OECD Environment Outlook 2001

OECD Environment Outlook 2001
OECD Environmental Outlook
At the beginning of the 21st century, OECD countries are taking stock of their natural resources and
evaluating the damage that is being done to the environment. They are also examining the actions
that can be taken to ensure a clean, healthy and productive environment to pass on to future
The OECD Environmental Outlook provides economy-based projections of environmental pressures
and changes in the state of the environment to 2020. Drawing on an analysis of the economic, social
and technological forces driving environmental change, this report provides projections to 2020 of
environmental pressures from key economic sectors (agriculture, forestry, fishery, transport, energy
and selected industry sectors) and changes in the state of the environment for selected
environmental issues (freshwater, biodiversity, climate change, air quality and waste). Cross-cutting
issues are also examined, such as human health and the environment, the social and environmental
interface and resource efficiency. Finally, the OECD Environmental Outlook assesses the underlying
institutional frameworks for the environment, and identifies and examines the economic and
environmental effects of concrete policy packages to address the main problems identified. The
Outlook draws on extensive economic and environmental data and analysis of the OECD; the
Pressure-State-Response framework forms the backbone of the analysis.
The key findings of the report are summarised using traffic lights.These include a number of "red
light" issues which need to be addressed urgently by OECD countries, but also "yellow lights" which
require further investigation or some action, and "green lights" for which OECD countries should
proceed with caution. The "red lights" identified for OECD countries regarding the state of the
environment include climate change, urban air quality, biodiversity, fish stocks, groundwater quality
and chemicals in the environment.
OECD Environmental Outlook
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Environmental Outlook
Pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention signed in Paris on 14th December 1960, and which came into
force on 30th September 1961, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
shall promote policies designed:
– to achieve the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of
living in Member countries, while maintaining financial stability, and thus to contribute to the
development of the world economy;
– to contribute to sound economic expansion in Member as well as non-member countries in the
process of economic development; and
– to contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis in
accordance with international obligations.
The original Member countries of the OECD are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France,
Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The following countries
became Members subsequently through accession at the dates indicated hereafter: Japan
(28th April 1964), Finland (28th January 1969), Australia (7th June 1971), New Zealand (29th May 1973),
Mexico (18th May 1994), the Czech Republic (21st December 1995), Hungary (7th May 1996), Poland
(22nd November 1996), Korea (12th December 1996) and the Slovak Republic (14th December 2000). The
Commission of the European Communities takes part in the work of the OECD (Article 13 of the OECD
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© OECD 2001
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Just over three years ago, in 1997, OECD published a study entitled “The World in 2020 – Towards a New
Global Age”. It gave a vision of the world economy in the year 2020, where governments and societies seize the
challenge of realising global prosperity. In my preface to that Report I wrote that economic expansion of the kind
envisaged by the New Global Age would bring the foreseen benefits only if pursued within the context of environmental sustainability. I pointed out that there was an urgent need to deal effectively with issues such as greenhouse
gas emissions, hazardous waste production, megacity evolution, intensification of agriculture, timber and fisheries
exploitation, and demands on freshwater. Following from this, it was only logical that Environment Ministers
would ask the OECD for a forward-looking environmental strategy when they met in April 1998. And the OECD
Environment Policy Committee wisely considered that such a strategy would only be credible if underpinned by a
thorough analysis of how our use of natural resources and the quality of the environment may develop in the
medium- to long-term future.
This OECD Environmental Outlook to 2020 provides the requested analysis. It presents an economy-based
assessment of environmental pressures and conditions to 2020, indicates practical policy options to change the outlook in a more environmentally friendly direction, and analyses the potential economic and environmental consequences of implementing such policies. In preparing the Environmental Outlook, data collected throughout the
OECD were used. The economic model was based on the one used in the 1997 study, and was combined with other
models to provide projections on environmental pressures and conditions. Many OECD Directorates and affiliated
agencies have contributed their experience and knowledge to the Environmental Outlook, ensuring that it is another
good example of the unique ability of the OECD to provide high-quality cross-sectoral policy advice.
The Outlook also constitutes an important analytical background for the environmental pillar of the OECDwide Initiative on Sustainable Development, and it has provided a substantial contribution to the Analytical Report
and the Policy Report on Sustainable Development. The results of the Outlook are presented in such a way that a
wide audience can find this study a worthwhile basis for thinking about the future of our environment.
