The 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting closed today, a historic meeting bringing all stakeholders together to shape a cohesive and sustainable world.
World Economic Forum President Børge Brende said “Our 50th Annual Meeting has been truly remarkable, due to the real progress that we created on a spectrum of issues where public-private collaboration is crucial. We laid the basis for a decade of delivery.”
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told participants that we are in a better place in January 2020 than we were in October 2019. There are several drivers for this positive momentum: trade tensions are receding; central banks have loosened monetary policy; and global industrial production is bottoming out.
The IMF’s economic forecast is for 3.3% growth this year and 3.4% next year. This level of growth was characterised as “sluggish”, and governments were called on to enact structural reforms and boost spending.
In 2019, 29 central banks globally reduced rates 71 times and it is now time to pass the baton on to fiscal policy. “We need to go beyond monetary stimulus – fiscal policy needs to become more aggressive,” Georgieva added.
Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, shared this relatively sanguine outlook. Uncertainties have abated on issues like trade and Brexit, she said, and it is likely that income growth and low unemployment will eventually be reflected in prices.
“The European Central Bank has launched a broad strategic review, the first since 2003, to revisit the bank’s processes and policies and to recommend structural changes,” she said, committing to delivering the outcomes of this review at the next Annual Meeting.
Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, said: “The US economy continues to be the bright spot in the world.” The economic outlook for 2020 is very robust, he added. Inflation remains muted, incomes are rising and unemployment is near historic lows.
“Trade negotiations have started with both the EU and the UK and we look forward to completing both of those deals this year,” he said.
Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan, said: “We expect Japan’s economy to grow by 1% to 1.5% this year.” Nevertheless, inflation in Japan is stubbornly low. Continued accommodative monetary policy will be required for some time to achieve the 2% inflation objective, he added.
Climate risk is quite real for Japan, he said. In the fourth quarter of last year, the Japanese economy experienced negative growth largely because of two large typhoons. These types of natural disasters are intensifying and Japan stands ready to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat global climate change.
Germany has embarked on an expansionary fiscal policy programme, said Olaf Scholz, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance of Germany. Taxes have been reduced by about $25 billion a year, investment in infrastructure is at record levels and R&D spending is targeted to reach 3.5% of GDP.
“Germany’s economy remains strong and we expect these investment measures to have a material impact on demand,” he added.
However, we must act urgently on sustainability issues, he said. Europe will continue to lead on climate change, with a target to be carbon neutral by 2050 backed by investments in the green economy and renewable energy.
Outcomes of the Annual Meeting 2020
In a letter sent to participants in advance of the Annual Meeting, Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, and the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM, asked all members and partners to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier. In part inspired by this, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 saw a number of outcomes that made progress towards a more cohesive and sustainable world:
Skills and Work
· The Reskilling Revolution was launched to provide better education, skills and jobs to 1 billion people by 2030, with the initial backing of the governments of Bahrain, Brazil, Denmark, France, India, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the United States as well as business partners, including PwC, Salesforce, ManpowerGroup, Infosys, LinkedIn, Coursera Inc. and The Adecco Group. Commitments to provide better education, skills and work for 250 million people have already been made. The Forum’s Global Shaper community further pledged to provide skills to 100,000 people in vulnerable communities.
· Six leading platform companies – Cabify, Deliveroo, Grab, MBO Partners, Postmates and Uber – became founding signatories of the Forum’s Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work.
· The Valuable 500 initiative of companies committed to placing disability inclusion on their leadership agendas that was launched last year in Davos, announced that 241 companies from 24 countries have pledged their support.
· Ingka Group (IKEA) and Royal DSM became founding members of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work initiative. McKinsey joined as knowledge partner.
· The Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, which was launched in Davos last year to accelerate inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, announced that it has grown its membership to 17 international businesses.
· The International Business Council, incorporating 140 of the world’s largest companies, agreed to support efforts to develop a core set of common metrics and disclosures that could be used to measure private sector progress against key environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
· The Forum also became a founding partner this week, alongside Refinitiv, United Nations and others in the Future of Sustainable Data Alliance. The alliance focuses on improving the quality of ESG data available to governments and investors to inform decision-making.
