World Economic Forum 2020: Weathering the forces of climate change

In its 50 years, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) has seen, participated, and shaped several global trends. From a mostly business oriented forum, WEF has transformed into a platform where all stakeholders are expected to hold a dialogue on social and environmental issues.

Business leaders can’t just focus on their growth and profits. Their impact and contribution to climate and equality is being sought and questioned.

The paradox can’t be missed. Global growth is slowing and is worrying business and political leaders. Globalisation is in retreat, but the unfettered forces of wealth creation also created unacceptable levels of income inequality.

Climate change caused by greenhouse gases is apparent at Davos, too, as it has seen less snow than usual. Experts worry that in a few years, snow will disappear from low mountains as temperatures rise.

The world wants to halt climate change, but do it without affecting economic growth and consumption. This fundamental contradiction is the key theme at Davos 2020. WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Prof Klaus Schwab has called for stakeholder capitalism. This, at a time of rising use of technology which is creating another front of turbulence. “People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them, and our efforts to keep global warming limited to 1.5 degrees celcius are falling dangerously short,” said Schwab.  “With the world at such critical crossroads, this year we must develop a ‘Davos Manifesto 2020’ to reimagine the purpose and scorecards for companies and governments. It is what the WEF was founded for 50 years ago, and it is what we want to contribute to for the next 50 years.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted a minor improvement in global growth to 3.3 per cent in 2020. For India, the situation continues to look tough. The IMF says growth will be 4.8 per cent in 2019-2020, but is expected to rise to 5.8 per cent, which will still be below predictions.

The theme of the 50th WEF, ‘Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World’, is also expected to generate a lot many questions for the Indian as well as global leaders present here, several attendees said.

Indian leaders also agreed that questions about the recent developments in India, including on the citizenship law and Kashmir, as also the upcoming Union Budget, are bound to come up during their discussions with global leaders.

The six themes that the WEF hopes to address are around economy, ecology, technology, society, geopolitics, and industrial revival.

US President Donald Trump, President of the European Union Ursula von der Leyen will speak at the WEF along with other leaders like Ren Zhengfei, founder of beleaguered Huawei Technologies.

The elite who rule the world and the challengers who question the Establishment will be face to face in several dialogues. Technology leaders and academic innovators will try to prove that their work will be defined by ethical standards rooted in the needs of society.

As contradictory forces swirl at Davos, expect sparks and friction in the Alps.
With inputs from PTI

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