In preparing for a New Global Age, it is becoming clearer that we don’t own this world, but rather have borrowed it from our children and the generations that will follow them. We have responsibility to pass it on in a state
which will allow them to fulfil ambitions similar to ours. Ambitions not only with respect to economic aspirations,
but also in terms of living in good health and in a clean environment, without natural resources becoming scarce.
The OECD Environmental Outlook provides a vision and a means for achieving these ambitions. However, the road
to the future has more red and yellow lights than green ones. Were the late philosopher Lewis Mumford to review
this Outlook he would likely repeat his famous observation of being “...optimistic about the possibilities; pessimistic about the probabilities”. I hope this Outlook will help to ring alarm bells in capitals around the world and inspire
concrete policy implementation which will make us optimistic about both.
Donald J. Johnston
Secretary-General of the OECD
© OECD 2001
This OECD Environmental Outlook was prepared by a horizontal task force in the Environment Directorate
of the OECD. Joke Waller-Hunter, Director of the Environmental Directorate, initiated and assumed an oversight
role in the preparation of the report. It was written and edited by Lars Fogh Mortensen and Helen Mountford –
together with Nils Axel Braathen, Hoe-Seog Cheong, Nis Christensen, Elaine Geyer-Allely, Tom Jones, Sanna
Keijzers, Niels Schenk, Dian Turnheim and Ponciano Villafuerte-Zavala – under the supervision of Rob Visser.
General guidance was provided by Michel Potier and Kenneth G. Ruffing. The modelling framework for the outlooks was provided by Nils Axel Braathen, Helen Mountford and Niels Schenk, in co-operation with Erik KempBenedict of the Stockholm Environment Institute – Boston.
The report was prepared in close co-operation with, and based on background documents prepared by, or
under the responsibility of, experts in the Environment Directorate, including Jean-Philippe Barde, Noreen Beg,
Carla Bertuzzi, Dan Biller, Gerard Bonnis, Chris Chung, Jan Corfee-Morlot, Jane Ellis, Nicky Grandy, Henrik
Harjula, Nick Johnstone, Jan Keppler, Myriam Linster, Gene McGlynn, Voula Mega, Laurie Michaelis, Grzegorz
Peszko, Richard Sigman, Soizick de Tilly, Heino Von Meyer, Peter Wiederkehr and Frédérique Zegel. Management
support was provided by Mark Baldock, Katherine Kraig-Ernandes, Patricia Lachaud, Amy Plantin, Bonnie
Schaefer and Stéphanie Simonin-Edwards. Fatiha Caid-Lecland, Kristin Eggleston, Wendy Fages, Jennifer Griffin
and Barbara Ladeuille gave secretarial assistance. The report was edited for language by Beatrix de Koster.
OECD’s Public Affairs and Communication Directorate – in particular Catherine Candea, Jean-Michel Lebrun,
Anne-Lise Prigent and Mubeccel Valtat-Gevher – was responsible for its publication. The Translation Division of
the OECD was in charge of the translation into French.
The OECD Environmental Outlook benefited from the extensive knowledge and experience of members of
the OECD Advisory Panel on the Environmental Outlook – consisting of leading experts on environmental outlooks and assessments – who provided valuable guidance throughout the process. Members of the Advisory Panel
were Dr. Allen L. Hammond, World Resources Institute (WRI); Mr. Domingo Jimenez-Beltran and Dr. David
Stanners, European Environment Agency (EEA); Mr. Fred Langeweg, Dutch National Institute of Public Health
and the Environment (RIVM); Dr. Nebojsa Nakicenovic, International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis
(IIASA); Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, Keio University; Mr. Nicholas C. Sonntag and Dr. Paul Raskin, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI); and Dr. Veerle Vandeweerd, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report – and its background documents – benefited from comments from colleagues in the Environment
Directorate and in other OECD Directorates and affiliated organisations, including the General Secretariat, the Economics Department, the Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, the Directorate for Education, Employment,
Labour and Social Affairs, the Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, the Trade Directorate, the Directorate for Financial, Fiscal and Enterprise Affairs, the Territorial Development Service, the Development Co-operation
Directorate, the International Energy Agency (IEA), and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT).