· The Davos Friends of Africa Growth Platform launched with the support of the Presidents of Botswana and Ghana to promote entrepreneurism in Africa. The platform’s initial target is to reach 1 million entrepreneurs by the end of 2020.
· A strategic partnership was signed between the World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to accelerate progress towards inclusive and sustainable growth globally.
· Some 42 organizations, including businesses from mining, automotive, chemical and energy that have a combined revenue of $1 trillion dollars agreed on 10 guiding principles for a sustainable battery value chain, enabled by a traceability platform called Battery Passport.
· The Australian state of Queensland announced it will join the Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network in a bid to help small and medium-sized enterprises adopt advanced manufacturing technologies.
· CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations that was launched in Davos in 2017, today announced the initiation of three programmes to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus, nCoV-2019, in partnership with Moderna and the Wellcome Trust. The swift action was made possible by the fact that the leaders of the partner organizations were all in Davos.
· GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, celebrated its 20th anniversary. GAVI was launched at the Annual Meeting 2000 with the backing of the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization, pharmaceutical companies and governments to bring vaccines to children who lacked access. Since then, GAVI has reached 760 million children.
· The World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) to form a coalition to accelerate diagnostics and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
· The Forum initiated Ending Workplace Tuberculosis, a multi-sector initiative aimed at tapping into the business community to help stop TB in countries affected disproportionately by the disease.
· Ministers at Davos announced negotiations between 99 economies on a new international agreement on investment facilitation at the WTO. The agreement is aimed at making it easier for investment to flow between economies while increasing its development impact.
· As theUS and France agreed a detente on digital tax during the Annual Meeting, the Forum received a mandate from multistakeholder partners to further build multistakeholder understanding of and input to international tax reforms and assist the search for broadly supported solutions.
· The Forum partnered with the Japanese government on a multistakeholder effort to find practical mechanisms to enable free “Data Free Flow with Trust” in support of the Osaka Track process that was initiated at the G20 in 2019.
· The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced that its community has improved the lives and livelihoods of more than 622 million people in 190 countries since 2000. Impacts include distributing $6.7 billion in loans or value of products and services; mitigating more than 192 million tonnes of CO2; improving education for more than 226 million children and youth; improving energy access for more than 100 million people and driving social inclusion for over 25 million people.
· 11 NGO executives united to stop sale of .org domain to a private equity firm. Executive directors of Greenpeace International, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, International Trade Union Confederation, Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Consumer Reports, 350.org, Color of Change and Transparency International released an open letter on 21 January 2020 “calling on the leaders of Internet Society (ISOC) and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop the sale of the .org top-level domain to private equity firm Ethos Capital”.
Combating climate change
· 1t.org, a new multistakeholder initiative aimed at supporting efforts to grow, conserve and restore 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade was announced. Within the first days of its launch, the US and China announced support. Salesforce announced a new commitment to plant 100 million trees; Colombia confirmed its existing commitment to plant 180 million trees by 2022; Pakistan reaffirmed its 10 billion trees campaign; and the Global Shapers also committed to planting 1 million trees by 2021 across its 400 hubs worldwide.
· New members signed up to the Forum’s community of CEO Climate Leaders. The community are committed to helping their respective companies meet the Paris Climate Goals. New members include: AstraZeneca; Bayer AG; BBVA, Dalmia Cement; Jacobs Engineering Group; JLL; Newmont Corporation; OVG Real Estate, and Zurich Insurance Group.
· The Sustainable Markets Initiative, backed by a Sustainable Markets Council, was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in collaboration with the World Economic Forum with the goal of bringing about a transition to sustainable markets and rapid industry-wide decarbonization.
· The Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing and Production community launched the Carbon Reduction in Manufacturing Initiative with Johnson & Johnson, Schneider Electric and Unilever, with support from Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management to achieve a goal of cutting carbon emissions in manufacturing by 50% by 2030.
