Davos 2020 diary – day #5

17-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, center, is pictured during a 'Fridays for Future' demo on the final day of the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, 24 January 2020. [GIAN EHRENZELLER/EPA]

Welcome to Davos where the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is taking place on 21-25 January. Throughout the week, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into one of the world’s most exclusive conferences where political and business leaders meet every year to discuss global economic trends.

‘Friday’s for future’ makes it to Davos. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose popularity grew after she started a school strike to demand action from her government against climate change, participated in the World Economic Forum for the second time. As the meeting came to an end, Thunberg took to the streets of Davos with dozens of young activists to protest the lack of progress and action at the Forum.

“Our demands have been completely ignored, and we expected nothing less,” Thunberg said, arguing that as long as the issue is not treated as a crisis, it will not be solved. The climate activist said US Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin remarks that she should get an economics degree had “no effect” on her or the movement.

The clock is ticking. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in 2015. But time is running out and the world is far away from reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Kenyan entrepreneur Wanjuhi Njoroge claimed that “governments have failed” to protect their people.

“Much of what we discussing, we talk about climate, about health… is essentially inequality. This is why I think we are at a point where people are questioning the whole concept of globalisation,” Achim Steiner, Administrator at the UN Development Programme argued.

Syrian refugee and International Children’s Peace Prize winner Mohamad Al Jounde pointed to weapon production as not only being an important source of CO2 emission but fueling wars. “They are not going to stop that – not the companies, not the governments. We are going to stop that. Take to the streets, protest!” he demanded.


A sideline WTO deal. In the margins of the WEF meeting, EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan managed to get 16 WTO member, including China, on board of the EU’s ad-hoc mechanism to replace the appellate body, blocked by the US ever since December last year. Read more about the agreement.

Nevertheless, the EU remains committed “to seek a lasting solution to the Appellate Body impasse, including through necessary reforms and improvements,” Hogan said in a statement.

Kurz calls for innovation against climate change. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has recently been re-elected thanks to a coalition with the green party, was the last EU leader to address the Forum. And he did so to underline the need for innovation to fight climate change while protecting the existing economic model.

“Of course there are going to be people who need their car to get to work, there are going to be people who need to fly, who want to fly,” Kurz said, “however, how we do that, that’s something that can be changed and must be changed. I think we need to be more sustainable when it comes to mobility, energy production or industrial output.”

“Progress won’t help us if we destroy our planet,” the Austrian Chancellor warned, “the key to that is innovation.”

Georgieva slaps ECB over stimulus policy. In her first Davos gathering as chief of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, attacked the European Central Bank’s stimulus policy. While monetary stimulus has been one of the main engines of economic growth in recent years, Georgieva warned that “cheap money” could hurt low-income countries, increase risky investments and affect savers.

Spotted. Economy Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, European Stability Mechanism chairman Klaus Regling and Eurogroup President Mario Centeno were all in Davos and took the opportunity to discuss EU’s monetary and fiscal policy.

Auf wiedersehen. And with this, the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum comes to an end. The president of the organisation, Børge Brende, praised the work done during a meeting marked by bilateral discussions on the digital tax, the trade tensions between the EU and US, and the ‘green wave’ that hit the Forum notably shaping its agenda.

Brende added that the commitments business and political leaders made during the Forum “laid the basis for a decade of delivery.”

Quote of the day. “We need to get out of our comfort zone, we have to act according to the Paris Agreement, without any loopholes for governments. And for the private sector, dig deep into your pockets, into your budgets, so that you can wake up knowing that you did more than the standard operational procedures,” said Melati Wijsen, a young leader who has been working towards phasing out single-use plastics in Bali, inspiring long-time climate activist Al Gore.

(Edited by Benjamin Fox)

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