Every year, Al Gore’s 2006 film “An inconvenient truth”, resonates more loudly. Faced with the growing environmental and climate crisis, the world of finance has in recent years thrown itself headlong into integrating environment, social and governance (ESG) criteria. We have a greater need for direction than ever before.

Advancing deforestation in the Amazon Basin ©Rickey Rogers/Reuters

We are eating our way through tropical forests. Whether it’s a cappuccino for breakfast, a burger for lunch or a chocolate bar as an after-dinner treat, the things we consume in OECD countries are often linked to deforestation in the tropics, where trees are falling at alarming rates.

©Shutterstock

Back in the 1960s, when my dad wanted to make an international call for work, he had to order it 24 hours in advance. Today, he uses WhatsApp to make toll-free calls from anywhere, anytime, in just a couple of clicks.

The celebrated marine scientist Jacques Cousteau once said that “All life is part of a complex relationship in which each is dependent upon the others, taking from, giving to and living with all the rest.” This is especially true of water. Freshwater management, oceans and marine ecosystems are intimately linked to almost every other environmental and humanitarian issue.

Marine experts in Tornio, northern Finland, drill holes on February 5, 2016 in the sea-ice and inject dye into the water to study how it flows, to model how an oil spill would behave underneath the arctic ice. ©Sam Kingsley/AFP

If you think the ice looks a little greyer in the Arctic, your eyes are not deceiving you. A five-year study by international researchers has found that diesel-engine vehicles, coal-burning factories and other such fossil-fuelled activities spew out soot, which circles around in the cold air before landing on the snow, turning it from white to sometimes black.

Governments need to raise carbon prices much faster if they are to slow the pace of climate change. The gap between actual carbon prices and real climate costs is still too wide. Watch our video:

Less than a fifth of plastic waste is recycled, with the rest being landfilled, burned or polluting our environment. Sorting and processing plastic waste is expensive, and some plastics cannot be recycled because of the hazardous chemicals used to make them. What are the solutions? Watch our video:

©Rights reserved

Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most profitable forms of illicit trade worldwide, a multibillion-dollar international industry that has grown in sophistication, and volume. Estimates value the trade at somewhere between US$7–23 billion annually, making it a lucrative part of a wider environmental crime industry worth over US$175 billion.

©IMAGINECHINA/AF

“We are not in the future. The rest of the world is in the past.” Swiss innovator Bertrand Piccard whose round-the-world flight in a solar-powered plane absorbed the world’s attention and imagination in 2015-16, does not mince words. Piccard proved that solar-powered transport is technically possible. What is needed now are investors and policymakers to help make it happen, not least by providing legal frameworks and cutting back on bureaucracy, he told a packed audience at the Big IdEAs distinguished speaker series, organised by the International Energy Agency and hosted by the OECD in September 2017.

Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

The world’s oceans are being damaged by a constant and unprecedented accumulation of waste known as marine debris. The waste, mostly from effluent human activities, is brought to the oceans through currents and often carried far from where it originated. 

We know decarbonisation will require a massive shift of investment away from fossil fuel and into such areas as renewable energy, energy efficiency in buildings and industry, electric vehicles and public transport. A key challenge for policy makers is to understand how to make best use of available policy levers to help accelerate this shift towards low-carbon investment. This includes facilitating the financing of low-carbon investment, including financing through equity investment or – on the debt side – through bank loans and bonds. Read post here.

©David Rooney

Moving beyond a petroleum-based economy is not just about choosing alternative sources of energy. It is about rethinking almost everything around us. The fleece you’re wearing, for example, is made from the same oil-based chemical as antifreeze or engine coolant. This is where green chemistry comes in. Advances in biotechnology are allowing us to manufacture fabrics, plastics, fuels and chemicals from bio-based resources using renewable resources.

"The markets have moved on, the world has moved on, coal is not coming back," said Catherine McKenna, Environment and Climate Change Minister of Canada when she launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance with the UK and 23 partner countries, states and regions at the COP23 climate conference in Bonn on 16 November 2017.

