The Importance of Adaptation Surfaces at the World Economic Forum

Issues important to adaptation were featured in several meetings held during the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Impressions - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012

Executives from Rio Tinto, Nestlé and SABMiller participated in the session, “The Natural Resource Context,” and discussed the challenges of resource management in the water, food and energy sectors. A WEF summary of the meeting includes a statement on responding to climate change: “Responses to climate change need to be more than a knee-jerk reaction to the ‘issue of the year’ and should concentrate on much more than simply carbon dioxide emissions.”

Further, participants considered water management a crucial issue to tackle:

The elephant in the room of the resources debate is the absence of any economic pricing of water – resulting in little rational use. When the question “Who pays for the water?” is asked, the answer is inevitably that nature pays – which means environmental degradation in the form of water shortage and destruction of ecosystems. It has been estimated that within just 15 years, there will be a 30-40% water shortage “gap” at current usage growth levels and economic growth levels.

Another session, “7 Billion and Counting: Dividend or Disaster?,” asked participants to address the social, environmental and economic implications of the world’s population growth. Notably, participants addressed expanding agricultural production to meet the needs of a growing world population:

Increasing the world population by 50% would require global food production to double. Technologies exist to increase output from farms, but other issues such as logistics and corruption create challenges. One-third of the world’s population lives on small farms. For food production to meet rising demand, best practices and technologies must be made available to these smallholder farmers.

Other adaptation-related news included Unilever Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman’s warning that food prices will only increase in the years to come:

The two key drivers are that food demand is rising, and thanks to unsustainable farming and climate change events, the world is running out of good fertile land for agriculture.

The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN) welcomes the attention of global leaders to these pressing issues and is measuring many of these global challenges through the GAIN Index. While much work needs to be done, we take an optimistic view that people around the world can overcome these challenges given the right information and opportunity to succeed.