Davos 2023: Climate activists protest the presence of oil giants at World Economic Forum


Climate activists are crying foul over the presence of many of the world’s largest oil and gas firms at this week’s World Economic Forum – as protests erupted ahead of the event.

Thousands of global business leaders and political elites will converge in Davos, Switzerland for the WEF, which runs Monday through Friday. Among those expected to be in attendance are executives from massive energy firms including BP, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco.

“We are demanding concrete and real climate action,” said Nicolas Siegrist, the 26-year-old organizer of the protests who also heads the Young Socialists party in Switzerland.

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Climate Change protesters, also known as Extinction Rebellion activists, gathered outside the New York governor’s office in New York City on Jan. 25, 2022.  (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

“They will be in the same room with state leaders and they will push for their interests,” Siegrist added.

More than 100 protesters gathered in a snowy Davos square and chanted, “change your diet for the climate, eat the rich”, while some booed oil firms cited during a speech.

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Klaus Schwab

German Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum, gestures during a press conference, in Cologny, Switzerland, on Jan. 16, 2013. (AP Newsroom)

“I know some of the companies are involved in alternatives but I think governments with their subsidies, have to skew the field in favor of alternative energy,” Heather Smith, a member of the 99% organization. Smith is campaigning to stop the development of the Rosebank oil and gas field in the North Sea.

This year’s WEF is set to feature more than a dozen panels related to energy and climate change concerns. Topics include clean energy infrastructure, climate litigation, decarbonization of supply chains and rising electricity consumption.

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Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) leaves the U.S. Capitol following a vote on August 03, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Among those heading to the WEF is one of the staunchest defenders of energy policies in Congress, Democratic Sen. Joe Machin of West Virginia.

Manchin – whose defense of fossil fuels like coal and oil has rankled members of his party – is set to be part of the U.S. delegation to Davos.

Manchin is scheduled to participate in a panel Thursday entitled “Repowering the World” alongside executives from a fuel cell company and an electricity and gas distribution company, in addition to Keir Starmer, the leader of the British Labour Party.

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Panelists will discuss “the context of a global energy crisis where leaders have to grapple with a climate emergency, geopolitical conflict and pressures on prices” and how leaders should juggle energy needs in the short-term with long-term supply and sustainability issues.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a longtime advocate for action on climate change who has faced criticism for his personal carbon footprint, will appear on a panel that discusses research by Climate TRACE that found greenhouse gas emissions are being significantly underreported around the world.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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