/Australia snubs Davos session on Australian fires

Australia snubs Davos session on Australian fires

The fires have decimated an area twice the size of Belgium and killed millions of animals, putting Australia in the Davos firing line next week | Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

A new report, meanwhile, found that the Top 5 global risks are all climate-related.

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1/15/20, 10:59 AM CET

Updated 1/15/20, 11:04 AM CET

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is freaking out about climate change, but the world’s latest climate villain — the Australian government — is giving Davos the cold shoulder.

The growing unease is crystallized in the WEF’s 2020 Global Risks Perception Survey released today, which claims that the Top 5 risks most likely facing the world are all climate-related.

That marks “the first time in the survey’s history that one category has occupied all five of the top spots,” according to Børge Brende, the WEF’s president.

The WEF surveyed 1,047 members of its networks — 44 percent were from climate-conscious Europe — and asked them to rate 30 possible risks.

The organization is so alarmed at governments and companies failing to heed its climate warnings that it decided to invite climate activist Greta Thunberg back to its stage next week, and has begun sharing her slap-downs of global leaders through its official channels.

While the WEF survey was concluded October 22, before the worst of the Australian fire season, those fires have brought the three biggest overall risks identified by the WEF to the world’s attention: extreme weather, climate policy failure and biodiversity loss.

The fires have decimated an area twice the size of Belgium and killed millions of animals, putting Australia in the Davos firing line next week. There’s only one problem: Canberra isn’t playing ball. The WEF session on the Australian fires doesn’t include any Australian speakers.

Mathias Cormann — Australia’s finance minister and the only minister from Down Under attending — will limit himself to speaking about the “Indian Ocean Rim” at his only official WEF session.

Besides Cormann, there are just an handful of Australian WEF participants, with none addressing climate issues. The last Australian prime minister to address the forum was Tony Abbott in 2014 — and he counts repealing the country’s carbon tax as one of his greatest achievements in office.

Since then, successive Australian governments have argued that the country emits barely 1 percent of total global emissions, and should not take unilateral climate action that puts it at a competitive disadvantage to countries such as China.

Green policies aside, there are pragmatic reasons keeping ministers from Davos this year. Australian PM Scott Morrison was forced to return from a vacation in Hawaii as much of Australia burned in recent weeks following a public backlash. The New South Wales state emergency services minister was similarly forced home from Europe.

Mismanaging fires has proved career-threatening for Australian politicians: mishandling them while hob-nobbing in Davos would be fatal.

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