing down con­cerns the new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will seek to de­rail poli­cies aimed at curb­ing pol­lu­tion.

“Lead­er­ship on cli­mate change is prov­ing to be re­mark­ably re­silient,” said Chris­tiana Figueres, the UN’s for­mer top cli­mate change diplo­mat.

‘No mat­ter what the US pres­i­dent says, the progress on cli­mate change can have many routes.’

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