The World Economic Forum meeting in Davos is finally back in full swing in the snow-capped Swiss Alps after a hiatus of nearly three years.
While the gatherings are famously set in winter, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Davos conference to be held virtually in 2021. When the WEF managed to resume the in-person meeting in 2022, the timing was pushed back to May, when the ski resort was without its usual snow.
This year’s 53rd Annual Meeting, based on the theme of “Collaboration in a Fragmented World,” will take place from January 16 to 20, and WEF officials say there is an exceptionally strong representation and involvement of world leaders from business, government and civil society organizations eager to connect and discuss global responsibility and cooperation. And those leaders include people from Japan and other Asian countries.
The world today faces multiple uncertainties with the energy crisis in Europe, record high inflation, a looming economic slowdown, more war in Ukraine and the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of the issues we face are extremely challenging. They cross geographic boundaries. They transcend industry boundaries. And they cannot be tackled by any single organization or country in isolation,” said WEF Managing Director Jeremy Jurgens in a recent interview with The Japan Times.
The May meeting focused heavily on the war in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country several months earlier in late February. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a speech online in which many members of the Ukrainian parliament attended the WEF meeting in person.
But thanks to the pandemic, there were only a small number of delegates from the big players in Asia. China had strict travel restrictions and Japan stopped all senior officials. As a result, the meeting in May seemed more Eurocentric than usual.
This time, more leaders from Asia will join Davos, and of the more than 300 planned sessions, some 70% will be streamed online, allowing participants to broadcast their message to a wider audience.
People from various industries are likely to participate virtually, as they have already spent the past year actively discussing global issues for the future, including artificial intelligence, emerging workforce challenges and climate change, through WEF’s online platforms.
“They all need cooperation to solve them. They require dialogue and shared understanding. And this is one of the reasons why we are seeing so much demand for this year’s annual meeting and for the opportunity to participate,” said Jurgens, who is also head of the WEF Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Many experts expect the global economic slowdown to continue this year with higher inflation than in decades past.
“The cost of living crisis, the tightening financial conditions in most regions, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic all weigh heavily on the outlook,” said the World Economic Outlook Report released in October. issued by the International Monetary Fund. .
The IMF forecasts that global growth will slow from 6.0% in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022 to 2.7% in 2023. According to the IMF, this is the weakest growth profile since 2001, the 2008 global financial crisis and the not including the acute phase of the financial crisis. the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Some may blame climate policies and pledges to raise energy prices and accelerate the crisis, but the International Energy Agency has found little evidence for this.
“In the regions most affected, higher shares of renewables have been correlated with lower electricity prices – and more efficient homes and electrified heat have provided an important buffer for some – if far from enough – consumers,” the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2022.
According to the IEA, many governments are implementing long-term measures to deal with the energy crisis, which will push annual clean energy investment worldwide to more than $2 trillion by 2030, an increase of more than 50% from today.
Such policies, along with rising electric vehicle sales, will allow aggregate demand for fossil fuels to decline steadily from the mid-2020s to 2050 at an annual average roughly equal to the total production of a major oil field .
“It is essential to get everyone on board, especially at a time when geopolitical rifts on energy and climate are all the more visible,” said IEA director Fatih Birol. “The journey to a safer and more sustainable energy system may not be smooth. But today’s crisis makes it crystal clear why we must continue.”
Despite the gloomy economic outlook released by international agencies, WEF’s Jurgens said that when he talks to individual leaders, they still see a path for growth and development.
Major companies in Europe are managing to navigate the energy crisis and are shifting supply chains and making the investments needed to diversify their energy supply, he said.
“So I’m not as pessimistic as the financial press. I think it’s going to be a challenging year, but I do think there will be areas of growth,” he said, citing China, which has just abandoned its COVID zero lockdown policy, as an economy to watch as it is on track to reopen in 2023.
He also said that India will be the world’s next economic engine as it boasts a huge young population with great strength in various fields of next-generation technology. Generation Z of India, born between 1997 and 2010, is said to number over 375 million.
India saw masses of tech talent leave for Silicon Valley and beyond in the early 2000s in what has been dubbed the “great Indian brain drain,” but now many are returning to India to build startups, according to some experts.
While the United States will only grow 1% this year and the eurozone 0.5%, the IMF expects China to grow 4.4%, India 6.1% and Japan 1.6%.
Jurgens says Japan, which will host the group of seven leading industrial nations summit in Hiroshima in May, is well positioned to play a central role in solving global problems, especially in an increasingly divided world where many countries sometimes feel forced to choose between the United States and China. Public figures from the G7 and G20 countries will also attend Davos.
“Japan is the third largest economy with a deep base in technology and manufacturing, skills… It is seen as a natural partner for many countries,” he said, adding that Japan, with its aging population and technology, is a can be a role model in many areas that will also be discussed at the Davos conference.
Those areas include healthcare and “smart cities,” Jurgens said.
“So I hope that the G7 will provide Japan with an opportunity to demonstrate its leadership on the global stage, presenting both potential solutions and approaches, while indicating that Japan could be a partner for other countries in navigating this challenges.” said Jurgens.
Sayuri Daimon is a contributing writer and former editor-in-chief of The Japan Times.
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