WEF: Climate crisis, social divides top global risks in 2022

Demonstrators gather in Trafalgar Square following a march as part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice in London, Britain, Nov 6, 2021. (TIM IRELAND / XINHUA)

GENEVA – As the world enters the third year of the pandemic, the climate crisis, growing social divides, heightened cyber risks and uneven global recovery are the top global risks in 2022, the World Economic Forum said in a new report published on Tuesday.

The "Global Risks Report 2022" warns that five of the top 10 global risks are environment-related, including climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss. Meanwhile, the main short-term global concerns include the erosion of social cohesion, livelihood crises and infectious diseases.

Now in its 17th edition, the latest annual report from the Geneva-based forum urges leaders to adopt a coordinated, multi-stakeholder response, and create policies that manage risks and resolve systemic issues

"We've seen what can happen when there is public-private collaboration, when we put our faith in science and technology, and when there is global coordination. The result of that was developing a vaccine for COVID-19," Saadia Zahidi, the WEF's managing director, told Xinhua in a virtual interview following the release.

"Now, if we can do that for one specific and very urgent area, we can do the same thing for other areas that require urgent attention, and that includes climate change. There are a number of technologies that are now available; it's really about making that green transition."

Now in its 17th edition, the latest annual report from the Geneva-based forum urges leaders to adopt a coordinated, multi-stakeholder response, and create policies that manage risks and resolve systemic issues.

"Half of the world is still not vaccinated, and half of the world still does not have access to the internet," Zahidi stressed. "We're seeing a rising divergence between the developing world and the developed world.

"It's really about working out who has the best possible models that help governments move out of a constant focus on the emergency situation, towards building recovery and investing in resilience."

"That is where I think the experiences of economies and pulling together the economic, social and green agendas closer together. That's where the proof point is going to lie. And those are the models that the rest of the world have to emulate," she added.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (center) attends the launching ceremony of a 50-megawatt solar farm in Garissa, Kenya, Dec 13, 2019. (XIE HAN / XINHUA)

Uneven recovery

The report, which has been developed with the WEF's strategic partners Marsh McLennan, SK Group and Zurich Insurance Group, also warns that global economic recovery from COVID-19 will be uneven and potentially volatile in the coming years.

A global survey of experts found that only one in six is optimistic, and only one in 10 believes that global recovery will accelerate.

The economic fallout of the pandemic and diverging levels of recovery also continue to threaten cooperation on other global challenges, at a time when climate and environmental risks loom large, the report emphasizes.

Zahidi added: "China is amongst the very positive growth stories that we've seen in the world in the last 30 years, with people coming out of poverty, having new economic opportunities, and now seeing how China manages this transition, this economic and green and technological transition that is underway. That's going to provide a role model to others."

Zurich Insurance Group's chief risk officer Peter Giger says in the report: "The climate crisis remains the biggest long-term threat facing humanity. Failure to act on climate change could shrink global GDP by one-sixth, and the commitments taken at COP26 are still not enough to achieve the 1.5 C goal."

"It is not too late for governments and businesses to act on the risks they face and to drive an innovative, determined and inclusive transition that protects economies and people."

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Photo taken in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, on July 27, 2021 shows screens displaying charts of growth projections updated by the International Monetary Fund. (LIU JIE / XINHUA)

Building coalitions

Last month, the WEF announced that due to continued concerns over Omicron it will defer its annual meeting, which is usually held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Initially scheduled to take place between Jan 17-21, it is now planned for early summer.

In the meantime, participants will join "State of the World" online sessions, bringing together global leaders to find solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

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"A lot of the forum's work is about building coalitions that help address some of these global challenges, whether that is greater access to vaccines and more resilient healthcare systems, building better education and skills systems, or managing the transition towards a greener economy," Zahidi said.

"We do believe that connecting in person is incredibly important. It's part of what helps strengthen the relationships that lead to these coalitions, and we'll be looking towards summer to hopefully bring together global leaders again."