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Social Innovation

Davos 2023: Decarbonization: An Insurmountable Challenge?

Opening the “Decarbonization: An Insurmountable Challenge?” session at the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos, former US vice-president Al Gore summed up the scope of the challenge by saying:

“The world is going through a sustainability revolution that has the scale of the Industrial Revolution coupled with the pace of the digital revolution. [We are seeing] new levels of hyper efficiency, new information tools, AI and machine learning, the internet of things and blockchain.

“Now, we have to finance this technological revolution. And the private sector has to join the public sector.”

Gore also highlighted the need to scale up climate finance while making sure to scale down anti-climate finance.

Fellow panellist Christian Mumenthaler, Group Chief Executive Officer of Swiss Re, highlighted the challenges for any corporation in transitioning to net-zero emissions, including his own.

And while Swiss Re has reduced its scope 1 and 2 emissions, the real challenge is reducing scope 3 emissions.

The Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders — which includes Hitachi — has already had success in this area, according to Mumenthaler. “We measured the progress we made amongst ourselves and scope 1 and 2 saw a reduction of 22%. That's really good.

“But scope 3 is where we have huge leverage. Because these 127 companies probably have 100,000 suppliers, and we need to send the price signal out to 100,000 suppliers that they have to be net zero otherwise we cannot be zero — that's the tipping point.”

As well as the power of collaborative action through groups like the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, legislation is instrumental in moving towards net-zero emissions. The US’ Inflation Reduction Act is seen as a huge step towards the country’s climate goals.

Al Gore, addressing the conference, encouraged the EU and other policymakers across the world to follow suit with their own legislation that will boost net-zero technologies and pave the way for a net-zero future.

Although the change to decarbonization has felt slow, Mumenthaler was positive on the recent pace of progress, and in particular the way bigger companies can be first movers, and support the manufacture of green materials used in their products.

“If you don't invest now — and can’t provide green shipping, for example, in five years — and suddenly everybody has a change in attitude, you're left behind. So that's powerful,” he concluded.