While this year’s agenda is heavily focused on the pandemic, climate change is still a prominent theme ahead of a major United Nations summit in Glasgow this November.
World leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, are under pressure to commit to achieving net zero by 2050 to combat the dangerous impact of global temperature rises.
Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, told reporters the virtual gathering must build fresh momentum on climate action.
“2021 will be a pivotal year for the future of humankind,” he said.
“It will be crucial because we have to continue to fight the virus but we have to move out of the pandemic and we have to create sound economic growth which is more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable.”
The Davos agenda will focus on how countries can achieve their existing 2030 pollution reduction targets.
John Kerry, Biden’s new cabinet-level climate envoy, will speak to political and business leaders about how America plans to rally international support for more ambitious measures ahead of the Glasgow meeting.
More than 1500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 70 countries will attend or speak at the Davos forum.
WEF President Børge Brende said Asia was increasingly important to the global economic agenda and “key leaders” from the region had been asked to speak.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, will all appear.
“We know that this year is a year where Asia takes on 50 per cent of the global GDP. Asia also has 50 per cent of the global population,” Brende said.
“We will have a very thorough discussion on the role that Asia will play in a recovery of the global economy.”
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva will headline sessions about the economy.
Former Australian Council of Trade Unions president Sharan Burrow will speak in her capacity as general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
The WEF hopes to hold a special in-person summit in Singapore in June, which Australian political figures might attend.
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.