LONDON – The coronavirus pandemic threatens to derail any progress made in recent years to deal with the climate change crisis, organizers of the annual gathering of business and political elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos said Tuesday.
In a survey of industry professionals that reassesses the risks to the global outlook in light of the pandemic, the World Economic Forum said “years of progress” on addressing climate change could be undone and that it is important for countries to make sure environmental issues are at the heart of recovery plans.
“We now have a unique opportunity to use this crisis to do things differently and build back better economies that are more sustainable, resilient and inclusive." said Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s managing director.
The WEF warned that “omitting sustainability criteria in recovery efforts or returning to an emissions-intensive global economy risks hampering the climate resilient low-carbon transition."
At the most recent gathering in Davos in January, climate issues dominated the week's discussions and many companies, as well as national governments, insisted that dealing with global warming would be central to their programs over the coming years. Spurred on by young climate activists, such as Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate, promises were made to meet the commitments made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Since then, though, everything has been upended by the coronavirus, which has forced much of the world to impose unprecedented lockdowns of their societies. The economic damage and the difficulties involved in lifting the restrictions are having a colossal economic impact, with tens of millions of people around the world losing their jobs and many countries facing potentially the deepest recessions since World War II.
The nearly 350 senior risk professionals in industries from retail to manufacturing who were surveyed for the report fretted most about the economic impact, with 68% identifying a “prolonged global recession” as most likely over the coming 18 months. A surge in bankruptcies and industry failures also featured highly, as did concern over another COVID-19 outbreak.
The report was produced in partnership with professional services firm Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group.