Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner, Global Optimism, on Centre Stage during day two of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal.
Vaughn Ridley | Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images
DAVOS, Switzerland — The architect of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement told CNBC on Monday that it cannot be easy for President Donald Trump to justify his approach to the climate crisis — both to himself and citizens of the world.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos, Christiana Figures, former United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) said Monday: “I always wonder: How can he face himself?”
“How can he face his children and his grandchildren? How can he face citizens of the United States and of the world? I don’t understand how he can do that.”
Figueres’ comments come as policymakers and business leaders arrive in Switzerland for the WEF’s four-day annual conference, with those in attendance scheduled to focus on the intensifying climate crisis.
The event, which is often criticized for being out of touch with the real world, has said it aims to assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress toward the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
It follows the hottest year on record for the world’s oceans, the second-hottest year for global average temperatures and wildfires from the U.S. to the Amazon to Australia.
Trump is set to travel to the picturesque ski resort after skipping the conference last year due to the partial government shutdown. The U.S. president, who is likely to be one of the star attractions of the event, has often expressed skepticism about the scale of the climate crisis.
Since coming to power in 2016, Trump has pulled the U.S. — one of the world’s leading carbon emitters — out of the Paris accord and sought to roll back over 80 environmental regulations.
A spokesperson at the White House declined to comment when contacted by CNBC on Monday.
A ‘golden’ decade in the history of humankind
“For this decade and this decade only, humans have the power to determine our future,” Figueres said, before adding policymakers and world leaders must recognize how important it is to make the most of a “short-lived opportunity” to address the climate emergency.
“If we do the right thing this decade, we can continue to design the future but if we don’t, we are really condemned to a world of increasing destruction, conflict and pain.”
“So, it is a golden 10 years in the history of the evolution of humankind — we have to wake up to that. We are holding the pen, so we better write properly,” Figueres said.
President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The WEF’s latest Global Risks report, published last week, found that the top five global risks in terms of likelihood were all environmental.
In terms of the severity of impact over the next 10 years, the top risk was deemed to be the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
“This year is the beginning of the most consequential decade in human history,” Tom Rivett-Carnac, a founding partner of Global Optimism, alongside Figueres, told CNBC on Monday.
“We are facing one of two very different scenarios. Either, a world that increasingly devolves into being more and more difficult to meet human needs and increasingly painful losses of biodiversity. Or, a world where we actually make the transition, we can regenerate the world, we can regrow the forests and we can have livable, enjoyable cities.”
When asked what his message would be to the more than 3,000 participants attending this year’s forum, Rivett-Carnac replied: “This is an emergency and we need to start acting like it.”