©Phil Noble/Reuters

When the International Energy Agency (IEA) was formed in 1974, concern over climate change was in its infancy. While the greenhouse effect was known it was not widely recognised, and the debate about the long-term effect of CO2 emissions was confined more or less to academia. 

©Olivier Martin-Gambier

"Electric vehicles are the only practical, affordable solution to our planet’s environmental challenges–and they are available today."

What role can nuclear energy play in combating climate change? According to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), it can play a very pivotal one.

©Jackie Naegelen/Reuters

Faced with heavy pollution and congested roads, Paris is turning to electric vehicles to restore air quality. Its incentive policies for all forms of transport should inspire cities all over the world to follow suit.

©Charlotte Moreau

A residential site on the rue Saint Charles in the 15th arrondissement of Paris was the first retrofit under the Climate Plan led by the city’s property management agency, Régie Immobilière de la Ville de Paris (RIVP). The project proved complex but exemplary, not just in its implementation and execution, but also in terms of managing relationships.

Wind turbines on the Eiffel Tower ©SETE- Photopointcom

Already a showcase when it was opened for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower continues to light the way forward today, with sustainability being a feature on the monument’s new first floor unveiled in 2014.

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Source:V. Smil

Are we about to switch to new energy sources? Grandiose plans are being drawn up for installing veritable forests of giant wind turbines, turning crops and straw into fuel ethanol and biodiesel, and for tapping solar radiation by fields of photovoltaic cells. As with most innovations, there is excitement and high expectation. Will these developments and other renewable energy conversions one day replace fossil fuels? Eventually they will have to, but a reality check is in order.

Global electricity demand declined in 2009 for the first time since the end of World War II according to OECD estimates. Electricity demand experienced a constant climb over the second half of the 20th century through the oil crises of the 1970s, the Black Monday crash of 1987, and on through the dot-com bubble bursting at the turn of the millennium as development countered all downward forces. The credit crunch of 2008 though, has resulted in a drop of as much as 1.6% based on OECD figures derived from the IMF’s latest GDP growth forecast for 2009.

Click here for bigger graph

We live in an age of gadgets and gigabytes. Our mobile phones have morphed into multi-tasking life-support systems, with inbuilt cameras, calendars and messaging services. Computers are ever faster child’s play, and Internet allows us 24-hour access to the rest of the world. However, all of this comes at a price: our increasing reliance upon electricity.
The United States is dependent on fossil fuels for almost all its energy supply. Coal dominates electricity generation, accounting for half of its power production, with nuclear and natural gas around one-fifth each.

Click to enlarge.

Environmental policies can change people’s daily habits, as a new OECD survey shows.

©Arnd Wegmann/Reuters

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is 35 years old in 2009. A sister organisation of the OECD, it offers a timely reminder that a co-ordinated public response to a crisis can succeed.

Predicting the future is all very well, but how much will it cost to keep the world’s engines running? This publication is the first-ever attempt to comprehensively examine future investment needs, worldwide, in all parts of the energy-supply chain.

On 2 November, Morocco launched a US$9 billion solar energy programme. With five power plants, the programme aims for a total installed capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020-equivalent to almost 40% of the country's electricity production.

The efficiency of power grids may be in the spotlight now, but the availability of energy resources is also a burning and divisive question. Renewables Information 2003, from the International Energy Agency, shows that in the past decade, renewable energy sources, such as solar power, hydro, wind and combustible biomass resources have been gaining ground.

California is famous for blue skies and leading-edge technology parks. Combine the two and, no surprise, you will find that the state may be taking a lead in solar energy too. Then consider the fact that housing developers are simply replacing traditional roof materials with solar panels as part of new buildings and below the cost of a normal mortgage, and this all begins to sound like a movie script from… California.

Nuclear energy could help in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but for many the production of nuclear waste outweighs this advantage. One important challenge is to convince an often reluctant public that with new waste disposal techniques, nuclear energy is worth a second look in the interests of sustainable development.

Click for bigger graph
Source: IEA

There is a vast, unexplored region where an estimated 30% of the world’s oil lies buried, yet only 2% of the world’s exploratory drilling is carried out there. Where is it? The answer is not Antarctica or under the Pacific, but the Middle East. Surprisingly, the world’s largest oil reservoir is under-exploited. Over the last 40 years, the number of wildcat wells drilled in the Middle East has plummeted, and today exploration is nearly zero. A number of reasons have contributed to the decline, from regional conflicts, two decades of low prices and the soaring cost of equipment.

Energy production and consumption patterns are shifting. So are the challenges for investment and global energy policy.

