Davos-Klosters - Cape Town and its desperate battle to avoid running out of water is a climate change disaster, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, has heard.
At a WEF session on environmental risks, experts urged the world to move faster on climate change to avoid disaster, as extreme weather events and trends were becoming increasingly devastating and costly.
The session heard that while the world was still debating whether the change is real, weather migrants and refugees are becoming a reality.
Cape Town, one of the jewels in South Africa's tourism crown, will become the first major modern city in the world to completely run out of water, if there is no sustained rainfall in the next short few months.
Day Zero - the day when taps run dry - has been moved forward to April 12 after it had been previously set at April 21. Security forces, including police, the military, local law enforcement and traffic services have all been placed on standby to ensure the safe escorting of communal water resources and the monitoring of public water gathering points should the worst case scenario unfold.
Speakers at the WEF session on Wednesday said other parts of the world were facing weather-related crises on a similar scale and argued that there was insufficient urgency in meeting the goals on climate change set in the Paris Agreement, and that more radical measures are required to address the issues.
Peter O'Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said the climate issue had become more mainstream in conversations over the past few years but this did not help countries such as his, which recently experienced a long drought that precipitated serious food shortages.
He warned that climate change not only threatened communities, but also nations. At least a third of countries in the Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, to which Papua New Guinea belongs, are in danger of disappearing as a result of climate change.
"The world seems to think they have time,"he said. "But there are real communities already suffering."
Philipp M. Hildebrand, Vice-Chairman, BlackRock, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), Peter O'Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Al Gore, former Vice-President of the US and Chairman and Co-Founder, Generation Investment Management, and Bronwyn Nielsen, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director, CNBC Africa, South Africa speaking during the Session "Responding to Extreme Environmental Risks" at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Picture: World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), said the rainy season in her country was now much shorter, causing hardship for local farmers.
Lake Chad is an example of an extreme weather development, with 90 percent of the lake having evaporated over the past 40 years. This has resulted in food shortages and an increase in conflict among lakeside communities over resources.
She said local solutions to the problem were necessary as countries could not wait for solutions to be crafted at a global level. "It is difficult to change the consumer behaviour of people trying to survive. Energy is a luxury for a country like mine."
She added her voice to the call for faster and more radical change to turn the situation around.
Al Gore, former US vice president and chairman and co-founder of Generation Investment Management in the US, said humanity still has the opportunity to take control of its destiny but it would only happen if more people accepted the imminent danger and cost of climate change.
"There is a building wave. We are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution. It has the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution but the speed of the digital revolution," he said, but adding that time is of the essence.
Philipp M. Hildebrand, vice-chairman of BlackRock Inc, a global investment management firm, said the issues of the environment and sustainability needed to be pushed to the top of the corporate agenda as the problem was too large for governments alone to tackle.
"We need a new contract between capital, corporations and government," he said.
He added that he was starting to see a "sea change" in the way corporations were looking at climate issues. This related, in part, to the transfer of wealth to a generation that cares about sustainability and climate issues, and also to the growing commitment by companies to environmental, social and governance principles, especially as research is starting to show that these practices, when integrated into business, may actually offer better returns to investors".