Davos: Renewing the Global Economy

Jan282010

This year’s Davos Forum has an unmistakably more sober feel compared to years past. Overshadowed by the tragic events in Haiti, the theme of this year’s five-day event is appropriately titled: “Improving the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign and Rebuild.” As representatives from business, government and civil society convene here in Switzerland to respond to this challenge, it is important to keep in mind that fixing the global economic system requires more than simply repairing a few roads and bridges; instead we need to think bigger about how to establish the groundwork for tomorrow’s world economy. Applied Davos PanelGetting the world economy back on track and creating new jobs will require a sustained commitment to actualizing a low-carbon economy—something that was paid lip service to at Copenhagen but not earnestly pursued. I took up this pivotal issue last night with two of the most respected thinkers in the field—New York Times’ columnist and best-selling author Tom Friedman and chairman and CEO of Duke Energy Jim Rogers—during a dinner and conversation moderated by Fox Business Network's Liz Claman on how renewable energy can serve as an effective engine for economic growth.

Of course, many countries around the globe—including emerging economies—have already awakened to the idea that investment in renewable energy is not only a sound environmental decision, but a shrewd business strategy as well. India, for example, which is expected to assume a major role at this year’s forum, has been pouring extensive resources into the development of clean energy technology, and shows few signs of letting up anytime soon. India, along with China, Japan and other renewable heavyweights, understand that the emergence of “energy shapers” (renewables) can play an influential role now alongside “energy governors” (fossil fuels). The U.S. is beginning to come around to this notion, but unless we step up efforts significantly, our chances of regaining competitiveness in the clean energy race will be severely curtailed.

The private sector has an indisputable role to play in ensuring that the transition to a renewable-driven world is more than just a pipe dream. As a proven leader in the semiconductor, display and, now, solar industries, Applied Materials has the expertise and technological prowess to assist in making such a world a reality. As I meet with current and former heads of state this week, I will be driving home the point that for an economic recovery to be successful—guided by the very principles of “Rethink, Redesign and Rebuild”—renewables need to figure prominently in any solution.

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