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: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.2% Feb 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.4% Feb 2018
Last update: 11 Apr 2018

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