SciCheck Digest

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Economic Forum proposed an initiative to reform economic and social systems, called the “Great Reset.” But a 2020 video of WEF’s Nicole Schwab discussing this initiative never showed her saying that “permanent climate lockdowns” were coming, contrary to claims in a widely shared article.

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The World Economic Forum is a Switzerland-based nonprofit organization that aims to foster collaboration between public and private entities. It is known for its annual meeting in Davos, usually organized around a theme, which was “Cooperation in a Fragmented World” this year and “Working Together, Restoring Trust” last year.

In June 2020, the WEF announced the launch of an initiative called the “Great Reset,” which would be the theme of its 2021 annual meeting. The COVID-19 pandemic showed the potential of businesses and individuals to “abandon practices long claimed to be essential,” WEF founder Klaus Schwab wrote.

The initiative had a variety of goals — including environmental ones as well as ones aimed at improving health, addressing social challenges and increasing economic equity. Contrary to various conspiracy theories, the Great Reset was not intended to help create a global totalitarian government, nor get rid of capitalism.

Most recently, an article rapidly spreading on social media has fabricated a quote from Nicole Schwab, who is co-head of Nature-Based Solutions and a member of the executive committee at WEF. She is also Klaus Schwab’s daughter. The article, from the People’s Voice, follows a familiar playbook for the website, which previously has made up quotes and published false headlines.

The article headline reads: “Klaus Schwab’s Daughter: ‘Permanent Climate Lockdowns Coming – Whether You Like It or Not.’” Except there is no record of Nicole Schwab saying this. A WEF spokesperson told us via email that the People’s Voice article is “fake news.” 

The People’s Voice article says Nicole Schwab “made the admission” in a “newly unearthed video,” which was recorded at a June 2020 event and published at least two years ago. But Schwab never says anything about a climate lockdown. Instead, she speaks about the potential that “things can shift very rapidly when we put our minds to it and when we feel the immediate emergency to our livelihoods.” She also references the Great Reset and urges people to take the pandemic as an opportunity for change that puts “nature at the core of the economy.”

Further, “climate lockdowns” are not part of the Great Reset, a WEF spokesperson told the Associated Press.

The narrative that a “climate lockdown” was coming dates back to 2020, according to a report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Some early articles and tweets cited calls to take inspiration from the pandemic response to combat climate change as evidence that activists hoped for a “climate lockdown.”

Exactly what these “climate lockdown” restrictions are supposed to entail is not clear. The phrase has been tied to warnings of restrictions on things ranging from freedom of movement to red meat consumption. 

Some have said that the lockdown does not have to be literal. “Even without government stay-at-home orders, there are a lot of ways for the left to effectively lock you down,” Laura Ingraham said in 2021 on Fox News, naming changes affecting the availability of fuel and gas-powered cars.

The People’s Voice article quotes another article from Slay News, which falsely claims that Nicole Schwab said COVID-19 lockdowns were a precursor to climate lockdowns. The article compares policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions to COVID-19-related restrictions.

Like many environmental initiatives, the Great Reset concept included strategies to reduce carbon emissions, such as ending government subsidies for fossil fuel. However, the only specific environmental effort Nicole Schwab mentions in the 2020 video is “regenerative agriculture,” meant to improve soil health.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s articles providing accurate health information and correcting health misinformation are made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.