Valuable comments and guidance were also received from experts in Member countries through various
OECD committees and working groups, including: the Environment Policy Committee (EPOC), the Working Party
on Pollution Prevention and Control, the Working Party on Economic and Environmental Policy Integration, the
Working Group on the State of the Environment, the Chemicals Committee, the Joint Working Party on Agriculture
and the Environment, the Working Group on Transport, the Committee on Fisheries, and the Steel Committee.
In the process of preparing the Outlook, two stakeholder consultations were organised, and the report benefited from comments from representatives from business, trade unions and environmental citizens organisations.
Furthermore, valuable comments were received at mini-workshops and consultations held for a number of specific
sectors examined in the report. A workshop on forestry was hosted by Poland, and consultations were held for the
chapters on the chemicals industry, the pulp and paper industry and the steel industry.
The preparation of the OECD Environmental Outlook was made possible by extra-budgetary contributions from
Austria, Denmark, the European Commission, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland
and the United States.
© OECD 2001
Table of Contents
Section I
Executive Summary ...........................................................................................................................................
Challenges for the future..............................................................................................................................
Green lights: proceed with caution ..............................................................................................................
Yellow lights: require further investigation or additional action ......................................................................
Red lights: need to be addressed urgently....................................................................................................
Integrity of ecosystems ................................................................................................................................
Technological change ..................................................................................................................................
De-coupling environmental degradation from economic growth ................................................................
Policy action: learning from the past..................................................................................................................
Addressing the social and environmental interface .....................................................................................
Policy packages............................................................................................................................................
1. Context and Structure of the Report........................................................................................................
1.1. Objectives and context of the report ...................................................................................................
1.2. Policy context......................................................................................................................................
1.3. Sources of information and modelling................................................................................................
1.4. Identifying the most pressing environmental concerns.......................................................................
1.5. Structure and contents of the report ....................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
Section II
2. Demographic and Labour Force Developments .....................................................................................
2.1. Introduction ........................................................................................................................................
2.2. Population size ....................................................................................................................................
2.3. Population structure ............................................................................................................................
2.4. Labour force........................................................................................................................................
2.5. Population distribution ........................................................................................................................
2.6. Policy issues........................................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
3. Globalisation, Trade and Investment.......................................................................................................
3.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
3.2. Developments in globalisation, trade and investment ........................................................................
3.3. Environmental implications of globalisation ......................................................................................
3.4. Policy issues........................................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
4. Economic Development ............................................................................................................................. 57
4.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 57
4.2. Assumed developments in GDP ......................................................................................................... 57
© OECD 2001
4.3. Changes in the composition of production.......................................................................................... 61
4.4. Economic development and environmental pressures ........................................................................ 63
References..................................................................................................................................................... 65
5. Consumption Patterns................................................................................................................................
5.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
5.2. General consumption drivers and trends .............................................................................................
5.3. Environmental implications of consumption patterns.........................................................................
5.4. Policy issues ........................................................................................................................................
6. Technological Change ................................................................................................................................
6.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
6.2. Drivers of technological change..........................................................................................................
6.3. Technological change: trends and outlook to 2020.............................................................................
6.4. Environmental effects of technological change ..................................................................................
6.5. Policy issues ........................................................................................................................................
Section III
7. Agriculture ..................................................................................................................................................
7.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
7.2. Developments in the agriculture sector ...............................................................................................
7.3. Effects of agricultural production on the environment .......................................................................
7.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................
8. Freshwater................................................................................................................................................... 97
8.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 97
8.2. Pressures on freshwater resources....................................................................................................... 97
8.3. The state of freshwater resources ........................................................................................................ 102
8.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................ 104
References..................................................................................................................................................... 107
9. Fisheries....................................................................................................................................................... 109
9.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 109
9.2. Developments in the fishery sector ..................................................................................................... 109
9.3. Pressures on fish resources.................................................................................................................. 114
9.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................ 115
References..................................................................................................................................................... 120
10. Forestry ....................................................................................................................................................... 121
10.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 121
10.2. Developments in the forestry sector .................................................................................................... 122
10.3. Environmental effects of forestry sector activities.............................................................................. 125
10.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................ 128
References..................................................................................................................................................... 131
11. Biological Diversity..................................................................................................................................... 133
11.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 133
11.2. Pressures on biological diversity ......................................................................................................... 134
© OECD 2001
11.3. Changes in the state of biological diversity ........................................................................................ 137
11.4. Policy options...................................................................................................................................... 139
References .................................................................................................................................................... 142
Section IV
12. Energy .........................................................................................................................................................
