What Will The World Look Like In 2021?

The world has undoubtedly been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is unlikely to go back to normal in 2021. Already, we are in a new national lockdown, and more restrictions are likely to come. It's fair to say that we should be expecting quite an interesting year - in fact, the world may never look the same again. So, here are 5 key developments for 2021 to keep an eye out for: 

 

Vaccines  

As of the 6th January, some 1.3 million people in the UK have had the first dose of the vaccine. So far, the UK has approved for use three different vaccines: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford University vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine. In the coming year, many more vaccines are expected to be approved, for example from the Novavax, Valneva and Janssen companies. It is hoped that these vaccines will be sufficient to slow the spread of COVID-19, although scientists have warned people against ignoring other covid restrictions. While the vaccines are great news, there will be problems that come with trying to vaccinate 7.8 billion people. We may see countries arguing over supplies. There is especially a danger that richer countries will lock in supplies for their nationals, leaving poorer countries without the means to vaccinate their population. This fear has led to schemes such as the global vaccine programme Covax, which will give all participating countries equal access to the vaccines. Additional problems will occur if people start refusing the vaccine and a resurgence of the anti-vaccine movement could be expected. It will be interesting to see whether this year we finally be able to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

 

Environment  

One key thing that will be happening in 2021 is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), set to be hosted in November in Glasgow. Originally intended to be in 2020, it was pushed back a year by the pandemic, and will provide a vital forum for the signatories of the Paris Agreement to meet and examine their progress. Under the Paris Agreement, 195 countries agreed to try and keep global warming to below 1.5C by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Now, 6 years on from the Paris Agreement, the countries will have to report their progress and likely set stricter targets for themselves. Already, the UK government has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. Significantly, China, as one of the world’s largest polluters, has also pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2060. In 2020, the pandemic caused a reduction of around 8% of carbon emissions, although scientists have suggested that this has had little impact on the overall concentration levels. Whether countries will be able to keep these carbon levels down, in line with their duties under the Paris Agreement, or whether emissions will start to soar again remains to be seen.  

 

TV/Film  

2020 was a bad year for the creative industries. With cinemas and festivals shut down, many films did not manage to get released. Companies wanted to delay the release of their films to maximise profit. Therefore, expect in 2021 to see an influx of big-budget films that would have gone out in 2020 once cinemas re-open for good. Yet another downside to the pandemic was that TV and film production had to be suspended for extended periods of time – and this is reflected in the number of shows Netflix cancelled, such as The SocietyI Am Not Okay With This, and GLOW. Due to suspended production, new content may take time to arrive. As a response to the closed cinemas, some films have gone straight to streaming – see for example Mulan. This is a trend that may continue in the new year, especially now that studios such as Universal have made agreements to allow their films to be digitally released a lot faster than before. 

 

Technology  

The world was already becoming increasingly digital, but the pandemic has accelerated this trend. It will be interesting to see what technological behaviours stick around for 2021. Likely, we will see a lot more video conferencing, as it becomes more and more acceptable for employees to work from home. Remote learning is also likely to continue, although it has been noted that both teachers and students have expressed the desire to get back into the classroom. For both employees and students, a hybrid model of working online and in-person should continue. The trend of online shopping, already growing in popularity before covid, is also likely to continue – bad news for the high street, which has seen brands such as Debenhams and the Arcadia Group go into administration. The NHS has also seen some technological advances, and I think we can expect more remote appointments and consultations.  

 

International Developments  

One massive development for 2021 is that the US will have a new president, Joe Biden. This is likely to cause quite a big change – hopefully, we will see the US re-joining the Paris Agreement and the reversal of Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the World Health Organisation. The US has been badly shaken by the coronavirus pandemic, with over 22 million cases and 369,000 deaths. Therefore, expect to see Joe Biden introducing stricter measures to tackle the pandemic, with a possible national mask mandate. The USA’s approach to foreign policy is also likely to change, with the US making nice with traditional allies and the restoration of US leadership to areas like climate change. However, expect America’s tensions with China to continue. There will also be a change of leadership in Germany this year, with Angela Merkel having taken the decision not to run for re-election. Merkel, who has been the German Chancellor since 2005, has been a strong leader throughout the pandemic. It will be interesting to see who follows her and whether they will measure up.