DAVOS – The Latest on the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland:
Trade ministers from a handful of nations have announced an initiative to promote trade policies that support action on climate change at a press conference in Davos, Switzerland.
Their aims include ensuring better access globally to clean technologies that would reduce emissions and promoting products that were made in line with climate and sustainability goals.
Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering, Ecuador’s production minister Julio José Prado said the discussion on aligning trade policies with climate goals is “way overdue.”
He added, “As trade ministers, we need to deliver both economic results and sustainable results … we should have done this years ago, but this is the time for action, and it’s time to start these sorts of coalitions.”
Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice president and commissioner for trade, said countries “need to do a better job in terms of joining those different dots” between trade, development and climate action.
The coalition is being co-led by trade ministers from Ecuador, the European Union, Kenya and New Zealand and over 50 nations have joined the initiative.
— Thunberg, Nakate slam lack of action on climate crisis
— Zelenskyy urges West to speed up flow of weapons to Ukraine
— Putin foe Bill Browder slams jacked-up fee to attend Davos
— World Food Program postpones, not averts Somali famine
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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore says data from a new project tracking greenhouse gases suggests oil and gas companies are emitting three times as much as they report.
Gore, speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s gathering in Davos, Switzerland, presented findings from a tool called Climate TRACE that can help hold countries to their climate pledges and let companies compare which manufacturers are emitting the most greenhouse gases when making decisions on where to source supplies.
It was unveiled at United Nations climate change conference last November.
He says that “for the first time, we know exactly where the pollution is coming from.” Of oil and gas producers, Gore said, “Most (other industries) are not this far off.”
The inventory was created by researchers, data analysts and non-governmental organizations from around the world using satellite data, remote sensing and artificial intelligence. It’s open to the public and free to use.
With many European leaders fearing a clean energy law that benefits American-made green technology, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the world should be happy the U.S. is acting on climate change.
In a panel session Thursday about global energy at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, Rutte said that “we have for years told the U.S.: ‘You have to step up on Paris. You have to step up on climate change.’ Now, they are doing it.”
He added that the Inflation Reduction Act aims to close the gap on Paris climate goals, “so let’s be happy about it.”
He says there are some unintended consequences, but European officials are working with the Biden administration and he’s “not pessimistic.”
Some fear European companies will be boxed out of the U.S. market and denied green tech investment.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says the law doesn’t intend to hurt allies but get clean technologies to scale quickly.
To calm geopolitical unrest and help the environment, he says that “you better be able to do it quicker, faster and better than any place in the world and then share it with your friends. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Ilham Kadri, CEO of Belgium-based chemical company Solvay SA, says the U.S. legislation “is not the enemy, (it) is the best thing which could happen to Europe.”
Companies like hers require constant energy, and she warns that Europe has a “huge risk of deindustrialization.”
Russia largely cut off natural gas to Europe. Energy prices soared, leading energy-intensive industries like fertilizer and steel to scale back production because it was no longer profitable.
U.K. opposition leader Keir Starmer also said the U.S. law is not “just a challenge.”
He says it’s “the single biggest opportunity we’ve been given for a very long time to transition, to take the jobs and opportunities of the future.”
Greece’s prime minister says he still believes it’s possible to resolve his country’s differences with Turkey by speaking with Turkey’s president, stressing the neighbors will not go to war.
Relations between the two NATO allies have been particularly strained over the past two years, with the rhetoric from Turkish officials alarming. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said Turkish troops could descend on Greece “suddenly one night” and even threatened to hit Athens with ballistic missiles.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday during a session at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, that “we will not go to war with Turkey.”
He added that “we should be able to sit down with Turkey as reasonable adults and resolve our main difference, which is the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.”
Long at odds over a series of issues, including territorial and energy exploration rights in their shared waters, Greece and Turkey have come to the brink of war three times in the last half-century. Recent tension has centered on energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and on the presence of Greek troops on eastern Aegean islands near the Turkish coast.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says he’s “deeply concerned” about China’s artificial intelligence program.
Speaking Thursday during a panel session at a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Wray said China has the largest hacking operation in the world.
He says the country’s AI initiatives “are not constrained by the rule of law” and are “built on top of massive troves of intellectual property and sensitive data that they’ve stolen over the years.”
The statement from Wray is consistent with prior warnings from Washington about China’s AI ambitions. In 2021, for instance, U.S. officials raised similar alarms to business leaders, academics and state and local government officials.
Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of fear-mongering about its intentions and attacked U.S. intelligence for its assessments of China.
The head of the International Monetary Fund had strong words for global governments when she and others were asked on a panel session in Davos for one thing they would change to accelerate the transition to net zero.
IMG Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday at the World Economic Forum gathering that she would lock the U.S., China, India and E.U. in a room and lock the door.
“Let them out after they sign in blood a commitment to work together to save the planet,” she said to applause from the audience.
Patrick Dlamini, chief executive of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said more of the IMF’s international reserves should be diverted to the Global South.
Earlier, the panel had discussed how smallholders across Africa could be funded at scale to pursue green projects using market mechanisms.
