Equator Prize 2017 Award Ceremony


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

New York, 17 September 2017

(as prepared for delivery)



Excellencies, dear colleagues,


It is a privilege to be back among the friends, the supporters, and the achievers of the Equator Initiative.


Our common future depends on our individual efforts to protect the environment

Only a couple of months ago, I warned G20 leaders in Hamburg that we are, quite literally, on a collision course with nature. Much more needs to be done to protect our planet, and it needs to be done now.


Fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix, with both OECD economies and the BRIICS still relying on fossil fuels for more than 80% of their energy supply. Despite a slowdown in the OECD area, global CO2 emissions continued to grow, up 58% from 1990 . Fifteen of the warmest years on record since pre-industrial levels have occurred since 2001. And global temperatures are projected to rise further.


We are also seeing an acceleration of acute ecosystems degradation, across both our terrestrial and marine ecosystems. A third of global wild fish stocks are overexploited and wild bird populations have declined by nearly 41% since the 1960s.


Now is the time to act, and we know what it will take

We find ourselves at a critical juncture, where decisions made today about climate policy will determine whether or not the goals set out in the SDGs and the Paris Agreement are achieved.


These decisions make environmental sense. They also make economic sense. Earlier this year, at the request of Chancellor Merkel, I presented the G20 with a detailed report where we show how investing in a climate-friendly policy package can increase long-run output by at least 5%. We have shared this report with both the G20 and G7 leaders. Business and climate go well together.


Tragic events like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are a powerful reminder of the need to make long-term investments that fortify the resilience to climate-related disasters, especially in developing and small island states.


Worldwide, millions of jobs depend on biodiversity. But to realise the vast economic value of nature, we must invest in protecting, restoring and managing biodiversity and ecosystems around the world.


Local communities are often the hardest hit, but also a great source of solutions

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,


Local communities are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of success or failure. This is especially true of rural and indigenous communities, which are often hardest hit by natural resource degradation. And we often see important disparities in wellbeing across indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Yet despite the challenges they face, indigenous communities have unique talents, capabilities, traditional knowledge of land stewardship, and about the management of natural resources.


The Equator Initiative is a moving example of dedication, of commitment, of an admirable sense of mission; of a global, greener vision; and of a contagious, remarkable ambition to make the world a better place.


You are shining examples of how it can be done. Of how the SDGs can be achieved in practice, and often with a very high return on investment. The Equator Initiative continues to play a vital role in showcasing these successes, and in inspiring others. It must continue to do so. But it is threatened as its funding is no longer assured.


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,


Now is the time for all of us to deliver: governments, business, civil society, and foundations. In this huge endeavor, please count on the OECD!


Thank you.


See also

OECD work on environment

OECD work with G20


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