Building back bluer

by Kate Kooka (Ocean Advisor) and Anthony Cox (Deputy Director), Environment Directorate / Song_about_summer

“We must ‘Build Back Bluer’”, urged Kenya’s Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Principal Secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs) at a Virtual Ocean Dialogue on the COVID-19 crisis, regional peace and security, and the blue economy. As countries are in the process of rebuilding their economies, this was a clever play on the phrase “Build Back Better” that has caught on as COVID-19 continues to wreak health and economic devastation around the world. The phrase originates from the world of disaster recovery management where it is used to describe the physical re-building of communities, cities and regions after earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. But as governments and organisations begin to think about a post-COVID world (which still appears some way off for many countries), there is a growing call for a green recovery and to “Build Back Better”. The OECD has added its voice to those calling for a sustainable, resilient recovery in a recent policy brief on that very topic.

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The challenges of greening urban mobility in the post-pandemic era

By Katherine Farrow, Ioannis Tikoudis and Walid Oueslati, OECD Environment Directorate

shutterstock_1235608609-biking-mobility-transport-street-traffic-light-bike-reduced / Max Zvonarev

In the aftermath of the pandemic, policy makers face unique challenges in managing urban transport, but also an opportunity to steer urban mobility towards a more sustainable, resilient future.

The Covid-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented shock in travel demand, raising questions about the future of transport in the near and long term. Lockdown measures have brought transport activity to a grinding halt in urban areas worldwide in recent months. The dramatic improvements in air quality that ensued highlight the stark trade-offs between transport activity and the environment.

As the first wave of the outbreak starts to recede in a number of countries, two important questions emerge. First, will urban mobility return to pre-outbreak patterns of use, or will the shock have a more profound, long-term impact on how people travel? Second, how should governments respond to these changes in order to continue steering urban transport systems towards sustainability?

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COVID-19 and the looming plastics pandemic

By Frithjof Laubinger and Nikhil Varghese, Circular Economy and Waste Team, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock / DeawSS

During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the city was dealing with more than 240 tons of medical waste a day, a six-fold increase over the amount being treated before the outbreak. Improperly discarded single-use facemasks and gloves have already been found at beaches of remote islands and floating at sea, adding to the already chronic problem of marine plastic litter and revealing the shocking speed at which the recent shift in human behaviour impacts the environment.

Responses to the health crisis led to a rise in plastics consumption and waste generation in a number of sectors – well beyond the medical sector – and put pressure on the environmentally sound handling, treatment and disposal of this waste. At the same time, as more household plastic waste was being generated, less was recycled. The risk of recycling workers contracting the virus prompted several municipalities to temporarily put a halt on separate collection and sorting, directing more waste to incineration or landfills. Read More

Towards a Clean Energy Transition in Viet Nam

By Aayush Tandon, Policy Analyst, OECD Environment Directorate

Vietnam Blog
Image credit: Shutterstock / Nguyen Quang Ngoc

Since the passage of the Paris Agreement and the adoption of the SDGs, clean energy has fast become a priority item on the global agenda. The push for a green recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced this trend. As we enter the ‘decade for delivery’, transitioning to a low-carbon energy system will be critical to achieve climate and development objectives globally. Viet Nam is no exception.

Since rolling out the Doi Moi reforms, Viet Nam has made remarkable progress in the electricity sector. Over the past 3 decades, the country has steadily modernised its electricity infrastructure, with virtually non-existent commercial losses and technical system losses of only 7.5%. However, to sustain current levels of economic growth, Viet Nam will have to nearly double its installed capacity in the next decade—a significant challenge. Read More

Time for Nature: Is a global public health crisis what it takes to protect the planet’s biodiversity?

By Edward Perry, Policy Analyst, OECD Environment Directorate

WED Blog shutterstock_1703194387_low_nwm
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Lois GoBe

Today is World Environment Day. As countries across the globe are still reeling from the human, social and economic cost of COVID-19, dedicating today to nature might seem ill-timed. Let me tell you – it’s not.

