Financing Water: beyond traditional economic thinking, it’s time for global action

by Aude Farnault and Xavier Leflaive, OECD Environment Directorate

As leaders prepare to gather in New York later this month at the  UN 2023 Water Conference[1], the world turns its attention to the critical importance of water in the global development agenda and the essential role of finance in translating political ambitions into action on the ground.

The ninth meeting of the Roundtable on Financing Water, co-convened with UN Water, gathered the water and finance communities in Geneva on 7-9 February to bring a financial perspective to the Water Action Agenda, the main expected outcome of the UN 2023 Water Conference. It benefited from the substantive input of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, which aims to redefine the way we value and govern water.

The meeting testifies that the narrative on water is changing, and this affects how water and finance can engage with one another.

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How have governments’ climate policies evolved in the last decade?

by Daniel Nachtigall, OECD Environment Directorate

We have seen a growing number of countries strengthen their emission reduction pledges by updating their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) or by pledging carbon neutrality targets towards mid-century. But with the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, what are countries actually doing to implement these targets and how has the climate policy landscape evolved over the last decade or so?

The OECD’s recently released Climate Actions and Policies Measurement Framework (CAPMF) provides answers to this question. The CAPMF is the most comprehensive harmonised international climate policy database to date with 128 policy instruments and climate actions (grouped into 56 policies), spanning the period 2000-2020 and covering 51 countries (OECD, G20 and OECD accession candidate countries) and the EU 27. This Framework was developed by the OECD International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC) as part of a broader effort to develop indicators to support country progress towards net-zero GHG emissions.

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Rediscover our top 5 blogs of 2022

2022 has been a year of environmental milestones, in a world faced with climate change and biodiversity loss.

Rediscover our top 5 blogs from 2022 to learn more on a range of topics including ‘green water’, pandemic recovery, Norway’s environmental performance, and the environmental impact of expired medicine.

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How are climate change perceptions influenced by the economy and extreme weather events?

By: Kentaro Asai, Francesca Borgonovi and Sarah Wildi, OECD Centre for Skills

In the northern hemisphere, the last summer was characterised by major climate disasters, including heat waves, droughts, flooding, and wildfires. The southern hemisphere is preparing to face similar disruptions in the coming months. Such events served as a reminder that climate change is taking place and that urgent action is required to transition to a net-zero economy. Can the renewed urgency for action on climate change continue in the context of high energy prices and the increasing cost of living? 

Successfully implementing climate change mitigation policies both locally and internationally requires an understanding of the extent to which individuals see climate change as a threat and consider climate action a priority. Mobilising large-scale international support for climate action requires on the one hand understanding how the public in different countries perceives climate change and on the other what factors shape individuals’ attitudes towards climate change and the environment more generally. Governments need to know how individuals understand and perceive climate change in order to anticipate environmental behaviour and determine which policies (if any) citizens would be prepared to support and how ambitious such policies could be.

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How to finance the net-zero transition of industry in emerging economies?

by Joseph Cordonnier and Deger Saygin, OECD Environment Directorate

Although policy makers and industry acknowledge the urgency of action for the net-zero industry transition in emerging and developing economies, the investment challenge remains significant.

The manufacturing industry serves society with a variety materials and products essential for economic activity and sustainable development. As this sector is responsible for 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the role of industry will be critical in reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century and to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. International fora such as the G7 and the G20, as well as numerous new public- and private-led initiatives, have also launched dedicated programmes to support dialogue to identify and propose solutions for the decarbonisation of industry.

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Solving global environmental emergencies: are financial actors playing their part?

by Valentina Bellesi and Hugh Miller, OECD Environment Directorate

After a summer of record-breaking temperatures, droughts, wildfires and floods causing devastation across the globe, the need to rapidly scale-up finance and investment to support a low-emission and climate-resilient transition could not be more apparent.

Limiting global warming to around 1.5°C above pre-industrial times requires global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to peak before 2025 at the latest. In other words, emissions trajectories in all sectors need to radically shift in the next three years. This means a radical shift in finance. Financial institutions representing 40% of global private financial assets have committed to reach net zero by 2050. However, there are significant gaps between financial actors’ net-zero commitments and the emissions of their portfolios.

