Changing the world

Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

ACTIVISTS are hoping this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos will be the launching ground for a campaign to develop a lasting solution to climate change – high hopes that are embraced by UN Chief Ban Ki-moon, among others. Praising the European Union’s “ambition” for making a pledge to cut emissions 40% by 2030, Ban added he wanted other leading economies to come forward and make similar commitments by the time the UN’s annual climate summit opens in Lima. The annual gathering of world leaders, chief executives and influential investors in the Swiss resort in the next few days is often seen as a barometer of the global economy, where bankers and economists discuss the risks and opportunities for the coming few years. Friday is scheduled to be ‘climate day’, featuring US Environment Protection Head Gina McCarthy, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres and the EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. Compared to previous years, the issue has crept up the 2014 agenda, and dominated a report released to coincide with the summit, rating extreme weather events in its ‘Top 10’ of challenges over the next decade. On Wednesday entrepreneurs Sir Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington dominated the headlines, releasing proposals for a ‘Plan B for business’, encouraging delegates to think beyond simple profit. They aren’t the only ones, efforts at climate change are coming from the unlikeliest of sources. Pakistan has reinstated its Ministry for Climate Change, suggesting the Government plans to pay more attention to the issue as countries prepare a new international deal to curb global warming. In 2013, when the same Government came to power, it downgraded the Ministry to a division, removing its ability to make high-level decisions. In a turnaround earlier this month, the Government appointed Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan as Federal Minister for Climate Change, boosting the division’s status once again. An unprecedented coalition of investors has pledged to put pressure on BP and Shell to become more environmentally-friendly by forcing the UK oil giants to assess, announce and tackle the dangers they pose to the climate. The coalition includes 150 churches, local authorities and pension funds managing more than £ 200 b of assets. If successful the pressure will be broadened to include other firms that are accelerating climate change in industries such as oil, gas, coal, as well as the banks which finance them. The investors which have filed the initial actions – in the form of “shareholder resolutions” to be voted on at BP and Shell’s AGMs – include pension funds for local authorities. The group also includes the Church of England, the Methodist Church and some giant Swedish pension funds. The coalition holds about 1% of the shares in both BP and Shell. Even Pope Francis has chipped in by acknowledging for the first time that climate change is mostly man’s fault. Pope Francis has long advocated for protection of the environment and climate, but Thursday’s comments mark the first time the Pope has acknowledged humans’ role in causing global warming. His theological justification for both environment and climate action has been that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value. Later this year, Francis is expected to tell the planet’s 1.2 billion Catholics why acting on climate change is essential to the faith using an influential church document called an encyclical. Perhaps the world truly is changing.