Emmanuel Macron says pandemic has taught us how vulnerable humanity is

French president tells World Economic Forum lessons of pandemic must be learnt

French president Emmanuel Macron said coronavirus has reminded humanity of its vulnerability to disease and climate change, as he called on society to learn the lessons from the past year.

Mr Macron told the World Economic Forum by video link that the effects of the pandemic would be felt for “months and years”.

“The first thing to say is that you cannot think economy without thinking about human beings,” he said.

“It might seem rather banal to say that, but in all of our countries we've done something that was unthinkable before. We stopped all economic activities to save lives.”

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 26, 2021, as part of World Economic Forum (WEF) which usually takes place in Davos, Switzerland. The Davos Agenda from January 25 to January 29, 2021, is an online edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. / AFP / POOL / Francois Mori

Mr Macron said the past year showed the world that pandemics and climatic events were not a “distant idea”, and that they could have an effect on our everyday lives.

“We cannot build anything in the post-Covid world without learning the lessons from our experience,” he said.

“Our societies are vulnerable. Nature is reminding us we are vulnerable to a pandemic or climate events. The economy of tomorrow is strengthened by these lessons.”

Mr Macron said humanity was at “the start of a technological revolution”, with artificial intelligence and quantum computing likely to play a huge role in addressing these issues.

But it will also have an effect on democracy, illustrated by the riot at the US Capitol this month, he said.

Mr Macron said countries had not lived up to their Paris climate accord obligations but that now was a good moment to “revise upwards” their commitment to cutting carbon emissions.

“At this point, we have not lived up to our commitments, all of us," he said.

"So our top priority is to do our utmost to stay true to our commitments. There cannot be any freeloaders.

“When the US decided to leave the Paris Agreement in 2017, there was a major risk, but I see that the house of cards has not tumbled.”

Mr Macron also stressed the need to set up a global biodiversity agreement, echoing calls by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the day.

“What we are doing for climate we need to do for biodiversity," he said.

"This will entail changes in agricultural production and in the very way that we consume and live."

Mr Macron said the world must move beyond the "Washington consensus", as he backed calls by Angela Merkel for a more multilateral approach.

“We need to find a new mode of co-operation between states," he said. "This was stymied by the previous US administration, which did not believe in it.

“I have a lot of hope for this new year with our American partner, which I hope is about to re-engage with us."

Then and now: Davos in 2020 and 2021