Financial market turbulence and climate change also featured as headline issues at this year’s OECD Forum (www.oecd.org/forum2008
). The Forum is civil society’s chance to influence “OECD Week”, and is held in conjunction with the annual ministerial meeting.
The rough financial weather was not a complete surprise, and European Central Bank president, Jean-Claude Trichet, recalled the first rumbles in early 2007. He stressed the need for transparency and prompt disclosure, and said that new methodology was needed to anticipate future turbulences. Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, argued that what he already saw as a “crisis” called into question the notion that financial markets are efficient, while Susan George, board chair of the Transnational Institute, argued that mergers between private financial institutions had created very large firms that felt obliged to “bottom fish” and take on ever-riskier investments. The rating agencies did not flag these risks, and nor did the regulators.Most Forum participants agreed that the financial situation should not be a pretext for delaying action on climate change. Strong partnerships and political will are more vital than ever for taking action. This view was reported to ministers by Switzerland’s minister of economic affairs, Doris Leuthard, who highlighted the determination of different interests in business, labour and civil society to fight climate change together. But while there was optimism about the potential of technology, there was frustration about the difficulty world leaders appeared to have in reaching agreements for action.Yet political leadership is the space where real action starts, said OECD Secretary- General Gurría in a keynote session that included Prince Albert II of Monaco, New Zealand minister of trade, Phil Goff, and UNFCCC chief, Yvo de Boer. The panel warned that climate change is not someone else’s problem, and urged politicians to do more to harness widespread public eagerness to tackle climate change. As the Forum showed, public dialogue and co-operation is the only real way to keep everyone’s eye on the planet. John West
©OECD Observer No 269 October 2008