Rediscover our top 5 blogs of 2021

1. The price of plastic waste and solutions to turn the tide

By Stefanos Fotiou, ESCAP, and Anthony Cox, OECD Environment Directorate

This blog examines solutions to deal with the eight million tonnes of plastic that will end up in the world’s oceans every year, most of which is fed from rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash from the some of the world’s fastest growing cities into the marine environment.

Read it here.

Read More

Managing climate risks in mountainous areas

By Mikaela Rambali, OECD Environment Directorate, and Takayoshi Kato, OECD Development Co-operation Directorate

Kedarnath Disaster 2013

Mountain communities and ecosystems are highly exposed to climate hazards due to rugged terrains, steep slopes and stark seasonal contrasts. Looking at the impacts of a changing climate in mountainous areas is like pressing fast forward: temperatures have been increasing more rapidly than the global average. In western North America, South American Andes, the European Alps and High Mountain Asia, warming over recent decades has outpaced the global warming rate, at an average rate of 0.3°C   as opposed to  0.2 ± 0.1°C per decade. The scale and intensity of hazards amplified by climate change, such as landslides, avalanches and glacial lake outburst floods, can lead to wide-ranging consequences in both high and low lands, and across human systems.

The rate of change today is likely to be well above the ability of mountain communities and ecosystems to cope. People in the Indian Himalayan region, for instance, have for centuries learned to live and survive with changes in their environment, but many of them consider the present rate of change in the climate as taking place too rapidly to adapt.

Read More

Nanomaterials: tiny particles, big questions

By Kyeong Wha Chung, Hannah Thabet and Bob Diderich, OECD Environment Directorate

Nanomaterials make up many of everyday products around us, whose existence relies on the ability to design, manufacture, and manipulate materials on a tiny scale that is invisible to the naked eye. To give you a better idea of just how tiny that is, nanomaterials are up to 10 000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are used in many products from paints to cosmetics.

Why are nanomaterials different from other chemical substances?

When we zoom in and look at materials, we sometimes find that nanomaterials behave quite differently and may have different properties compared to their larger counterparts. This makes it hard to predict how these tiny particles will behave under different conditions, and this unpredictability poses some very big questions.

For example, a raincoat feels incredibly soft to the touch, but if you look at it at a nano-level, you’ll see that some of them are made up of molecules aligned in cross-links to create fabrics that repel water and other liquids. If you’ve ever noticed how liquid forms little beads on waterproof clothing, that may be thanks to nanotechnology.

But how safe is it to be wearing this kind of technology so close to our skin and does it pose a risk to the environment?

Read More

COP26: Big steps forward on adaptation and resilience

By Michael Mullan, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock / MemoryMan

While I was at COP26 in Glasgow, one of the speakers said that hope was not the same as optimism; rather it was about being able to see the possibility of a better future. In that sense, I returned from COP26 feeling hopeful about what can still be achieved, even though the path to success remains narrow.

The Paris Agreement seeks to mobilise the collective effort needed to reduce emissions, while recognising that individual contributions will differ. It is building collective effort by combining clear goals with regular submissions of national commitments, transparency about respective contributions, and peer-pressure to encourage a race to the top.

We could see this mechanism in action for COP26. Collectively, our mitigation efforts still fall well short of what is required, but there has been a “ratcheting-up” of ambitions over time. The Glasgow Climate Pact will help to accelerate this process by urging countries to submit revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of 2022. Current NDCs would lead to global emissions being higher in 2030 than in 2010, while reaching 1.5oC requires emissions to fall 45% over the same period.  There is an extremely large gap to fill, but I remain hopeful that the combination of accountability, support and peer-pressure will provide a powerful mechanism for mobilising increased collective action.  

Read More

Deliberative democracy: A bottom up approach to helping solve the climate crisis

By Deborah Holmes Michel, OECD Environment Directorate

Our planet’s ecological systems are increasingly under pressure, millions suffer from the negative effects of air pollution, and very few countries are on track to meet their Paris Agreement objectives. Leaders need to imagine different ways of working that might get us to net-zero emissions and alleviate the climate crisis.

Cultivating imagination to tackle environmental crises

As Rob Hopkins in his book From What is to What if asks: What if our leaders prioritised the cultivation of imagination? Our models of democracy might need to be rethought and reinvented. Decision-making that gives people the opportunity to deliberate, digest and contemplate particular issues in a safe context is known as deliberative democracy. Debate should be informed and informative; participants should be from a range of backgrounds and perspectives, and be willing to talk and listen to each other with respect. Deliberative democracy can be seen to work well in citizens’ assemblies. This can be applied to tackling a wide range of environmental issues in the context of the climate crisis.

Read More

Building it “right” in African cities — not back better

By Brilé Anderson, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club

Image credit: ©Ricci Shryock

The African continent is urbanising quickly — in other words, more and more people are living in cities. In the second half of the twentieth century, the population in African cities grew eightfold, from 27 million in 1950 to 567 million in 2015. A trend that will carry on for the foreseeable future — albeit at a slower rate. African cities are expected to add 950 million people between now and 2050, and assuming densities levels remain the same, cities will cover four times more land in 2050 than in 2000.

