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DAVOS

Green and economic issues pose risks: WEF

With rising economic strains on one side and ever more environmental concerns on the other, the world could soon find itself in "the perfect global storm", the Geneva-based World Economic Forum warned in a report on Tuesday.

Green and economic issues pose risks: WEF
World Economic Forum protester building snowman in Davos last year. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

"The world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges," warned the WEF, which each year hosts a
massive get-together of decision makers and activists at the Swiss mountain resort in Davos.
 
In its Global Risks 2013 report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society, WEF pointed out
that crises and austerity measures were severely testing the global economic system.

At the same time, it said, the world faced rising global temperatures and more extreme weather like catastrophic flooding in China and Hurricane
Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast of the United States in late October.

The acute social and economic difficulties are making the world more reluctant to address more long-term threats like climate change, while natural disasters wreak serious havoc on many economies, the report cautioned.

"Two storms — environmental and economic — are on a collision course," warned John Drzik, the head of Oliver Wyman Group and one of the experts surveyed for the report.

The experts, who were asked to rate 50 global risks, suggested the risk of growing wealth gaps was the most likely to materialize, followed by unsustainable government debt and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

They deemed, however, that major systemic financial failure would have the biggest impact if it happened, followed by a major water supply crisis and chronic fiscal imbalances.

The list of global risks "are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems," said WEF managing director Lee Howell, who edited the
report.

"National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance, he added in the statement.

In addition to the economic and environmental risks, the WEF report also identified so-called "digital wildfires" as a top risk category.
 
"While in many ways a force for good, the democratization of information can also have volatile and unpredictable consequences," it cautioned.

One example, it said, was the September riots provoked by the crudely made anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims."

"As the media's traditional role as gatekeeper is eroded," the world needs to find ways to put out such blazes, WEF said.

The third and final risk category in the 2013 report was linked to what the WEF described as dangerous complacency towards health concerns like rising
resistance to antibiotics.

The risks highlighted in the report will be the focus of a special session at the WEF's annual meeting in Davos at the end of January.

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DAVOS

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May

The World Economic Forum announced Wednesday that its postponed 2021 Davos summit, themed as "The Great Reset" in the coronavirus crisis, will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland from May 18 to 21.

Switzerland: 2021 Davos summit shifted to Lucerne in May
Participants at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The annual gathering of the world's political, economic and business elite traditionally takes place in January against the idyllic snowy backdrop of the Swiss Alpine village of Davos.

But it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, charged with remodelling the world economy in the wake of the crisis, will now be held 125 kilometres (75 miles) away in the plush Burgenstock resort overlooking Lake Lucerne.

“The meeting will take place as long as all conditions are in place to guarantee the health and safety of participants and the host community,” WEF spokesman Adrian Monck said in a statement.

“The meeting will focus on the solutions required to address the world's most pressing challenges. “Global leaders will come together to design a common recovery path, to shape 'The Great Reset' in the post-Covid-19 era and rebuild a more cohesive and sustainable society.”

Hybrid format

The WEF announced in June that the 51st edition of its annual meeting would take place in a hybrid format, then in August said it was being delayed for several months to reduce any risks to participants from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lucerne summit will combine both in-person and virtual elements, with participants linked to a network of around 400 hubs worldwide to incorporate dialogue with the WEF's “young global shapers, to ensure openness and inclusion”, said Monck.

The summit will be preceded during the week of January 25 by digitally-convened high-level “Davos Dialogues”, when global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.04 million people while at least 35.5 million infections have been recorded since the outbreak emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

The pandemic has also triggered a global economic downturn, though the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday that while it is far from over, it will not be as bad as originally feared thanks to a flood of government spending.

The World Trade Organization said likewise, forecasting a global trade contraction of 9.2 percent this year, rather than its previous “optimistic scenario” prediction of 12.9 percent.

But global trade will then grow by only 7.2 percent next year, rather than the previous 21.3-percent estimate issued in April, the WTO added.

Swiss cases rising

The WEF announcement comes as Switzerland announced Wednesday that daily coronavirus cases had jumped over the 1,000-mark for the first time since April 1, when the peak of the pandemic's initial wave began to recede.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has urged the country to “get a grip” and be more rigorous in applying the basic measures to control the spread of the virus.

The 2020 edition of the WEF summit, hosted in January just as the world was beginning to become aware of the new coronavirus spreading in China, drew more than 50 heads of state and government to Davos.

It focused on themes of sustainability and finding a more inclusive model for capitalism. US President Donald Trump and Swedish teenage eco-warrior Greta Thunberg were among its top speakers.

The WEF said it aims to be back in Davos for 2022.

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