Did Davos 2016 save the planet?


Group picture of Swiss hostesses on the stage of the plenary hall at the beginning of the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 19, 2016. (Photo: Valeriano Di Domenico/Flickr Creative Commons)

As we watch the world’s stock markets take another lurch into the red-figure zone, and oil nearly underwater at below $30 a barrel, we have to wonder where all this is taking us. So looking for some enlightenment, I’ve been following that annual jamboree of the “much too rich” at Davos to see if they could help me figure it out.

Rather grandly calling themselves The World Economic Forum, this annual get together is the 45th of these events and as always, it states as its aim, and I quote, “To build a better world”. How will it do this? By involving people with power to change the world (political leaders, CEOs and other world leaders) so as to set challenges and define solutions and measures while always having “society’s best interests at heart”. I really like that last bit, which is such a load of arrogant b***-s****.

This year the Forum is attended by more than 2600 eople from 81 different countries, and according to a recent CNN report, about 1700 private flights are expected to fly in the 2600 attendees, which will no doubt show us how the other half – or rather the other 1%, lives and flies. Just getting that lot to Davos, then wining and dining them will certainly not be carbon neutral.

The 1% figure comes from a recent Oxfam report showing that runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people now own as much as the poorest half of the world’s population. Published two days ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s financial and political elites in Davos, this number has fallen dramatically from 388 in 2010 and was 80 people last year. Over the same period, the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – that’s 3.6 billion people – has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, while the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr over the same period. Just nine of the ’62’ are women.

As CEO of the media and advertising company WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell informed the panel on Wealth Inequality Panel in Davos, that “inequality, the concentration of wealth is a serious issue and that marginal tax rates may need to rise for the best off in our society”. As Sir Martin’s company is also the world’s largest advertising company in the business, their advertising over the years must have helped to persuade all of us lesser mortals (the 99%) and our Governments to overspend and build up the mountain of debt we are all now saddled with.

On another panel we had Bill Gates and our own home grown (but who owns and holidays in his private Necker Island in the Caribbean) would-be astronaut Sir Richard Branson discussing Philanthropy. I suppose it’s very easy for all of them to hand out billions of dollars to charities and worthy causes of their choice when you know there’s still a few billion left in the kitty for a rainy day.

When in Davos, and again I quote, “the guests will address the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’: “Of the myriad challenges the world faces today, perhaps the most overwhelming is how to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution, given the speed, scope and the complete innovation in the systems of the technological revolution that is currently taking place”.

Now I thought that up till now, we’d only had one Industrial Revolution, but we’ll let that pass. What baffles me is the fact that these supposedly intelligent people, who claim to have (quoting again) “societies best interests at heart” can possibly believe that the most overwhelming of the myriad challenges facing the world today is how to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Undoubtedly, one of the big challenges facing the world today is the Refugee Crisis and that particular Panel certainly got a reasonable share of the big names and meeting times at the Forum. Among the delegates taking part was the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, who said there was a need to stem the flow of refugees into Europe in the first place, by investing “billions into those regions from which the refugees come”.

As the biggest economy in Europe and fourth biggest globally, I was curious to know if Germany had a good record for giving aid to the poorer nations. Had it met the longstanding UN target for developed nations to have an Overseas Development Aid/Gross National Income ratio of at least 0.7%? I’m afraid not. In 2014 Germany was in 14th place at a niggardly 0.38% of GDI.

American Secretary of State John Kerry told delegates at the Forum that the U.S. would seek a significant increase in humanitarian aid for the global refugee crisis and would urge at least 10 more countries to offer resettlement programs. A quick check of the US record on foreign aid puts them in an even more shameful 22nd place than Germany at just 0.19% of GDI. The 2015 figures are not yet available but I suspect they won’t be all that much different from the 2014 figures below.

All the scientific evidence puts Global Warming as the major threat to our planet and all its species, which of course includes us, and the World Economic Forum’s own Global Risks Report puts as the number one global risk in terms of impact, the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change. As part of the environment sector of the Forum, and as the number one on their own Global Risk Report, the subject certainly didn’t get anything like the VIP treatment in Davos that it warranted. Global Warming was certainly not high on the agenda.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, on January 21, 2016, in Davos, Switzerland, during a discussion focused on climate change on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (Image: U.S. Department of State/Wiki Commons)

A good deal of the talking was about that mathematically impossible hardy annual of perpetual Global Growth.

As we all know, more growth needs more energy, and more energy needs more fossil fuels, and more fossil fuels produce more CO2, and more CO2 makes for more Global Warming. It’s just a simple wee vicious circle. It’s not the integral calculus, it’s just simple arithmetic.

After four days of trying to keep up with the goings on over at Davos, I’ve come to the firm conclusion that if I want to save planet earth for my Grandchildren, I will get little if any help from all the deniers who attended last week’s jamboree over in Davos. But that certainly shouldn’t surprise me. After all, most of them are the ones who created the problem in the first place.

I thought the Sunday 23rd Guardian article by wordsmith Steve Hilton was excellent, but add to “[…] there should be protests, boycotts, public shaming of brands that buy into Davos” and put pressure on the media to give more coverage to the big problem of Global Warming.

Tell the Guardian to give us more help and live up to its promise to give Global Warming the front and centre page attention it warrants.

– Read Steve Hilton’s Davos 2016 Guardian article: Let’s make attending Davos as shameful as running a sweatshop
– Read related post: Mind the Gap – Detailing reasons why I believe media should give more coverage to the big problem of Global Warming