Looking down at the world's problems

The Swiss mountain resort of Davos

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: Davos, Switzerland is a quiet little ski town 5,000 feet into Alps, population 10,000. But once a year, Davos becomes the focus of the world. The World Economic Forum begins today. Some of the most powerful people on the planet come to this event and talk about our problems. Our European correspondent Stephen Beard is here. Stephen, what are they talking about this year?

STEPHEN BEARD: Well the official title is The Shifting Power Equation. According to the founder, professor Klaus Schwab, it's the geopolitical changes that have resulted in an increasingly schizophrenic world that is harder and harder to understand. But it's obvious what the main themes are going to be: globalization, the huge trade imbalances that have been created by that and of course the central issue, global warming.

JAGOW: Yeah I was reading that global warming will be on so many agendas at this conference, and it just so happens to be taking place in Davos, Switzerland. People there are pretty worried about global warming because they're looking out their door and seeing it every day.

BEARD: That's right, the physical signs of it are all around them and usually when the forum is underway, the resort is buried under three or four feet of snow. Not this year. The hills around the resort were green so very clear evidence of global warming there right on their doorstep.

JAGOW: Now who shows up to the World Economic Forum?

BEARD: Well more than 2,000 people this year from 90 countries and these are pretty top notch, I mean, business leaders, politicians, government officials as well as leading environmental campaigners and economists. Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google. From the political world, Tony Blair, Germany's Angela Merkel. A smaller sprinkling of celebrities, no Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. . .

JAGOW: Aww . . .

BEARD: But there will be Bono appearing with two hats, as both a celebrity and a campaigner.

JAGOW: You have all these bigwigs gathering at this little Swiss resort every year. Does anything ever come out of the World Economic Forum?

BEARD: Probably to be honest, nothing very concrete or tangible. It's more a sort of networking event. It's an opportunity for all these leaders to get together, get to know one each other, exchange ideas and so on. One of the events this year on the margins that will be certainly worth observing or at least hearing about is called Dialogue in the Dark, in which they assemble a large number of chief executives and political leaders and plunge them into darkness. Switch the lights off and see what happens. According to the organizers, some will be scared, some will panic.

JAGOW: And what's that supposed to achieve?

BEARD: We'll have to wait and see. They'll certainly get to know each other a lot better.

JAGOW: I hope not too much. Alright Stephen thanks a lot.

BEARD: OK Scott.

JAGOW: Our European correspondent Stephen Beard in London.


Sam Eaton has this report from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk:

SAM EATON: Stanford University energy policy expert David Victor is speaking at the forum.

He says unlike other meetings with climate change on the agenda, this one has all the right players in the room.

DAVID VICTOR: The international negotiations on the Kyoto protocol on global warming and the successor to that protocol, those negotiations for the most part follow what governments and companies are comfortable with and what they're able to implement.

Victor says the message from corporations at the forum will be one of practical solutions.

He says once world leaders see that business is already responding to climate change, they'll be more willing to make the ambitious political commitments needed to truly address global warming on a global scale.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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