The overall theme of the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos Switzerland in 2019 was the 4th Industrial Revolution. Climate change issues were top of mind in discussions, as the annual Global Risks Report for 2019 had ranked the top global risks to the world as extreme weather and climate-change policy failures. Discussions, speeches, blogs and reports are compiled on the themes of The Future of the Environment and Natural Resource Security and Climate Change . Highlights include : “6 things we learned about the Environment at Davos” , an overview which highlights Japan’s pledge to use its G20 Presidency to reduce plastic ocean pollution; the launch of a new organization called Voice for the Planet to showcase the youth climate activist movement: and a pledge by 10 global companies have to take back the electronic waste from their products. Also of interest, the speech by Greta Thunberg, who is at the centre of the new youth climate activism – “Our House is on Fire” ; and “Why income inequality is bad for the climate”, a blog by the President of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.
WEF Reports of interest: Improving Traceability in Food Value Chains through Technology Innovations, which offers technology as a means to make the current industrial food system safer (and possibly more sustainable). Shaping the Sustainability of Production Systems: Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies for competitiveness and sustainable growth discusses the coming world of manufacturing, focussing on the electronics and automotive industries of Andhra Pradesh, India and the automotive industry in Michigan U.S.A., including a discussion of Cobotics 2.0 (collaborative robots) , Metal 3D printing, and “augmented workforce”.
The circular economy was also discussed, with a spotlight on electronic waste, which is estimated at 50 million tonnes of produced each year currently. A New Circular Vision for Electronics Time for a Global Reboot was released by the E-waste Coalition, which includes the International Telecommunication Union (a UN organization), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others. The report, summarized here, is an overview of e-waste production and recycling, and includes a brief discussion of labour conditions, calling for upgrading and formalization of the recycling industry as a “major opportunity”. It states: “the total number of people working informally in the global e-waste sector is unknown. However, as an indication, according to the ILO in Nigeria up 100,000 people are thought to be working in the informal e-waste sector, while in China that number is thought to be 690,000.” As for the dangers… “using basic recycling techniques to burn the plastic from electronic goods leaving the valuable metals (melting down lead in open pots, or dissolving circuit boards in acid) lead to adult and child workers, as well as their families, exposed to many toxic substances. In many countries, women and children make up to 30% of the workforce in informal, crude e-waste processing and are therefore particularly vulnerable.” According to the report, the International Labour Organization is scheduled to release a new report in March 2019, to be titled Decent work in the management of electrical and electronic waste.