Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, speaks at the Bali Conference on Climate Change, December 2007
©OECD Observer No. 264/265, December 2007-January 2008

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007 was high in political stakes as well as emotion. But did it produce a result and what more might be done? New Zealand’s climate change ambassador offers his views.

Image based on OECD Observer cover, No 261, May 2007

Welcome to this special online focus on climate change, in view of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, 3-14 in December. "Ambitious policies to tackle climate change should lead to a structural shift in the economy – away from carbon-intensive activities. So the question that remains is: how can this transition be managed in an economically efficient and socially responsible manner? We should not exaggerate the cost of change. Action is affordable."
Energy consumption, and in particular the burning of fossil fuels, is the main source of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. But energy is also a fuel for economic growth, particularly in the fast developing economies of the world. The challenge is to maintain economic growth, while reducing the carbon-content of energy and increasing the efficiency of its use.
Market-based credits can help control emissions alongside other instruments, though the system needs more work. And time. 
Investment in clean technologies can help achieve a wide range of environmental objectives, from mitigating climate change, to controlling air and water pollution, and enhancing resource efficiency in general. Indeed, many governments now see technological innovation as a key channel through which they can lift their economies onto a more sustainable path. But what role can public policies play in encouraging such innovation?

Prof Vaclav Smil's lucid and measured thinking is correct in that we must be realistic about renewable energy's future (No 258/259, December 2006). But I wonder if he is not being too dismissive of solar energy.

Click to enlarge

Satellites are not just about communications or defence, but can help us understand if not resolve some difficult environmental challenges, including climate change. They are investments in innovation whose benefits for humanity should speak for themselves.
Cotis leads top French bureau–
Jean-Philippe Cotis, the OECD’s chief economist, has been appointed as director general of the French national statistics institute INSEE (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques, or the National Statistics and Economic Studies Institute).
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: IEA

Can our insatiable appetite for energy be met efficiently and cleanly by renewable sources?

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD/IEA

In OECD countries coal has a blackened image. Yet, it remains a key component of any energy mix. Innovation might help make that future brighter.

Click to enlarge. Source: IEA

Fighting global warming means reducing dependency on oil. But though supply is insecure, it remains plentiful. Keeping oil in the energy mix makes sense.

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD

Can taxation help governments achieve environmental goals with respect to energy use and emissions? Yes, with conditions.

Click to enlarge. Source: IEA

Global warming, finite fossil fuels and geopolitical risks make a shift to renewable energies inevitable. Though it is a challenge fraught with uncertainties, no action would be worse. An alternative, workable energy strategy is within reach.

Transport is the main cause of carbon dioxide emissions, ahead of power generation or industry. While aviation accounts for 14% of transport-based CO2 emissions in the EU, roads have a larger effect. In OECD countries, road transport accounts for over 80% of all transport-related energy consumption, for most of the accidents and the majority of air pollutant emissions, noise and habitat degradation.

Click to enlarge. Source: V.Smil

Transition to new energy sources is unavoidable, but here are five sobering first principles to remember along the way.

Energy has moved to the top of our policy agendas, and with good reason. First, there is the price of oil, which though easing a little in recent months, remains historically high. This has pushed up costs for producers and consumers alike.

Click to enlarge. Source: OECD/NEA

OECD countries share the same goals of sustainable development, but differ in their views on the role of nuclear energy in achieving those goals. Indeed, few energy sources have been scrutinised in the public spotlight over the years quite as much. The question is simple: is nuclear really a sustainable energy?

Building a new global energy strategy to improve efficiency and tackle global warming requires political leadership. It also demands practical, hands-on policy action. It is one thing for governments to recognise that energy is under-invested, vulnerable and dirty, but are they starting to move?

Click to enlarge. Source: IEA

The possibility of using renewable energy to produce electricity on a significant scale is a heated debate.

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

Most public debate about water concerns freshwater. Yet coastal zones are coming under increasing pressure, too. Time for renewed action. 

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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.

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

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

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.7% Q2 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +1.4% exp, +1.7% imp, Q2 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

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