As environmental pressures continue to rise, governments, just as businesses, have not been sitting back. If anything, the stringency of policy measures in the OECD area has been increasing on the whole, not least to combat pollution and climate change. But what about the effects of these actions on productivity?

©Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters

Water, is as essential to human activity as air. When cities or societies neglect water, they face collapse. The discussions and analyses emerging from the current economic crisis focus on what went wrong, how to stop the downward spiral, and how to create a better society in the future. But one thing is missing in all the talk of short-term stimulus packages and developing “green growth” economies and that is water.

In the current financial crisis, risk-weary investors worry more about keeping their own boats afloat than in pumping money into a sector noted for high upfront costs, long pay back periods and low rates of return.

A Check-list for Public Action has been developed by the OECD and its partners to assist governments considering engaging with the private sector in the water sector. It is organised around the OECD Principles for Private Sector Participation in Infrastructures–some 24 principles grouped under five points that highlight sector-specific features, government considerations and available tools and practices:

Click to read cartoon. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

OECD Observer No 302, Q1 2015

It’s easy to dream about holidays in far-off exotic islands, especially with current global petrol prices. A sustained low oil price has allowed many of us to put away a little more of that paycheck and think seriously about buying an iWatch or taking that much-deserved break.

Ever plodded through flood waters to get to a conference? In late January, the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) held their 3rd annual conference in Venice, Italy at the impressive Ca’ Foscari University. More than 200 experts from universities, governments and agencies converged to discuss the role that fiscal policies can play in greening growth. With the streets filling rapidly with water, nature (influenced by a changing climate) provided extra motivation to act immediately on this issue as participants flocked to indoor heaters and radiators to dry out their drenched shoes and socks.

Studies estimating that the global demand for water, energy, and food will increase by 55%, 80%, and 60% respectively by 2050.

“Lonesome George” walking around Galapagos National Park on April 19, 2012. ©Rodrigo Buendia/AFP

Please join me in an ode to the giant tortoise, recently confirmed to be back from near extinction on the Galapagos Espanola Island after conservation work that began forty years ago. The population currently stands at over 1000, a spectacular recovery considering that only 15 remained in the late 1960s, when they were summarily rounded up and placed into a breeding program. 

Click to read cartoon.

OECD Observer No 301, Q4 2014

 

The world is still not moving fast enough to fight climate change.  Fossils fuels remain the dominant energy source with billions of dollars still being spent on subsidising their use.

A new webpage has been opened to help understand and monitor progress in addressing the Ebola virus outbreak which has struck western Africa and preoccupied global public opinion in recent months. 

Biodiversity is fundamental to sustaining life, providing critical ecosystem services, such as food security, water purification, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation, that are essential to support human well-being and economic growth.

As environmental pressures continue to rise, governments throughout the OECD area have not been sitting back. If anything, the stringency of their policy measures has been increasing on the whole, not least to combat pollution and climate change. And as the evidence shows, stringent environmental policies can be introduced without hurting overall productivity.

The Electric Flats was the name given to a group of houses on the corner of the street in what’s now called North Lanarkshire, Scotland, where I grew up. It’s not that the rest of us didn’t have electricity (we even had indoor toilets) but the Electric Flats had a radiator in every room. 

©Iain Masterton/Alamy

Japan’s development and influence have long been reflected in its architecture, and that influence is set to continue.

Australians are well-known for being a sports-mad people. Some 43% of the adult population attended at least one sporting event in 2009-10 and national pride is often rooted in the latest successes of its national sports teams and international sports stars. Beating the All Blacks in rugby union (a rare event these days) or the English in cricket (a more even match) will significantly lift the national mood. After Australia II won the America’s Cup sailing race in 1983, Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously declared an effective public holiday: “Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum.”

