After Australia’s bushfires, climate change high on the agenda at Davos talkfest

After Australia's bushfires, climate change high on the agenda at Davos talkfest

But it warned climate change-induced natural disasters posed a major threat to its new forecast, citing “drought and bushfires in Australia” alongside hurricanes in the Carribean and floods and drought in parts of Africa.

Political and economic leaders have gathered at the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic ForumCredit:AP

“Climate change, the driver of the increased frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters, already endangers health and economic outcomes, and not only in the directly affected regions,” the report said.

The IMF warned the effects of climate change would eventuate in areas “that may not yet feel the direct effects”, including the insurance industry.

In a press conference at Davos on Monday ahead of the forum’s official opening, IMF chief economist Gita Copinath was asked whether governments around the world were moving fast enough to limit global temperature rises.

IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath. Credit:Bloomberg

“Climate risk is near and present,” she said. “There are huge [economic] changes that will be associated with the change we are seeing in the climate.

“This is something that countries can’t actually argue about. It is a major issue. They have to step up and they should display all the political will that’s needed to get the job done.”

The Morrison government has dropped its previous iron-clad commitment to deliver a budget surplus in the 2019-21 financial year in the wake of the destructive bushfire emergency in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The government had promised a $5 billion surplus this financial year – the first since the federal budget went into the red in 2008.

Australia is being represented at Davos by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who will speak at a session on Thursday titled, ‘The global impact of Australia’s wildfires’. US President Donald Trump will deliver a major speech and climate campaigner Greta Thunberg will speak on ‘averting a climate apocalypse’.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not come to Davos and is instead focussed on a major African investment summit in London.

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Johnson opened the gathering of African leaders on Monday with a pledge to ban any new direct official development assistance, investment, export credit or trade promotion for thermal coal mining or coal power plants overseas. The UK has not made such funding commitments for a number of years but the announcement formalises that position and environmental campaigners hope it is the catalyst for a new world-wide standard.

“There’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it,” Johnson said.

“We all breathe the same air, we live beneath the same sky, and we all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms.

“To put it simply, not another penny of UK taxpayers’ money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity.”

Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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