Davos delayed: World Economic Forum postpones 2021 event over Covid-19 concerns

Pictured: Davos

In a statement sent to media representatives this afternoon (25 August), the WEF’s director of public engagement Adrian Monck confirmed that the four-day event will be held “earlier next summer”, as opposed to next January. He said that the organisation had received “expert advice” cautioning it against a January date.

The forum is widely known as an opportunity for the world’s richest and most influential people to discuss pressing political and social challenges. In recent years, climate change has held a more prominent position on the agenda. At the 2020 event, all business leaders and world leaders were urged by organisers to set net-zero emissions targets for 2050 at the latest. The WEF also used the conference to launch an updated version of its risk analysis, which concluded that the five biggest risks to humanity and the planet in terms of likelihood and severity are climate-related.

High-level climate discussions and new commitments are set to continue at the 2021 event, particularly as the WEF has been vocal in calling for a green economic recovery from the pandemic. The WEF’s ‘Great Reset’ campaign is calling for governments to end fossil fuel subsidies and funnel the money into low-carbon sectors instead. More broadly, the campaign is making recommendations to ensure that the recovery spurs progress across all areas of sustainable development.

In place of the forum, the WEF will broadcast a series of “Davos Dialogues” – speeches and panel discussions featuring world leaders, thought leaders and business executives – online, beginning on 25 January.

It will also hold its Sustainable Development Impact Summit as planned in September, albeit online.

The decision comes after COP26 was pushed back from November 2020 to November 2021.

“The Forum continues to engage its partners and constituents in manifold, collaborative activities to address global, regional and business challenges,” the WEF’s Monck said.

“Details concerning the dates and location of the rescheduled Annual Meeting 2021 will be shared as soon as the Forum is assured that all conditions are fulfilled to guarantee the health and safety of our participants and the hosting community.”

The WEF has been facing calls to host the Davos event digitally in recent years, with green groups highlighting the hypocrisy of flying delegates to the event by private jet so they can discuss emissions. It is clear that the organisation is not keen to take this route.

Sarah George

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