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Special Report

Year of the Pivot

2022 will bring new challenges and opportunities as the world prepares to move past the pandemic. : Michael Joiner, 360info 2022 will bring new challenges and opportunities as the world prepares to move past the pandemic. : Michael Joiner, 360info

By Reece Hooker, 360info

As we close the door on a second year ravaged by the pandemic, attention turns to what 2022 will bring.

The consensus is the world will learn to live with coronavirus. Despite the threat of new variants, vaccine inequality and even the most vaccinated nations battling a vocal minority of “anti-vaxxers”, it appears lockdowns and wide-ranging restrictions on movement will be left behind.

Climate will continue to dominate the global agenda. 2021 may be ending with a renewed sense of optimism following the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), but the pledges made in Glasgow will not solve climate change. In 2022, world leaders will be tasked with making more ambitious plans to curb the threat of environmental catastrophe.

As the world emerges from pandemic-enforced paralysis, opportunities to pivot to better, new ways of organising our society are emerging. Universities can embrace new models of thinking. The push to make cities more ethical and fair could gather further momentum, as communities reflect on how they wish to organise after two disrupted years.

Travel will evolve to reflect this adjustment. As motorists get back on the road and international travel resumes, people and businesses alike will consider the environmental toll of their movements. The electric vehicle boom may pick up speed if the cost of going green begins to drop in the coming year.

These challenges will play out in the shadow of a global international relations struggle between powerhouse democracies and rising autocracies. 2021 has concluded with the White House’s ‘Summit for Democracy’, but 2022 may see emergent autocraticies assert themselves further in the world order.

Reality check

Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to rise by 4.7 percent in 2022, according to investment bank Morgan Stanley.

The World Health Organisation has set a June 2022 target for the world to reach a full COVID-19 vaccination rate of 70 percent. It is presently at 42.7 percent.

2022 is projected to be the final year that developed nations fall short of their pledge to provide US$100 billion in climate finance to developing nations for climate action.

Big ideas

(Quotes attributable to Prof. Brendan F.D. Barrett, Professor in the Centre for the Study of Co*Design, Osaka University)

“Increasingly, there are people reaching out across political divides and recognising that we share the same problems. Even if we have slightly different values, we can work together to come up with solutions to take us forward.”

“People missed the community a lot during COVID-19 — coming out of the pandemic, there’ll be a lot of people reaching out, searching for community.”

“We’ve seen governments try to mobilise on a large scale, which gets pushback, but the balance we’re looking for is not the government controlling everything, but devolving and decentralising this kind of power so people have more control over it.”

(Quotes attributable to Dr Emma Shortis, Research Fellow at the European Union Centre of Excellence in the Social and Global Studies Centre, RMIT University)

“Nothing is inevitable, climate change is not inevitable — the immediate signs are that it will get worse before it gets better, but there’s always room for dramatic developments.”

“Climate action is not just about feel-good individual stories like more people getting solar power for their own homes. That’s important, but our focus should be on communities acting together — with business, with civil society organisations, with educational institutions and with local governments.”

“There’s a real threat that the cascading effects of climate change will feed into increasing authoritarianism around issues such as national borders, as refugee flow increases. The room for authoritarian politics to move in and spread is getting bigger.”


Managing COVID in 2022: first do no harm
By Francisca Mutapi, University of Edinburgh

After two years of living through a pandemic, the consensus is we must learn to live with the coronavirus. Finding the best way to do that will be crucial.

2021 was a critical year for climate. 2022 will be even bigger
By Emma Shortis, RMIT University

Even if the promises made at COP26 were implemented, it won’t be enough to stop catastrophic warming. 2022 is a chance to take climate action a step further.

Despotic regimes a new global competitor to be reckoned with

By John Keane, University of Sydney

Apologists for autocracies are upbeat, as powerful democracies worldwide are warped and weighed down. The new despotisms should wake up democrats everywhere.

Ethical cities could fix post-COVID-19 struggles
By Brendan F.D. Barrett, Osaka University

The post-pandemic recovery represents a unique opportunity for our cities to emerge more ethical, equitable, inclusive, sustainable and resilient.

The post-pandemic future of higher education
By Jonathan Grant, affiliated researcher at the Bennett Institute at the University of Cambridge

Emerging from crisis, the new power, post-pandemic university can make a lasting contribution to a just, sustainable and connected world.

How are we going to get around in a decarbonised world?
By Peter Newman and Dean Economou, Curtin University

The path towards decarbonising transport has become clear over time — and it seems like consumers are interested in making it happen.

Business stares down big challenges in 2022
By Christo Karuna and Michael Mintrom, Monash University

After two years of pandemic-related disruption, businesses will need to address ongoing challenges to operations and culture.

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