12.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
12.2. Developments in the energy sector .....................................................................................................
12.3. Environmental effects of energy production and use..........................................................................
12.4. Policy options and their potential effects............................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
13. Climate Change ..........................................................................................................................................
13.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
13.2. Pressures on the environment: emissions of greenhouse gases ..........................................................
13.3. The effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change ..............................................................
13.4. Policy options and their potential effects............................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
14. Transport ....................................................................................................................................................
14.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
14.2. Developments in the transport sector..................................................................................................
14.3. Environmental effects of transport......................................................................................................
14.4. Policy options .....................................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
15. Air Quality ..................................................................................................................................................
15.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
15.2. Pressures on air quality .......................................................................................................................
15.3. Changes in air quality .........................................................................................................................
15.4. Policy options......................................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
Section V
16. Households..................................................................................................................................................
16.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
16.2. Household food consumption .............................................................................................................
16.3. Household energy use .........................................................................................................................
16.4. Household water use ...........................................................................................................................
16.5. Household travel .................................................................................................................................
16.6. Household waste generation ...............................................................................................................
16.7. Policy options......................................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
17. The Steel Industry ......................................................................................................................................
17.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
17.2. Developments in the steel sector.........................................................................................................
17.3. Environmental effects from the steel industry ....................................................................................
17.4. Policy options and their potential effects............................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
© OECD 2001
18. The Pulp and Paper Industry.................................................................................................................... 215
18.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 215
18.2. Developments in the pulp and paper industry ..................................................................................... 215
18.3. Environmental effects of pulp and paper production and use ............................................................. 218
18.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................ 220
References..................................................................................................................................................... 222
19. The Chemicals Industry............................................................................................................................. 223
19.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 223
19.2. Developments in the chemicals industry............................................................................................. 224
19.3. Environmental effects of the chemicals industry and its products ...................................................... 226
19.4. Policy options and their potential effects ............................................................................................ 229
References..................................................................................................................................................... 234
20. Waste ........................................................................................................................................................... 235
20.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 235
20.2. Environmental pressures from waste .................................................................................................. 235
20.3. Environmental impacts of waste ......................................................................................................... 241
20.4. Policy options ...................................................................................................................................... 242
References..................................................................................................................................................... 245
Section VI
21. Human Health and the Environment ....................................................................................................... 249
21.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 249
21.2. Impacts of environmental degradation on human health .................................................................... 249
21.3. The health-related costs of environmental degradation ...................................................................... 252
21.4. Policy issues ........................................................................................................................................ 253
References..................................................................................................................................................... 254
22. The Social and Environmental Interface ................................................................................................. 255
22.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 255
22.2. Environmental democracy................................................................................................................... 255
22.3. Social distribution of environmental quality ....................................................................................... 259
22.4. Distributive effects of environmental policies .................................................................................... 260
22.5. Employment implications of environmental policies.......................................................................... 262
References..................................................................................................................................................... 264
23. Resource Use Efficiency ............................................................................................................................. 265
23.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 265
23.2. The effects of resource use on the environment.................................................................................. 265
23.3. Resource use efficiency: recent trends and outlook to 2020 ............................................................... 267
23.4. Determinants of changes in resource use efficiency ........................................................................... 268
23.5. Policy issues ........................................................................................................................................ 270
References..................................................................................................................................................... 273
Section VII
Signals of the OECD Environmental Outlook ..................................................................................................... 276
24. Institutional Frameworks for the Environment ...................................................................................... 277
24.1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 277
24.2. National institutional frameworks ....................................................................................................... 279
© OECD 2001
24.3. International institutional frameworks ................................................................................................ 283
24.4. Stakeholder involvement .................................................................................................................... 287
References .................................................................................................................................................... 290
25. Policy Packages to Address the Main Environmental Problems...........................................................
25.1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
25.2. A policy package for the primary sectors and selected natural resources ...............................................
25.3. A policy package for climate change, air pollution, and the energy and transport sectors.................
25.4. A policy package for households, selected industries, and waste.......................................................
