Globalisation is exerting pressure on the environment, but it may also provide solutions. Could green be turned to gold? Climate change, melting polar ice, rising sea-levels, unpredictable weather patterns, drought, rampant urbanisation, demographic explosions: the list goes on. Many people blame globalisation for these ills, and it is true to say that increased economic pressures inevitably leave a bigger footprint on our planet.

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD in figures 2006

Although natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or warm ocean currents, or even the earth’s tilt, might all contribute to global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human activity–from running homes and factories to flying planes and mowing lawns–is accepted as a major culprit.

Pressures on the earth’s resources are building, but is the current economic model reaching breaking point? What can be done? 

Click to enlarge.

Can the Kyoto protocol, which came into force on 16 February 2005, work? Although natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions, ocean currents, the likes of El Niño or even changes in the earth’s tilt might all be contributing factors, carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human activity–whether running homes and factories or driving cars and lawnmowers–is cited as a major culprit in the rise of global temperatures.

The Kyoto Protocol will be implemented in mid-February, while the size of the challenge presented by climate change is becoming more daunting than expected. Yet, basic steps could be taken that will not only tackle the effects of global warming, but promote development as well.

Sweden’s good reputation for a clean environment may be deserved, but there are murky spots. True, it gained high marks in the recent OECD Environmental Performance Review of Sweden. It was one of the first OECD countries to cut its use of environmentally harmful chemicals, and is one of the few OECD countries on track to meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Three years after the adoption of the OECD 10-year Environmental Strategy, ministers acknowledged that they are “not on track” for implementing it by 2010 and that more ambitious action is needed. OECD and non-OECD ministers or deputy-ministers met in Paris to assess progress.

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

Minister Cullen ©Maxwell PA

Note 26 April: This article was written by Minister Cullen to set out the issues in advance of the 2004 OECD Environment Ministerial meeting which he chaired. For the chair's summary of the meeting, please click here. See end of article for other references.

The OECD Environmental Strategy is in its third year. Governments cannot afford to let up on their commitments.

Biodiversity has struggled for front page attention in environmental policy campaigns. Perhaps it is because the word "biodiversity" has a positive connotation and so lacks the rallying edge of headline terms like pollution, global warming, hazardous wastes or ozone depletion.

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The problem of climate change has not gone away, nor will it be wished away. Governments must act. 

One way to deal with pollution is to encourage polluters to buy and sell limited rights or permits to pollute. It is a market that works, though improvements are needed.

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The debate about energy mix will intensify at Johannesburg and beyond. Technological progress may generate some useful surprises in the years ahead, but for now, Professor Richter presents a cold look ahead at our energy choices.

Cars are clearly the costly way to travel in peak times , but the cost advantage of buses diminishes in off-peak traffic in the Paris region.

The French authorities are strengthening their polices on the environment as the public increasingly demand better air quality, purer water and better protection for their natural resources. Putting these policies into practice is not as simple as it may seem. 

©Anna Gach 2001

Agriculture is in the spotlight. Almost every day there are reports in the press concerning food-related health and environment scares. Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease are the latest crisis in Europe, quickly following “mad cow” disease and protests over the alleged impact of genetically modified crops on food safety and the environment.

The environmental progress seen in the 1980s for most OECD countries was consolidated and further enhanced during the 1990s, from lower emissions of many air pollutants to better protection of endangered species.

For too long, policymakers have been talking about the deterioration of the world’s environment without taking sufficient action to address the problems. It is time to move from words to action before it is too late, particularly for the industrial countries that are the source of much of the damage.

Economic data

GDP growth: -1.8% Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Consumer price inflation: 0.9% Apr 2020 annual
Trade (G20): -4.3% exp, -3.9% imp, Q1 2020/Q4 2019
Unemployment: 8.4% Apr 2020
Last update: 9 July 2020

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