There is a lot of gloomy talk about the recession but there is another conversation here that perhaps points to some green shoots desperately pushing their heads through the Davos frost.
The narrative goes something like this. Yes, we are facing one to two years of recession followed by a slow recovery. But during this period the opportunity exists to make major strides in certain areas, the main one being climate change initiatives, and that’s getting people excited. It’s giving people something to focus on and when two thousand global influencers focus on the same thing, you get the sense that something might just happen.You hear this narrative in the speech given by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama. You hear this in the venture capital lunch where early stage investors talk about where the money is going next. You even hear it in the shuttle buses that ferry groups of participants between the conference centre and the hotels dotted around Davos and Klosters.
Lots of unexpected encounters and serendipitous conversations happen in these little vans as delegates are thrown together at random. This evening returning to the hotel, I got chatting to Professor Daniel Sperling of the University of California, Davis, a leading international expert on transportation and energy, a key player in shaping California’s thinking in this area. He was quite upbeat about the direction things were going in and when I asked whether the automotive companies were playing ball he pointed out that they are, after all, seeking huge amounts of support from an energy conscious administration at the moment. Green shoots out of the frost indeed.
Speaking of unexpected encounters, I had one of those surreal “Davos moments” today. I had just finished chatting to Stelios, founder of Easyjet, who asked whether I was going to the Prince Andrew hosted event. I said no as I was heading back to my hotel. Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General, was dropping his coat off and we nodded at each other as I pulled my snowboots on. Then David Cameron came though, paused to chat to Kofi briefly and carried on down the corridor, stopping only when he came face to face with Boris Johnson heading in the opposite direction. As they chatted, Tony Blair whisked past with his minders, again pausing to exchange pleasantries with Kofi Annan.
Head spinning slightly, I trudged off to the shuttle bus through the Davos snow, keeping my eyes peeled for green shoots.