May 22, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Scoop: Prince Charles leads global meeting on climate change and economy

Illustration of Zoom meeting with a crown, globe, and Ben Franklin

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Dozens of the world’s leaders in business, finance and politics are planning to convene June 3 to discuss how the global economy can be “reset”— with climate change a defining theme — as nations recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: The online event will be hosted by His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales, and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

What they’re saying: “The meeting will see various guests from the public and private sector make contributions on how we can achieve a ‘Great Reset’ of our global economic system in the post-COVID era,” a forum spokesman told Axios.

The intrigue: Others involved include International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Bank of America President and CEO Brian Moynihan, according to spokespeople.

  • Other top leaders across business, finance and additional sectors are slated to attend, but a forum spokesman said such details, along with a specific agenda, are still being worked out.

But, but, but: Climate change concerns appear near the bottom of a survey the forum itself released this week conducted with nearly 350 senior risk professionals across a variety of sectors.

  • Two climate-related actions — reducing emissions and adapting to a warmer world — barely broke the top 20 out of a list of 31 concerns (check out the appendix charts on page 51-53 of the survey.)
  • Respondents were asked to assess what areas of society would face the most fallout due to the pandemic, which are the greatest concerns for the world and which are the greatest concerns for their businesses.

Flashback: The World Economic Forum has increasingly focused on climate change, and this year’s annual Davos confab saw a greater emphasis. Prince Charles delivered a speech on the issue and created a sustainability initiative with executives to focus more on climate going forward.

One level deeper: While the event is broadly about the economy, multiple people involved told Axios that climate change is a core part of the mission.

“When the public health emergency recedes, the obvious biggest crisis you have to address is climate change,” said one person involved, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity because the event was still being planned. “The understanding of this group is that this public health crisis reveals that you also have an enormous social and economic crisis in terms of inequity.”

Reality check: A healthy dose of scrutiny is always needed for rhetoric-heavy moves like this.

  • In addition to the lack of priority among risk professionals surveyed, it’s also unclear whether political leaders — especially outside of Europe — will have the appetite to prioritize clean-energy and climate-change policies as they seek to recover from the pandemic.
  • This effort also faces heightened scrutiny of the concept of globalism, as nations have literally closed borders and looked inward to handle the pandemic’s wrath.
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