Oliver Bäte, chief executive of German asset manager and insurer Allianz, said, “We need to do things faster” by “setting deadlines.
Tunisia’s prime minister insists her country’s move toward democracy is “absolutely not in danger” despite paltry turnout in a first round of legislative elections that culminate in a decisive runoff in 10 days.
Najla Bouden, speaking Thursday in a panel session on Africa at a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, predicted the Jan. 29 second round would “probably” see a “much stronger participation” than last month’s initial vote.
In response to a question from The Associated Press, she said, “I can assure you that the democratic transition is absolutely not in danger. We are in the process of changing a paradigm … to move from one regime to another.”
Angry Tunisian demonstrators and some outside observers have expressed concern that the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings against autocratic leaders 12 years ago is now teetering away from democracy under President Kais Saied.
Only 11% of voters cast ballots in disastrous parliamentary elections last month that were called to replace and reshape a legislature that Saied dissolved in 2021. The country is also facing rising joblessness and higher prices for staples like sugar, vegetable oil and rice.
Bouden added that “I have a lot of hope that Tunisia is going to get better and better, and it will accomplish things that will probably astonish you in the coming months.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says his country will lean on nuclear energy to meet its climate goals and promoted the South Korean industry’s push to sell its nuclear-power technologies to other nations.
Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in the Swiss town of Davos, Yoon referred to the country’s goals to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050 by expanding nuclear power plants. He offered to cooperate with other nations that need South Korea’s “world-leading nuclear power plant technologies.”
Yoon said South Korea also is seeking to develop hydrogen as a clean-energy alternative, which he said would be effective in reducing emissions in industries such as steelmaking, chemicals and maritime transport.
He says “cooperation is crucial between nations in the Middle East and Europe, which have strengths in producing green hydrogen, and nations such as South Korea and Japan, which are leading the way in the application of hydrogen.”
Yoon’s goals to increase the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix-up is a departure from the policies of his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who had sought to reduce the country’s nuclear reliance. Global interest in nuclear power has increased as governments face greater pressure to cut carbon emissions while also grappling with soaring fossil fuel prices, worsened by pandemic lockdowns and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol says is calling for international solidarity to restore stability in supply chains undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine as well as technology competitions and trade barriers.
South Korea, a major producer of computer memory chips, has struggled to strike a balance between its ally United States and China, its biggest trade partner, amid their intensifying rivalry over technology and regional influence.
Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in the Swiss town of Davos, Yoon said that while it would be an “inevitable choice” for South Korea to cooperate with countries that share common “universal values,” such cooperation should not result in trade blocs or the exclusion of certain nations, apparently referring to China.
He said that “Japan, as well as the United States, has a similar political, social and economic system with us and shares most of our universal values” and noted some differences with China.
But he said “our close cooperation between the countries that share universal values should not proceed in a way that excludes and blocks the relations with nations that have different systems with us or have a lot of differences regarding universal values.”
Prominent climate activists including Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate are condemning corporate VIPs and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, for prioritizing short-term profits from fossil fuels over people affected by the climate crisis.
They were joined by campaigners Helena Gualinga and Luisa Neubauer and International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol at a roundtable Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering.
Nakate, who at one point choked up, said that “leaders are playing games” with people’s futures. She added that the effects of climate change are “already a living hell for many communities across the African continent, across the Global South” who are facing extreme drought, heat and flooding.
The activists brought a “cease and desist” letter calling on fossil fuel companies to stop all new oil and natural gas projects, signed by nearly 900,000 people.
Scientists say no new fossil fuel projects can be built if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in line with climate goals set in Paris in 2015.
Thunberg added that without persistent public pressure corporations will continue to “throw people under bus for their own gain.”
In a discussion on climate finance that focused on the lack of common standards, the head of the International Monetary Fund compared the world’s current trajectory to being on the Titanic.
IMG Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Thursday at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, that while there are “a couple of bright spots on the horizon,” this was “not good enough.”
She warned that when it came to designing universal standards for green finance, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”
A global set of minimum benchmarks on, for example, corporate emissions disclosures would reduce the scope for companies to police themselves and engage in greenwashing. Without common standards, companies will be able to continue burying bad news or defining their emissions disclosures to give a more favorable impression.
She says “Europe can be a leader bringing us together on common standards.”
European leaders say they are working with the U.S. on issues over subsidies for American-made green technology but that dealing with trade tensions with China is more difficult.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday on a panel session about European growth at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, that “the main issue in Europe is we have no coordinated China policy.”
He says that “it’s not that we have to choose between the U.S. and China. We need to have our own policy. And our own policy should be, first of all, that we have the mindset that we want to be a player and not a playing field.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented a major clean tech industrial plan earlier this week at Davos for that would ease the way for subsidies for green industries and pool EU-wide projects that are boosted with major funding.
It aims to bolster the 27-nation bloc’s push for climate neutrality by 2050 and guarantee its economic survival as it faces challenges from China and the U.S.
EU Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis says the concerns about the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s funding for “made-in-America” green technology — like electric vehicles — is that “it’s done in a discriminatory way.”
He says it’s not helping to build trans-Atlantic value chains but actually severing them.