With marine biodiversity deteriorating at an alarming rate, there will soon be little left of the “octopus’s garden” that The Beatles once sang about. According to Marine Protected Areas: Economics, Management and Effective Policy Mixes, pollution, overfishing and rising temperatures have damaged or destroyed 60% of the earth’s marine ecosystems. Policymakers have been addressing the issue, too, and are increasingly designating marine protected areas (MPAs) as an instrument for the preservation of biodiversity. 

Crossroads with nature in Serra do Mar www.fotografiasaereas.com.br

In Latin America, as elsewhere, sustainable infrastructure plays a vital role in improving the quality of life and supporting economic growth. It determines our capacity to engage competitively in global trade and to grow our economies. In our cities, where 80% of the region’s population lives, infrastructure helps reduce poverty by enhancing access to basic services and facilitating access to knowledge and employment opportunities.

France has significantly improved its environmental performance over the past ten years, as evidenced by the signing of the Paris Agreement and the entry into force of the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, both of which promote the protection of biodiversity, responsible management of resources and the fight against waste, and sketch out a new model of participative governance. But there remain gaps in the country’s environmental policy, according to the latest Environmental Performance Review of France, which advises the French government to waste no time in implementing its energy transition. 

Too much, too little, too polluted: these are three water risks facing many urban areas. By 2050, worldwide water demand will increase by 55%. This will mean fierce competition across different water users–farmers, industries, households, etc. Whether containing flooding in Paris, drought in San Francisco or groundwater contamination in Mexico City, cities everywhere are asking how to anticipate, avoid and overcome future water crises. 

©Peter Treanor/Alamy Stock Photo

Air pollution in African cities is a major health and environmental challenge that must become a focus of urban policies. 

Oceans hold the promise of immense resource wealth and great potential for boosting economic growth, employment and innovation. In the same time, they are recognised as indispensable for addressing many of the global challenges facing the planet, from food security and climate change to the provision of energy, natural resources and health care. But they are already over-exploited, polluted and confronted with climate change.

Do you know which Middle East country is the largest producer and exporter of pistachio nuts (4 letters)? Another word for ''quiet'' (3 letters)? Try our latest OECD Observer crossword.

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The Paris Agreement on climate change signals the end of business as usual for energy industries. For the first time in history more than 150 developed and developing countries have promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how binding are these agreements? And do they provide impetus for local action in Africa?

©Damir Sagolj/Reuters

For Thailand’s capital of Bangkok, and its surrounding five provinces, green cities are a matter of survival. And with extreme rainfall and summer heatwaves becoming the norm, Bangkok must adapt and develop climate resilience, or risk disappearing.

©Charlotte Moreau

Jeju Island lies in the Strait of Korea. Often described as the “Hawaii of Korea”, it is also a tropical jewel in the country’s strategy towards greening its economy. 

©Alamy

What do sunscreen, deodorant, smartphone batteries and tennis rackets have in common, besides being everyday items? They are all likely to contain nanomaterials. These very small objects–from 1nm to 100nm–are increasingly used for industrial, commercial and medical purposes. The number of products containing them leapt fivefold from 2006 to 2011. Nanotechnology may be revolutionary, but is not without risks. 

From the early 2000s, sustainability has emerged as a central policy-making consideration as climate change and population growth have heightened concerns about already-stretched natural resources. With governments, business and civil society frequently clashing at the intersection of economic policy and conjecture over future livelihood viability, sustainability has asserted itself as a precondition, a license to operate, or simply a moral imperative.

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.

China was among the near-200 countries to adopt the Paris Climate Change Agreement (Paris Agreement) at an historic UN conference in Paris, France on 12 December 2015. As an emerging economy and one of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases, how China implements the Paris Agreement will be important. We asked Dr Xuedu Lu of the Asian Development Bank for his views.

Citizens demand action at the UN climate change conference in Paris in November-December 2015 ©GDE AGUNG/Citizenside/AFP

The Paris Agreement is a landmark in collective efforts on climate change and is the result of many years’ hard work. It must now be implemented.

How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions worldwide have been trending upwards for decades. A small group of large countries is responsible for the lion’s share of these global emissions.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q2 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 1.6% September 2019 annual
Trade: -1.9% exp, -0.9% imp, Q2 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% September 2019
Last update: 18 November 2019

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