My 4 take-aways from Davos: nature and data in the spotlight

Jan 20, 2023 | News

Florian Reber, Head of Partnerships at Chloris shares his thoughts after a week in Davos — 

Just in time for the 2023 edition of the World Economic Forum, cold temperatures finally arrived in Switzerland. Just enough snow fell in time to fool the attendees coming from many parts of the world and give them the impression of a winter that couldn’t be further away from the truth: so far in 2023, snow cover depth in Davos is only at about 40% of what it should be at this time.

So, I spent a surprisingly cold and snowy week in Davos, on the margins of the main show. Beating traffic on my bike, cycling back and forth on the Promenade, I attended some sessions, lunches and dinners, and caught-up with customers, and old and new friends. I am personally and professionally interested in the climate and nature agenda, and how new data solutions can help speed up quality action at scale. Given that, here are my take-aways from the last week: 

‘Mirror Mirror on the wall, who’s the greenest of us all?’

Sustainability has clearly become a favorite topic in Davos, judging from the slogans about net-zero on the many pavilions and lounges along the Promenade. And I hear the official programme also reflects the interest in discussing pressing climate and nature challenges and new partnerships and initiatives were announced. However, there is still work to do in changing behaviors, as the streets remain jam-packed with limousines and SUVs. While there are clearly more EVs stuck in Davos traffic, most corporate limousines still seem to run on old-school internal combustion engines.

Nature & biodiversity are hot

Simon Zadek of NatureFinance reminded us that 100% of global GDP is 100% dependent on nature. I also heard that out of the 550 sessions in Davos, 110 are related to nature. I can’t verify the number, but it is an indication of the increased corporate awareness of that dependency and their interest in showing leadership for nature-positive action. Activists have asked companies to show nature on their balance sheets. Getting there requires continued innovation in natural capital accounting, regulation, business models, and financing mechanisms such as carbon markets, biodiversity credits, debt-for-nature swaps, etc. While Davos is the place for catalytic conversations, it is not necessarily the place for in-depth technical conversation. I would argue that in the coming years, we’ll need to see more progress on how actions are measured, monitored and reported upon.

You still can’t manage what you don’t measure

Which brings me to my third point: data. More specifically, the data needed to measure, report and verify the impact of investments made to protect and restore nature. There are  lots of new technologies that can help us in this regard – from machine-learning, AI, cloud computing, improved sensor quality and new sensor fusion models. Measuring natural capital has never been as reliable, scalable and cost-effective as it is today. 

These new developments are critical as companies need MRV systems that are robust, business-friendly and globally consistent, and help free-up resources for action on the ground. Scaling such MRV systems is a necessary step, if the calls for putting nature on the balance sheet are to truly become standard business practice.

We need to build trust in algorithmic MRV solutions

Such data is provided by new companies like ours, Chloris Geospatial. We and other start-ups are at the forefront of a nascent nature data industry, which exists to support the transition to net-zero and nature-positive economies with innovative data solutions. Our work is powered by machine learning algorithms that can help scale-up and speed-up investments in nature-based solutions. 

Building trust in algorithmic predictions is a key topic for the nascent digital-MRV industry. Indeed, I believe it is our very own corporate responsibility to deliver algorithms that can be trusted for their robustness and integrity.

One way to infuse that trust without giving away the IP behind each algorithm could be by having an independently administered process (maybe with the support of the World Economic Forum?), where digital MRV companies  are invited to run their tech against well understood test sites in different ecosystems, and make results available to the public. Given the state of the industry, forest carbon would lend itself very well as a critical area for building trust in algorithmic solutions. Biodiversity could be the next area of such data validation collaboration. 

I hope that next year, we will speak more about how public-private collaboration can improve data governance systems for putting nature on the balance sheet. It is critical for the successful transition to net-zero and nature-positive economies. 

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