The World Economic Forum’s annual meetup at the picture-postcard Alpine town of Davos returns after a two-year Covid-induced hiatus.
But much has changed since the last meeting – with the world hobbled by war in Ukraine, the economy under severe strain and the climate crisis intensifying.
About 600 CEOs and more than 50 state leaders and representatives are attending the meeting, seeking to bridge political divisions in a fragmented world.
European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US climate envoy John Kerry, and the new presidents of South Korea, Colombia and the Philippines are attending the summit.
In addition, Ukraine’s first lady Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska spoke at the conference on Tuesday, while her husband, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will give a remote address on Wednesday, and other officials from Ukraine are appearing on panels.
This is the first summit since the world was hit by Covid-19. With the virus constantly mutating and the lingering effects of the pandemic still felt across nations, the conclave will look at solutions to the world’s problems against the backdrop of an economic slowdown.
Supply chains affected by Covid regulations and intensifying trade wars between the US-led West and emerging economies will also affect the deliberations.
The slowdown in the global economy will be a central theme at Davos.
Inflation soared as the world reopened from the pandemic and Russia attacked Ukraine, driving up food and energy prices.
And though it has started to slow in major economies, like the US and Europe, inflation is still painfully high.
International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde will step up to the podium to address these issues.
Georgieva said ahead of the summit that divides between nations – the theme at Davos this year is “Cooperation in a Fragmented World” – are putting the global economy at risk by leaving “everyone poorer and less secure”.
Georgieva urged strengthening trade, helping vulnerable countries deal with debt and ramping up climate action.
A significant climate theme emerging from the forum’s panel sessions is the energy transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Former US Vice President Al Gore will discuss decarbonisation and efforts to build clean energy infrastructure and ensure equitable growth.
It follows a strong year for the energy transition: Many countries passed incentives for renewable energy in 2022.
One hot topic on the agenda – harnessing nuclear fission – focuses on science that offers immense potential but is many decades away from a commercial rollout that could feed the world’s skyrocketing thirst for energy.
Sessions on issues like adaptation to climate change and panels on deforestation, biodiversity and the future of environmental protection will give a greener hue to the gathering.
Developments in technology, mainly Artificial Intelligence, are another topic on which the conference will focus. Microsoft Corp – chief executive Satya Nadella will take the stage – has a $1 billion investment in the San Francisco-based OpenAI.
Companies are expanding their abilities of AI to adapt software programmes in military means that will help governments visualise an army’s movements, or enterprises vet their supply chains, among other tasks.
Davos has opened with big hopes but critics argue that attendees are too out-of-touch or profit- or power-minded to address the needs of common people and the planet.
Greenpeace International also blasted the use of corporate jets that ferry in bigwigs, saying such carbon-spewing transportation smacks of hypocrisy for an event touting its push for a greener world.
It said over 1,000 private-jet flights arrived and departed airports serving Davos in May.