Climate change will dominate Davos
Fortune's Nelson Schwartz writes:
There's almost no snow in Davos this year.
At any other Swiss ski resort that wouldn't be news, but when the powers that be gather later this month for the World Economic Forum in Davos, the bare Alps will be a not so subtle reminder of what's likely to be one of this year's hottest issues: global climate change. Global warming has simmered as an issue in the past but expect it to come out it into the open at the 2007 conference, which will feature some of the the biggest names of Big Oil, like BP's John Browne and Shell's Jeroen van der Veer, as well as automobile industry heavyweights like Carlos Ghosn of Nissan and Renault.
The 2007 conference's title is typically bland: "Shaping the Global Agenda, The Shifting Power Equation." But this year's confab could be the most intense since the 2003 conference, which was dominated by the impending war with Iraq. Besides climate change, other hot-button issues include the continuing violence in Iraq and rising tensions between the West and Iran, not to mention North Korea. All are set to be the focus of sessions but global warming alone is skedded to have 4 parleys, including one on the sensitive topic of whether hurricanes and other disasters can be linked to CO2 emissions, featuring the CEOs of insurance giants St. Paul Travelers and Zurich Financial Services. And Sir Nicholas Stern, who recently authored a much-talked about UK report on the phenomenon, will be discussing the "Security Implications of Climate Change." Not to be outdone, the Forum's Young Global Leaders group is hosting a "Climate Change Nightcap" in an igloo on the lawn of the snazzy Steigenberger Belvedere hotel. Only in Davos.
Last year, Iraq seemed to be strangely absent from the agenda. But with President Bush's call for more troops and the approaching U.S. presidential election, that's unlikely to be repeated. John McCain is set to attend this year, as he has in the past, so it'll be especially newsworthy to see what he has to say on both topics. McCain has always been one of the most approachable and candid Davos figures; with him now eyeing a run for the White House in 2008, it'll be interesting to see if his straight-talk shtick has been replaced by a more cautious public stance.
Of course, the most interesting parts of Davos are the happenstance encounters in the buzzing hallways of the Congress Center, not to mention the after-midnight bull sessions with the likes of Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. 'The Peak' will feature those, along with just enough of the wonky side to make you feel like you, too, have made it up the mountain - even if there's no snow. We'll have daily files from Jan. 24 to 28 from myself, Robert Friedman and David Kirkpatrick of Fortune, as well as more updates next week.
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