Davos 2015: World Bank chief makes climate action plea

‘Move to cleaner cities no brainer,’ says Kim as Al Gore and Pharrell Williams launch initiative including global music event

The president of the World Bank hasurged the international community to help developing nations cope with a warming planet as the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos was dominated by calls to make 2015 a year of action on climate change.

Jim Kim called for rich and poor countries to put aside their differences over tackling climate change as he warned that the hottest year on record in 2014 was evidence of accelerating global warming.

“We are seeing the accelerated impact of climate change. Last year was the hottest on record. That matters. Extreme weather is real. It’s a complete no brainer to move towards cleaner more liveable cities,” said Kim.

He was speaking to the Guardian after Al Gore launched an initiative to get the world’s population behind climate change ahead of crucial United Nation talks scheduled to begin in November by teaming up with pop star Pharrell Williams. A 24-hour-long live music extravaganza is to be held in June – with concerts involving more than 100 as yet unannounced acts on seven continents – and it will be the second time the former US vice president has teamed up with the singer to raise awareness of climate change.

Launching the Live Earth: Road to Paris concert in front of business leaders, politicians and policymakers assembled in the Swiss mountain tops, Gore said: “The purpose is to have a billion voices with one message to demand climate change now.”

“It is absolutely crucial that we build public will for an agreement,” said Gore, who has won the Nobel peace price for his work on climate change.

Much hinges on the UN-based talks in Paris, attendees at the Davos meeting were told. “There is a huge challenge ahead for the rest of this year,” Kim told the Guardian.

Kim noted there had been progress over the last 12 months, including the UN general assembly’s commitment to set a carbon price, the agreement between the US and China on carbon emissions and the steps being made by big developing countries, such as India to invest in renewable energy.

World Bank Jim Yong Kim and Red Cross Peter Maurer
The head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, right, speaks with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, at Davos. Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/EPA

“The key is coming up with a vision of how we are going to finance mitigation and adaptation to climate change,” said Kim, who runs an institution dedicated to eradicating poverty in the developing world. “We have got to get away from the mutual accusations between rich and poor and move towards cohesive collaboration. Things are different and if we can find ways of being creative, particularly on funding, we are more likely to find agreement. What we don’t want is to get to a situation where developing countries are saying to the rich countries: ‘where’s that $100bn a year you promised us’.”

The hopes for progress in Paris combined with the collapse in the oil price – at its lowest level since 2009 – were also seized upon by Lord Stern, a former advisor to previous UK governments on climate change. “This year will shape the next 20 ... it is the poor who are hit hardest by climate change,” Stern said.

He called on policymarkers to take enlightened action. “If you want to put a carbon tax on, now is absolutely the right moment,” said Stern.

Gore had started the first full day of events at the annual gathering in Davos by telling delegates: “This is the year of climate”.

Speaking against a backdrop of images intended to show the impact of climate change, Gore launched his plans amid criticism at the WEF of delegates arriving in private jets to attend the conference in 5,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps. The organisers of WEF urge delegates not to fly by private jet and use the train instead. Some attendees are transported in electric buggies.

Gore, who has been leading calls for action on climate change, said: “We need to put a price on carbon and we need to put a price on denial in politics.”

Williams, who fronted a similar 24-hour Live Earth event in 2007, when Rihanna and Genesis were among the performers, said: “We are going to have humanity harmonise all at once.”

Gore said the 18 June event will take place on seven continents, including Antarctica where climate change scientists are based. The other venues are China, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, New York and Paris.

Gore displayed image after image on the screens behind him to show the impact of climate change on the world. Standing in front of images from Miami, with streets flooded, Gore said: “People are sloshing through it saying there is no global warming”.

The issue of climate change is also being addressed by the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. John Nelson, chairman of the Lloyd’s of London, said: “We take in to all our underwriting and modelling climate change. We expect to see our syndicates modelling climate change when they are looking at this sort of property risk.”


Larry Elliott and Jill Treanor Davos

The GuardianTramp

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