©Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters

Two years after the historic Paris Climate Agreement was struck at the UN COP21 conference, there are encouraging signs of progress, but there is a huge amount left to do. 

(from left) Nicolas Hulot, Minister of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France; Stéphanie Antoine, compère from France 24; Rafael Pacchiano, Environment Secretary, Mexico; Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD ©Damien Valente/MTES/DICOM

Our response to the climate challenge will define our collective future for generations to come. We must act. We must act swiftly, collectively, and decisively. Some fear that decisive climate action may have a high price tag in economic and social terms. Strong climate action is not a threat to, but instead the very foundation of our economic well-being in the long run. At the OECD we are rolling up our sleeves to make this happen.

Wherever in the world they are emitted, greenhouse gases have a global impact. Narrow national agendas are inadequate to deal with global climate change disruption. Without vision and resolve, more countries may yet retreat further into their national bunkers. We would all suffer in such a bleak scenario.

Cultura/Janie Airey

There is enough capital out there and renewable energy technologies have become more cost-competitive, so why is investment still wanting? Policymakers hold the key.

©Roy Philippe/HEMIS.FR

In September 2017, the United Nations (UN) adopted a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water. For years water had been under-valued, under-priced and too often taken for granted, so Goal 6 on water and sanitation was a momentous recognition of water’s crucial policy importance. Though just one of 17 SDGs, this goal also sits at the heart of many of them: water is essential for food security, health, cities, sustainable consumption and production, and terrestrial ecosystems. 

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With new business models emerging, competition in the electricity sector is beginning to stir.

The rise of the digital economy has led numerous markets to experience radical innovation in business models. This has shaken incumbent firms and benefited consumers. Electricity is no exception, with green and distributed generators located in the workplace and home already posing existential threats to traditional mass supply-based businesses. And now a variety of new business models are emerging to disrupt retail too. With innovation needed to deliver on commitments to combat climate change and address fuel poverty, radical innovation in the electricity sector holds promising potential. 

At the 2009 UNFCCC negotiations, developed countries committed to mobilising US$100 billion each year for climate action in developing countries by 2020. As negotiations on a new climate agreement intensified in the lead-up to COP 21 in 2015, an understanding of the progress made towards this commitment was important in keeping everyone around the table. In this context, the OECD estimated that US$62 billion had been mobilised in 2014, up by US$10 billion since 2013. Updated estimates towards the US$100 billion commitment will be needed in the lead-up to 2020, along with new information about climate finance beyond this goal. But further progress relies on robust and transparent tracking of the different streams of climate finance. 

©Russell R. Scott/Citizenside/AFP

Pricing carbon is one of the surest policy means we know for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement agreed in 2015. Has there been any progress with its implementation since then? Not enough, is the verdict of some of the world’s leading experts. Read post here.

We know decarbonisation will require a massive shift of investment away from fossil fuel and into such areas as renewable energy, energy efficiency in buildings and industry, electric vehicles and public transport. A key challenge for policy makers is to understand how to make best use of available policy levers to help accelerate this shift towards low-carbon investment. This includes facilitating the financing of low-carbon investment, including financing through equity investment or – on the debt side – through bank loans and bonds. Read post here.

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Blended finance is not a new concept but it certainly has returned as a new buzzword. 

©Mark Blinch/Reuters

“National governments must take the lead and do so with a recognition that they are part of a global effort.” Speaking last week at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urged countries not to retreat behind their national borders in dealing with climate change. A purely inward-looking approach to climate change is clearly inadequate as we see signs that short-term national self-interest is increasingly seeping into the global debate on climate action. This is especially a risk as a number of countries continue to try and escape from low growth traps. Effective climate action needs ambition and action at both national and global levels. Read post here.

The developing world urgently needs more and better infrastructure. Affordable and accessible water supply systems, electricity grids, power plants and transport networks are critical to reducing poverty and ensuring economic growth. The way new infrastructure is built over the next 10 years will determine if we meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement objectives. Considering the long lifespan of most infrastructure projects, the decisions developing countries make about how they build infrastructure are critical: we can either lock-in carbon intensive and polluting forms of infrastructure, or ‘leap frog’ towards more sustainable pathways. Read post here.

