“So despite my prime minister’s appreciation of coal it is a fossil he is holding – and we have a future to create.”

Australia’s bushfire crisis has helped put climate change high on the agenda at Davos, an annual gathering of political, business and cultural leaders at a ritzy resort in the Alps.

In a press conference at Davos on Monday ahead of the forum’s official opening, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath was asked whether governments around the world were moving fast enough to limit global temperature rises, and responded that climate risk was “something that countries can’t actually argue about. It is a major issue. They have to step up and they should display all the political will that’s needed to get the job done”.

Wallworth has won a clutch of Australian and international awards, including an Emmy for her virtual reality film Collisions, which was originally commissioned by the WEF. It used cutting-edge virtual reality cameras to create an immersive 15-minute journey to the Pilbara homeland of Indigenous elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan – whose first contact with western culture was witnessing an atomic test in the desert.

The WEF said Wallworth was a “bridge builder”, one of four of this year’s Crystal Award recipients who “provide visions of the world that can cut through the limitations of short-term or linear thinking”.

Wallworth said her speech, delivered to “world leaders and the heads of the world’s largest corporations… was impactful in the room and I hope it will be onward”.

She wrote the speech at home in Australia at 4.30am “when it was easier to breathe”, she told the audience.

“I woke thinking about leadership,” she said. “I am standing here a traveller from a new reality: a burning Australia.

“We have seen the unfolding wings of climate change, and to face what this new reality brings we need leaders to match this moment. To lead is to guide, to have a vision for the way ahead. That is impossible if you deny where we are heading.”


She said in “many places” in the world “we elected faithful followers of the past, persisting in marriages to industries in their death throes”.

But humans at their core “want to live”, she said. “We will want to survive it along with the creatures we love.”

She finished by quoting the last lines of Collisions: “It’s what we do next that makes the difference.”

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