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Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water

by Aude Farnault and Xavier Leflaive, Water Team, OECD Environment Directorate

Credit: Noah Silliman (Unsplash)

Although extreme heat, droughts, and floods have been recurrent in recent years, weather patterns this summer have reached unprecedented limits: the continuation of catastrophic drought in Western States in the United States and in East Africa, record low levels of water in Europe, and catastrophic floods in Pakistan. This week, the 2022 Stockholm World Water Week took place in this very critical context, with a particularly timely theme: “Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water”.

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Feux de forêt en Europe : Vont-ils devenir la norme ? 

Ce blog a été initialement publié le 22 juillet 2022 sur la page Linkedin OECD Environment ainsi que sur notre blog Environment Focus. Les données ont été mises à jour pour refléter l’évolution de la situation.

Catherine Desiree GamperÁgnes Szuda et Giulia Bonazzi, Direction de l’environnement de l’OCDE  

Crédit: Adobe stock images

Alors que l’Europe bat des records de températures, elle est aussi en proie à de violents feux de forêt. En France, la Gironde a vu partir en fumée plus de 20 800 hectares en juillet, et plus de 36 000 personnes ont dû être évacuées de leur domicile ou de leur lieu de vacances. Des feux massifs ont ensuite à nouveau repris en août en Gironde et dans les Landes. Dans tout l’Hexagone, de nombreux feux ont fait rage pendant l’été, de la Bretagne à la région Grand Est en passant par l’Occitanie. 

En Espagne, plus d’une vingtaine de feux de forêt estivaux étaient hors de contrôle d’après les autorités, tandis qu’au Portugal, de très importants dégâts ont été signalés – y compris aux habitations – dans le Nord, le Centre et l’Algarve. Même les pays d’Europe du Nord ne sont pas épargnés cette année, car à l’hiver sec a succédé un été plus sec encore et les températures s’emballent sur tout le continent.  

Les incendies surviennent naturellement dans beaucoup d’écosystèmes et peuvent être bénéfiques dans certains cas. Il n’en est pas de même des incendies extrêmes qui causent des dommages irréversibles à certaines espèces, à leur habitat et aux services écosystémiques – au point de laisser derrière eux des terrains où la forêt ne repartira pas et qui seront gagnés par la désertification. Ces incendies sont difficiles à éteindre et compliquent beaucoup la protection des personnes, des habitations, des entreprises et des infrastructures.  

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Wildfires in Europe: towards a “new normal”?

This blog was originally posted on 22 July 2022 on the OECD Environment Linkedin page.

by Catherine Desiree GamperÁgnes Szuda and Giulia Bonazzi, OECD Environment Directorate

Credit: Adobe stock images

Amidst record-breaking temperatures, wildfires have been raging across Europe. France’s Gironde region has already seen 19,000 hectares of forest destroyed and 34,000 people evacuated from their homes and holiday resorts.

Simultaneously Spanish authorities have reported over 20 wildfires that are out of control across the country, while Portugal is reporting major damage, including to homes, in the country’s north, centre and Algarve regions. Even northern European countries may not be spared from fires this year, after a dry winter, and even drier summer and soaring temperatures across the continent.

Wildfires are a natural component of many ecosystems and can deliver positive benefits in certain cases. This is different for extreme fires, which cause irreversible damage to certain species, their habitats and ecosystem services – to the point where desertification will follow as opposed to natural reforestation. Extreme fires are hard to suppress and make it challenging to protect people, homes, businesses and infrastructure assets.

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Limiting environmental impacts through unused or expired medicine

By Frithjof Laubinger, Environmental Economist, OECD Environment Directorate

Credit: Yulia YasPe/Shutterstock

Pharmaceuticals are widely considered as essential for maintaining human and animal health, but many of us do not consider their impact beyond treating infections and disease. In fact, residues from medicine can become an environmental concern when they enter the environment. This can happen in a myriad of ways – not just from improperly discarded unused or expired medicine, but also after they are consumed and excreted. While it is hard to address the latter, the former is more straightforward.

Flushing antibiotics down the toilet or pouring unused liquid medicine into the sink leads to leakage into freshwater systems. Alarmingly, most conventional wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these pharmaceutical residues. Medicines thrown away amongst residual household waste can also enter the environment when this waste is landfilled.

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