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Climate leaders say 3 conversations need to happen at the World Economic Forum this week to lock in a sustainable future

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Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Klaus Schwab is seen at the opening of the WEF Davos Agenda virtual sessions at the WEF's headquarters in Cologny near Geneva on January 17, 2022.Klaus Schwab is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

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  • The climate crisis is set to dominate the agenda at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
  • Climate experts say they’ll be looking out for 3 conversations, including how to pay for the climate crisis.
  • They also expect leaders at Davos to talk, finally, about the links between climate, health, and more.
  • Insider’s reporting from WEF is part of our company-wide One Planet initiative.

This week, more than 2,500 business leaders and politicians are making their way to the Swiss Alps for the World Economic Forum’s 53rd annual meeting at Davos. There’s one thing missing this year, though — snow.

Unseasonably warm weather across Europe has led to much less snowfall than usual. The absence of snowy ski slopes at Davos is a fitting reminder of what is set to be a major topic at this year’s meeting — the climate crisis.

The 2023 program features sessions tackling big issues — such as sustainable diets and transitioning to clean energy — as well as more niche events on circular economies and using satellite data to monitor deforestation. Climate leaders, including former US politicians Al Gore and John Kerry, will take to the stage to discuss decarbonization, clean technology, climate finance, and more.

The World Economic Forum’s recent Global Risks Report, which is released every year in the run up to Davos, ranked the failure to mitigate the climate crisis as the No. 1 risk facing the world over the next 10 years.

Insider sat down with three climate experts to get the lowdown on what they hope to see at Davos this year.

1. More climate finance deals

Some solutions to the climate crisis already exist, according to Sweta Chakraborty, behavioral scientist and CEO of climate solutions organization We Don’t Have Time.

She told Insider that the next step is capitalizing on these tools, which is why she expects climate finance — i.e. paying for these tools — to be a big issue at Davos this year.  

Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental nonprofit, agreed. She said that the biggest challenge in reaching climate goals is finding the money.

“In 2023, I want to see more robust financing from private investors,” Morris said. “Currently, it takes more than $4 of public money to leverage $1 of private money. We urgently need that ratio to start to reverse.”

In 2022, countries including Belize and Barbados took on climate commitments as part of sovereign debt conversion deals, supported by The Nature Conservancy. 

Countries can go into “sovereign debt” when they borrow money. A sovereign debt conversion deal enables governments to convert a portion of this debt into sustainability financing. For instance, in one deal, the Government of Barbados was able to transfer part of its sovereign debt service into ocean conservation funding.

Morris said that there could be more sovereign debt deals to come. 

“Developing countries want to join the fight against the climate crisis and need financial support to be successful,” she said.

2. Getting out of ‘silos’ and addressing interlinked crises, like climate and health

A recent study found that over half of infectious diseases could be exacerbated by the climate crisis, such as warming temperatures and increased rainfall. Alice Bell, head of climate and health at the Wellcome Trust, emphasized the links between climate and health.

“We’re especially excited about the prospect of getting out of the silos of talking about either climate or health on their own, and getting deep into a really collaborative discussion about the intersection of the two issues,” she told Insider.

Morris agreed that there are multiple crises to deal with. “We must also acknowledge that we are addressing a confluence of crises that are interconnected,” she said, citing the war in Ukraine, a concerning outlook for the global economy, and the continued effects of the pandemic. 

“Throughout it all, we must be careful not to pit our immediate needs against our long-term survival,” Morris said.

3. A plan to redirect fossil-fuel subsidies to clean energy

With 52 heads of state and over 500 CEOs heading to Davos this year, Chakraborty said that the meeting is the “perfect convening” to focus on financing a clean energy transition and “to accelerate the public-private partnerships needed to turn our goals into reality.”

One way to do this, according to Chakraborty, would be to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies and redirect that money to investments that will help scale green solutions faster.

Fossil-fuel subsidies are a way for governments to lower the cost of fossil fuels. Often, the subsidies come in the form of tax breaks on either the consumption or production of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. According to research by the International Monetary Fund, global fossil-fuel subsidies in 2020 totalled $5.9 trillion — which equates to around 6.8% of GDP.

“The goal of redirecting fossil-fuel subsidies to clean energy is to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “This will also level the playing field and allow for a much more rapid and equitable rollout of the next generation of clean energy.”

Chakraborty added: “It’s time to harness the scientific research, scalable solutions, and the momentum of public and private interest.”

Read the original article on Business Insider