Our disruption of ecosystems and exploitation of wildlife may well be why we are in this mess. To reduce the risk of future crises, COVID-19 recovery packages must recognise the importance of nature for human health, well-being and the economy. This year’s theme for World Environment Day – Time for Nature – could not be more appropriate.

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Déjà vu all over again …. Or is it? Learning from the past to green the COVID-19 recovery

By Shardul Agrawala, Head of the Environment and Economy Integration Division, OECD Environment

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Aleksandar Mijatovic

As governments rush to commit vast sums of money to respond to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, there are growing calls to “green” these recovery packages.

In a way, it’s like déjà vu all over again, to borrow a phrase from baseball legend Yogi Berra, reminiscent of similar calls in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-08.

At that time, over half a trillion US dollars [1] were committed worldwide to the green stimulus. These investments were directed at activities such as the deployment of renewables, improving energy efficiency of buildings, removing inefficient cars from the road, investing in clean technology R&D, and improving infrastructure for mass transit. Many of the same investments are now being called for as part of the COVID-19 fiscal response.

What can we learn about the impact of green stimulus packages from over a decade ago? A great deal in fact [2].

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Why is there a shortage of disinfectants during the COVID-19 crisis?

By Bob Diderich and Sylvie Poret, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock

I’m sure many of you recently had the same experience I had. I went to the pharmacy in the early days of the pandemic and, before I opened my mouth, the pharmacist said “we’re out of masks and hydro-alcoholic gel”.  I had a prescription for allergy medicine, which I was fortunately able to get filled.

Indeed, pharmacies and stores across the world have been raided and it has been quite difficult to buy hand sanitisers for some time now. So what causes this shortage? It should be relatively easy to produce these hydro-alcoholic gels and flood the market.

Of course there is the physical production process and the difficulties to secure enough raw material. But alcohol is a rather common product. Many of you may have seen the news of vodka producers donating distilled alcohol to producers of disinfectants.

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TEG it easy : The landmark EU Sustainable Taxonomy takes shape

By Mireille Martini, Policy Analyst, Green Finance and Investment, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Travis Wolfe / Shutterstock

On 12 March 2020, the European Commission released the final reports of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance, including the final reports on the EU Sustainable Taxonomy. The OECD has been supporting this process as an observer since the inception of the group in June 2018. For a wide range of stakeholders and policymakers, the final EU Taxonomy reports represent an important milestone. But what exactly do they address? What is at stake? How does the OECD add value to the process? What are the next steps, and how is the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy relevant in the Covid-19 situation? In order to answer these questions, let’s start with the basics. Read More

Empowering women as clean energy entrepreneurs

By Lylah Davies, Clean Energy Finance and Investment Mobilisation Programme, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock / Only_Kim

Women currently account for approximately 32% of total employment in the renewable energy sector, compared to 22% in the more traditional oil and gas sector. On the one hand, this tells us that women are generally under-represented in the energy sector overall, but on the other, it shows that renewable energy, as a younger and more dynamic sector is an opportunity for change. With energy-related greenhouse gas emissions at a historic high in 2019 and 800 million people still lacking access to energy, the world needs to keep moving towards cleaner energy options. Further increasing the gender diversity of the renewable energy sector will help societies to tap into more innovative potential to drive this transition. Yet, barriers remain for women entering the renewable energy sector that need to be addressed in order to increase participation.

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5 things we learned at the OECD Wildfires Conference

By Catherine Gamper and Lisa Danielson, Climate Change Adaptation Team, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock / Janos Rautonen

It has been another unusually mild winter in Europe, with January and February feeling more like the beginning of spring. At the same time, summer in the Southern Hemisphere could not have been more different. Australians experienced the hottest and driest summer on record, surpassing the record highs of previous years. Since the early 1980s temperatures have been steadily rising in Australia, with the annual national mean temperature in 2019 being  1.52 °C above the 1961–1990 average.

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