On the winding train back from this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, UNEP FI Head, Eric Usher sums up the key takeaways for sustainability practitioners from this year’s global economic and political mountain retreat.

“Rebuilding trust,” the main theme this year, cut across many discussions, provided insights into a broad spectrum of issues, and elicited divergent views. New Argentinean President Milei – an economist and textbook free market libertarian – lit up social media when he claimed that market failures don’t exist, and that government meddling has the West headed towards socialism. Meanwhile, ECB President Christine Lagarde argued that market failures such as climate change clearly do exist and need to be collectively addressed.

This year’s WEF Global Risks Report, issued in the run-up to the meeting, highlighted the criticality of environmental issues, which now take the top four spots in the 10-year risk horizon, although the shorter 2-year timeframe displaces these with widespread “misinformation” and “disinformation.” While Artificial Intelligence (AI) was certainly the talk of the town and dominated window fronts along the Promenade, issues related to climate, nature, pollution, inequalities and financial inclusion continued to hold their own.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that the dual risks of runaway climate change and the uncontrolled development of generative AI provide reasons for countries to come together. A multipolar world needs multilateralism to manage global risks effectively, and progress in 2024 needs to include reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, including at the upcoming UN Summit of the Future.

During the climate risks session, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen announced plans to establish a new UNEP FI Risk Centre. This new initiative will build on UNEP FI’s extensive work with over 500 financial institutions and 150 supporting institutions to empower the financial sector to actively integrate climate and environmental risk into decision-making. Further details are provided in this WEF article.

On nature, an impactful announcement was made by Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) Co-Chairs David Craig and UNEP Deputy Executive Director Elizabeth Mrema. They revealed that 320 organisations from over 46 countries have now committed to start making nature-related disclosures based on the TNFD Recommendations published in September last year. UNEP FI is proud to have been a co-founder of the TNFD and many of our members contributed to early development through pilot groups. I was also pleased to join Martin Stuchtey of Landbanking Group and Lauren Smart of S&P Global to discuss nature-related data challenges at the Doconomy Stage of Impact.

On impact standards and norms, UNEP FI and OECD convened leaders from the partner organisations that make up the Impact Management Platform, to discuss the current state and future of mainstreaming impact management across business, finance and beyond.

I was excited to join Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance, for a discussion bringing together banking leaders to discuss financial health and inclusion, a topic that UNEP FI is increasingly working with members on.

My stay in Davos rounded out with a taping on CNBC of a fascinating discussion on industrial decarbonization with Squawk Box Europe’s Steve Sedgwick and the CEOs from Novozymes, Syensqo, Sabanci Holdings and Clarity AI.

I leave you with the closing words from UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ speech: ‘Rebuilding trust will not happen overnight, but I’m convinced that it is both essential and possible. I urge everybody to influence, to prevent further damage and to get our world back on track to safety, prosperity and peace.’