Words by Cameron Trencher, News Print Editor

The cost of living crisis is hampering the ability to stay in line with climate action goals, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum. Despite climate change becoming even more of an evident threat, economic efforts are being shifted elsewhere. 

Terming the current economic climate a ‘polycrisis’, the WEF identified a number of intersecting risks in its Global Risk Report for 2023. They warn that the ongoing cost of living crisis is in danger of deprioritising other risks, which include food security, resource scarcity, and climate change.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 has incited turmoil across the world, disrupting supply chains to fuel an energy crisis across Europe. Inflationary pressures – like a fall in production and resource shortages – are stronger than they have been pre-pandemic, while concerns about recession strike fear into consumers and the financial markets.The  Covid-19 pandemic has also impacted progress towards climate action goals. Whilst the initial global shutdowns led to reduced emissions, the reopening of the world has meant production has needed to catch up.

Saadia Zahidi, the Managing Director of the WEF, has warned that ‘climate and human development must be at the core of concerns of global leaders, even as they battle current crises. Cooperation is the only way forward.’

Climate change continues to be a pressing issue for voters, with 23% regarding it as the most important issue in a 2023 poll from YouGov, though this is down from 34% in 2021. Concerns surrounding issues such as the economy and healthcare have risen sharply in this time.

Current climate action objectives strive for a 1.5°C limit to global warming. This would reduce the effects of climate change through extreme weather events, and would protect vulnerable environments, such as polar regions and reefs. This target was first set among the 2015 Paris Accords, and was seen to be achievable, but would require ‘deep emissions reductions’. Recent models from the World Resources Institute indicate current warming levels are at 1.1°C, and are increasing.

Extreme weather events such as the Pakistan floods late last year have been increasing in frequency. The WEF says that if attention continues to be drawn away from efforts to tackle climate change, conditions will worsen for the almost 3.6 billion people worldwide who are identified as being at the greatest risk. These most vulnerable groups include those living in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and many small island nations.

The World Economic Forum has targeted global warming through a series of initiatives, including an aim to plant 1 trillion trees by 2030, and has committed 36% of its 2022 funding to fighting climate change.

On a wider scale, efforts to fight climate change have focused on a shift away from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro power now generate 40% of the UK’s electricity, and this is set to increase over coming years.

The WEF has called for “cooperation, collaboration and international partnerships” between governments to reach its goals, and will further discuss this at its annual summit in Davros, Switzerland at the end of January.

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