Davos VIPs are concerned about the climate crisis. They are still using private jets

In an age of "embarrassed flight"and increased public awareness of climate change, organizers of next week's event are stepping up efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the conference, which attracts politicians and CEOs from the Swiss Alps for panel discussions, closed meetings and parties. Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist known for calling global leaders, is attending the second year after she guests criticized at a star-studded lunch in 2019.

WEF is promising to buy carbon offsets, a redesigned conference center and a menu full of locally sourced food. The fleet of vehicles that will transport many dignitaries through the ski town It is now 88% electric or hybrid.

It is a mark of growing pressure on the organization, which has long been facing a crisis over the summit's environmental footprint. For some high profile figures who plan to attend, such as BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, combating climate change is now a urgent priority. The theme of this year's meeting is "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World".

Still, the group's actions are unlikely to isolate it from critics, who argue that the forum and its participants are more concerned with optics than with systemic change.


WEF recognizes that because it "brings together stakeholders to help address the biggest ecological crisis of our time," it consumes resources and causes emissions. By 2020, it has promised to become "more sustainable than ever".

"The Forum is committed to improving the state of the world and that is why the sustainability of the 50th Annual Meeting is of the utmost importance," Lee Howell, managing director of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement.

However, ensuring a sustainable conference is not a simple task – largely due to the sheer number of flights required to attract nearly 3,000 delegates from around the world, not to mention their entourage, conference staff, security personnel and global media. .

Climate activist Greta Thunberg portrayed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year.
Scientists have estimated approximately 5% of global warming is the result of commercial aviation. Airplanes emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, as well as nitrous oxides, which produce greenhouse gas ozone. Contrails, ice particles produced by airplanes that retain radiation, also contribute to global warming.
The issue led to a "shaming flights" movement in Europe, known in Thunberg native Swedish as "flygskam". Thunberg, who recently sailed across the Atlantic to attend a UN climate summit, traveled to Davos last year by train, a much cleaner form of transport.

WEF notes that it has compensated all flights for accredited flights conference participants since 2017 buying carbon credits that fund emission reduction projects. This year, credits acquired to offset conference emissions will support projects aimed at protecting the Amazon from deforestation and converting methane from Swiss cow dung into energy.

But Lucy Gilliam, aviation and maritime expert at Transport & Environment, a European nonprofit lobbying for clean transport, said there are drawbacks to offsetting programs, which need to be maintained over time and may take a while. to begin.

"In fact, you are not removing the emissions created by this plane," she said. "The plane will have burned this fuel and the carbon was released into the atmosphere."

Cars line up in Davos, Switzerland, on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in 2017.

Davos's particular problem, said Gilliam, is that many participating government ministers and top corporate executives opt for private aircraft, which produce more emissions per person than commercial flights.

WEF estimates There were 309 private plane trips last year to two nearby airports for the conference. That number, which excludes presidents and prime ministers who tend to land at a nearby military base, was 20 percent lower than in 2018.

Eymeric Segard, CEO of LunaJets, says he is responding to the "embarrassed flight" movement. Your Geneva-based company is pushing customers looking to book a private jet to Davos opt for smaller and more economical aircraft.

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LunaJets is also pledging to compensate for every trip it book by acquiring carbon credits. This means that some conference trips can be offset twice – by both LunaJets and WEF.

"[It’s a] a niche clientele that goes to Davos, "he said." When they come from Africa, Asia, the USA and India, a train is simply not an option. "

Armed with a web page Outlining its sustainability measures, WEF is ready for questions.

The group said it last year offset 35,000 tonnes of emissions by financing not only efficient stoves in China, Mali, India and South Africa, but also restoring peat bogs in the area hosting the annual meeting.

In addition to paying to offset all emissions, WEF has remodeled the main conference center where it holds events by installing solar panels and geothermal heating. Seaweed paint was used to cool some rooms. Stage carpet will come from renewable sources, including "end-of-life fishing nets".

WEF is also eliminating disposable plastics for bags and beverages. "Future Food Wednesday" will feature "a protein rich menu without meat and fish." And technology from Swiss artificial intelligence company Kitro will be used to monitor food waste.

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