But he noted that EU-U.S. task force has “a satisfactory solution on clean vehicles tax credits. But there are many other areas which we need to address.”
On China, Rutte says offers a huge innovation base and potential but “at the same time, we have legitimate security concerns.” He says it’s important to keep the Western edge in industries like semiconductors, which can be used in defense systems.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic noted that “there’s a big difference between China and Russia.” He says that with China, he doesn’t “see a similar pattern of threats that would endanger our economy, our way of life and our security.”
Key European leaders see improvements in expectations for the economy this year in the face of high inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine but warn that there is more work to do.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said Thursday on a panel session about European growth at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, that activity “is declining compared with an excellent 2022.” She says expected economic growth of 0.5% in 2023 is “not a brilliant year, but it is a lot better than what we had feared.”
Inflation is still high — reaching 9.2% in December — so she says the bank will keep raising interest rates to get it under control. Inflation has been fed by high energy prices after Russia largely cut off natural gas to Europe amid the war in Ukraine.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also worried about inflation and praised the bank for doing the right thing.
European Union Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis pointed to how well energy relief for households and businesses targeted. He says around 70% of the support measures are not targeted, which feeds into inflation.
He and Rutte say Europe needs to concentrate on building energy security, focusing on the transition to renewables.
Rutte urged bringing down government borrowing — saying it is too high in Italy, France and other countries — because it is hurting long-term economic growth. To do that, he says changes to the pension sector are difficult but necessary, adding “I’m happy that the French have now decided to to move on the pension issue.”
French workers angry over proposed changes to pension rules that would push back the retirement age are holding nationwide strikes and protests Thursday.
Nadir Godrej, chairman of Indian company Godrej Industries, limited presented a poem instead of speech during a panel session at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering.
Godrej launched into a more than six-minute-long poem with the phrase: “It is no longer climate change within a tolerable change, a crisis is what it’s about with fires, floods as well as drought.”
The poem presented Thursday in Davos, Switzerland, details the work his organization has done on blue carbon projects and his views on the climate crisis and action needed in general.
Blue carbon refers to carbon captured by the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystems. Despite occupying only about 5% of land area, coastal wetlands store about 50% of all carbon buried in ocean sediments.
A plethora of restoration projects have been launched in recent years to restore coastal ecosystems, especially mangrove forests that are highly effective carbon sinks.
Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Union’s commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said on the panel that “without a blue there is no green.
She says “we must ensure that the ocean ecosystems remain healthy” and said a deal to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030 plays a key role.
Countries committed to the agreement at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, that was held at Montreal in December last year.
The Montreal deal is considered the most significant effort yet to protect the world’s lands and oceans and provide critical financing to save biodiversity in the developing world.
Pfizer’s chief executive says the biggest challenge the company and other vaccine-makers faced during the pandemic was negotiating the politics.
Albert Bourla, who was speaking Thursday on a panel on pandemic preparedness at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, said mask-wearing, vaccine efficacy or questions about delivering the vaccines were all politicized and were constant obstacles for vaccine-makers.
He says “the biggest challenge ... was the political challenge.”
He added that protectionism as a result of fear meant the governments closed down borders, making it difficult to export vaccines or bring in raw materials needed to make them.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the distinction between the “forgivable” politics of government leaders trying to vaccinate their own population when an election was beckoning and the “unforgivable” politics of politicizing public health.
He says turning mask-wearing into a political issue was “unforgivable and stupid.”
Blair added that for most countries, the virus had receded into the “rear-view mirror” and the only way to keep the focus on it was to convince politicians that “there are votes in it.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has bared his frustration about not obtaining enough tanks from some Western countries to help Ukraine’s defend against Russian forces.
The Ukrainian leader, at a breakfast Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, offered a veiled critique of countries like Germany, Poland and the United States — crucial supporters of Ukraine — that have nonetheless hesitated about sending tanks.
Speaking by video link, Zelenskyy bemoaned a “lack of specific weaponry” and said that to win the war, “we cannot just do it with motivation and morale.”
Through an interpreter, he told the Victor Pinchuk Foundation breakfast that “I would like to thank again for the assistance from our partners. But at the same time, there are times where we shouldn’t hesitate or we shouldn’t compare when someone says, ‘I will give tanks if someone else will also share his tanks.’”
Zelenskyy also said air defense was “our weakness” in light of targeted Russian strikes, including use of Iranian-made drones, and reiterated his call for supplies of long-range artillery to fire at Russian forces in Ukrainian territory — not fire into Russia itself.
Ukraine has for months sought to be supplied with heavier tanks, including the U.S. Abrams and the German-made Leopard 2 tanks, but Western leaders have been treading carefully.
The United Kingdom announced last week that it will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, and France has said it would send AMX-10 RC armored combat vehicles to Ukraine, designated “light tanks” in French.
Poland and the Czech Republic have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces. Poland has expressed readiness to provide a company of Leopard tanks but has said it would only do so as part of a larger international coalition of tank aid to Kyiv.
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who attended the breakfast, said, “Get them the tanks, get Volodymyr Zelenskyy whatever he needs.”