©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. 

Geothermal plant in Indonesia, which holds considerable geothermal energy potential thanks to its hundreds of active and extinct volcanoes ©Reuters/Beawiharta Beawiharta

Climate change is the pre-eminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts.  

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There is a growing awareness that mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions is not only about introducing new climate policies, but also making sure that existing measures and regulations do not run counter to climate goals. In other words, governments should not undermine with one hand what they are seeking to achieve with the other. There is no better example of this problem than fossil fuel subsidies.

©Phil Noble/Reuters

World leaders attending the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris know they have a rare opportunity to forge a new international agreement to combat climate change and set forth a pathway towards a low-carbon world. More ambition will be needed by all sides if global temperatures are to be prevented from rising above 2°C, the agreed threshold for preventing catastrophic climate change. But even without that target, unleashing a low-carbon future makes sense for health, costs and sustainable development.

©David Rooney

New innovative firms are needed to help step up the fight against climate change. That means new policies to encourage business dynamism, not least in the energy sector.

©Olivier Martin-Gambier

In bringing mobility to generations of women and men, motor cars opened the gates to the modern world–to freedom and independence. But this progress came at a cost: personal transport now generates 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Renault and Nissan have developed a range of zero-emission electric vehicles, which now represent the most effective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and offer motorists an exciting new driving experience…

Policy makers should do much more to encourage pension funds and other institutional investors to put their ample assets into sustainable energy infrastructure. The wins would be significant. The question is how? 

Policies that are not aligned with efforts to fight global warming risk hindering the transition to a low-carbon economy, and can worsen climate change. They should be addressed. 

A structural shift to a low-carbon economy will entail gains in jobs, but also losses, and the first jobs to be lost are not those that you think. A just energy transition will be needed, but how? 


The human economy is a physical system embedded in society, which itself is embedded in a finite global ecosystem. The primary goal of the economy should be to meet basic human and social needs, now and in the future, without degrading the global ecosystem services upon which all life depends. How can this be done?


"We want to step out of the vicious circle of an economy which is an increasing drain on resources, and enter another circle… Paris is fully committed to combating climate change and determined to move forward as quickly as possible."  –Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris 

An ecological transition has been necessary for many years. It has now become vital. Faced with the prospect of the total destruction of people and the environment, we must send out an equally uncompromising wake-up call on the ties that bind humans and nature.

Oil, gas and coal represent over 80% of energy use worldwide, and are a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and other unhealthy pollutants. These fossil fuels also drive the likes of transport, industrial output, lighting, heating and construction, and naturally their use is heavily concentrated in urban areas. Roughly half the world’s population live in urban areas, and as towns and cities are an important generator of emissions, they must also play a key role in the fight against climate change.

©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.


In Paris, a major redevelopment in the illustrious Clichy-Batignolles district has set environmental goals of unprecedented ambition, paving the way for contemporary urban planning that offers better solutions to energy and climate concerns.

©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.

©Orelie Grimaldi

Over the last century, resource extraction from non-renewable stocks has grown while extraction from renewable stocks has declined, reflecting the shift in the global economy base from agriculture to industry. 


Near to the Paris ring road, shielded from the din of the motorway by an apartment block, nestled between two high-rises, lies an oasis of peace. It is a community garden created by Multi’Colors, and is just one of the many “urban sanctuaries” it has created in underprivileged neighbourhoods in and around the French capital.

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.

How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?

Freshwater is essential for life, yet makes up only a tiny fraction of all water on earth. In many areas, especially arid and dry regions, underground aquifers are the only source. Even in less arid regions, groundwater provides an essential resource: in fact, some 2.6 billion people worldwide rely on groundwater resources. Farming is one major reason: over 60% of irrigated agriculture in the US uses groundwater, and in Spain more than 70% of irrigation comes from below ground reserves.    

If the world is to make a dent on climate change, breaking the arm-lock of fossil fuels is inevitable. After all, limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2°C by the end of the 21st century demands curbing greenhouse-gas emissions between 40% and 70% by 2050 compared with 2010 levels, which means replacing fossil fuels–coal, oil and gas–with low-carbon energy sources and developing technologies to capture and store CO2.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide have been trending upwards for decades. A small group of large countries is responsible for the lion’s share of these global emissions.

Click to enlarge.
See StatLink for further breakdown: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/data-00735-en

In tackling climate change, it makes sense for policymakers to know which sectors greenhouse-gas emissions are coming from. Our chart shows the main sources for European carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, including electricity supply, manufacturing, households and transportation. Household emissions are largely generated from fossil fuel energy used to heat dwellings, but some of the other industry sources are more complex.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer

UNDP Pole to Paris project video

Don't miss this video from the United Nations Development Program, where two scientists tell us just why they are running and cycling all the way from the poles to Paris. 


A warming planet and a flat world economy have propelled the issue of investment in clean energy to the top of the policy agenda. The question has become all the more crucial in view of the landmark global summit on climate change to be held in Paris in December 2015. 

In my first climate change lecture, nearly two years ago, my key message was that meeting the challenge of climate change required us to achieve zero net greenhouse emissions globally by the end of this century. 

A transition to a low-carbon economy is achievable, but will require a concerted, more consistent effort across a range of policy areas, from tradeable permits to stringent norms.

Challenging free trade orthodoxy is a heavy lift in our political culture; anything that has been in place for that long takes on an air of inevitability. But, critical as these shifts are, they are not enough to lower emissions in time. To do that, we will need to confront a logic even more entrenched than free trade—the logic of indiscriminate economic growth. This idea has understandably inspired a good deal of resistance among more liberal climate watchers, who insist that the task is merely to paint our current growth-based economic model green, so it's worth examining the numbers behind the claim. 

Economic data


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Don't miss

  • 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, France July 30, 2015. Nowhere in the world has more accommodation available on Airbnb than Paris. Now the home-sharing website that has transformed budget travel to the French capital is giving its 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.
  • 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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