How these cities take shape — meaning where buildings and roads are constructed, how close schools and shops are to housing, along with where people live  — has lasting implications for their ability to cope with shocks like climate change (i.e., their resiliency) and future sustainability. Importantly, these choices like infrastructure (e.g., buildings, roads, power plants) will last, for years or even decades, potentially locking in cities to increasing vulnerabilities to climatic events and future emissions.

Read More

Building resilience to natural disaster risk in agriculture

By Francesca Casalini and Jesús Antón, OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate

As one of the economic sectors most inherently exposed to natural hazards, risk management has always been a key issue for agriculture. During the last few decades, however, the frequency and intensity of natural hazard-induced disasters affecting agriculture have increased dramatically, largely due to climate change.

Powerful typhoons and heavy rains cost Japan’s agriculture more than USD 10 billion in 2018-2019. Hurricane Florence and the Midwest floods each caused agricultural damage and losses of over USD 1 billion in the United States over the same period. More broadly, severe droughts have been the single greatest cause of agricultural production losses across the globe between 2008 and 2018. Natural hazards are only expected to become more frequent and harmful in the future, threatening communities and livelihoods and challenging even the most experienced and innovative farmers.

These trends mean that the “business-as-usual” approach of coping with the impacts of natural hazards cannot continue without undermining agricultural productivity and sustainability. Instead, there is a need to transform agricultural and related policies to move from a coping to a resilience approach. This implies designing policies that better enable stakeholders to plan and prepare for, absorb, and recover from shocks, but crucially, that also support them to better adapt and transform in response to a changing climate – a central goal of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) starting next week.

Read More

Deep reductions in CO₂ are not enough

By Rodolfo Lacy, OECD Environment Director

From the melting of the poles to the weakening of the ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics into the North Atlantic, every day the planet sends stronger signals of a climate crisis. On 9 August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the first installment of the Sixth Assessment Report, emphasising, among other findings, that GHG emissions are not decreasing, on the contrary, they keep rising.

The world risks global warming of beyond 1.5°C (and even 2°C) this century, unless we achieve deep reductions in CO2 and other GHG emissions. We are faced with an increase in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.

With these risks in mind, it is essential to strengthen public policies at all levels – from local to international levels – to achieve the transition to net zero and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Read More

Bigger Biodiversity Benefits for your Buck: How economic instruments can help safeguard nature

Katia Karousakis & Edward Perry, Programme Lead & Analyst, Biodiversity, Land Use and Ecosystems, OECD Environment Directorate

This article was originally published on the Forum Network as a part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. To keep updated on all of the OECD’s work supporting the fight against COVID-19, visit our Digital Content Hub.

Ten million hectares of forest are destroyed each year. Live coral has declined by about 4% per decade since 1990. And one million plant and animal species—one quarter of all species—are now threatened with extinction. The past decade has not yielded the biodiversity outcomes that many hoped for when the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity was adopted, under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). As a result, biodiversity loss continues to accelerate, posing significant risks to our economy and the well-being of current and future generations.

The 15th Conference of the Parties to the CBD (CBD COP15)—where a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is due to be agreed—is critical. It is our chance to take stock of lessons learned, and to design a better, more effective framework for the next decade. A framework that includes specific actions countries can take to address the pressures on biodiversity, whether it is land and sea-use change, over-exploitation, pollution, climate change or invasive alien species.

Read More

Dépenser mieux pour la biodiversité : comment les instruments économiques peuvent aider à préserver la nature

Katia Karousakis et Edward Perry, Chef de programme et analyste, Biodiversité, utilisation des terres et écosystèmes, Direction de l’environnement de l’OCDE

Cet article a été initialement publié sur le Forum Network et s’inscrit dans une série de contributions d’experts de l’OCDE et d’influenceurs – du monde entier et de tout secteur de la société – qui répondent à la crise du COVID-19, partageant et développant des solutions pour aujourd’hui et demain. Cette série vise à favoriser un échange constructif de vues et d’expertises développées dans différents domaines afin de nous permettre de relever ensemble ce défi majeur. 

Afin de rester informés de l’ensemble des travaux de l’OCDE dans la lutte contre le COVID-19, visitez la plateforme de l’OCDE  dédiée.

Dix millions d’hectares de forêt sont détruits chaque année. La couverture en corail vivant diminue d’environ 4 % tous les dix ans depuis 1990. Un million d’espèces végétales et animales, soit un quart de la totalité, sont à présent menacées d’extinction. La décennie écoulée n’a pas vu se concrétiser les résultats que beaucoup avaient espérés lorsque le Plan stratégique 2011-2020 pour la diversité biologique a été adopté au titre de la Convention sur la diversité biologique. L’appauvrissement de la biodiversité va donc croissant au péril de notre économie et du bien-être des générations actuelles et futures.

La 15e Conférence des Parties à la Convention sur la diversité biologique (COP 15) sera un rendez-vous crucial, car elle doit aboutir à un accord sur le cadre mondial de la biodiversité pour l’après-2020. Elle nous donne ainsi une chance de dresser l’inventaire des enseignements tirés et de concevoir un cadre plus judicieux et plus efficace pour la prochaine décennie. Ce cadre explicitera les mesures que les pays peuvent prendre pour lutter contre les pressions qui s’exercent sur la biodiversité, qu’elles concernent l’utilisation des espaces terrestres et marins, la surexploitation, la pollution, le changement climatique ou les espèces exotiques envahissantes.

Read More