[Analytics] Australia’s big role in global change at World Economic Forum

The digital economy and climate change dominated this year's summit, which had the theme of Globalisation 4.0 (9news)

High up in the Swiss Alps sits a town nestled in a fairytale valley. The slopes are blanketed in metres of snow. Every year in late January, the world’s elite descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum. More than 3000 delegates came to this year’s event, a mix of business leaders and politicians. And more than 100 private planes ferried the most privileged into Zurich Airport. The theme? Something called Globalisation 4.0. Michael Best specially for the 9News.

“We are at the crossroads of history in many ways,” the forum’s founder Klaus Schwab says.

“Look, for example, at the environment and the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel, we have 12 years to bring our house in order so what we want to do with the theme Globalisation 4.0 is to show we need globalisation.

“But maybe we need to reshape the way how we do globalisation.”

Schwab founded the summit in the early 1970s, and since then has turned it into an international event that people pay huge amounts of money to attend.

There are always a smattering of stars.

This year, its two biggest were Prince William and Sir David Attenborough.

The future king changed jobs for the day – interviewing the naturalist, who delivered a dire warning.

“The central part of human life is a healthy planet,” said Sir David.

“We are in the danger of wrecking that. If we don’t recognise the sort of connections that I’ve been describing, then the whole of the planet becomes a hazard and we are destroying the natural world and with it ourselves.”

t does seem that business leaders are listening, even if some politicians aren’t.

As one delegate said, there’s no business on a dead planet.

That would mean no money is made.

And money – really – is at the heart of Davos.

Men and women in expensive business dress stroll the Promenade, flitting between business shopfronts and more intimate lunches and meetings.

Deals are done here. Indeed – even Donald Trump came to last year’s conference, engaging with globalisation’s great defenders despite his policy of America First.

He pulled out of this year’s summit though, along with Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May.

And in a time of Brexit, and rising nationalism and popularism in Europe and around the globe, many are questioning the event’s relevance.

An Australian delegation attends every year, and our Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, says there’s a very good reason.

“Well I’ve spent all morning in meeting after meeting with trade ministers from other nations CEOs and chairmen from global companies who have significant business presence in Australia,” he told me.

“Whether it’s building rail lines, building our defence vessels or indeed businesses where we hope to see greater innovation and drive in technologies.”

“Across the board it’s about those one-to-one engagements that can hopefully attract more investment, more exports and ultimately more jobs.”

So it seems Davos isn’t quite done yet.

Elitist or not, if there’s money to be made in trade or business, then you can bet the world’s leaders will continue to fly in every January.

And it certainly helps that the snow-covered Swiss Alps are a pretty nice place for a business trip.

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