OECD Secretary-General

Development CO.OP LAB with Dr. Bertrand Piccard


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

7 February 2019 - OECD, France

(As prepared for delivery)


Dr. Piccard, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome to the OECD, Dr Bertrand Piccard, a pioneer, who in his own words wants to discover “new ways of doing and thinking, for a better quality of life.” Here at the OECD, our slogan is “better policies for better lives.” So you can see why we are coming together today to put this energy behind our shared goal of finding new solutions for a more sustainable planet.

Dr Piccard is a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Environment, an explorer, a scientist, the first to make a non-stop flight around the world in a balloon as well as in a solar powered airplane. He will be speaking today about ‘Innovations for Sustainability’. We are delighted to have him and are ready for his enlightenment.

We have an imperative to find and act on new solutions for sustainability

There is no time to waste in finding new solutions to tackle climate change, we know it! The recent landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) paints a grim picture of our future if climate change continues to intensify. The past year’s extreme weather events – record breaking heatwaves, wildfires, heavy rains, major tropical storms, diminishing Arctic sea ice, the recent polar vortex in the US – could soon become a daily reality. With only 12 years left to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to take bold and decisive action.

Our oceans are also under pressure, from unsustainable fishing and the mining of marine resources, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change. The IPCC estimates that coral reefs could decline by a further 70-90% with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and a catastrophic 99% at 2 degrees Celsius!

Without bold climate action we will witness within our lifetimes the loss of an entire ecosystem. Inaction will also affect developing countries the hardest, seriously undercutting our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commitment to leave no one behind. We are talking about huge losses in food production, increases in populations exposed to water shortages, the loss of rangeland livestock and a growth in vector borne diseases, among others. This is why many strands of our daily work focus on addressing these challenges.

Announcing ‘Sustainable Oceans for All’

Our 2016 report, “The Ocean Economy in 2030”, has demonstrated that the ocean is a new economic frontier that is particularly important for developing countries. Promoting the sustainable development of existing ocean-based sectors, along with investing in new sectors, represents one of the major opportunities for developing countries to diversify their economies, increase resilience, and boost sustainable and inclusive growth.

I am therefore pleased to announce today a new OECD initiative “Sustainable Oceans for All” that will support developing countries harness the benefits of a sustainable ocean economy, building on OECD analysis across many policy fronts to support conservation and a sustainable use of the ocean.

“Sustainable Oceans for All” brings together expertise on development finance, science technology and innovation, and the environment, from across the OECD, to explore how to increase the sustainability of the ocean economy and harness its benefits for developing countries.

This work represents a first in combining our engagement with developing countries and the ocean economy. It provides a global picture, as well as diagnostics for selected countries to help them expand their access to the knowledge, innovations, and financial resources needed for promoting a sustainable ocean economy.

This work is also an important stepping-stone towards the development of a broader OECD Strategy to support a sustainable development of the ocean economy in OECD countries. In this context, we are planning to mobilise expertise in the areas of innovative finance, innovation and technology, environmental policies, fisheries management and tourism, among others.

We will be releasing this new body of evidence in support of a transition to sustainable ocean economies at the High Level Ocean Conference in Portugal in the summer of 2020.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Before I give the floor to Dr. Piccard, let me just underline that, to support developing countries, the OECD will need to engage in a dialogue not only with governments, academia, foundations, but also with pioneering innovators and actors of change.

Having seen the world – in green and blue – from a balloon and a solar powered airplane, we welcome Dr Piccard’s unique perspective on how we can join forces to better invest in our shared future, for better lives.

Thank you.


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