Released: Apr 2001
Using an economy-based vision of developments to 2020, the OECD Environmental Outlook identifies the drivers of environmental change (the economy, population, globalisation, etc.), the specific sectors that put the greatest pressure on the environment, and the resulting environmental impacts. The Outlook shows that the most critical environmental concerns facing OECD countries are the unsustainable use of renewable natural resources, the degradation of ecosystems and the disruption of the environmental systems that support human life (Signals of the OECD Environmental Outlook). The most pressing problems - referred to in the Outlook as the "red lights" - include over-fishing, tropical deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change, urban air quality, waste generation, ground water pollution and chemicals in the environment.
The Outlook suggests a range of policy options to address the main environmental concerns. The analysis shows that the effects of implementing the proposed policies would be significant. Policies such as (1) removing subsidies in OECD countries, (2) applying an energy tax linked to the carbon content of fuels and (3) taxing all chemical use could lead to: 15% lower OECD CO2 emissions, 9% lower SOx emissions, 3% lower methane emissions, and 30% less run-off of nitrogen to waterways from agriculture in 2020, compared to business as usual. And yet the economic costs of implementing this package of policies would be almost negligible - with projected GDP less than 1% lower than under the Reference Scenario for OECD countries in 2020.
OECD will continue to develop quantitative projections and qualitative assessments of changes in selected pressures on the environment and environmental issues. Some of the issues of particular interest for further work which were not addressed in the Environmental Outlook report include pressures from the service sector, tourism, urbanisation and the rapid growth of ICTs, as well as issues such as soil degradation and loss.
Read the Highlights of the OECD Environmental Outlook (2001).
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