OECD Observer No. 275, November 2009
The total number of deaths attributed to airborne pollution continues to decrease across the OECD world, largely thanks to regulatory policies for transport vehicle emissions and technological improvements. Between 2005 and 2010, pollution-related mortalities fell by 4% from approximately 498,000 cases a year, to just over 478,000. But a closer look reveals a more worrying picture. Outside of the EU, only the US and Israel have successfully attained reductions in deaths, while 14 other member countries–including Australia, Canada and Japan–actually recorded an increase in the absolute number of mortalities.
OECD Observer, No. 258/259, December 2006
The River Seine overflowing its banks is not an uncommon sight in Paris, as the winter catchment swells, causing water levels to rise and cover the lower banks, jetties and walkways.
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.
Imagine a house that keeps itself warm in the wintertime. Think of the savings in terms of fuel bills and unfriendly emissions. Such houses in fact exist. Called “passive houses”, the concept of these highly energy-efficient buildings took root in the 1990s, before slowly consolidating as a niche construction concept in the 2000s. Are passive houses now actively moving into the mainstream as sustainable buildings?
New York is investing in a greener, cleaner future.
In the years ahead, the global food and agriculture system will have to provide sustainably for billions more people and meet greater demands on quality, affordability and availability. Farming will be competing with other sectors for land, water and investment, while climate change adds new pressures.
Ministers and stakeholders from OECD member countries and key emerging economies gather in Paris on 25-26 February to discuss how best to respond to the challenges. We asked ministers from five of them–Austria and New Zealand as co-chairs, Canada, Germany and Chile–and leading representatives from Concern Worldwide, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, John Deere, and the World Trade Organization:
“What actions are you prioritising to prepare the food and agriculture system for the needs of a rapidly changing world?”
Most people know the story of the Dutch boy who saved his country by plugging a leaking dyke with his finger until help arrived. For the Dutch, the story had a happy ending, but millions of people living on the world’s coastlands were not so lucky in the past year. First, the tsunami in December 2004 killed over 180,000 people in southern Asia, devastating coastal communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives.
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.
Climate change won't wait
The European Union may be facing some difficult economic challenges, but that's no excuse for not acting now to create an economy based on resource efficiency and low-carbon development. The benefits are potentially enormous, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient use of energy and resources, and rising growth and innovation.
“We’re going to run out of water much much earlier than we’ll run out of oil,” warned Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of Nestlé, at the OECD Forum in May 2012.
Thomas Edison’s assertion that “genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” is particularly pertinent to the solar energy sector. This remarkable technology could hold answers to so many of the world’s energy challenges, but only at the cost of hard effort and investment. Solar Energy Perspectives, the first in-depth study dedicated to solar technology from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a sister organisation of the OECD, gives a comprehensive analysis of solar energy’s potential as well as the policies required to increase its capacity in the coming decades.
The continuity of our societies and the sustainability of our planet will necessarily depend on how we, as a collective, can devise the solutions to the paramount and multifaceted difficulties that have arisen from the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. In fact, if we are to successfully transform these challenges into opportunities, what we need is nothing short of another revolution. And in today’s revolution the bayonets, unquestionably, need to be green.
While the world focuses on the ongoing economic crisis, the challenge of climate change grows increasingly desperate. A number of lessons still have to be learned.
Economic growth over the past decades has led to improved quality of life, increased prosperity and longer, healthier lives in nearly all countries. Resource constraints are making us realise that to continue to enjoy these benefits we will have to change course towards more sustainable or greener growth.
The Earth is a unique, interconnected system that mankind has always tried to understand. Although there have been great discoveries made in science, there are many aspects of our planet that are beyond our understanding or control. However, there is one fact we know: we need to live in harmony with nature.
Managing risk could absorb more policy time around the world in the 21st century. How can policymakers be prepared?
After environmental and economic turbulence, Canada’s fisheries are being reformed. The sector is now undergoing a renaissance, though challenges remain.
One area where governments have been looking to raise revenues is green taxes. And with good reason. Taxes can provide a clear incentive to reduce environmental damage. But while the number of environmentally-related taxes has actually been increasing in recent years, revenues from these taxes have been on a slight downward trend in relation to GDP. The decline in revenue partly reflects the drop in demand for fuel in response to recent high oil prices and other factors, which in turn has led to a reduction in total revenues from taxes on energy products.
WWF’s 2010 Living Planet Report demonstrates that we are currently using 50% more resources than the earth can provide. If we allow current trends to continue, by 2030 we will need two planets to support us. It’s clear that “business-as-usual” is not the pathway to a prosperous future.
Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :