Tackling climate change

Secretary-General of the OECD

©OECD Observer

A 50% rise in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, higher temperatures, with more droughts and storms harming people, crops and buildings; more animal and plant species becoming extinct under expanding farmland and urban sprawl; dwindling natural resources; a billion more people living in water-stressed areas by 2030, with more pollution, disease and premature deaths ahead.
Fortunately, there is a far brighter prospect the OECD can foresee, which the world’s environment ministers will focus on at the important OECD ministerial conference in April: we can overcome the environmental challenges we face as the necessary policies and solutions are available, achievable and affordable, especially compared with the projected accumulation of wealth and with the costs of inaction.But we need to act now not only out of environmental concerns but also purely for economic reasons. Take the new investments in energy infrastructures that are set to take place in emerging and developed countries over the next decade. By acting now, we can ensure that these projects lock in the right fuel, technology and efficiency standards. A rare window of opportunity to get this right is now open and we must use it to avoid far costlier investments later on.The figures are compelling. Our experts believe that if we can live with a 98% increase in global GDP from now to 2030, instead of 99% in our “business as usual” baseline scenario, the improvements in air and water quality would be considerable. Foregoing that single percentage point would bring us some way towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A percentage point over a quarter century is not a high price to pay–call it the cost of an insurance premium. Not cheap, but affordable.How do we achieve that necessary investment? Our 2008 Environmental Outlook, published in March, builds on several decades of environmental analysis and expertise by the OECD. It examines the economic and environmental topics from every angle, developing model-based analyses and drawing on expertise from other organisations and national agencies in the OECD and beyond.Our message is simple: with the size of the world economy expected to double by 2030, we must move to a low-carbon, greener growth path. We have to design policy mixes that are able to respond to new circumstances.Market-based instruments must be given more space in the mix because they can lower the cost of action. After all, if economic activities cause environmental degradation, then economic tools must form a key part of the solution. Market-based instruments are the lynchpin in the policy mix, but will need to be complemented by stronger regulations and standards, R&D and further technological developments, eco-labelling and education to overcome some of the information gaps and market failures hampering action.Policymakers should focus on taxing the “bad” instead of subsidising the good and on creating the virtuous circle that produces positive externalities. Although some subsidies may be needed, say, to support basic R&D, removing environmentally harmful subsidies, particularly for fossil fuels and agricultural production, should be a priority to reduce pollution and stress on our natural resources. There are other economic instruments, including emissions trading and taxes, that could help us put the right price on the source of the problem: carbon. Restructuring the global economy along low-carbon lines will require concerted policy action and leadership. It will require the engagement of all actors and the inclusion of all sectors. It will also require more co-operation among different ministries and among different stakeholders from business, labour and civil society.People are ready to change. Many are in fact leading the way! But the transition nonetheless needs to be carefully managed to address social and competitiveness issues. Otherwise, important policy action will not be agreed or implemented. We must also prepare our economies to take advantage of new eco-innovative opportunities.Climate change is mankind’s main long-term challenge and the global cost of action will be lower if all countries work together to share the burden fairly. OECD countries must work closely with major players such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Russia, alongside other developing countries. Acting now is not just about avoiding problems ahead. It is about building a better global economy. That is our goal and we must start right away.©OECD Observer No 266, March 2008


Economic data

E-Newsletter

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

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.
  • “Un Automne à Paris”: listen (and read) this sad yet uplifting new song by jazzman Ibrahim Maalouf and pop singer Louane that will be launched on 11 January in honour of the victims of the murderous attacks on the French capital in 2015 and as a tribute to love and liberty in this City of Light.

  • Secretary-General Angel Gurria on CNBC: Developed vs developing nations at COP21

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • COP21 Will Get Agreement With Teeth: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on Bloomberg

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2015?

Euro crisis
Unemployment
Global warming
International conflict
Other

OECD Insights Blog

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

All rights reserved. OECD 2016