Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Thoiry, 29 March 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you to this special event, expressing the commitment of the OECD to sustainability. We are here because we need to practice what we preach. We advise governments on how to be greener, so the least we can do is an equivalent effort to green the OECD and its management practices. Through this Project, we are not only off-setting a part of our environmental impact, we are also, quite literally, sowing the seeds of a greener OECD and a greener world.
It has been a long road to these woods. Almost a year ago on 22 April last year, the day that the Paris Agreement was signed, Earth Day 2016, the OECD announced it was joining the global campaign to plant 8 billion trees. Of those trees, 3900 will be planted through this project, more than one for each OECD staff member. Most of them have been planted nearby in the Foret de Bréval, and the final few will be planted here today in the grounds of this beautiful chateau.
It is interesting to explain how we financed this project. The majority of the trees, 3250 of them, have been financed by the OECD’s Carbon Pricing initiative and a further 650 trees have been contributed by OECD staff. Through the Carbon Pricing Initiative, Directorates are charged 30 Euros per tonne of CO2 emitted by air travel for official missions. This is a price identified by last year’s OECD Effective Carbon Rates report as a very conservative estimate to reflect the damage to the climate per tonne of emissions. The same report revealed that 90% of emissions worldwide are taxed less than 30€ per tonne and 60% of the emissions are subject to no tax at all!
The OECD needs to lead by example. We must and we are working on reducing air travel, but this Project also shows what putting a price on carbon can achieve. It is estimated the 3900 trees from this project will capture 585 tonnes of CO2 in 30 years! This is the equivalent to the annual average emissions of 80 people in France
This project is one of the most ambitious undertakings of our OECD Greening Initiative. Since being set up in 2010, the Greening Initiative has helped the OECD to reduce energy consumption per staff by 32% and water consumption per staff by 30%. It is also helping to reduce waste, expand recycling, and put sustainability at the heart of OECD procurement policies as well as limiting and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.
Last year, the objective to certify all the main OECD buildings as meeting high environmental standards was achieved. The objective to reduce paper use is also making great progress – between 2015 and 2016, the Secretariat reduced its paper consumption per staff by 36%.
Thanks to the Greening Initiative we are all also enjoying our very own OECD honey, harvested from the bee hives at La Muette. And building on the success of this project, bee hives will be introduced this year at OECD Boulogne.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We will continue to work across every front to deliver a green, resilient, sustainable, future. We will continue greening the OECD through innovative projects. And we will continue to grow this OECD Forest Project to give back to our planet; to nourish it with respect and care. Because a forest is not just a carbon-capturing, oxygen pumping machine, it’s a place of spirituality, of peace, of harmony, of inspiration.
The great poet of Romanticism, Percy Shelley, described this feeling of being in forest almost 150 years ago:
“A spirit interfused around,
A thinking, silent life;
To momentary peace it bound
Our mortal nature’s strife.”
May these words bless the OECD Forest Project. Let’s do it!