· The Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance of 16 pension funds and insurers committed to helping achieve the Paris Climate Goals added the Church of England and Generali as new members. The alliance’s portfolio now stands at $4.3 trillion.
· The Champions for Nature, a high-level group calling for raised ambition on nature, was launched. It is chaired by the Executive Director of UN Environment Programme, the CEO of Unilever, and the President of Costa Rica. The launch followed a new report Nature Risk Rising which found that over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature.
Sustainable Development Goals
· Frontier 2030 was launched as a platform to leverage the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals. The platform is chaired by UNDP in partnership with the governments of Botswana, South Korea and Norway, as well as private sector commitment from Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Arm, Planet Labs, X, Amazon Web Services and Chipsafer. It is hosted by the World Economic Forum.
· The Food Action Alliance was launched by over 25 partners of the World Economic Forum, UN agencies, companies, farmer organizations, civil society, and finance institutions to scale collective action and transform foods systems to be sustainable, nutritious and healthy, efficient and inclusive.
· A new multistakeholder partnership, SDG500, was launched to mobilize $500 million towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in emerging markets through a series of six blended finance funds. SDG500 is a partnership between the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, Smart Africa, Stop TB Partnership, the IDB Lab of the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Trade Centre, CARE USA, and Bamboo Capital Partners.
A Cohesive and Sustainable Fourth Industrial Revolution
· The Forum partnered with a community of 40 central banks, international organizations, academic researchers and financial institutions to create a framework to help central banks evaluate, design and potentially deploy Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
· The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with 100 stakeholders, produced theEmpowering AI Toolkit to help board members better understand the positive and negative implications of deploying artificial intelligence.
· The Government of Brazil, together with the World Economic Forum and key business stakeholders, rolled out a set of new scalable policy interventions to increase successful adoption of industrial internet of things technologies by small and medium-sized enterprises in manufacturing.
· Partners of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Network, including Brazil, Colombia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, expanded their commitment to ensuring responsible and ethical governance of smart city technologies through the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance, led by the World Economic Forum.
· The World Economic Forum’s Global AI Council, launched in 2019, collaborated with UNICEF to create guidelines for AI-supported toys for under seven-year-olds, as well as identifying young people under the age of 18 to sit on a Global AI Youth Council.
· A group of private-sector leaders from cybersecurity companies, services providers and global corporations along with law enforcement agencies, Interpol and Europol, agreed to work together with the World Economic Forum through 2020 to foster a global public-private alliance against cybercrime.
· A group of telecommunications stakeholders, including BT, Deutsche Telekom, Du Telecom, Europol, Global Cyber Alliance, Internet Society, Korea Telecom, Proximus, Saudi Telcom, Singtel, Telstra and ITU, endorsed new principles combating high-volume cyberattacks that could protect up to 1 billion consumers in 180 countries.
· Navdeep Bains, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, announced a $510 million investment by Mastercard to establish a new global Intelligence and Cyber Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
IRENA and the ESA Agree to Advance Energy Transition in Space Activities
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today to advance the global energy transition through space-based services and products. The new partnership was signed by the two Director-Generals Francesco La Camera and Josef Aschbacher in pursuit of the common goal to ensure sustainable long-term socio-economic development within planetary boundaries.
Data and images from satellites can play a significant role to help countries better assess the geographical potential of renewables, identify the best locations for projects, forecast weather patterns and support long-term planning of new renewable generation capacity and infrastructure.
Francesco la Camera, IRENA’s Director-General said: “Today’s partnership opens a new avenue of cooperation to advance the international cooperation on energy transition globally. While an energy system underpinned by renewables is key to decarbonising our world in line with climate goals, renewables bring socioeconomic benefits with economic opportunity and social equity at its heart. By combining IRENA’s knowledge on energy transition with ESA’s space research and technology, we can accelerate the low-carbon energy transition and promote sustainable growth.”
Under the agreement, IRENA and ESA will make use of space assets and data to improve renewable generation site location, access to energy, electrification modelling, renewable resource mapping and smart grid planning. Urban energy system planning with focus on local renewables may also benefit from satellite data while enhancing system resilience.
