The metaverse, COVID-19, climate change and other stories that defined a difficult year

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In the last 12 months humanity has made enormous progress in its ability to manage the impacts of the virus. Image: Unsplash/ Markus Winkler

Simon Torkington
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  • COVID-19 vaccines are helping to limit the impact of the pandemic.
  • More than 8.5 billion doses have been given around the world.
  • Supply chain problems persist as a result of earlier lockdowns.
  • Global trade reforms are needed to promote sustainability and inclusiveness.
  • The metaverse may transform the internet into a 3D world for our avatars.

As 2021 draws to a close, a scroll through the headlines can be a dispiriting experience. The year is ending as it began, with the news - and our lives - dominated by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

But let’s not forget the positives in all of this. In the last 12 months humanity has made enormous progress in its ability to manage the impacts of the virus. Nations around the world have delivered more than 8.5 billion doses of the various COVID-19 vaccines.

More than 8.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been given
More than 8.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been given Image: Our Word in Data

These vaccines have saved many thousands of lives and continue to do so. In this article, Seth Berkley, the CEO of the vaccine alliance GAVI, argues for a globally inclusive vaccine campaign that will better protect us all.

Have you read?

COP26 climate change summit

In the run up to COP26 much was made about the event in Glasgow, Scotland being the last chance for nations to reach agreement on protecting the world from the worst effects of climate change.

The COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland saw intense negotiations in climate change.
The COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland saw intense negotiations in climate change. Image: Reuters/Yves Herman

After two weeks of, at times, intense negotiations an agreement was finally reached. “An important step”, concluded UN Secretary-General António Guterres before adding a warning that “our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.”


In an attempt to accelerate action to protect the planet, the World Economic Forum launched the First Movers Coalition at COP26. The initiative was launched in partnership with the US State Department, through Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. The First Movers Coalition is a group of forward-thinking companies ready to jumpstart global demand for critical emerging solutions, helping to mobilize the necessary investments and draw down costs.


Global supply chains in crisis

The effects of the global supply chain crisis have been visible around the world in 2021, with half-empty shelves in grocery stores and soaring fuel prices at the pump.

COVID-19 has played a crucial role in creating the problems we see today. Economies contracted sharply in 2020 as many countries went into lockdown, shutting factories and cutting the supply of available goods. As we rebuild from the pandemic, demand is soaring, and suppliers and logistics companies are struggling to keep up. In this article, we detailed how the founder of Flexport, Ryan Petersen, went viral on Twitter with his five suggestions to free up the backlog in US ports.

Trade reforms for an inclusive recovery

While supply chain problems pointed to vulnerabilities in global trade relationships, deeper issues underpinned calls for more fundamental reforms of global trade policy.

Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum and José Viñals, Group Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank wrote about the need to adapt global trade policy to address growing concerns about resiliency, sustainability and inclusivity. The authors pointed to the G20 Leaders Declaration that outlined key aspects of the COVID-19 recovery: namely, economic growth and job creation, health, digitalization, sustainability and inclusion. They added that trade has an important role to play in delivering each of these dimensions.


How is the Forum helping to navigate global value chain disruption?

The metaverse is coming

In the early days of 2021, the word ‘metaverse’ was largely confined to conversations between tech geeks and fans of science fiction. Fast forward to October and the metaverse was making the headlines on news platforms around the world. The man behind those stories was Mark Zuckerberg, who went public with a name change for Facebook. The company (if not its formerly eponymous social media platform) is now called Meta.

The metaverse doesn’t exist, at least, not yet. This article explained how the internet as we know it may evolve into a three-dimensional space we all occupy in avatar form - powered by virtual and augmented reality tools.

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