Snow on the roofs of the ski chalets at the upmarket ski resort may be one of the defining images of Davos, but it will be the warming of the planet that is at the top of the issues under discussion at the World Economic Forum.
In the kind of speaking double act beloved of the event’s organisers, Al Gore, the former US vice-president, who has described climate change as “the biggest challenge our civilisation faces”, will discuss the subject alongside Pharrell Williams. The pop star, who reached No 1 with Happy, is appearing as creative director of Bionic Yarn, a company that turns fibres from recycled plastic into durable textiles.
The energetic Gore is also participating in other events looking at how business should respond to climate change, alongside Lord Stern, president of the British Academy, and speakers from the insurance company Axa.
• Elsewhere, conflict is the number-one issue for the political and business elite this year. The rise of Islamic State has awoken fears over failures of national governance and the collapse of nation states. Several Middle Eastern leaders are in attendance, including Egypt’s president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi; King Abdullah of Jordan; Haidar al-Abadi, the prime minister of Iraq; and Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region.
The Ukraine crisis is a reminder that “long-forgotten” disputes can flare back into life, the World Economic Foundation says, with widespread consequences for a whole region. Petro Poroshenko, the president of Ukraine, will be looking for backing as his country risks defaulting on its debts. He should get support from George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, who is pushing European governments to offer Kiev more help. He will be lobbying the likes of Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s François Hollande and Italy’s Matteo Renzi.
The terror attacks in France this month will also be debated and the former UK prime minister Tony Blair, will take part in a session on Wednesday examining whether religion is a pretext for conflict.
• Global authorities were slow, at least initially, to respond to the Ebola outbreak and provide resources to the countries affected, according to the organisers at Davos. The forum will ask what lessons can be learned.
Alpha Condé, the president of Guinea, who has faced accusations of being initially slow to respond to Ebola, is also speaking. The New York Times quoted him recently as saying: “While shaving, I think of Ebola; while eating, I think of Ebola; while sleeping, I think of Ebola.”
• Central banks will be a major topic of conversation in the meeting rooms, coffee shops and bars of Davos as monetary policy in Europe and the US continues to diverge and inflation falls across the global economy.
The shock abolition of Switzerland’s currency gap last week has left many financial firms nursing losses and reminded us all that 2015 could be a turbulent year in the markets. Thomas Jordan, the Swiss central bank chief who sparked the turmoil, can expect a lively reception.
At least seven other central bank chiefs are attending, including the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney.
However, the European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is not attending this year. He will be stuck in Frankfurt handling the ECB’s meeting on Thursday, where a big quantitative easing (QE) programme could be announced.
At a debate on the prospect of higher interest rates in the US, delegates from emerging markets will be pushing American officials to handle the ending of the QE programme responsibly after seeing “hot money” pour into their economies. They do not want a repeat of the currency crisis that struck Argentina during last year’s meeting.
• Meanwhile, the tumble in the oil price to five-year lows means different things to different Davos attendees. It is a bitter blow to exporters, raises political risk in the Middle East and hits growth in emerging markets.
Once he arrives in Switzerland, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, Opec’s secretary general, will face criticism from producers over the cartel’s refusal to cut supplies.
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