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World Economic Forum’s virtual gathering urges cooperation on climate change, economic issues

Top economic issues were rising consumer prices and likely interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve this year, which would have ripple effects worldwide due to the role played by the U.S. dollar.

January 21, 2022   by Associated Press

Government and business leaders have urged cooperation on the world’s biggest issues — climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recovery — at the World Economic Forum’s virtual gathering.

Speeches and discussions from the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres moved online this week after COVID-19 concerns delayed the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Critics regularly fault the Davos event for hosting elites touting high-minded but often empty goals deemed out of touch with regular people.

As usual, big ideas were debated, but no concrete deals emerged. The forum announced on Jan. 21 that it plans to hold its in-person gathering May 22-26 after two years of delays.

Here are some takeaways from the online event:

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CLIMATE CHANGE

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to use his country’s Group of Seven presidency to have industrial nations lead a “paradigm shift in international climate policy.”

The new head of Europe’s biggest economy said on Jan. 19 that the “climate club” would agree on “joint 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 pre-industrial levels.

Scholz said the club could seek to achieve those goals “by pricing carbon and preventing carbon leakage” — designed to stop companies from shifting carbon-heavy industries to countries with looser emissions rules.

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Global efforts to combat inequalities in the health crisis was a through line.

The World Health Organization’s head of emergencies said quickly addressing huge inequities in vaccinations and medicines could mean the worst of the pandemic — deaths, hospitalizations and lockdowns — ends soon.

Dr. Michael Ryan said the virus may never be over, but “we have a chance to end the public health emergency this year if we do the things that we’ve been talking about.”

WHO has called the COVID-19 vaccination imbalance between rich and poor countries a catastrophic moral failure. Just over 10% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

Top economic issues were rising consumer prices and likely interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve this year, which would have ripple effects worldwide due to the role played by the U.S. dollar.

Many of the poorest countries face debt trouble as their economic recovery lags that of the developed world, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned in a panel discussion on Jan. 21. The Fed’s moves could strengthen the dollar, making debts bigger in local currencies.


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