Reflections on Davos

Feb32010

Last week in snow-covered Davos wrapped up with a very different feel than previous Davos summits. The mood was slightly more optimistic than last year but attendees were also pragmatic about the pace of global recovery. Not surprisingly, the global economic outlook panel was one of the most widely attended demonstrating the reality of what is really on the minds of world leaders.

One of the most interesting panels I attended featured top Indian officials who discussed national policies including the plan to dramatically increase renewable energy capabilities. Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma spoke eloquently about India’s national plan to increase renewable energy as a part of the fuel mix, with a special emphasis on solar. Mike Splinter and I met one-on-one with Indian Deputy Planning Commission Chairman Ahluwalia as well as Shyam Saran, advisor to the prime minister on solar and climate change. Listening to these leaders I was reminded that the U.S. isn’t becoming less relevant in the global geopolitical landscape, other countries are just becoming more relevant.

Mike and I were able to meet one-on-one with a fascinating array of world leaders including UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, U.S. Representative Ed Markey, Climate Group CEO Steve Howard and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

As we searched for signs of hope for climate change progress in 2010, we had to look no further than Mexican President Felipe Calderon who was enthusiastic about COP 16 saying that he thinks Copenhagen created significant opportunities for Cancun’s November meeting where he believes a strong emissions plan will be adopted. Congressman Edward Markey was also hopeful about climate efforts in the U.S., saying that he believes "significant" climate legislation is likely to pass through both houses of Congress this year.

Beyond hope, there was also deep discussion - both at the Applied Materials panel and on the ground - among meeting participants about the details that will translate this hope for renewable energy and climate change policy into reality. There were discussions about the financing mechanisms needed for renewable energy and what policies the U.S. and other countries need to transform renewable energy into an affordable and widespread energy option, including renewable electricity standards and solar tax incentives.

International climate change leaders joined Mike Splinter at the climate change session including former Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, billionaire investor George Soros, former U.S. Senator and now President of the UN Foundation Tim Wirth and U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern. A week of discussions with forward-looking leaders like these coupled with President Obama’s State of the Union call for green jobs and renewable energy make me hopeful that 2010 will be a good year for green energy.

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