Poorer shade of green

Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD)

Click for bigger graph

Does development aid help the environment? It ought to, especially as ensuring environmental sustainability is an explicit public policy aim in the Millennium Development Goals which governments reaffirmed at the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development in 2002.

Delivering on this goal is a huge task, as it tackles issues like forestation, biodiversity, resource management, urban squalor, sanitation and global warming. One overriding aim is to integrate sustainable development goals into a range of country policies.

Roughly US$6 billion in bilateral official development assistance (ODA) from the countries of the Development Assistance Committee at the OECD is earmarked each year for environmental ends. Monitoring it can be tricky, since reporting systems can change from year to year. Still, broadly speaking, some $3 billion of aid goes to projects for which environmental goals are a “principal” objective. Building a nature reserve to promote biodiversity would be a principal objective, as would upgrading a power station to make it cleaner. The rest is channelled into projects in which environmental goals play a “significant” though not primary role, like adding a research laboratory to a university as part of a wider educational programme.

The trouble is that the overall proportion of environmentally-related ODA has declined since 2000. Moreover, only a proportion of an activity ranked as “significant” may actually target environmental sustainability, whereas the amount recorded refers to the entire activity. But there is another problem. Overall sector allocable aid to education, health, industry, agriculture, etc., accounts for some 65-70%, or around $30 billion, of total bilateral ODA, the rest being debt relief and other finance. Details on the environmental goals are available on only half of that amount. More screening of aid from large donors, like France, Italy and the US, is needed for a fuller picture.

On the positive side, there was a slight uptick in ODA from $2.4 billion in 2001 to $2.5 billion in 2002 for projects with a principal environmental justification. Nevertheless, that level was down by over 40% compared with 2000.

Reversing this declining trend must become a priority if international environmental goals are to be met. The DAC Guidelines: Strategies for Sustainable Development seek to encourage this by clarifying the importance of effective national and local strategies for sustainable development; describing the various forms they can take in developing countries; and offering guidance on how development co-operation agencies can support them.

©OECD Observer No. 242, March 2004

Economic Data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter

Twitter feed

Editor's Choice

  • Economic Outlook_video
  • Economic Outlook: The global economy is expected to continue expanding at a moderate pace over the coming two years, but policymakers must ensure that instability in financial markets and underlying fragility in major economies are not allowed to derail growth.Click to watch the video.
  • OECD Forum 2014
    A public event that brings together all sectors of society to share policies and ideas to help shape responses to global challenges.
    Join us on 5-6 May.
  • "There is no shortcut to equipping people with the right skills and to providing them with opportunities to use their skills effectively."

    - Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, OECD Yearbook 2014

  • Data Lab Image
  • Interactive charts showing aid (ODA) provided by DAC members; by recipient countries and by sector. Click to compare your country.
  • OECD Insights Blog
    OECD Insights Blog by Brian Keeley:
    Results are out for the OECD’s PISA student assessments on “creative problem solving”.
  • Better Life Index
    How do you measure a Better Life?
    On 5 May, the OECD will be launching a new interactive infographic where visitors can explore the priorities of people worldwide. Be a part of it. Create and share your Better Life Index.

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe Now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the OECD or its member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2014