Making use of digital technologies including 5G and combining for example satellite imagery with artificial intelligence and big data provide a unique opportunity to enable a wider space economy and support energy transitions across the world.
Why climate science is key to protecting people and planet
This week, scientists and representatives from 195 countries are gathered at the 54th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to review the world’s most comprehensive assessment of our climate – the Sixth Assessment Report. IPCC reports have historically underpinned global climate action and influenced the decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We sat down with Joyce Msuya, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, to find out more about the role of climate science in decision-making and what can be done to prioritize climate action to protect people and planet.
Given the world is still grappling with a global pandemic, how urgent is the issue of climate change?
Extreme weather is the new normal. From Germany to China, to Canada or the United States – wildfires, floods, extreme heat waves – it is an ever-growing, tragic list.
And whilst climate crisis – together with biodiversity loss and pollution – has been underway for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this triple planetary crisis into sharp focus. It is a warning from the planet that much worse lies in store unless we change our ways. These crises threaten our collective future, and it’s time to take action.
With countries investing unprecedented amounts of resources to kick-start the global economy, we need to recover in a way that is safe, sustainable and that does not exacerbate the challenges we already face.
Is there a link between the degradation of the environment and pandemics like COVID-19?
Studies report that the majority (approximately 60 per cent) of emerging infectious diseases are of animal origin and, like COVID-19 can be transferred between animals and humans. As the world’s population edges towards 8 billion, land-use change and development put humans and animals in closer contact, making it easier for zoonotic diseases to spill over into human populations. This occurs as habitats are destroyed and specialist species in those habitats are replaced by generalist species like bats and rodents – both of which are more likely to carry zoonotic pathogens than most other mammalian groups – thus increasing the risk of zoonotic spillover. This is because the current host species for the disease are less available and hence allow diseases to transfer to other species and, in turn, humans. In the last 50 years, meat production has also increased by 260 per cent, and today, dams, irrigation, and factory farms are linked to 25 per cent of infectious diseases.
The pandemic is a reminder of the interconnectedness between humans and the environment, and the potential impacts of the transfer of diseases between species – the risk of which is significantly increased with the degradation of the environment.
How does the IPCC contribute to our collective efforts to tackle climate change?
Fundamentally, the role of the Panel is to establish what we know about climate change – to provide the scientific basis for decision-making, policy development and international negotiations. For this reason, all IPCC publications represent a rigorous process by the global scientific community.
Past assessments by the IPCC have helped establish human actions as a cause of global warming, prepare a pathway to the historic Paris Climate Agreement and garner commitment to limit temperature rise. Countries also look to the IPCC reports for guidance in developing their national ambitions. For example, the IPCC has made clear that each and every country in the world must commit and develop a plan to realize a net-zero future.
What do we need to know about the Sixth Assessment report currently under review?
The IPCC report is a tool for understanding past warming – how and why it has occurred, and for developing future projections, including a better understanding of how human actions have influenced extreme climate events. The first component of the full report to be released next month represents the greatest collaborative effort yet, with 234 authors, information from 14,000 scientific papers, and revisions by 750 experts and 47 governments.
The report will give us a better understanding of extreme weather events and the impacts of COVID-19 on climate change and air pollution. It will provide the momentum we need to galvanize global actions as we head towards the UN Climate Change Conference in October. And it will give us the science we need to inform the First Global Stocktake of the world’s collective progress towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals in 2023.
A Working Group is now meeting to scrutinize each and every line of the full report before its final approval by the IPCC.
Could it be too late for human actions to slow the trajectory of climate change?
A growing number of countries are committing to net-zero targets. But to remain within the 2°C limit and have a chance at the 1.5°C goal, commitments need to be translated into policies and actions.
It’s not too late but we need to make up for lost time – particularly in three areas. First, we must put financing in place for adaptation. Second, we must place a stronger focus on nature-based solutions in updated Nationally Determined Contributions. Third, we must unite the nature and climate agendas.
