Middle East executives have ‘potential blind spot’ over climate change risk

The Noor solar complex in Morocco. Regional business leaders run the risk of underestimating the threat of climate change, a World Economic Forum report has warned. (AFP/Getty)
Updated 05 April 2019

Middle East executives have ‘potential blind spot’ over climate change risk

  • New analysis of regional risks found economic and governance issues rank most highly as topics of concern
  • Report released ahead of World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa

LONDON: Regional business leaders run the risk of underestimating the threat of climate change, a World Economic Forum report has warned.
A new analysis of regional risks found that economic and governance issues rank most highly as topics of concern among executives in the Middle East and North Africa.
But environmental factors are “not top of mind,” despite being a real risk, the World Economic Forum (WEF) report found.
The WEF’s “Middle East and North Africa Risks Landscape” report published on Thursday draws on data from the forum’s Executive Opinion Survey 2018 and Global Risks Perception Survey 2018-2019.
Global respondents to the latter survey ranked “economic confrontations between major powers” as the greatest risk for 2019, and climate-change-related issues as the leading risk over the next 10 years.
Yet the environment was not seen as a big risk by regional executives, despite the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) being home, for example, to numerous coastal ports that would be affected by rising sea levels caused by climate change.
“Notably, business leaders in the MENA region who responded to the Executive Opinion Survey did not rank environmental change as a risk to doing business — a potential blind spot given the potential implications of global warming,” the report said.
“Instead, business leaders ranked economic and governance-related issues — ‘energy price shocks’ and ‘unemployment or underemployment’ — as well as ‘terrorism’ as the top three risks to doing business in the region.”
Mirek Dusek, the deputy head of the Center for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs and a member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum, said that no one country was insulated from global risk factors.
“In today’s interconnected world, risks no longer stop at borders on a map or are confined to one industry in an economy,” he said.
“Because global risks are shaping regional landscapes and vice versa, it is important to take a ‘glocal’ approach to risk assessment. Our analysis offers a combination of global and local analysis so that stakeholders can gain a better understanding of what is necessary for risk mitigation and resiliency.”
The report was released ahead of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa event being held on April 6-7 at the Dead Sea in Jordan.


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 23 August 2019

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

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Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.