Citing public anger and youth activism, OECD Secretary-General urges governments to heed calls for climate action


03/07/2019 - OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría today said governments must face up to mounting anger, particularly among youth, on climate inaction. 

In a major speech in Geneva, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría named OECD countries leading the way to decarbonise their economies, and listed worrisome developments in other key countries that are slowing down or reversing progress.

Read the full speech (PDF). Following are key excerpts:

“Governments now have a much bigger problem on their hands than me delivering a biennial admonishment on the need for urgent action: if they don’t act to curb climate change through radical measures that take well-being and inclusion into account, they will be held accountable at the ballot box. The ‘green wave’ that dominated the recent European elections demonstrates not only a rising tide of awareness, but also muscle. So be it by political conviction or electoral convenience, leaders need to think big and act bigger.”


Our children and youth are angry. And they have every right to feel enraged. After a three-year plateau from 2014 to 2016, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, reaching unprecedented levels in 2018. The jump from 2017 emissions was equivalent to the amount of total emissions from international aviation last year! Coal, oil and gas continue to meet the lion’s share of global primary energy demand growth.”


“We have repeatedly called upon governments to put national agendas and short termism aside and honour their climate commitments ... to put a meaningful price on carbon, to phase out state support for fossil fuels, and to stop burning coal.”


“Treating carbon pricing as a ‘mainstream’ tax policy, with few constraints on revenue use, would help cleave support for carbon pricing from the social impacts of carbon pricing and carbon revenue itself, to depend on performance of the overall system.”


“We can’t have a common future if we leave behind the vulnerable segments of our population, who often stand to be hardest hit by climate change... Locations where ‘brown’ jobs are lost may also not coincide with where ‘green’ ones are created. And post-displacement jobs often tend to be ‘worse’ along a number of dimensions[.]”


“Our policies have to be made with our children’s future in mind… short-term decision-making can lock countries into expensive mistakes in financing and developing infrastructure… that will be neither necessary nor profitable in a low-emissions world, they will be stranded assets.”


“This radical transformation demands a profound systemic change, and we are all part of this system.”



Watch a recording of the Secretary-General's speech at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.


Further information: Climate lectures by OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría

For further details, journalists are invited to contact Catherine Bremer in the OECD Media Office (+33 1 45 24 80 97).


Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.


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