Click map to enlarge
Source: Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand (OECD/NEA, Paris, 2006)

OECD countries share the same goals of sustainable development, but differ in their views on the role of nuclear energy in achieving those goals. Indeed, few energy sources have been scrutinised in the public spotlight over the years quite as much. The question is simple: is nuclear really a sustainable energy?
Today, energy security is an indispensable subject even in general discussions about foreign policy. Securing needed energy resources is one of the prerequisites for ensuring sustainable economic growth. Dealing with the current rapid growth in demand for energy in Asia is a high priority on many agendas. As for Japan’s perspective on energy security co-operation, I would like to touch upon the following three points: security of supply, energy and the environment, and the importance in energy response of the International Energy Agency (IEA), a sister organisation of the OECD.
With energy demand set to rise and pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what is the potential of nuclear energy to expand? That depends, says the new Nuclear Energy Outlook from the NEA. The authors suggests two scenarios to 2050: a low expansion scenario whereby currently declared intentions are not fully realised, leading to limited expansion, with most new plants simply as replacement; and a high growth scenario, based on current plans and government statements.

The Johannesburg summit is a golden opportunity to move forward on some tough sustainable development issues. But the agenda has grown and become unwieldy. Progress will depend on getting back to some global basics. 

Can biofuels truly compete with petrol? Recent projections suggest that ethanol could represent up to 5% of the world’s transport fuel by 2010. That figure may seem modest at first glance, but it is significant, considering no other alternative fuel has had an equivalent impact on the gasoline market in over 100 years.

Nuclear energy is back in the public eye in light of the concerns about climate change and the need for a sustainable energy supply. Some powerful public voices are unconvinced about the technology’s competitiveness and safety. For Luis Echávarri, Director-General, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, these doubts should be put to rest.

A decade ago, even thinking about expanding nuclear energy was almost taboo in some OECD countries, but this may now be changing. For Luis Echávarri, director-general of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), those taboos are now being challenged as governments and people everywhere seem ready to openly discuss the potential of the nuclear option.

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Source: IEA

Global electricity demand is growing rapidly. Demand for transport energy is also rising. Renewable energy is as yet not capable of matching the energy-density of fossil fuels, and it absorbs a lot of land, whether for cultivating biofuels or laying out solar panels. From solar to hydro, renewable sources are also unevenly distributed and supply can be irregular.

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Source: IEA

Global warming, finite fossil fuels and geopolitical risks make a shift to renewable energies inevitable. Though it is a challenge fraught with uncertainties, no action would be worse. An alternative, workable energy strategy is within reach.

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  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC
  • IMF Finance and Development Magazine, December 2015

    Powering the Planet: The Quest for Sustainable Energy

    Read the magazine here
    Visit their website
  • In Iceland, geothermal power is being used for almost everything. Scientists and engineers from around the world are participating in a course at the United Nations University (UNU) to learn how to use geothermal energy in their own countries.
  • They are green and local--It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • Send a message from #EarthToParis.
  • From the World Bank: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty
  • Black carbon causes millions of deaths every year and contributes to the warming of the planet. The United Nations Environment Programme explains how reducing black carbon can save lives and help combat climate change.
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • 10 climate-friendly habits everyone should adopt: Although the main aim of COP21 is to reach an international agreement on climate change between government stakeholders, it is also the perfect opportunity to remind citizens of how everyone can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their day-to-day lives.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Do you know the OECD’s web ending? Or which Serbian American engineer is famous for his electric cars? Try our latest OECD Observer crossword. It’s full of fun facts, simplex in style, and gives you the solution at the tip of a button. You can time yourself too.
  • French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron came to the OECD on 18 September for a webcast discussion on economic reforms, inequality and the outlook, with OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. You can watch the event by clicking on the photo.

  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • An employee prepares breakfast in front of the Eiffel tower at the Parisian luxury hotel Le Plaza Athenee. Nowhere in the world has more accommodation available on Airbnb than Paris. Now the home-sharing website that has transformed budget travel is giving super-deluxe hotels a fright too.
    ©REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Low interest rates here to stay for half a century, says OECD director Adrian Blundell-Wignall.
  • Bill Gates visited the OECD on 26 June. He met with the Secretary-General Angel Gurría to discuss areas of collaboration with his foundation and participated at a briefing session on official development assistance modernisation with OECD experts.
  • The People’s Republic of China decided to enhance longstanding collaboration with the OECD and to join the OECD Development Centre, in a historic visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on 1 July to the OECD in Paris.
    Read about it on OECD.org
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Come va la vita in Italia? How's life in Italy? The OECD Better Life Index is an interactive online platform in seven languages that goes beyond GDP by offering important insights into measuring well-being and quality of life. Try it for yourself!

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