European businesses were disappointed with the climate change agreement hammered out in Copenhagen. Here’s one way forward.

At Copenhagen world leaders moved forward in step on climate change. More progress is needed in the year ahead.

Ministers responsible for employment from around the world gathered at the OECD on 28-29 September to discuss the jobs crisis. In our eighth OECD Observer ministers' roundtable, we ask six representatives, from Canada (co-Chair), Italy (co-Chair), Sweden (vice-Chair), France, New Zealand, and Chile, which is a candidate for OECD accession: What new policy actions are you taking to improve the jobs situation in your country?

A Check-list for Public Action has been developed by the OECD and its partners to assist governments considering engaging with the private sector in the water sector. It is organised around the OECD Principles for Private Sector Participation in Infrastructures–some 24 principles grouped under five points that highlight sector-specific features, government considerations and available tools and practices:

©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.

©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.

©Reuters/Atef Hassan

Water is a growing challenge for all countries, and a fresh, more coherent approach to tackling it is now needed.

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."

Your energy focus covers the renewable question very well (No 258/259, December 2006). But what if the renewable promise became a broken one? It might, if mindsets don't change.

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.

Alex King, a much-admired director of the OECD, passed away on 28 February 2007. He was 98. Now that the OECD has gone “global”, it is worth remembering that Alex King was also the founder, in cooperation with Aurelio Peccei, of the Club of Rome, which first put the spotlight on the crisis of globalisation (notably in a report published in 1972 entitled The Limits to Growth*).

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.

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.

Both consumption and pollution of water by agriculture are becoming serious concerns. Yet, water resources can be used much more efficiently in producing food and fibre, while minimising pollution and supporting ecosystems. How to achieve this depends on mindsets and societal goals, as well as institutional systems and structures. And that means government.

With oil prices historically high and worries about global warming, greater attention is being paid to renewable energy potential. Take solar energy, for instance, which is already used for water heating and cooling systems.

A decade ago, even thinking about expanding nuclear energy was almost taboo in some OECD countries, but this may now be changing. For Luis Echávarri, director-general of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), those taboos are now being challenged as governments and people everywhere seem ready to openly discuss the potential of the nuclear option.

Oil prices may be high, causing more than a little anxiety among governments and the public. Yet, it is precisely at such times that a calm look at the energy situation is needed.

The Ministerial Council meeting and Forum this year provide a rich menu of issues for consideration including investing in energy, structural adjustment in response to globalisation, development challenges, as well as the progress of trade negotiations under the Doha Round.

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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