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Tackle 'Titanic' climate challenge before it's too late, leaders told

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
World Economic Forum (WEF) President Borge Brende at a press conference ahead of the WEF 2018 Annual Meeting, on January 16, 2018 in Cologny, near Geneva.
World Economic Forum president Borge Brende called for the world to unite to tackle climate change. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The head of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has called on leaders around the world to unite to tackle climate change, comparing the looming environmental crisis to the sinking of the Titanic.

“We only have a very small window,” Borge Brende told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday.

“If you don’t use this window in the coming ten years, we will be faced with a situation where we’re moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. That’s the reality.”

Brende’s call to action came as the WEF launched its annual Global Risks Report, a survey of the biggest risks to global stability in the next decade. For the first time ever, the report found all five of the biggest risks were linked to environmental concerns, such as extreme weather, irreversible loss of biodiversity, and natural disasters.

WEF president Brende said global coordination was needed to address the problem but warned that geopolitics was becoming more fractious, making unified action difficult.

READ MORE: Climate crisis is biggest threat to the planet, warn global elite

“The challenge is you are not unlocking the necessary investments because of a polarised world, we are not able to agree on a price for emissions,” Brende said. “The only way to secure future technology is [to ensure] that emissions will also pay a price. These are important moving forward.”

Almost 200 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 but US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the framework in 2017. The US is the world’s second biggest source of carbon emissions, accounting for around 15% of annual output.

The WEF report warns that a failure to act could lead to increases in disease, food shortages, rising migration, and at leat $1tn in costs for corporations forced to deal with the changing world.

“The cost of inaction far exceeds the cost of action,” Brende warned.

2019 was the second warmest year ever on record, according to data from the European Commission’s Copernicus project. Scientists at the University of Oxford say “almost all” of the rise in average global temperature since 1850 has been caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Peter Giger, the chief risk officer at insurance giant Zurich, worked on the WEF report and appeared alongside Brende at Wednesday’s press conference. He said it was “key to steer development into the right direction, towards a carbon efficient, a low carbon economy.”

The call to action came ahead of WEF’s annual conference in Switzerland next week, more commonly known as Davos. Political and business leaders from around the world will gather in the Swiss ski resort for a week-long conference discussing the challenges facing the world and how to tackle them.

READ MORE: World Economic Forum: These are the biggest threats to the world