We know that developing nations often bear the disproportionate burden of climate change. As countries roll out COVID-19 recovery and stimulus packages, we have a golden opportunity to chart a sustainable future. UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2020 found that investing in a green pandemic recovery could cut 25% off greenhouse emissions by 2030.
UNEP is supporting a landmark initiative agreed by Ministers of Environment of 54 African countries in December 2020 to support a comprehensive green recovery plan from COVID-19.
The African Green Stimulus Programme will mainstream environmental considerations across all facets of African economies. UNEP is also pleased to note that every country on the continent either already has, or is developing a national adaptation plan.
Adaptation is critical to build resilience of communities and economies to the impacts of climate change.
Indeed, 2021 will be a pivotal year for climate action. It is when much of the work to set our post-pandemic course is taking place. It is the year of the delayed UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). It is the year to agree on a global Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. And it is the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
2021 must mark the beginning of the era of action. And it must be the year where science reigns supreme.
Hungary: Reforms to raise productivity would strengthen recovery from COVID-19
Hungary’s economy is emerging from the crisis caused by COVID-19, yet sustaining the country’s robust pre-pandemic levels of growth will require reforms to foster productivity and job creation, according to a new OECD report.
The latest OECD Economic Survey of Hungary says that with labour shortages being felt as the economy picks up, it is vital to invest in vocational training, digital skills and apprenticeships to match skills with market requirements. Improving transport links and the availability of housing would make it easier for workers in low-employment areas to take up jobs elsewhere. Creating a more competitive and transparent business environment and accelerating firms’ adoption of digital technologies would also bolster the recovery.
“Hungary’s economy was doing well before the crisis, and with external demand picking up, prospects for a solid recovery are good. It is important to use this period, and the forthcoming inflow of EU funds, to raise productivity and competitiveness to ensure a strong and lasting recovery,” said OECD Director of Economic Country Studies Alvaro Pereira, presenting the report alongside Hungary’s Secretary of State for Financial Policy Gábor Gion.
The COVID-19 crisis hit Hungary’s export-oriented economy hard, ending a period of steady growth over 2016-19 that lifted incomes and brought down the unemployment rate to a 30-year low. Policy support to workers and firms, and the swift rollout of vaccines, has smoothed the path to recovery, and the Survey projects growth of 4.6% in 2021 and 5% in 2022, following a drop of 5.1% in 2020. An annual injection of EU structural and Next Generation COVID recovery funds equivalent to around 3.5% of GDP in total from 2021 will support growth if invested well.
Short-term risks remain, such as the impact of a global shortage of semiconductors on Hungarian car production. Targeted support to households and businesses should be continued as long as is needed. Once the recovery is self-sustained, the focus should return to strengthening public finances ahead of looming increases in health and pension spending from an ageing population, the Survey says, including by completing an ongoing increase in the retirement age to 65 by 2022 and linking further increases to gains in life expectancy.
The ageing and shrinking workforce makes it urgent to raise labour productivity. In addition to strengthening vocational and tertiary education, it is key to produce more of the highly skilled engineers and ICT graduates that businesses increasingly demand. In this context, the Survey recommends making high-speed mobile Internet cheaper and helping firms to rapidly adopt digital technologies. Intensifying efforts to fight corruption, including continuing to strengthen the institutional framework, and ensuring the independence and accountability of the judicial system would improve the investment climate and support business dynamism.
Worker mobility could be enhanced by improving transport connections from rural areas into cities, modernising housing regulations to expand the private rental market, and easing some of the rigid licensing and certification requirements on professional occupations. Hungary could also consider increasing the duration of unemployment benefits from the current three months.
Finally, Hungary’s economy would benefit from a more growth-friendly tax structure. The Survey suggests continuing to reduce labour taxes and phasing out distortionary taxes on turnover in sectors like energy, finance and retail which hinder new entry and investment. This could be balanced by increasing consumption, property and environmental tax revenues, while simplifying the value-added tax system by moving to a lower but broader-based VAT rate.
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