Energy a key issue as global leaders meet in Davos

Concern after prices rise 500% since last WEF annual meeting

The World Economic Forum 2022 is under way in in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Photo: World Economic Forum / Ciaran McCrickard
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The first full day of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum spanned topics from the Ukraine invasion to restoring societal trust.

The two plenary speeches from heads of state were given by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.

Mr Zelenskyy addressed the business community with a focus on getting their backing for his country, a complete boycott of Russia and preparing for the “reconstruction” phase that will inevitably follow the war.

Countries and corporations are already trying to assess the costs associated with that reconstruction, though an end to the war is not in sight.

Sheikh Tamim also spoke of the importance of ending the war in Ukraine but stressed the necessity of appreciating the suffering of others, with an emphasis on Palestine.

He said that “Palestine has been an open wound since the establishment of the United Nations”, pointing to the death of an Al Jazeera journalist who was killed this month during an Israeli military operation.

World Economic Forum — in pictures

“Shireen Abu Akleh, a Christian Palestinian-American journalist, was killed two weeks ago in Palestine and then robbed of a dignified burial,” he said, in reference to attacks by Israeli police on her funeral procession.

Business leaders attended both talks but in large part were concerned with what the two heads of state had to say on energy.

The impact of the Ukraine war and increased energy prices, with gas prices jumping about 500 per cent since the last meeting in Davos, has finance officials and corporate leaders concerned.

And while some were arguing for the need to further sanctions on Russia, former US congressman Eric Cantor said in a public session on Monday morning that an “off-ramp” was necessary for Russia to end the war and restabilise energy markets.

Ukrainian officials in attendance were not pleased with the idea of finding a way to bring Russia in from the cold. A congresswoman from the US state of Missouri, Ann Wagner, posited that her country should be the “Saudi Arabia of LNG” in the same session, with little interest in finding a way to lift the sanctions on Russian energy supplies.

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al Jadaan said that the green transition was in danger as some European countries have opted to burn coal to compensate for Russian gas.

While discussions on climate mitigation are in full force, including the need for investments in technology to enable a green transition, the most immediate concern was the coming winter, due to high energy prices.

The intricate relationship between geopolitics and energy is a big topic in Davos. As the Iran nuclear talks languish, the Iranian foreign minister is expected to speak at the World Economic Forum later this week.

Whether a nuclear deal could ease some of the pressure has yet to be seen, but the bigger picture in Davos is that the energy issue is at the top of the minds of leaders across the board.

Published: May 23, 2022, 6:24 PM