GENEVA (AP) — Government and business leaders have called for cooperation on the biggest global issues — climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery — at the World Economic Forum’s virtual gathering.
Speeches and discussions from the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went online this week after concerns over COVID-19 delayed the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Swiss. Critics regularly criticize the Davos event for hosting elites touting lofty but often meaningless goals and deemed out of touch with ordinary people.
As usual, great ideas were debated, but no concrete agreement emerged. The forum announced on Friday that it plans to hold its in-person rally from May 22-26 after a two-year delay.
Here are some takeaways from the online event:
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to use his country’s Group of Seven presidency to get industrialized countries to lead a “paradigm shift in international climate policy”.
The new head of Europe’s biggest economy said on Wednesday the ‘climate club’ would agree on ‘common minimum standards’. Its goals are already part of the Paris climate accord, including limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above industrial levels.
Scholz said the club could seek to achieve these goals “by pricing carbon and preventing carbon leakage” – designed to prevent companies from moving carbon-intensive industries to countries with carbon rules. emissions are more flexible.
Others called for help for developing countries. Guterres called for debt relief to wean them off coal, and Latin American leaders said funding for green programs was essential.
As Africa is “most affected” by climate change despite the continent contributing “least to it”, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday called on developed countries to remain committed to their pledge to provide $100 billion. dollars a year to support climate efforts in developing countries. .
Meanwhile, a panel with US climate envoy John Kerry and billionaire Bill Gates touted innovations not yet invented or widely used would help cut emissions. This idea is popular in some circles but also divisive because technologies like carbon capture are expensive and energy-intensive.
Global efforts to tackle inequalities in the health crisis were a guideline.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief said quickly addressing the huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines could mean the worst of the pandemic – deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns – is over soon.
Dr Michael Ryan said the virus may never be over, but “we have a chance of ending the public health emergency this year if we do the things we’ve been talking about”.
The WHO has called the imbalance in vaccination against COVID-19 between rich and poor countries a catastrophic moral failure. Just over 10% of the African population is fully immunized.
Limited resources would mean full rollout of vaccines “could take several years”, Nigeria’s vice president said on Friday, and support is needed for donations and local production of doses.
The Chinese president on Monday announced plans to send an additional 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, including a donation of 600 million doses to Africa.
In another panel, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the vaccine maker was working on a single-shot booster for COVID-19 and influenza, saying it could be ready in some countries next year. .
The main economic issues were rising consumer prices and likely interest rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve this year, which would have repercussions around the world due to the role played by the US dollar.
Many of the world’s poorest countries face debt problems as their economic recovery lags that of the developed world, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned Friday at a roundtable. The Fed’s actions could strengthen the dollar, increasing local currency debt.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the 19 countries using the euro were at a different stage of recovery than the United States and suggested that temporary factors such as high costs of energy could fuel inflation in Europe.
She said the bank was “trying to figure out how long this would last” and would act to counter high inflation, including through interest rate hikes, once certain “criteria were met”.
The bank plans to end its efforts to stimulate the pandemic-hit economy in March. Compared to the United States, Europe lacks “excess demand” following major lockdowns that would drive up prices in the longer term, she said.
While urging the world to share vaccines, fight climate change and promote development, Xi also delivered a veiled swipe at the United States in a recorded speech.
“We must abandon the Cold War mentality and pursue peaceful coexistence and win-win outcomes,” Xi said through a translator. “Protectionism and unilateralism cannot protect anyone. … Worse still are the practices of hegemony and intimidation, which run counter to the course of history.”
These are terms Beijing has used to describe US policy and actions amid tensions over Taiwan, human rights and other issues. Xi touched on standard themes, including responding to complaints from trading partners by promising to open up China’s state-dominated economy more widely to private and foreign competition.
He also said China “stands ready to work with” other countries on climate change, but did not announce any new initiatives or offer any resources. He said it was up to the developed countries to provide the money and the technology.
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