Click to read cartoon. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

OECD Observer No 299, Q2 2014

Saving the Earth’s climate is sometimes compared to saving the world’s financial system following the crisis in 2007. But it’s not. The taxpayer saved the financial system by bailing it out a cost of trillions of dollars over a very short period, but there is no bailout option for the climate. If we let things go on as they are until disaster threatens, we’ll have no way of preventing disaster, however much we spend.

©Yuya Shino/REUTERS

Expanding airport capacity in large metropolitan areas is difficult, and Japan is a case in point. Some 33 million people (26% of total) and 17 million (13% of total) live in Greater Tokyo and Greater Osaka respectively. According to some sources, Tokyo-Yokohama is the largest urban area in the world and Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto the 12th largest.

©Jackie Naegelen/Reuters

The car industry has taken a dent since the recession started to bite in 2008, but even before then, new patterns were emerging that would reshape the sector for a long time to come. 

©Mazzur. Under licence from Shutterstock

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a long-lived gas. Almost half of the CO2 emitted in 2013 will still be in the atmosphere a century from now. This means that its concentration, and warming potential, increases over time, unless the rate of accumulation can be cut to zero. This is the goal that the OECD is urging all countries to achieve: zero net emissions by mid-century. To accomplish this, the explicit price of carbon dioxide emissions should be aligned more closely with their true cost, while avoiding expensive policy options that could be replaced by more cost-effective ones. 

Climate change is, to a large extent, water change. Water is the predominant channel through which the impact of climate change will be felt. More torrential rains, floods and droughts can be expected in many parts of the world. Not only that–climate change is reshaping the future for freshwater on the planet. 

©Mischa Keijser/Cultura Creative/AFP

Since 1997 the Netherlands has had a tax allowance scheme aimed at promoting investments in energy-saving technologies and sustainable energy production. This so-called Energy Investment Tax Allowance, or EIA to the Dutch, reduces up-front investment costs for firms investing in the newest energy-saving and sustainable energy technologies. The basic design of the EIA has remained the same over the past 15 years: firms investing in technologies listed in an annually updated “energy list” may deduct some of the investment costs from their taxable profits.

©Dmitry Kalinovsky

You’ve probably heard that silly old adage, where someone asks someone else if they “ate lead paint chips” as a child, after they did something stupid or silly. The effects of lead poisoning, however, are not silly. Many academics believe lead poisoning in children correlates to spikes in crime more than any other single factor. Granted, though it takes more than a noticeable pattern to establish causality, the meta-analysis of other factors all seem to point in the direction of lead.  

You've probably heard that old adage, where someone asks someone else if they “ate lead paint chips” as a child, after they did something stupid or silly. The effects of lead poisoning, however, are not silly. Many academics believe lead poisoning in children correlated to spikes in crime more than any other single factor. Granted, it takes more than a noticeable pattern to establish causality, the meta-analysis of other factors all seem to point in the direction of lead.

Return from the dead?

Old ways of thinking won’t bring developed countries back to economic life. Weighed down by the legacy of the crisis, they also face deep challenges like a faltering labour supply and slowing innovation. 

More...

Investing in a sustainable future

Investment strategies almost never consider external costs to the environment when calculating potential returns. But incorporating environmental risk and sustainability into investor mindsets is possible– and urgent.

More...

©OECD Yearbook 2013

Time for an energy [r]evolution

We can’t use terms like “inclusive” and “green” as window dressing for the pursuit of economic growth as an end in itself. According to Greenpeace International’s chief, Kumi Naidoo, a real and profound change in how we think about growth is needed–one that doesn’t let special interests get in the way of creating a just, fair and sustainable economy with clean energy for all.

More...

The EU’s ban on discarding caught fish in February 2013 has received widespread applause. Why?

Economic data

GDP : +0.50%, Q4 2014
Employment rate: 65.7%, Q3 2014
Annual inflation : 0.51% Jan 2015
Trade : -3.0% exp, -3.7 imp, Q4 2014
Unemployment : 7.045% Q4 2014
Recovery ahead? Composite leading indicators
Updated: 30 Mar 2015

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