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How green is Davos 2012?

24th January 2012
Dominic Waughray, senior director at the World Economic Forum argues sustainability is a key theme on the 2012 Davos agenda, both on the programme and in the way the event has been planned.
The World Economic Forum's annual meeting begins tomorrow in Davos, Switzerland. This year's theme: 'The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models' pinpoints the challenges facing the world economy, including how to promote growth and to decrease inequality.

A record 2,600 participants will be in Davos this week; sector experts, NGO heads and cultural leaders will join over 1,000 business leaders, forty heads of state and all eight of the G8 finance ministers.

The theme of sustainability and natural resources has proved extremely durable within the Davos community. Among concerns surrounding economic growth, jobs and inequality, there is also demand from many governments, business leaders, investors and NGOs.

There is growing recognition of the need to "do much more with less" in order to deliver the sustained economic growth we will need over the coming decades. The OCED's forecast of three billion additional middle class consumers in the world by 2030 will create a "demand shock" to our global system unless we prepare for it. McKinsey and Company call for a "resource revolution", suggesting that increases in commodity prices since the turn of the century indicate the need for a step change in resource efficiency. On top of this, a growing awareness of the links between food, energy and water issues adds extra difficulty for economic planners trying to match growth and sustainability needs.

Sessions on clean energy, water, agriculture, green finance, sustainable transport and smart cities, amongst others, give government, business, experts and NGOs the chance to come together in a relaxed environment to design new partnerships. Further discussions will explore the extent to which investment, especially in emerging markets, can help rescue the global economy; and how citizen-consumers connected through social media will influence the speed and scale of such a transformation.

This year sees the decadal UN Summit on Sustainable Development; Rio+20. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will be in Davos talking about Rio+20, along with the heads of all the key UN Agencies. Brazil's minister of external affairs, Antonio Patriota, will be meeting civil society leaders and others to explore how Brazil's theme of greening the world economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, can best be delivered come June when the Summit takes place. Several South African government ministers will also be in Davos to discuss the outcomes from the Durban climate talks, what should happen next to develop the new Climate Accord, and the Global Climate Fund. Representatives from Qatar, next year's host, will link up with South Africa to discuss how best to move forward.

Davos itself creates a carbon footprint – approximately 12,000 tonnes of C02. For comparison, this is about as much as London generates in three days. Some 90 per cent of these emission are linked to transportation – both for participants getting to the event and travel within Davos itself. The World Economic Forum offsets 50 per cent of the Davos carbon footprint with offsetting funds helping to develop geothermal or solar projects to heat the Congress Centre in Davos, as well as clean energy projects within China. For getting around when delegates are in Davos itself, free low emission shuttle buses bring participants from the main regional airports to Davos. This year the Davos meeting itself is will be powered by renewable hydropower energy, reducing emissions from the Congress Centre by 98 per cent.

For these reasons, and many more, the Davos programme for 2012 — and the Davos meeting itself — is focused on promoting a green economic transformation, both globally and locally.

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This story has been published under licence from Guardian Sustainable Business, of which GreenWise is an editorial partner.

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