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.

The UK’s tallest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland. Recently, it became one metre taller, standing now at 1 345m rather than 1 344m above sea level. Of course, the mountain did not actually grow. Rather, the team of Ordnance Survey experts who re-measured it for the first time since 1949 were able to do so more accurately because of improvements in technology, and specifically through the use of GPS.

Handewi Purwati Saliem, Director, Indonesian Center for Agriculture Socio Economic and Policy Studies (ICASEP) Handewi Purwati Saliem

Agriculture faces a challenging future. The world’s population is rising and pressures on natural resources are mounting, while environmental issues such as climate change loom large.

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As agriculture has proven itself able to respond to shifts in demand in the past, it could be argued that food security is less an issue of food supply and more one of affordable access.

Food is a basic requirement of life and fundamental to our well-being. Nevertheless, as humanity becomes more urbanised, agriculture and farming tend to be neglected. This is dangerous. The OECD Agriculture Ministerial meeting taking place on 7-8 April aims precisely at preventing this by helping define a new policy paradigm for a more productive, competitive and sustainable food system for all.

©ICorbis-Sygma/Stephane Klein

The number of doctors and nurses has reached an all-time high in the OECD area. Some 3.6 million doctors and 10.8 million nurses were working in OECD countries in 2013, up from 2.9 and 8.3 respectively in 2000. Jobs in the health and social sector now account for more than 10% of total employment in many OECD countries.

If hard-won agreement was the headline of 2015, implementation will be the feature for 2016. Agreements make the news; their implementation improves people’s lives.

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When it comes to jobs and earnings, quality counts, too.

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Since the economic crisis, productivity growth in OECD countries has continued to slow. Labour productivity rose by 3.7% in OECD countries from 2007 to 2013, and even fell in some countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK (see graph). A Bank of France study reported in this magazine in 2014 showed an “impressive slowdown” in developed countries’ productivity growth since the start of the 2000s, and illustrates the ebbs and flows of US, euro area, Japanese, and UK productivity from 1890 to 2012.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees ©OECD/Andrew Wheeler

In 2015, more than 1 million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea to look for international protection in Europe, and about 1.5 million claimed asylum in OECD countries. This is an all-time record and almost twice the number recorded the year before. Asylum seekers represent about 0.1% of the total OECD population, and less than 0.3% of the population in Europe.

©André Faber

Could central bank policy be making the economy more vulnerable? A fundamental rethink is in order if worse outcomes are to be avoided.

©AFP ImageForum

The recovery in the Irish economy is well underway. Determined policy responses to the fiscal, economic and financial sector challenges Ireland faced are now bearing fruit, with Ireland expected to be among the fastest-growing economies in the OECD this year and next. 

©Rights reserved/www.JoanBurton.ie

Ireland’s job market has improved markedly, thanks in no small part to strong policies for new skills to meet evolving demands and engagement with people out of work. 

The UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris 30 November-11 December is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reach a new international agreement to combat climate change and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy. World leaders attending the summit are aware of the urgency we face. However, to judge by their national contributions pledged so far, more ambition will be needed to keep global temperatures from rising above the agreed limit of 2ºC. The “carbon entanglement” of our economies is keeping us on a collision course with nature.

©Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters

Three key points will help world leaders and representatives of business, labour and civil society to strike an effective new deal on climate change at the crucial UN summit on climate change in Paris and accelerate climate action in 2015 and beyond. 

©AFP/Tripelon-Jarry

"We want to step out of the vicious circle of an economy which is an increasing drain on resources, and enter another circle… Paris is fully committed to combating climate change and determined to move forward as quickly as possible."  –Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris 

Jean Julien

On behalf of the OECD, Secretary-General Angel Gurría tonight condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated in Paris on the evening of 13 November. He expressed his most heartfelt condolences and solidarity with France and the French people, the City of Paris and its citizens following these terrible attacks.

Geothermal plant in Indonesia, which holds considerable geothermal energy potential thanks to its hundreds of active and extinct volcanoes ©Reuters/Beawiharta Beawiharta

Climate change is the pre-eminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts.  

World leaders are facing a fundamental dilemma: take strong action to address the risks associated with climate change, OR see the ability to limit this threat slip from their grasp. #COP21 in Le Bourget Paris, late 2015 is our chance for positive action...

Policy makers should do much more to encourage pension funds and other institutional investors to put their ample assets into sustainable energy infrastructure. The wins would be significant. The question is how? 

©Photosensitive/Reuters

The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a real game changer for gender issues, with wins in fraught areas such as reproductive rights. But there will be challenges, and opposing voices, to contend with in the years ahead.

©Issei Kato/REUTERS

The world is no longer divided between rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly educated ones.

Over the last three years, the United Nations has been working to establish a global sustainable development agenda to succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire in 2015. This important agenda, comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, is due to be adopted at the UN summit in September in New York.

©Rodi Said/REUTERS

"European leaders must stand before history in dealing with this humanitarian tragedy. They have the experience and the capacity to respond to this emergency and chart the path for a long-term solution," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría in a statement on a French-German refugee initiative issued Friday 4 September.

©Julien Daniel/OECD

Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was at the OECD on 10 July to discuss France’s education reforms. She received OECD recommendations on making education more inclusive.

Charlotte Moreau/OECD Observer

As negotiations near conclusion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries are honing in on what it will take to implement them. There are currently 17 goals on the table, and by the time the UN summit to launch the goals takes place in September, the much-emphasised “transformative” nature of the goals could gain traction, as could the “revitalised global partnership” called for under Goal 17.

In my first climate change lecture, nearly two years ago, my key message was that meeting the challenge of climate change required us to achieve zero net greenhouse emissions globally by the end of this century. 

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