OECD plots green vision for 21st Century

Senior officials work towards 2001 review of key environmental challenges, responses

Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have taken a first step towards a major new review of environmental challenges. At a meeting of the OECD's environmental policy committee in Paris this week, environment ministry heads reviewed early outlines of an environmental outlook to 2020 and strategy to 2010. Both were requested by OECD environment ministers in 1998.

Preliminary elements of the OECD's environmental outlook to 2020 are based on a red-green-amber classification, the organisation's environment director Joke Waller Hunter told ENDS Daily today. Red means major problems requiring urgent attention, yellow indicates uncertainty or potential problems and green indicates some improvements.

Initial findings are that major industry sectors have several of these elements. Agriculture, for example, gets a green light for growth in organic farming, but a red light for agricultural pollution of water and air. Likewise, industry is "green" for making "major improvements" in resource and energy efficiency and reductions in point source pollution. However, chemicals get a yellow light due to the problems of indirect releases, and industry as a whole gets a red light because overall resource use is growing faster than efficiency gains.

Meanwhile, transport is mainly a red light zone, displaying "threatening" trends in both air and road travel. Total OECD motor vehicle kilometres travelled are projected to increase by 65% between 1990 and 2020, Ms Waller Hunter said; air passenger kilometres are set to quadruple.

In its review of the main environmental problems, the OECD has identified four "red lights". Global biodiversity is under serious threat due to pollution, land-use change and invasion of alien species. Groundwater pollution is expected to worsen, with agriculture posing the "major threat". Greenhouse gas emissions are forecast to rise sharply. And local air pollution leading to smog is also seen as a key challenge.

This week's meeting also saw first indications of top objectives likely to be included in the OECD's environmental strategy to 2010. Economic growth needs to be decoupled from resource and environmental pressures. Environmental concerns need to be integrated into economic sectors, especially agriculture, transport and energy. The quality of life should be improved through better integration of social and environmental policies, for example through more environmental democracy and public participation. Governments must better address global environmental inter-dependency by improving global environmental governance. And information for decision making should be improved through clear and measurable indicators and targets.

Follow Up:
OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00, and information on the OECD environmental policy committee.

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