What is the environmental footprint of Christmas?

By Anthony Cox, Deputy Director, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: kryzhov / Shutterstock.com

Type “Christmas and environment” into Google and you will get page after page of tips on how to have a sustainable festive and holiday season. Running the whole gamut of topics from the Christmas tree to sustainable gift-giving to eco-friendly Christmas food to holiday cards to gift wrapping, there is no shortage of news articles, websites and blogs providing useful advice on how to reduce the environmental footprint of the holiday period. These are often packaged up with advice on how to have an ethical Christmas so that it is possible to ensure there is a nicely holistic warm inner glow to one’s year-end celebrations.

That Google search will also throw up a handful of articles on the environmental downside of Christmas. It does not take much imagination to see why this is the case. The increased spending over the Christmas season is quite enormous and leads one to suspect, rightly, that the environmental footprint is potentially significant. Read More

Fighting the climate emergency? Enter national development banks

By Naeeda Crishna Morgado (independent expert) and Özlem Taskin (OECD Development Co-operation Directorate)

Image credit: Paulo de Abreu / Shutterstock.com

Developing countries are at the forefront of the ongoing battle to address climate change. Roughly 60% of the new infrastructure built before 2030 will be in the developing world, and it is these investment decisions that will determine our collective ability to address the climate emergency. Developing countries must invest in climate-compatible infrastructure, rather than locking in emissions and creating stranded assets. And they must do so while building resilience to increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events, reducing poverty and inequality, addressing global epidemics and responding to humanitarian crises.

Enter national development banks. As publicly owned financial institutions with a development mandate, these banks have received increasing attention in the international discourse due to the countercyclical role they play in financial systems, helping to soften effects of credit crunches and deleveraging private banks in times of financial crises, and their role in financing infrastructure. Read More

Why is the OECD looking at the environment?

By Anthony Cox, Deputy Director, OECD Environment Directorate

Usually, the most interesting questions come out of left field.

During the question and answer session at a conference on sustainable infrastructure last year, a young audience member asked the question: “Why is the OECD, an economic organisation, working on environmental issues?” At first blush, this question might seem to be trivial or provocative or uninformed, depending on one’s mood at the time. Nevertheless, it is actually a very good question to pose oneself every now and then, in the context of that broader existential question: “Why are we here?”

Of course, the standard answer rolls off the tongue quite easily, combining an assortment of key messages from our mission statement: the economy is actually a subset of the environment, not the other way round; the solutions to most, if not all, environmental problems require some form of policy intervention that will have an economic impact or cost; policy makers need to consider the costs and benefits of policies to address environmental problems; and so on.

However, it was also a prompt to look back at the history of the environment at the OECD to see where it started and how the environmental work has grown and evolved over the years. Read More