25.5. Assessment of a combined policy package.........................................................................................
25.6. Implementing the combined policy package ......................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
Annex 1: Background Documents ................................................................................................................... 311
Annex 2: Modelling Framework Used for the Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations ......................
1. Introduction .........................................................................................................................................
2. Underlying assumptions......................................................................................................................
3. The JOBS model .................................................................................................................................
4. The PoleStar framework .....................................................................................................................
5. The MOVE II model ...........................................................................................................................
References ....................................................................................................................................................
List of Boxes
Model simulations of effects of accelerated globalisation......................................................................... 50
Sectoral effects of increased globalisation – forestry example.................................................................. 51
Agriculture and food safety concerns ........................................................................................................ 87
Structural changes in the agri-food industry.............................................................................................. 88
Agricultural subsidies in OECD countries................................................................................................. 89
Agricultural soils as carbon sinks .............................................................................................................. 90
Increased water use efficiency in OECD industries.............................................................................. 100
Water conflicts and environmental security .............................................................................................. 103
Institutional frameworks for water management....................................................................................... 103
Developments in OECD water prices........................................................................................................ 105
Excess fishing capacity and subsidies to the fishing industry ................................................................... 113
Trade measures and fishing activities........................................................................................................ 116
Effects of changes in the environment on the fishery sector ..................................................................... 118
Characteristics of forest holdings in OECD regions.................................................................................. 124
Environmental services provided by forests.............................................................................................. 127
International forestry initiatives................................................................................................................. 129
Carbon sinks and the Kyoto Protocol ........................................................................................................ 130
Incentives for increasing the use of wood products................................................................................... 131
Difficulties in defining and measuring biodiversity .................................................................................. 134
Perverse incentives and biodiversity loss .................................................................................................. 137
The Natural Capital Index (NCI) framework ............................................................................................ 138
Revealing the economic value of biodiversity........................................................................................... 141
Energy sector reforms................................................................................................................................ 149
Energy-related technologies ...................................................................................................................... 152
Ancillary benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation ....................................................................................... 163
The Kyoto Protocol and market mechanisms............................................................................................ 164
© OECD 2001
Environmental benefits of recycling .......................................................................................................... 239
Effects of using economic instruments for waste management ................................................................. 244
Main conclusions from existing studies on the double dividend ............................................................... 263
Indicators of resource efficiency ................................................................................................................ 266
Potential environmental security threats .................................................................................................... 279
Increasing privatisation of environmentally related services.................................................................... 282
Compliance and enforcement mechanisms in MEAs ................................................................................ 284
List of Tables
Signals of the OECD Environmental Outlook ........................................................................................... 20
The evolving context of environmental policy-making ............................................................................. 28
The array of environmental policy options used in the Outlook................................................................ 34
Economic implications and environmental effects for selected technologies ........................................... 80
Key agricultural sector statistics and projections....................................................................................... 86
Environmental effects of agricultural subsidy removal and a tax on agrochemical use in OECD regions 93
Key fishery sector statistics and projections .............................................................................................. 110
Comparison between estimated potentials and average landings for marine capture fisheries of primary
importance to OECD countries, 1990-1994 in million tonnes................................................................... 112
10.1. Key forestry sector statistics and projections............................................................................................. 122
11.1. Pressures on biodiversity ........................................................................................................................... 135
12.1. Key energy sector statistics and projections .............................................................................................. 146
12.2. Contribution of energy use to air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.............................................. 150
12.3. Effects of energy subsidy removal and energy tax use in OECD countries .............................................. 154
14.1. Key transport sector statistics and projections ........................................................................................... 170
