The list of sustainability measures implemented at Davos is impressive. Some 20 years ago, Davos became Grisons' first climate-friendly city and by 2036 the world-famous Alpine destination hopes to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Power without CO2 was utilised here as early as 1894, when the local electricity network began to use hydro-power. In addition, Destination Davos Klosters is a partner in myclimate's «Cause We Care» programme, which provides guests with climate-neutral products and offers. The desire to achieve sustainability goals is firmly established in Davos.
The most recent example of this is the modern conference centre, where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) takes place every January: since May the conference centre has been climate neutral. The emissions produced by the centre are offset through a myclimate carbon offset project. By offsetting its emissions in this way, Davos is making a national and international statement, as events that take place here have international prominence and receive media coverage around the globe. However, Davos is going one step further by offering all future event organisers the opportunity to calculate and offset all event emissions, including overnight stays, food and drink, with the help of an emissions calculator. The emissions calculator was developed by myclimate.
myclimate: Reto Branschi, why are you passionate about issues relating to the climate? What is particularly important to you when considering climate protection and sustainability? How is Davos directly impacted by these issues and what responsibilities does it have?
Reto Branschi: We only have one planet and one environment – we should take good care of them. Careful handling of natural resources is more than a trend for Davos. We set ourselves these goals more than 20 years ago, because in the Alps the importance of nature is visible on a daily basis. We have to maintain an equilibrium between the utilisation and protection of our immediate environment. We live off nature and must use its resources in such a way that allows them to be naturally replenished. If we overuse the Alps's resources, this balance will be destroyed, and with that the basis for our livelihoods.
You offer those organising events with you a climate-neutral location; you take responsibility for your share of the emissions. In future, you want to give event organisers the opportunity to accept their responsibility, to which end you asked myclimate to develop an event calculator with which all additional event emissions can be calculated and offset. Would this run on a voluntary basis?
Reto Branschi: That is a very good question! Offsetting will take place without pressure to participate from us or by any law if this is what you mean by "voluntary". However, in the meantime sustainable handling of natural resources will become a given for millions of consumers, holiday goers and conference participants. From this perspective, there will definitely be pressure to offset emissions, one driven by consumers.
Numerous event organisers are also happy that we are giving them a specific tool to reliably calculate the emissions generated by their events, make them transparent and offset them. Event participants appreciate this too.
Do you see this additional offering as a competitive edge over other conference destinations?
Reto Branschi: The climate neutrality of our conference centre will only become a true unique selling proposition (USP) when all event organisers take part. At that point coming to Davos will increasingly be seen as a mark of good practice, because we take climate protection seriously here. The World Economic Forum is setting a good example: the entire Annual Meeting has been climate neutral for four years. Each year, over 1,100 data points are collected in order to calculate the CO2 emissions produced by the event. The carbon footprint of the event is then fully offset. From my experience, I can say that here too, sustainability is not simply a trend or a marketing label: year after year, it is palpable how sustainability is increasingly developing from a conference topic into a genuine concern.
The funds generated by this offsetting are sent to a carbon offset project in Uganda, which subsidises water filter technology and supplies schools and households with clean drinking water. Where is the connection to Davos here?
Reto Branschi: Water is central to sustainability. In 2015, the UN defined its sustainability goals. Clean water and improving sanitation is the sixth of 17 goals. Here in Davos we live in a natural "water tower". We shower with potable water and it seems as though we have an endless supply at our disposal. But the appearance is deceptive. Climate change disrupts the stability of various cyclical systems; time and again we are beset by heavy rainfall and other extreme weather. In this way, water can become a danger to us. So, this is something that directly affects us.
But we also want to export something to other regions of the world. By supporting a project in a very poor country such as Uganda, we are showing that we cannot simply take our prosperity and the high quality of our drinking water supply for granted. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich opening its new Centre for Climate Research in Davos is no coincidence. I hope that one day Uganda too can benefit from the work of ETH in Davos.
What is your wish for the future with regard to the environment and sustainability in Davos?
Reto Branschi: In the world's alpine regions, it is particularly important that an equilibrium between the various facets of sustainability is found and cultivated. We need balance between "utilisation" and "protection", "development" and "conservation". As a mountain region in a wealthy country, we can break new ground here and develop models, which can facilitate progress in other, much less wealthy mountain regions and improve the lives of their populations. That would be my wish for the next 20 years.