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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Environmental education: Knowledge is power!

By Alexa Piccolo, Special Advisor, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Fabio Michele Capelli / Shutterstock

“Climate change is not a lie, we won’t let our planet die!” Building on the momentum of global school strikes organised in the spring of 2019, about four million students took to the streets around the world on 20 September 2019. Students voiced their concern about the climate crisis, demanding immediate action from public authorities. Never before had young people demonstrated in such huge numbers in favour of climate action, in either democratic or non-democratic countries.

Days after the protests, world leaders gathered in New York for the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. There, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg – who had reached the event in a sailboat to reduce her trip’s carbon footprint – addressed the UN General Assembly with a passionate speech. Read More

Carbon tax, emissions reduction and employment: Some evidence from France

By Damien Dussaux, PhD, Environmental Economist, OECD Environment Directorate

Image credit: Shutterstock / EggHeadPhoto

In September 2019 the French Parliament adopted a law on energy and climate which enshrines into French law the objective of carbon neutrality by 2050, in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Carbon neutrality means reducing carbon emissions and balancing residual emissions by capture and storage. Achieving carbon neutrality in France by 2050 will require a drastic decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 75%, as compared to 1990 levels.

To ensure this target is met, the French government developed a “National Low Carbon Strategy”, which acts as a roadmap for implementing a low-emission transition in each sector of the economy. For example, GHG emissions from industry account for almost one fifth of emissions in France, equivalent to total GHG emissions of Romania, and, under the proposed sectoral plan, will be reduced by a quarter within the next ten years.

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Taxe carbone : quel impact environnemental et économique dans le secteur manufacturier français ?

Damien Dussaux, PhD, économiste de l’environnement, Direction de l’environnement à l’OCDE

Crédit image : Shutterstock / EggHeadPhoto

En septembre 2019, le Parlement français a adopté la loi climat-énergie qui fixe l’objectif d’atteindre la neutralité carbone d’ici 2050, conformément à l’accord de Paris sur le climat de 2015. La neutralité carbone implique de réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre (GES) de 75 % d’ici 2050 par rapport aux niveaux de 1990 et de compenser les émissions résiduelles par la capture et le stockage du carbone présent dans l’atmosphère.

Afin d’atteindre cet objectif, le gouvernement français a élaboré une “Stratégie Nationale Bas-Carbone”, qui sert de feuille de route pour la transition vers de faibles émissions de carbone dans chaque secteur de l’économie. Par exemple, les émissions de GES de l’industrie – qui représentent près d’un cinquième des émissions en France, soit l’équivalent des émissions totales de GES de la Roumanie – devront être réduites d’un quart au cours des dix prochaines années selon le plan sectoriel proposé. Read More

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