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The world is moving into its fourth great energy transition, from fossil fuels to renewables. Previous transitions have marked new epochs. Fire gave hominids energy-rich food, with profound consequences for human evolution. Agriculture and animal power paved the way for settled societies and great cities. The industrial age, powered by fossil fuels, transformed the human condition – and created unimagined environmental damage.
The saying “Never make predictions, especially about the future” is attributed to individuals as varied as the physicist Niels Bohr and the baseball player Yogi Berra.
Sentiment in financial markets changes quickly. The big worry for most of the last year has been about collapsing growth and falling prices. Now markets are fretting about inflation. Such fears were behind the sharp sell-off in US equities in the early part of last week.
Through the vast majority of human existence homo sapiens held little power over nature. Efforts by our ancestors to ’tame’ nature were modest and had little lasting effect. In perhaps 200,000 years of human existence it has been only in the last 250 or so years, since the industrial revolution, that human activity has impinged on nature. Industrialisation, economic activity and a rising population have taken a toll.
In late 2019 we wrote a Briefing arguing that the car industry is a bellwether of the global economy and of globalisation. A few months later the sector faced the most destructive downturn since the financial crisis.
The emergence of a novel respiratory disease in late 2019 in Hubei province marked the start of what was to become a global pandemic. While the first recorded cases were in China, China has suffered a remarkably low death rate and has avoided the deep recessions that have befallen the rest of the world.
The world is emerging from a deep recession, and the recovery is coming faster than expected. With more than 800m vaccines administered globally, activity holding up despite lockdowns and additional fiscal stimulus coming, economists have been upgrading their GDP forecasts.
Our latest UK Chief Financial Officers Survey, released overnight, shines light on the plans of Britain’s largest corporates as the economy reopens. The full report is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html
In the UK things are looking up on the health and economic fronts. COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths have fallen sharply from their January peaks. For two consecutive weeks, the number of deaths from all causes in England and Wales has been below the five-year average. On 28 March zero COVID-19 deaths were reported in London.
Join Deloitte CEO Richard Houston and me as we examine economic and business prospects beyond the pandemic in our Spring webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, 30 March, 14:30–15:30 BST. To register please visit: