Immediate climate threat on agenda at elite gathering

The world’s elite have made the annual trek to a glittering ski resort to mull war and peace, climate change and the future of work amid the rise of artificial intelligence.

While critics dismiss the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a “gabfest”, others use it for deal-making and striking partnerships.

Aussie startup MCi Carbon says there’s a “buzz of potential” for innovators at this year’s meeting as industries need climate tech for new and sustainable ways of doing business – immediately.

But priorities around tripling renewable energy and decarbonising heavy industry and whole economies are competing with war, inflation and a year of elections for more than four billion people.

“There’s no question that we have a mandate to stop and reduce emissions,” MCi Carbon co-founder and chief operating officer Sophia Hamblin Wang told AAP from Davos.

Ms Hamblin Wang, who will be part of a high-powered session on Thursday, said the forum was different to COP climate talks in that innovators, companies and industry go head-to-head with central bankers and government officials.

“If you only have the world’s CEOs, heads of state, faith leaders and movie stars, you’re not getting the full picture of what’s possible from a technology perspective,” she said.

“But we need to be running faster than what we already are and ramp up global investment in lots of different technology solutions.”

Electric cars, solar panels and wind technology may have won commercial and consumer success, but the scale of finance required to bankroll alternative fuels, food production, construction products and minerals processing is lacking.

MCi Carbon uses carbon capture and use (CCU) technology to turn industrial emissions into building materials such as cement and plasterboard, and says mining, steel and cement companies want the technology.

Its headquarters are in Canberra and its research and technical base in Newcastle, including an industrial-scale demonstration plant to turn carbon into products and profits.

Schneider Electric, a global leader in energy and automation attending the forum, said a wide rollout of existing technologies was needed to keep climate change from spiralling out of control.

“With energy accounting for 80 per cent of carbon emissions, the energy transition is central to decarbonisation,” said Peter Herweck, CEO of Schneider Electric.

He said generative AI was capturing attention and imagination but urged people to not forget existing technologies.

“Renewable energy generation and digital and electrification tools that lower energy demand by rendering sites and operations far more energy efficient can sharply reduce emissions now,” he said.

Australia is not the only country behind schedule on building enough big batteries, poles and wires, wind farms and grid-scale solar.

The forum’s white paper, Transforming Energy Demand, warned that the roll out of renewable energy was off track, which means energy efficiency measures must be taken to make up for a shortfall in the supply of clean energy

Energy intensity could reduce by almost a third (31 per cent) for up to $US2 ($A3.0) trillion in annual savings if measures were taken this decade, according to the research.

Growth in energy demand from industry, transport and buildings could be curbed, allowing businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operating costs.

A survey by consultants Capgemini, released at Davos, showed technology and artificial intelligence, including the rapid rise of generative AI, are seen as the key pillars for a transition towards a more digital and sustainable world economy.

Around half of business leaders globally (48 per cent) expect climate change to be the main cause of operational disruption in the future, according to the survey.

However, only 43 per cent of Australian business leaders shared this view, the poll found.

Separately, the global Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) announced that 320 organisations from more than 46 countries – including some in Australia – have committed to start making disclosures.

Taskforce co-chair David Craig said it was a “milestone moment” for climate-related sustainability reporting.

“This is a clear signal that investors, lenders, insurers and companies are recognising that their business models and portfolios are highly dependent on both nature and climate,” he said.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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