THE Church of England has called for greater action on climate change after a new report lists climate-driven risks as the biggest threats to the world in 2019.
The Global Risk Report, published by the World Economic Forum, which meets in the Swiss ski-resort of Davos next week, is based on a survey of 1000 experts and decision-makers from around the world.
It lists the three most likely risks for 2019 as extreme weather, failure of climate-change mitigation, and adaptation and natural disasters. These, along with water crises, make up four of the top five risks by impact.
The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, a member of the C of E’s Environmental Working Group, said: “It is significant that the threats posed by climate change have been recognised by the world’s top economic experts. While this serves to strengthen calls for urgent action to protect and sustain God’s creation, it also highlights the peril of inactivity and delay, which particularly places the economically poorest people in our world most at risk of devastating consequences.”
Environmental concerns also feature beyond just 2019, dominating the report’s ten-year outlook. All five of the environmental risks that the report tracks, including biodiversity loss, fell into the “high-impact, high-likelihood” category. The warnings for 2019 come on the heels of a study by Christian Aid which revealed that ten climate-driven disasters in 2018 — including Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the United States, flooding in India, and the European heatwave — caused more than a trillion dollars’ worth of damage.
The Zurich Insurance Group’s chief risk officer, Alison Martin, said: “2018 was, sadly, a year of historic wildfires, continued heavy flooding, and increasing greenhouse-gas emissions. It is no surprise that, in 2019, environmental risks once again dominate the list of major concerns. . . To effectively respond to climate change requires a significant increase in infrastructure to adapt to this new environment, and transition to a low-carbon economy.”
This year is shaping up to be a crucial year for action on climate change. The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, is hosting a summit in the autumn, where he will urge world leaders to strengthen their emission-reduction pledges. Before that, the UK’s official advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, will publish recommendations on when the UK should achieve net zero emissions. A cross-party group of MPs have called for a date before 2050 to be set in law.
Responding to the Davos report, the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, said: “This report makes clear that the world stands at a moment of great vulnerability in our economics, in our politics, and for our environment. We need a much greater urgency in this debate, grounded in a hope that things can change. It’s certainly good to see those surveyed raising this warning, but we now need to see leaders heeding it and taking urgent, concrete action to reduce emissions.”
Joe Ware is a journalist for Christian Aid.