Climate hypocrisy at the 2023 World Economic Forum?

Before it even started, we knew climate change would be one of its main focuses.

Climate hypocrisy at the 2023 World Economic Forum?
Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a climate strike protest during the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

This year’s annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting started on Monday in Davos, Switzerland. Often referred to as Davos, this event brings together celebrities, bank and finance execs and world leaders to speak about the world’s economic state. It’s a platform for global policy discussion and an opportunity for investors to have a say on major world issues.

Before it even started, we knew climate change would be one of its main focuses. The WEF said, “We need to break down our silos and work together with a global, collaborative and inclusive approach to make progress to restore our planet and protect our future.”

There are a few different sessions at the meeting dedicated to environmental matters, like the role of philanthropy in environmental protection, climate litigation, youth climate leadership and the polar crisis.

But there’s a bit of drama emerging. For example, many of Davos’s attendees arrived in private jets. According to a study from Greenpeace International, twice as many private jets flew to and from airports serving Davos during the event compared to an average week. The CO2 emissions from these extra flights are on par with 350,000 gas-powered cars on the road for the same amount of time.

“Europe is experiencing the warmest January days ever recorded and communities around the world are grappling with extreme weather events supercharged by the climate crisis,” said Klara Maria Schenk, transport campaigner for Greenpeace’s European mobility campaign. “Meanwhile, the rich and powerful flock to Davos in ultra-polluting, socially inequitable private jets to discuss climate and inequality behind closed doors.”

Plus, many Davos participants come from companies that contribute to the ongoing climate crisis. Top execs from at least 27 fossil fuel companies (think Shell, BP and Chevron) are there. When UN Chief António Guterres spoke at the meeting on Wednesday, he also brought up the hypocrisy.

“Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival,” said Guterres. “This insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific fact.”