OECD: Air pollution, urbanization offsetting gains in renewables

The G20 economies account for about 85 percent of global growth and 80 percent of the emissions of carbon dioxide.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  June 20, 2017 at 6:33 AM
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June 20 (UPI) -- Air pollution remains high globally and urban areas are expanding, showing a more comprehensive effort is needed on the environmental front, the OECD said.

"While there are signs of greening growth, most countries show progress on just one or two fronts and little on the others," OECD Environment Director Simon Upton said in a statement Tuesday.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found half of its 35 member states have decoupled emissions from growth, meaning gains in carbon dioxide emissions no longer increase in tandem with gross domestic product. Few member states, however, have completely broken the link between growth, fossil fuel consumption and emissions.

In a report published Tuesday, the OECD found less than 30 percent of member states meet some of the air quality standards set by the World Health Organization. Urban areas, meanwhile, continue to expand as globally; an area the size of Britain has been covered with buildings since 1990.

"We need much greater efforts across the board if we are to safeguard natural assets, reduce our collective environmental footprint and sever the link between growth and environmental pressures," Upton said in a statement.

The Group of 20 industrialized economies account for 85 percent of global GDP and 80 percent of the emissions of C02, a harmful greenhouse gas. In a May report, the OECD found the net impact of pro-climate policies for the G20 would be about 1 percent for GDP by 2021. According to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, there is "no economic excuse" not to act on climate change initiatives.

Speaking separately from Brussels, Miguel Arias Canete, the climate commissioner for the European Union, said renewable energy is at least competitive with some fossil fuel options, with wind capacity passing coal as a new EU energy source.

Noting with regret a decision from the federal U.S. government to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty, Canete said the matter is not up for debate in Europe.

"The agreement is ratified [and] fit for purpose," he said. "It is here to stay."

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