An exceptionally mild and barren start to winter in the Swiss
Alps is helping to fuel growing concern about climate change at the
annual World Economic Forum meeting beginning today.
"The year 2006 saw a qualitative change in public perception of
the issue," commented Forum executive director Klaus Schwab,
underlining growing pressure on the Forum's 1,000 corporate
Fresh snowfall was due to restore seasonal picture postcard
scenery by the time more than 2,000 business and political leaders
gather in Davos, but the semblance of winter normality is unlikely
to dampen talk about global warming.
A survey of participants found that they now rate environmental
protection as the second most important priority behind economic
growth, ahead of tackling poverty, wars or terrorism, according to
About 20 percent of the business and political chiefs polled,
compared to just nine percent last year, rated "protecting the
environment" as a main priority for the world in the "Voice of the
Leaders" opinion poll by Gallup International.
"What is interesting is to see how climate change is taking on
more and more importance, with twice as many leaders questioned
placing it as the most important issue," said Forum managing
director Peter Torreele.
A UN conference in Nairobi last November postponed until next
year attempts to draw up the next round of pollution-cutting
pledges due from 2012, which are meant to draw in developing
nations for the first time including China.
Climate change is one of the topics German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, who took over the presidency of the G8 group of
industrialized countries this year, wants to raise in her opening
speech, her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.
One of the last speakers on the Davos agenda, British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, is also promising on the Forum's website to
revive an issue he broached in Davos two years ago.
"Talks between leaders could help outline elements of a future
post Kyoto climate framework that could then be agreed at the
German G8," Blair said.
The current UN climate change convention requires industrialized
countries to trim outputs of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases
that trap solar heat, unbalancing the planet's delicate climate
The additional Kyoto Protocol, which came into force last year,
set compulsory targets for the next five years, but it has been
rejected by the United States and Australia.
Blair made a similar appeal two years ago at Davos at the start
his annual presidency of the G8, outlining a controversial,
technological approach to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions without
stifling economic activity.
That year a report by a Forum think-tank accused world leaders
of failing to keep promises to tackle climate change and said they
must engage the corporate world far more.
Schwab said last week that about 20 countries had asked the forum
to arrange meetings with business chiefs to discuss global warming
over the coming days.
The Forum is one of the organizations that acts as a bridge with
industry, helping corporate leaders to feed in proposals to cut
emissions, under a process launched at the G8's Gleneagles summit
The agenda in Davos includes debates on the potential of
renewable energy sources, nuclear power, the economics of green
technologies and a global carbon tax.
Rising oil and gas prices generated partly by obstacles to
supply have also fuelled interest in alternative energy sources
over the past year. Several oil and gas chiefs, as well as energy
ministers, are due to discuss energy security in Davos.
(China Daily via agencies January 24, 2007)