A return to Davos by corporate titans and their bankers after recent record temperatures in the Alps has put a spotlight on how quickly they are moving to curb carbon emissions.
The number of organizations pledging to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of this century has soared in recent years, rising by 60% to more than 11,000 by September 2022, according to UN figures.
Yet the world remains on track to miss its climate targets.
Several bankers and executives said at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos that they were looking for ways to accelerate the transition to a greener future.
Increasingly, they said conversations in C-suites and with financiers focused on the risks climate change poses to businesses.
“Suddenly people have realized that it’s something that’s not just a way of presenting things, but it’s a necessity for survival,” said André Hoffmann, vice chairman of Swiss drugmaker Roche. ROG.S.
While there is agreement on the need for change, people were divided on the pace. Climate activist Greta Thunberg traveled to the Swiss Alps to call on the global energy industry and its financiers to halt all investment in fossil fuels.
Privately, bankers said Ukraine’s energy crisis had shown they needed to finance a transition to renewable energy, which would take time.
Despite scientists warning last year that humanity was running out of time to curb global warming and limit devastating weather events, 2022 was dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and an economic spike in inflation.
Executives at some of the leading U.S. financial firms also faced growing pressure from domestic right-wing politicians to backtrack on efforts to factor environmental concerns into their investment decisions.
But with regulators around the world introducing stricter rules for better “sustainable” police activities — and with more bad practices being challenged in court — executives at the Swiss mountain resort said they were focused on sustainability.
Suni Harford, the president of UBS’s asset management division who spearheads the bank’s sustainability efforts, said her talks in Davos suggested that climate focus would not be relaxed, despite shorter-term pressures.
“Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the energy transition, the demand for sustainable and green products is holding up well and customers increasingly want to measure the impact of their portfolios.”
Despite the strong growth in pledges, the world was on track to miss its target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, moving towards 2.8 degrees instead, the secretary said. General of the UN to the delegates.
António Guterres again warned of the dangers of sloppy corporate efforts to reach net-zero emissions, and called for faster action.
“Propose credible and transparent transition plans to reach net zero — and submit those plans before the end of this year,” Guterres said in a speech. “The transition to net zero must be based on real emissions reductions.”