Environment the biggest worry for global leaders in gloomy report from WEF

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Extreme weather events — what the WEF called “billion dollar disasters” — were seen as the single most prominent risk. (Reuters)
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Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s founder and executive chairman, said that the widening economic recovery presents an opportunity to “tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world’s institutions, societies and environment.” (Reuters)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Environment the biggest worry for global leaders in gloomy report from WEF

Global business leaders and policymakers are more worried about environmental issues than any other risk factor in 2018, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The report, which is published each January ahead of the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, said that the world is “struggling to keep up with the pace of change.” For the second year running, environmental shocks are the main concern for global experts and decision makers.
The report “highlights numerous areas where we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars,” the WEF said.
Experts were asked to rank 30 global risks in terms of impact and likelihood. All five environmental risks — extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation — were responders’ biggest concerns. Extreme weather events — what the WEF called “billion dollar disasters” — were seen as the single most prominent risk.
In the Middle East, however, other risks were seen as more threatening. The report highlighted fiscal crisis as the biggest threat to stability, followed by energy price shocks, unemployment, terrorist attacks and inter-state conflict. The environment did not feature in the top five risks for regional leaders.
Environmental issues are sure to feature prominently at this year’s meeting in Davos, with the presence of US President Donald Trump, a renowned skeptic on climate change, guaranteed to generate debate on the matter.
World leaders are also generally more pessimistic about the state of global affairs. Of 1,000 surveyed by the WEF, some 59 percent said that risks would increase in 2018, with only 7 percent believing that the world would be less risky.
A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 percent of respondents saying they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen and nearly 80 percent expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers, the report added.
“There are numerous other potential flashpoints around the world, not least in the Middle East, where an increasing number of destabilizing forces might lead to the eruption of new military conflicts in addition to those in Syria and Yemen,” the report said.
Global economic growth is forecast to be strong in 2018, reducing the risk from economic factors. Some experts were worried that the improvement in global GDP growth rates may lead to complacency about persistent structural risks in the global economic and financial systems.
Even so, inequality is ranked high among the underlying risk drivers, and the most frequently cited interconnection of risks is that between adverse consequences of technological advances and high structural unemployment or under-employment, the report said.
Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, said: “A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world’s institutions, societies and environment. We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown. Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this. Above all, the challenge is to find the will and momentum to work together for a shared future.”
Cyber threats are growing in prominence, with large-scale cyberattacks now ranked third in terms of likelihood, while rising cyber-dependency is ranked as the second most significant driver shaping the global risks landscape over the next 10 years, the report concluded.
John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at Marsh & McLennan insurance group, which sponsors the report, said: “Geopolitical friction is contributing to a surge in the scale and sophistication of cyber-attacks. At the same time cyber exposure is growing as firms are becoming more dependent on technology.”


World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

Updated 21 August 2018
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World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

  • The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter
  • Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China

OSLO: The managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, expressed concern Tuesday about global trade tensions, which could heavily impact its value.
The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter, helping erase a loss of 171 billion kroner in January-March that was attributed to a volatile stock market.
The Government Pension Fund Global, which saw its total value swell to 8.33 trillion kroner by the end of June, manages the country’s oil revenues in order to finance Norway’s generous welfare state when its oil and gas wells run dry.
But Norway’s central bank, which runs the fund, said geopolitical and trade tensions presented a risk.
“It’s fair to say that increased trade barriers or even trade wars will not be beneficial for the fund as a long-term global investor,” Trond Grande, the deputy chief of Norges Bank Investment Management, told reporters.
Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China. Accusing Beijing of unfair competition, the US administration is considering slapping a new round of levies worth $200 billion on Chinese goods.
Talks between the two slated for Wednesday and Thursday aimed at resolving the dispute have however eased concerns somewhat.
Following US-Turkey tensions that sent the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market tumbling, the Norwegian fund said its assets there were worth less than the 23 billion kroner they were at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve seen the market rise for a long time, that there are different political and geopolitical events in the world that can affect the market, and we have to be prepared for the fact that (the value of) the fund can go down a lot,” Grande concluded.
The fund’s strong second quarter was attributed primarily to its share portfolio, which accounts for 66.8 percent of its investments and which rose by 2.7 percent.
Real estate holdings, which account for 2.6 percent of its holdings, rose by 1.9 percent, while bond investments, which represent 30.6 percent, remained flat.
Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, the Norwegian government has been tapping the fund to finance public spending since 2015. But with oil prices recovering, the fund registered its first inflow in three years in June.