Climate and economic rationality

OECD Environment Ministers' Meeting, Paris, 28-29 April 2008

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”.
A new departure at this well-attended meeting was to invite business, labour and non-government organisations to the actual ministerial meeting, rather than a mere consultation in the margins of the meeting.Four years ago sustainable development was the word on most people’s lips, and it was not evident that only a couple of years later climate change would become the main dimension of this challenge. It also has a bearing on other priority issues, including biodiversity loss, health impacts of pollution and water scarcity/shortage.At the April 2008 meeting, environment ministers stressed that “climate change is not just an environmental challenge, but also an economic challenge”. In fact, moving towards a low-carbon society needs to be a process involving all areas of government, and this demands co-ordination and co-operation among the various ministries of finance, agriculture, transport, energy, industry, trade, development co-operation and so on.Environment ministers appealed to colleagues in finance, economy and trade ministries as those responsible for getting the financial incentives right–taxes, subsidies, and tariffs, etc–to strengthen the use of market-based approaches in moving towards a global carbon price and to keep the costs of action manageable. The potential role of sectoral approaches was also mentioned.Local authorities also had a major role to play, ministers said, and businesses and trade unions will also need to be key partners in addressing climate change.Climate change is a challenge, but also an opportunity, and ministers said that some countries that move early can reap competitive advantages, in areas like renewable energy technologies. On the other hand, ministers also warned about the costs of waiting too long, or pursuing “business as usual” policies. Climate change is a reality, and inaction will merely delay costs, was the common view.The April meeting echoed the main findings of OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 by emphasising the economic aspects of climate change and other environmental challenges. “As the evidence laid out in OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 shows, it is economically rational to implement ambitious climate policies, especially when we take into account co-benefits”, says Lorents G. Lorentsen, chief of the OECD Environment Directorate. “Countries need to put in policies to encourage green energy and buildings now in particular because new investments in energy infrastructures and building construction around the world over the next 10-20 years could lock in their environmental performance for decades to come,” he added. Public and private sector financing will need to be mobilised, not least to encourage technological development, deployment and transfer to poorer countries. Environment ministers welcomed the idea of an international funding mechanism to help distribute the costs of action, and asked finance and economy ministers to take the lead in developing one.For more information, contact Kumi.Kitamori@oecd.org
See www.oecd.org/envmin2008 and www.oecd.org/environment/outlookto2030
Order OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 at www.oecdbookshop.org©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008



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

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017