OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction


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Humanity has witnessed unprecedented growth and prosperity in the past decades, with the size of the world economy more than tripling and population increasing by over 3 billion people since 1970. This growth, however, has been accompanied by environmental pollution and natural resource depletion. The current growth model and the mismanagement of natural assets could ultimately undermine human development.

The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 asks “What will the next four decades bring?” Based on joint modelling by the OECD and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), it looks forward to the year 2050 to find out what demographic and economic trends might mean for the environment if the world does not adopt more ambitious green policies. It also looks at what policies could change that picture for the better.

This Outlook focuses on four areas: climate change, biodiversity, freshwater and health impacts of pollution. These four key environmental challenges were identified by the previous Environmental Outlook to 2030 (OECD, 2008) as “Red Light” issues requiring urgent attention.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Socioeconomic Developments

Chapter 3. Climate Change

Chapter 4. Biodiversity

Chapter 5. Water

Chapter 6. Health and Environment

Annex: Modelling Framework

In the Press

News releases


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the Meeting of the Environment Policy Committee at Ministerial Level, 29 March 2012


Green Growth: Making it Happen, by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, Article published in Europe's World, 7 February 2012 

Insights Blogs

Better Plays for Better Lives: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, OECD Insights Blog, 25 July 2013

Avoiding death by diesel, by Simon Upton, OECD Environment Director, 19 June 2013

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OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction

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Previous OECD Environmental Outlook Editions

Related materials
  • An Overview of the OECD ENV-Linkages Model: Version 3 - This document provides a detailed technical description of the ENV-Linkages model. The OECD ENV-Linkages Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model is an economic model that describes how economic activities are inter-linked across several macroeconomic sectors and regions. It links economic activity to environmental pressure, specifically to emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The links between economic activities and emissions are projected for several decades into the future, and thus shed light on the impacts of environmental policies for the medium- and long-term future. In this paper specific attention is given to the equations that form the core of the model. The version of the model presented in this paper is used for analysis carried out for the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050. An updated version of the model is expected to play a key role in the new OECD CIRCLE project. (OECD Environment Working Paper No. 65, June 2014)

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