Saturday, 25 Jan 2020

Economic, political polarisation set to rise this year: WEF

London, Jan 15 : Economic and political polarisation will rise this year, and collaboration between world leaders, businesses and policy-makers is needed more than ever to stop severe threats to climate, environment, public health and technology systems.

It points to the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to mitigating risk at a time when the world can't wait for the fog of geopolitical disorder to lift, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Risks Report 2020, published on Wednesday.

The report also forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions and economic slowdown. The geopolitical turbulence is propelling towards an "unsettled" unilateral world of great power rivalries at a time when business and government leaders must focus on working together to tackle shared risks.

Of the 750 global experts and decision-makers, who were asked to rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact, 78 per cent said they expected "economic confrontations" and "domestic political polarisation" to rise in 2020.

This would prove catastrophic, particularly for addressing urgent challenges like the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and record species decline, it said.

The report, produced in partnership with Marsh iamp; McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, points to a need for policy-makers to match targets for protecting the earth for boosting economies -- and for companies to avoid the risks of potentially disastrous future losses by adjusting to science-based targets.

The top five global risks in terms of likelihood in the survey's 10-year outlook are all environmental.

The report sounds alarm on extreme weather events with major damage to property, infrastructure and loss of human life; failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses; human-made environmental damage and disasters, including environmental crime, such as oil spills and radioactive contamination.

It also points to major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (terrestrial or marine) with irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humans as well as industries and major natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Unless stakeholders adapt to "today's epochal power-shift" and geopolitical turbulence, while still preparing for the future, time will run out to address some of the most pressing economic, environmental and technological challenges, it says.

This signals where action by business and policy-makers is most needed.

"The political landscape is polarised, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks," said Borge Brende, WEF President.

The report is part of the Global Risks Initiative, which brings stakeholders together to develop sustainable, integrated solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.