OECD’s Gurría calls for renewed international commitment to fighting climate change


01/11/2017 - Countries need to look beyond narrow national policy agendas to curb global emissions and reduce climate risks, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said today. Governments should seize the flexibility built into the 2015 Paris Agreement to increase and accelerate their emissions-cutting ambitions, he said.


“Wherever in the world they are emitted, greenhouse gases have a global impact. Narrow national agendas are inadequate to deal with global climate change disruption,” Mr Gurría said in a lecture hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto. He said the level of mitigation action by countries, and the carbon prices that governments set, should reflect the global, not national, benefits of climate action. (Read the full speech)


Societal and technological transformation towards a low-emissions world is now irreversible. The only question is whether the transition will happen quickly enough, Mr Gurría said. “Short-termism and a narrow focus on national interests undermine effective action on emissions. Without vision and resolve, more countries may yet retreat further into their national bunkers … We would all suffer in such a bleak scenario.” He reiterated his hope that the US government might in the future reconsider its decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.


Mr Gurria said the risks of stranded communities as well as of stranded assets would increase if policy action was delayed. While rapid advances in technology would continue to drive the transformation, he said, "the pace and scale of the transformation required to meet the Paris goals cannot be achieved without the positive feedbacks between strong government policies and the transformative potential of non-state actors."


Mr Gurrria said economic conditions in many countries provide a window of opportunity to take action now to boost growth and investment that will drive the transition to a prosperous and inclusive low-emissions, resilient future. Ambitious climate policy is simply good policy, he said, adding that: "Governments should move faster to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which still amount to around half a trillion dollars a year".


Noting that emission reductions pledged so far by countries still leave the world on course for an average end-of-century rise in global surface temperature of between 2.6 and 3.1 degrees Celsius, Mr Gurria said countries need to set more ambitious long-term emissions targets. To deliver on these, governments needed to set carbon prices that increasingly reflect the global, not just the national, social cost of carbon and align their policy, financial and planning frameworks to deliver inclusive, climate-compatible growth.


While it is encouraging to see states, cities, businesses and individuals pushing ahead with green initiatives, their effectiveness of their efforts will depend to a large extent on whether national governments facilitate or block their efforts, he said. Governments should remove inconsistencies between economic and climate policies and introduce measures to spur green investment and innovation.


Climate mitigation efforts agreed under the Paris Agreement would be more economically efficient if carbon prices could over time be harmonised across countries, Mr Gurría said. Fully international emissions allowance trading could halve the costs of achieving the pledged emission cuts. He reminded developed countries of their responsibility to mobilise climate finance for climate action in developing countries.


Watch the speech:

Download the full speech text


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