4th OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers (opening remarks)


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, deliverd at the 4th OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers


Chicago, March 8th, 2012

(As prepared for delivery)

Ministers, Mayors, former Heads of State, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Chicago and thank you for joining us for the 4th OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers on “Mobilizing Investments for Urban Sustainability, Job Creation and Resilient Growth”.

The very purpose of this Roundtable for Mayors and Ministers is to learn from one another. In the hands of Mayor Bloomberg’s strong leadership, the C40 has already done a fantastic job in broadening and deepening networks of cities, and creating global awareness for their work to mitigate green house gas emissions. We share these goals with the C40.

A warm and wholehearted “thank you” goes to our host, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for receiving us in his “Sweet Home Chicago” and for co-chairing this timely gathering.

Special recognition also needs to be given to the MacArthur, Bloomberg and Ford foundations, the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. We could not have hosted this event without their vital and timely support. 

And – of course - the Club of Madrid, a group of wise leaders, has been our partner from the beginning.

Strong headwinds going forward – in the economy, the environment, the social compact

We live in stormy times, facing strong headwinds in our economy, in our environment and in our society. We have to find innovative ways to foster new sources of growth and jobs in our economies – but this growth needs to be smart, it needs to be green and it needs to be inclusive.

Green and Growth can go together, provided that the appropriate framework and the right economic and regulatory incentives are in place to encourage sustainable use of our resources and the environment.
For 2050, our OECD Environmental Outlook projects a 29% increase in the world’s population to about 9 billion, and a four-fold increase in the world’s GDP. Together with rising living standards, this makes for a world that demands 55% more water and 80% more energy, resulting in a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions. These are very large numbers: we must take ambitious measures now to protect the livelihoods of future generations. 

However, growing pressure on resources, on the climate and on the environment is not the only challenge we face. Our recent flagship study, “Divided We Stand. Why inequality keeps rising” reveals that today income inequality in OECD countries is higher than at any time over the past half century. Across the OECD, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%, up from seven times 25 years ago.

The problem of sustained inequality is not only that it inhibits the growth potential of our economies, but also that at the same time it undermines social cohesion and equal opportunities for our citizens.
Challenges and solutions – both play out in our cities

Rebooting growth and jobs, protecting the environment and promoting social cohesion is the magic policy triangle at the top of our policy agendas.

These policy issues matter at every level of government, but they are particularly relevant to cities, where the majority of our populations live. In our cities, we see the rise and fall of economic growth; we witness environmental degradation and recovery; and we experience social conflict and social cohesion. It is at this level that we must find and implement solutions.

From Chicago to Paris, from Stockholm to Kitakyushu, the OECD studies in the green cities programme provide evidence of how green policies can foster jobs and generate new economic activities, proving that cities often have a greater ability than countries to identify and exploit synergies between environmental, social and economic objectives.  Let me just highlight a few examples:

  • New York City aims to double the number of green sector jobs by 2018, by driving the demand for clean technologies and by creating Green Knowledge Centres to provide green collar training;
  • Further South, in Rio, the expansion of the city’s recycling and waste treatment programmes is generating employment and income while increasing urban quality of life;
  • In the city of Venice, expertise in flood protection research and renewable energy development -- such as the world’s first industrial-scale hydrogen-fuelled power station -- is helping to grow regional R&D and jobs in infrastructure and renewable energy;
  • In addition, the development of a Tramway in Casablanca, and the Project for Urban Mobility in Dakar will help disadvantaged neighbourhoods to access jobs;
  • And right here in Chicago, the City has become a strong centre for green building design and energy efficiency services, creating jobs all across the skills spectrum and strengthening the city’s global reputation for architectural innovation.

Greening cities requires real investment and joining hands

Greening our cities requires investment. In our studies, we estimate that 3 trillion US dollars are needed to finance additional infrastructure to make the C40 carbon neutral. That is about three times Mexico’s GDP in 2010. A tall order indeed but certainly not an unmanageable one.

It is estimated that the C40 generates an annual GDP of $11 trillion dollars and cities have to invest in infrastructure, no matter what. The issue is therefore not whether we spend on new infrastructure but whether we take the opportunity to green it as we renew it.

It is true that neither cities nor individual ministries can fully fund these investments, but coordinated policy efforts provide an effective solution. Let me give you one very effective example of horizontal cooperation between ministries: the United States Partnership for Sustainable Communities links work between the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Transportation to help American neighbourhoods become healthier, safer and generally more liveable.

Secretary Donovan - thank you for co-chairing today’s roundtable and sharing your insights with us.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
From today’s dialogue we expect to draw a strong message of sustainable development. I look forward to our deliberations on how to formulate the best, most viable solutions for our challenging times. Together, we can help set the agenda for change and lead that change by example. Together, we can design and promote better urban policies for better lives.

On that note, I am proud to declare the Fourth meeting of the OECD Mayors and Ministers roundtable open.
Thank you.



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