OECD nations agree to combat climate change

The 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have agreed to work towards a deal on combating climate change leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP21*, to be held in Paris in December 2015.

Those attending the organisation’s annual two-day ministerial council meeting that began in Paris last Tuesday were finance, economy, trade and other ministers, including those from two OECD ‘accession countries’, Colombia and Latvia, who also signed the statement.

Describing climate change as one of the world’s greatest economic challenges, ministers and representatives from the 36 countries agreed to step up efforts to achieve the economic transformation necessary to deliver sustainable growth. This included greater incentives for private investment in low-carbon infrastructure, fostering green goods and services and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

“Climate change could lower world GDP in 2060 by at least 0.7 to 2.5%,” says a new report that provides preliminary OECD estimates on the economic effects of climate change. The report, New Approaches to Economic Challenges, was released after the meeting.

“Cutting net emissions to zero in the second half of the century is a tough call but there is no way out if we are to achieve the 2°C target while simultaneously supporting the economic recovery,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

“There are as many opportunities as there are difficulties, but governments must make sure tomorrow’s technologies are not obstructed by yesterday’s regulations.”

The ministers also asked the OECD to work with its partner agencies in energy and transport – the International Energy Agency, the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Transport Forum – to look at ways to help member countries better align their economic, social and environmental policies towards low-carbon growth.

The statement

The ministers’ three-page statement says in part: “With a view to doing our part to limit effectively the increase in global temperature below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and simultaneously supporting the recovery from the economic and financial crisis,” actions that should be taken include:
  • • Investing in public research and fostering a strong business climate for new technologies and innovations.
  • • Better aligning investment and climate policies to support an effective partnership among governments, development partners and the private sector in order to incentivise private investment in low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure.
  • • Pursuing policies that foster markets for green goods and services to facilitate trade, international investment flows, diffusion of low-carbon technologies and scaled-up private investment.
  • • Rationalising and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption while providing targeted support for the poorest.
  • • Continuing discussions on how export credits can contribute to our common goal to address climate change.
  • • Encouraging domestic policy reform, with the aim of avoiding or removing environmentally harmful policies.
The meeting precedes a high-level UN climate summit in September and the 20th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima in December.

* The COP21 meeting next year will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.

But despite the growing concern over a warming planet and the already obvious impact this is having on Earth’s climate and its countries, any commitment made at the 2015 Paris talks will not come into effect until 2020 when the necessary steps to prevent further warming will begin “to be implemented”.

* On 18 May, University World News will publish a special climate change edition focusing on the role of universities and higher education organisations in combating its effects and ways of creating a sustainable world.