The opening sessions of this sixth edition of the FT Global Boardroom brought home the severity of the current geopolitical climate, with no sign of any imminent peace negotiations in Ukraine, and even raised the question of whether we are on a path to World War Three.
“I think the world is getting even more complicated with war, recession, inflation, energy crisis and climate emergency,” the FT’s editor Roula Khalaf said in her opening remarks, setting the tone for the three-day event, which aims to address the vast range of challenges facing global leaders.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the conditions for a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine were “not there now because Russia has shown no sign of engaging in negotiations which are respecting the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine”. He urged members of the western alliance to keep providing weapons to Kyiv over the winter because, he warned, Russia was preparing a spring offensive.
Hours after Beijing announced relaxations to President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid restrictions, chief US medical adviser Anthony Fauci told the Global Boardroom that China would face a wave of Covid-19 infections unless it implemented a comprehensive vaccination strategy, including more effective western Covid vaccines. “If they don’t do things like mount and implement a proactive vaccination campaign, and you open up, you are going to have a wave of infections which are certainly going to be associated with a certain degree of severity of disease,” he said.
A session on geopolitics led by the FT’s foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman highlighted the top issues to watch in 2023: China’s relationship with the US, the Ukraine war, climate change and Iran. While the risks of nuclear escalation in the Ukraine war have dropped considerably, said Meghan O’Sullivan, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, “we can’t assume that this is a probability that might not increase again”.
Later on panellists discussed the successes and limitations of COP27 — the UN climate talks held a few weeks ago in Egypt. The creation of a loss and damage fund marked a breakthrough, they said, but the negotiations were “insufficiently ambitious”.
In a keynote interview Nicolai Tangen, chief executive of Norway’s $1.3tn oil fund, vowed to take more action to influence companies to improve their environmental, social and corporate governance:
“We can vote more against companies when we have different expectations about how they should behave,” said Tangen. “If you don’t have a net zero target, you can be voted against.”