In his article, "Global warming: What comes after Kyoto?", Professor Burton Richter's arguments are based on two incorrect premises–one explicit, the other implied (OECD Observer No 233, August 2002).

Sustainable development is a fundamental global challenge and the risks from inaction are immense. But there are encouraging signs. 

The Johannesburg summit is a golden opportunity to move forward on some tough sustainable development issues. But the agenda has grown and become unwieldy. Progress will depend on getting back to some global basics. 

Transport is a cornerstone of modern civilisation, but at what cost? Heavier than you might think.

One way to deal with pollution is to encourage polluters to buy and sell limited rights or permits to pollute. It is a market that works, though improvements are needed.

Nuclear energy is back in the public eye in light of the concerns about climate change and the need for a sustainable energy supply. Some powerful public voices are unconvinced about the technology’s competitiveness and safety. For Luis Echávarri, Director-General, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, these doubts should be put to rest.

California is famous for blue skies and leading-edge technology parks. Combine the two and, no surprise, you will find that the state may be taking a lead in solar energy too. Then consider the fact that housing developers are simply replacing traditional roof materials with solar panels as part of new buildings and below the cost of a normal mortgage, and this all begins to sound like a movie script from… California.

Click for larger version

The debate about energy mix will intensify at Johannesburg and beyond. Technological progress may generate some useful surprises in the years ahead, but for now, Professor Richter presents a cold look ahead at our energy choices.

When electricity shortages blacked out much of California last year, those countries and industries investing in wind and solar-powered energy must have felt a glow of excitement. After the lights came back on, energy experts were boldly predicting that the solar power industry would double its profits by 2005.

©Ruairi O Brien (www.robarchitects.com)

Road congestion and pollution are a fact of life in cities and towns, but road pricing could stop it from being an inevitable one.  

©Anna Gach 2001

Agriculture is in the spotlight. Almost every day there are reports in the press concerning food-related health and environment scares. Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease are the latest crisis in Europe, quickly following “mad cow” disease and protests over the alleged impact of genetically modified crops on food safety and the environment.

The environmental progress seen in the 1980s for most OECD countries was consolidated and further enhanced during the 1990s, from lower emissions of many air pollutants to better protection of endangered species.

When we in government look at our collective record on global sustainable development at the start of the 21st century, it is difficult to feel a sense of satisfaction. For despite the progress in some areas, we have been unable to reverse the worrying trends in global development. Too many people still live in abject poverty and in many places exploitation of water, land and other natural resources is well above critical limits.

For too long, policymakers have been talking about the deterioration of the world’s environment without taking sufficient action to address the problems. It is time to move from words to action before it is too late, particularly for the industrial countries that are the source of much of the damage.

The world is a living biological organism, not just a planetary rock with life somehow superimposed on it. This is the so-called gaia hypothesis developed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. In a recent interview Mr Lovelock noted: “Life clearly does more than adapt to Earth. It changes Earth for its own purposes. Evolution is a tightly coupled dance, with life and the material environment as partners.”

OECD Forum, 15th May, 2001– Sustainable Energy: Critical Factors in Energy Policy; moderator: Olivier Deleuze 

OECD Forum, 15th May 2001 Sustainable Energy: Fueling Sustainable Development (with IEA and NEA); moderator: Kenneth Lay

OECD governments should do far more to “green” their public procurement practices and support sustainable development by example. This was one of the key calls made during a sustainable development round table at Tuesday’s OECD Forum 2001. The call was made by John Hontelez, secretary general of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), who welcomed the OECD’s new environmental strategy, but found some areas such as procurement wanting. Sustainable development was seen too much by OECD as being in parallel to growth and trade liberalisation, rather than as an overarching theme, Mr. Hontelez said. He challenged the OECD to an ambitious target: To stop the growth in kilometre freight transport by 2010.

As Chairman of Koc Holding Company, Rahmi Koc knows the bottom line, and his voicing of a standard business fact was the anchor to which all parties involved in Tuesday’s discussion agreed. “The goal of business is, as it always was-making money.” As a philanthropist however, he has pursued quite a different personal agenda, and he stands firm in support of broad corporate responsibility that includes attention to workers, the environment, honesty and fair conduct, and transparency. He remains clear though, that “The right government mechanisms must be put into place, but the companies themselves must be allowed to decide their specific approaches privately, in a more pro-active approach.”

OECD Forum, 14th May, 2001: Sustainable Development Roundtable: Benefits and Risks of New Technologies; moderator Martin Cauchon 

OECD Forum, 14th May, 2001- The Transition to Sustainable Development: Are We Making Progress in Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental Degradation? 

How much environmental damage is caused by agriculture? Quite a lot, though there has been improvement in some areas. The OECD's first international study of the state and trends of environmental conditions in agriculture since the mid-1980s gives a comprehensive picture.

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

  • 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.
  • 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