Rhein on Energy and Climate

Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the OECD, has most recently reminded the world that carbon emissions were increasing at a pace that might lead to a rise of global temperatures of four centigrade by the end of the century, twice the maximum temperature still considered acceptable by the international community. That is why he calls for eliminating all carbon emissions in the second half of the century.

This outcry is overdue. For 40 years the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have focused on energy security. That has been the rationale for the creation of IEA in 1974 after the first oil embargo, when global warming and climate change were still unknown terms.

With a combined share of one third of global CO2 emissions the 34 OECD countries are still the biggest energy consumer ahead of China; and they burn more energy per citizen than the rest of the world with the exception of the Gulf countries. Their policies therefore matter for the climate, and they are able to set positive examples.

It is therefore excellent that the OECD country reports will in future include an evaluation of countries` progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This will create greater transparency, but to be really effective the reports should be subject to written and oral peer reviews.

To have a global impact the OECD should also take the courage to make policy recommendations wherever feasible, for example for phasing out subsidies on fossil energies by member countries.

Though not being a policy organisation, OECD/IEA can make its voice heard through written reports, workshops and ministerial meetings, where its 34 member countries can share their experience.

This approach has a great advantage: OECD members represent a relatively homogeneous club, and whatever they are able to agree on may serve as a test for the global level.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 14/10/2013


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