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Fossil fuel subsidies keep fuel prices artificially low, and weigh heavily on government budgets and on the climate too. Phasing out these subsidies will help reduce CO2 emissions and possibly raise public revenues as well.

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Low-lying island states like the Maldives and densely populated coastal cities like New York have at least one thing in common: they are faced with the challenge of rising sea levels. In fact, close to a quarter of the world’s population lives within 100 metres of a coast. Although we cannot predict exactly the pace and upper limits of the current rise, we do know that sea levels will continue rising and that the impacts will be costly.

Dimitar DIilkoff/AFP

The world’s oceans are being damaged by a constant and unprecedented accumulation of waste known as marine debris. The waste, mostly from effluent human activities, is brought to the oceans through currents and often carried far from where it originated. 

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Demographics, lifestyle, urbanisation, farming and transport: all are facts of life and, as we try to manage our economies and our environment, are the focus of millions of policy actions around the world. We must reduce pollution and congestion. 

Following the hand-wringing, relief-sighing and back-slapping in Paris after nailing the landmark agreement on climate change in December, I took myself off to a farm in rural England to enjoy the new year driving tractors and herding small children (not with tractors). Conversations with friends typically started with remarks about the unseasonably mild weather and often ended on climate change, and unsurprisingly, COP21. As a soundbite buff, I quickly got my lines sorted: “COP21 gave governments a giant shove in the right direction, an emotional rollercoaster ride of hope, expectation and promise”. Read post here.

©James Thew/Alamy Stock Photo

Meteorology was the first scientific discipline to use space capabilities in the 1960s, and today satellites provide observations of the state of the atmosphere and ocean surface for the preparation of weather analyses, forecasts, advisories and warnings, for climate monitoring and environmental activities. Three-quarters of the data used in numerical weather prediction models depend on satellite measurements. 

Drivers complain that Paris these days is a vast construction site. Streets are being ripped up to make way for tramways, electric car charging posts, and ever more bike lanes and docking stations. The first major city to have put in a free bike-sharing system, back in 2007, Paris has now moved to phase two with more and lighter bikes, a docking system that allows overflow and the introduction of shared electric bikes. 

With marine biodiversity deteriorating at an alarming rate, there will soon be little left of the “octopus’s garden” that The Beatles once sang about. According to Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes, pollution, overfishing and rising temperatures have damaged or destroyed 60% of the earth’s marine ecosystems. Policymakers have been addressing the issue, too, and are increasingly designating marine protected areas (MPAs) as an instrument for the preservation of biodiversity. 

Ambitious action on climate is an imperative. The G20 leaders have a chance to reinforce the Paris Climate Agreement and raise ambition with concrete measures to ensure significant progress towards net zero economies and reap the benefits of investment now in jobs and economic growth. Read post here.

Forests are essential for fighting climate change, but planting and managing them is not as easy as it might sound, as the OECD Forest Scheme shows. Watch the video.

Javier Goyeneche is the founder of ECOALF, a fashion brand that turns discarded fishing nets, post-consumer plastic bottles and coffee into clothes. He visited the OECD on 19 October 2016, giving a talk on his sustainable fashion company. Part of the Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Mr Goyeneche below. 

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Canadian author, filmmaker and social activist Naomi Klein visited the OECD on 24 November 2015, giving a talk on why climate change changes everything. Part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series, you can read the complete transcript of Ms Klein’s presentation below. 

China was among the near-200 countries to adopt the Paris Climate Change Agreement (Paris Agreement) at an historic UN conference in Paris, France on 12 December 2015. As an emerging economy and one of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases, how China implements the Paris Agreement will be important. We asked Dr Xuedu Lu of the Asian Development Bank for his views.

Citizens demand action at the UN climate change conference in Paris in November-December 2015 ©GDE AGUNG/Citizenside/AFP

The Paris Agreement is a landmark in collective efforts on climate change and is the result of many years’ hard work. It must now be implemented.

We welcome your feedback. Send your letters to observer@oecd.org or post your comments at www.oecdobserver.org or www.oecdinsights.org.

World leaders meet at the UN in New York 22 April formally to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. The European Union is already translating the agreement into action, says Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, in this article for the OECD Yearbook 2016.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

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