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Davos elite bets on climate change

By Bloomberg | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-16 07:43

For business leaders, it's a question about billions of dollars - maybe even trillions - in potential profits and losses

Donald Trump has often ridiculed global warming and promised to withdraw the United States 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's 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; carmakers are putting real money into electric vehicles; banks want to lend money for renewable electricity projects.

"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 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 moneymaking 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 PLC Chairman Stuart Gulliver and Patrick Yu, president of Cofco Corp, the largest food company in China. They will discuss the nexus between the fight against global warming and business - both 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."

'Fight will continue'

Beyond the official program, a record 60 chief executive officers 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 because the meeting isn't public.

In the Alpine resort's congress center, 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."

Davos elite bets on climate change

Men dressed as Chlaeuse, traditional figures that scare away evil spirits, carry round bells and cowbells as they walk on a snow-covered road in Urnaesch, Switzerland, on Friday. Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

 

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