Climate: What’s changed, what hasn’t and what we can do about it

Six months to COP21

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. 

That’s because carbon dioxide emissions accumulate and are long-lived. Without zero net CO2 emissions, temperatures will just keep rising. When I said that two years ago, it was deemed controversial. Today, I’m pleased to see that it has become conventional wisdom and a commonly shared goal–including just last month by the G7 Leaders.

Not much has changed since then…except prices.

So let me start by reflecting on what has and what hasn’t changed since that day (9 October 2013). First of all, the science has not changed. The IPCC’s recent Fifth Assessment Report has confirmed the seriousness and urgency of the issue. The second key element that has NOT changed is the predominance of fossil fuels. Two years ago, we were awash in fossil fuels. Unfortunately, they still dominate global energy supply, accounting for an aggregate share of 81%. In fact, the carbon intensity of the fuel mix has hardly changed since 1990.

What has changed significantly is the price of fossil fuels. On the day I delivered my first LSE lecture, Brent crude stood at US$109 per barrel. By mid-January 2015, the price had plunged to less than US$50 per barrel. It has since followed an upward and volatile trend, but remains well below last year’s peak, fluctuating at around US$60 per barrel. Of course, coal prices have fallen too, though less dramatically.

Read the full speech

©OECD Observer July 2015

More:

OECD on the road to COP21

OECD Observer editorials by Angel Gurría




Economic data

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

  • 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.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • 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.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • 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