Davos 2020: Greta Thunberg, zero emissions and future plans

March 11, 2020   By Dhoof Mohamed

Davos 2020: Greta Thunberg, zero emissions and future plans

More than 3,000 business, political, and global leaders convened earlier this year for Davos 2020, a 4-day international conference in Switzerland where global leaders gather to discuss important events influencing the economy. One of the main topics was the goal of reaching zero emissions. Just over a year ago, that felt unrealistic, but with new technologies, reaching zero emissions has become attainable.

Still, reaching net zero emissions is not simple. Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, invited major corporations “to set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner.” A mixture of approaches that includes renewable energy, electrification and clean fossil fuels would be needed.

Additionally, major corporations such as Amazon, Google, Salesforce and Apple attending Davos 2020 also set the goal for zero emissions by 2050. This cumulative effort by public, private, and government entities will help propel carbon neutrality and decarbonize the global economy.

Challenges to decarbonization

Decarbonization of the economy is one of the best steps in moving toward zero emissions. The biggest challenges in decarbonization come from industrial sectors of the economy such as shipping, plastics, aviation and cement.

Experts say these industrial sectors have not moved toward sustainable alternatives; the advent of the internet and other technological innovations have done little to guide these industries into sustainable options. Nearly 30 percent of global emissions come from these industrial sectors.

Electrification is one of the current methods used by these industries to move away from carbon emissions. With new technologies being developed to tackle the environmental challenges these industries present, there’s still no definitive solution to the carbon emissions produced.

Greta Thunberg addresses issues

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist, made her presence known at Davos. In her speech to global leaders, she made several key points about the progress of climate change. At the current pace of global emissions, Thunberg explained there are “less than 8 years to save the planet.” Although significant improvements have been made since 2018, about 42 gigatons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually.

Thunberg also came with a list of proposed steps to reduce emissions, including:

  • Immediately ending all fossil fuels subsidies
  • Completely divesting from fossil fuels
  • Immediately stopping all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction

These demands were met with some backlash by political leaders who claimed Thunberg was “out of touch” with reality. Some of the criticism came from President Trump, who tweeted “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” after she won the Time Person of the Year award.

Looking to the future

Discussions around automation, sustainability and climate change policies were some of the strategies for the future. Among these are redeveloping the educational system. The consensus: Skills and courses taught by schools today should be reassessed to ensure that new graduates have the necessary technical skills to thrive in the future economy.

For sustainability, Davos 2020 attendees discussed topics such as feeding the growing global population. Today’s farming and irrigation techniques must be coupled with advanced technology to help feed billions of people worldwide.

For technological sustainability, the advent of 5G and other technologies will help connect billions of people from the developing world with the internet. The benefits are multi-faceted because the internet will propel social and economic opportunities.

As working remotely continues to rise, the internet provides a gateway to economic prosperity for many people living in the developing world. Takeaways from Davos 2020 such as climate change and sustainability efforts provide a roadmap for future meetings and a standard to improve on over the next decade.


Dhoof Mohamed writes about energy and IT topics for various clients. His academic interests include solar energy initiatives and the future of sustainable energy. His articles have appeared on SiteProNews, ChooseFlorida and the office of the U.S. Embassy. You can reach him at dhoof@dhoofmohamed.com.