The COVID-19 pandemic and climate risks dominate the 2021 Davos Agenda hosted by the World Economic Forum and bringing together global decision-makers and influencers.
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas joined a top-level panel on 26 January on Climate Adaptation for Resilience on 26 January to discuss what policies, practices and partnerships are needed to integrate climate adaptation measures into corporate & government strategies. The event also served as the official closure of the Adaptation Summit.
Adaptation Summit host, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, highlighted the need for government COVID-19 economic stimulus packages to factor climate into recovery plans.
“Investing in adaptation is simply the smart thing to do,” he said.
Prof. Taalas highlighted three ongoing WMO initiatives to support climate adaptation.
The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative to increase resilience to extreme weather.
The Systematic Observations Financing Facility to close gaps in the global observing system which is vital to weather forecasts and early warnings.
A Climate and Water Coalition initiative to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on to ensure access to water and sanitation for all and to improve management of water resources and better cope with hazards like floods and droughts.
“It is time to go from political promises to concrete action,” said Prof. Taalas. “We have to pay attention to adapation and mitigation. From the WMO side, we are happy to be part of the game.”
Strengthening adaptation is one of the four major goals of the UN Climate Change negotiations taking place in November in Glasgow, COP26 President Alok Sharma told the World Economic Forum panel. The others are: securing a more ambitious reduction in emissions; increasing climate finance and enhancing international cooperation against climate change.
Global Risks Report 2021
The recent World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2021 showed, because of COVID-19, the risk posed by infectious diseases jumped to first place from tenth interms of impact over the next decade. This was followed by climate action failure and other environmental risks; as well as weapons of mass destruction, livelihood crises, debt crises and IT infrastructure breakdown.
Among the highest likelihood risks of thenext ten years are extreme weather, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage; as well as digital power concentration, digital inequality and cybersecurity failure.
“The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe,” the report says. “They threaten to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation.”
But despite the inescapable fallout from COVID-19, it is climate-related matters that make up the bulk of this year’s risk list, which the report describes as “an existential threat to humanity.” Despite a drop in carbon emissions caused by lockdowns and disruption to international trade and travel, there are concerns that as economies start to recover, emissions will soar, it said.