Key ESG Takeaways: World Economic Forum’s Special Meeting

What were the key ESG and energy takeaways from the Special Meeting at the World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia?

Inclusive growth, global collaboration and energy for development were the three core themes of the World Economic Forum's Special Meeting.  More than 1000 global leaders and experts came together to address some of the most pressing global issues, including highlights involving sustainability policy and green energy transition.

The importance of prioritising people

A key ESG takeaway from the special meeting was the value of putting people at the heart of decisions and sustainable strategy.  

“Inclusive growth is not just a lofty ideal, it is a categorical imperative,” said Faisal Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia, steering the importance of a global economy that works for all. “This means investing in people, in their skills, in their education, and in their well-being.”

"With the geopolitical and socio-technological churn underway today, companies are being asked to fill the void on social and other issues that policy has not dealt with", said Peter Orszag, Chief Executive Officer of Lazard. He called for better policy-making to deal with the social challenges and economic twists of the energy transition. “It is going to be expensive and it is going to be hard,” he added.

Special Meeting on Global Collaboration, Growth and Energy for Development (Credit: World Economic Forum/Deepu Das)

Building partnerships globally 

Global collaboration was a key theme of the meeting, including how to building a more resilient global economy and sustainable energy transition.

HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, spoke of how the Kingdom is committed to acting as a stabilising force in the region, and how cohesion and cooperation with partners is important in achieving security and prosperity.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said that “revitalising, reimagining, and reinvigorating alliances and partnerships around the world” would be the only way out of this period of polycrisis.

The potential of AI was also raised as a potential ‘equaliser’ for the potential of developing nations.  Paula Ingabire, Rwanda's Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation said "we don't have legacy infrastructure and systems, so if we're able to be very laser-focused on how we deploy AI solutions for the societal problems we're trying to solve for, then one, we gain the benefits, but we're also able to leapfrog when it comes to technological development."

Positive signs for renewable energy

The progression of energy transition was raised in discussions, with reference to a record year for renewable energy in the European Union which is providing more sustainable energy security and is helping stabilise energy prices.  

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar Alkhorayef, explained the country is seeing "more and more solutions that can reduce energy" and that technology adoption will further assist people.

Global North and South 

The expanding fracture between developed nations and those being left behind was a recurring theme, being described as a 'geopolitical recession' and 'global fracture'.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said "divergence within country blocks and across country blocks and within countries is deepening".

"Low-income countries are falling dramatically behind. I want to give you a number, US$3.3tn. This is how much the world lost because of the pandemic. In this loss, disproportionately the low-income countries are most severely impacted."

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