OECD urged to play key sustainability role

Advisors cite OECD's "unique" ability to guide countries to sustainable development

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was today urged to play a "critical" role in guiding its members towards sustainable development. The OECD should begin by redefining its founding goal to one of sustaining human and environmental, as well as economic capital, an advisory group said.

Sustainable development should be placed at the core of the OECD's entire work programme, according to the group. It calls on the 29-member organisation to become the lead international organisation in harmonising economic, environmental and social policies.

Appointed by OECD Secretary-General Donald Johnston, the High-Level Advisory Group on the Environment is co-chaired by Jonathan Lash, president of the US World Resources Institute, and Stephan Schmidheiny, the Swiss founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Other members include Swedish environment minister Anna Lindh, prominent German environmentalist Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and head of the International Chamber of Commerce Maria Livanos Cattaui.

The OECD has a "unique" ability to develop a "shared framework of strategic policy" amongst its member countries, the group says. It should develop a robust set of indicators to assess countries' progress in making economic, environmental and social policies mutually reinforcing. It should build these into its widely-recognised series of country reviews and outlook reports.

The OECD should promote eco-efficiency by "placing as much emphasis on improving resource efficiency as it has traditionally put on improving labour productivity," the group says. As part of this process, it should accelerate efforts to shift the burden of taxation from labour to resources and pollution and remove environmentally damaging subsidies.

Pointing to slow progress being made in UN-sponsored discussions on sustainable development, the group urges the OECD to create two forums to accelerate policy development - one for businesses, trade unions and civil society groups, the other for parliamentarians.

According to group member Tom Burke, a former advisor to several UK environment ministers, the strength of the group's report lies not in any single proposed measure, but in the package as a whole. This, he told ENDS Daily, represents a "macro policy for sustainable development" against which the OECD and other governments should assess the compatibility of their other policies.

Follow Up:
OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00. References: "Guiding the Transition to Sustainable Development: A critical role for the OECD."

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