©Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters

Environmentally-friendly investments form part of many recently launched recovery programmes. With the right policies, they could achieve growth and a cleaner planet as well.

Click for bigger graph

Pressure is mounting to arrest climate change, so it's hardly surprising that people around the world are being urged to use public transportation. After all, an overall strategy that includes getting people to give up their trucks and cars to use electric trolley buses, tramways and rail can help make a real dent in pollution, traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. But try telling that to Australians living in the outback, long miles from the nearest bus station. Even most Japanese, who have access to some of the world's best high-speed rail links and urban mass transit, own some type of private vehicle.

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is 50 years old. It predates the actual OECD itself, having started out in 1958 as a division of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. It has since grown to become a global body spanning four continents. What does its future hold?

The UN Climate Change conference in Poznán, Poland in December ended with a mixed scorecard. There was agreement to move to the next level of negotiations, and some clarification on outstanding issues, but little substantial forward movement.

Concerns for the world economy were already building when OECD governments met for the annual Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) last June.

©Charles Platiau/Reuters

2008 will be a decisive year in the battle against climate change. Hopefully, it will see us forge an international consensus so an agreement can be reached in Copenhagen in 2009 that will allow us to build on the Kyoto Protocol.

Lorents Lorentsen ©OECD

How to be green and competitive was the centre of attention when environment ministers of OECD countries met at the end of April for the first time in four years. How to fight climate change and maintain competitiveness is a question that concerns many countries outside the OECD too, and the governments of four candidate countries for OECD membership–Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia–participated at the conference, as did Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa, four countries with whom the OECD is strengthening its relations in a programme of “enhanced engagement”.

©Reuters/Hardi Baktiantoro

With the world’s attention focused on climate change, the main question is how can global carbon emissions be reduced effectively? There is no single solution, which is why we must look seriously again at the importance of forests, in particular at an approach known as Reducing Emissions from tropical Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), and the incentives needed to achieve it.

We hear again and again that we must choose between having a stable climate and having a strong global economy. This is a false choice.

©David Rooney

Harsh financial reality often rides roughshod over good intentions when it comes to corporate and national balance sheets. Climate change is no exception, for though it may rouse worldwide concern, it also makes people uneasy because of how much it might cost and who should pay.

With the world economy today experiencing turbulence on a number of diverse fronts, OECD countries are preoccupied with meeting these challenges.

A clean launch ©Reuters/Nikola Solic

International shipping emits as much CO2 as some of the world's largest countries. What can be done?

Watch that gradient ©Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

On a single busy day in the summer of 2007, 3.2 million people took to the skies above Europe in 33,000 flights which covered a total distance of 34 million km. That’s 42 billion passenger kilometres generated in just one day of European air traffic movements.

Impressive though these numbers appear, they are in fact expected to double shortly after 2025, assuming that the demand forecasts hold true and that the capacity issues across the European air traffic system are solved.

©RJC

If CO2 emissions from transport cause climate change, why not encourage more cycling? This is precisely what places like Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna and Berlin are starting to do. One much talked about initiative is in Paris. As the home of cycling’s greatest race, the Tour de France, you would be forgiven for thinking the French always loved cycling. Yet until last year, cyclists and bicycle lanes were a rarity in the capital.

©Reuters/Gregg Newton

With aviation growing in terms of the number of planes operating and passengers taking to the skies, the industry is engaged in an important and candid dialogue—how to continue to grow responsibly, while further reducing its impact on the global ecosystem

Das Auto, Das Ecodriving ©Sebastien Pirlet/Reuters

The urgency of reducing fuel consumption rates while transport moves towards massive development over the next two decades, notably among developing economies, is clear. Any weapon counts as part of the overall package. Enter “ecodriving”.

Extreme choice? Stanford University's solar car, 2005 ©Reuters/Stefano Paltera/Handout

Would adding US$1,500 to the price of a new car be enough to help halt climate change? That’s what US and EU experts broadly agree on as the average price tag for new technologies coming on stream to make cars more fuel-efficient and climate friendly. But what does that price tag entail?

©David Rooney

As the UN called recently on the world’s governments in an “extraordinary emergency appeal” for some $500 million to avert a food crisis in poor countries, many people were placing some share of the blame squarely on strong demand for grains from the biofuel industry.

Anu Vehviläinen ©Finnish government

Transport is a major contributor to CO2 emissions. But can policymakers make a difference? We asked Anu Vehviläinen, Finland’s minister for transport, and chair of the first International Transport Forum in Leipzig in May 2008.

©Reuters/MingMing

Any serious attempt to deal with climate change must involve transport. Transport accounts for 13% of all world greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, though this figure takes into account CO2 sources other than fuel combustion, such as forestry, land-use and biomass burning. A look at CO2 emissions from fuel combustion only shows the transport sector accounts for about 23% worldwide and about 30% in the OECD area.

©OECD Observer

A 50% rise in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, higher temperatures, with more droughts and storms harming people, crops and buildings; more animal and plant species becoming extinct under expanding farmland and urban sprawl; dwindling natural resources; a billion more people living in water-stressed areas by 2030, with more pollution, disease and premature deaths ahead.

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

Secretary-General Angel Gurría led a high-level mission of OECD economists and environmental experts at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December. In this extract from one of his interventions at the conference, Mr Gurría explains some of the reasons why economics and markets must be at the heart of any effective and equitable strategy to tackle climate change.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in early December 2007 may have raised new hopes of progress, but as everyone knows, dealing with climate change will require more than just political goodwill. Providing for abundant, affordable, clean energy will require considerable investment in new power generation–more than US$11 trillion to 2030, based on an estimate in the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2006.

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.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q2 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% July 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.3% July 2018
Last update: 11 Sep 2018

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