16.1. Household appliance ownership for selected OECD countries, 1973-1997 (units per 100 households) .. 200
17.1. Key steel sector statistics and projections.................................................................................................. 207
17.2. Subsidy and tax policy simulations: effects on the steel industry in OECD regions and its
environmental impacts ............................................................................................................................... 213
18.1. Key statistics and projections for the pulp, paper and publishing sector ................................................... 216
18.2. Subsidy and tax policy simulations: effects on the pulp and paper industry in OECD regions
and its environmental impacts.................................................................................................................... 221
19.1. Key chemical industry statistics and projections ....................................................................................... 224
19.2. Effects of subsidy and tax policy shock runs on the chemicals industry and its environmental impacts .. 232
21.1. Total health expenditure in OECD countries and the environment-related share .................................... 252
21.2. Priority environment-related diseases, issues and sectors in OECD countries.......................................... 253
23.1. Channels through which increases in resource efficiency can be achieved............................................... 270
24.1. Institutional framework – recent evolution and future outlook ................................................................. 280
25.1. Subsidies to primary sectors and natural resource use in OECD countries according to actual
estimates and as reflected in the Reference Scenario, 1995 or most recent year, US$ billion .................. 294
25.2. Subsidies to energy and fuel production and use in OECD countries according to actual estimates
and as reflected in the modelling exercise, 1998 or nearest year, US$ billion ........................................... 299
25.3. Effects of applying an ad valorem tax that increases by 2 percentage points each year on all chemicals
use in OECD countries and removing all subsidies to manufacturing industries, difference in 2020
from Reference Scenario............................................................................................................................ 305
A1. Historical and assumed levels of real GDP, 1995 US$ billion .................................................................. 314
A2. Regions used in the model simulations ...................................................................................................... 315
A3. Sectors used in the JOBS model ................................................................................................................ 315
A4. Assumptions regarding the agricultural sectors, annual percentage changes 1995-2020 .......................... 318
A5. Typical loading rates for untreated domestic sewage ................................................................................ 319
© OECD 2001
List of Figures
1. Resource and material intensity of OECD economies, total use and intensity of use relative
to GDP, 1980-2020 ....................................................................................................................................
2. Effects in 2020 of removing subsidies, applying a fuel tax and a chemical use tax in OECD regions.....
1.1. Regions used in the OECD Environmental Outlook .................................................................................
1.2. The OECD Pressure – State – Response (PSR) framework ......................................................................
2.1. Total population, 1980-2020......................................................................................................................
2.2. OECD age pyramids, 1995 and 2020 ........................................................................................................
2.3. Persons aged between 15 and 64 years, 1980-2020...................................................................................
2.4. Urban and rural populations, 1980-2020 ...................................................................................................
3.1. World exports, foreign direct investment and GDP, current US$, 1970-1998..........................................
3.2. World exports, 1995-2020 .........................................................................................................................
3.3. Change in exports in 2020 under globalisation policy scenarios, compared to the Reference Scenario...
4.1. Real GDP, 1980-2020................................................................................................................................
4.2. Average annual change in real GDP, 1980-2020 ......................................................................................
4.3. Real GDP per capita, 1980-2020 ...............................................................................................................
4.4. Average annual changes in real GDP per capita, 1980-2020 ....................................................................
4.5. Composition of value added in OECD regions, 1995-2020 ......................................................................
4.6. Composition of value added in non-OECD regions, 1995-2020...............................................................
5.1. Private and government consumption per capita, 1980-2020....................................................................
5.2. Change in household expenditure, 1995-2020 ..........................................................................................
7.1. Agricultural production, 1995-2020 ..........................................................................................................
7.2. Changes in environmental effects of the agriculture sector, 1995-2020 ...................................................
8.1. Water withdrawals per capita, 1980-2020 .................................................................................................
8.2. Water withdrawals by sector, 1995-2020 ..................................................................................................
8.3. Emissions of water pollutants by sector, 1995-2020 .................................................................................
9.1. World fish production by region and production type, 1950-2020 ...........................................................
9.2. Global fleet capacity and catch rate, 1970-1989........................................................................................
10.1. World industrial wood production, 1970-2020..........................................................................................
10.2. Demand for primary fibre inputs by type of use, 1995-2020 ....................................................................
10.3. Change in forested area by forest type, 1995-2020 ...................................................................................
11.1. Changes in OECD land use, 1995-2020 ....................................................................................................
12.1. Total final energy consumption (TFC), 1995-2020...................................................................................
12.2. Fuel shares in energy mix of OECD countries, 1995-2020.......................................................................
13.1. Greenhouse gas emissions by gas in OECD countries, 1998 ....................................................................
13.2. Projected CO2 emissions from OECD countries, 1990-2020....................................................................
13.3. Greenhouse gas emissions by sector in OECD countries, 1998 ................................................................
14.1. Motor vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT), 1990-2020.............................................................................
14.2. Global passenger air travel, 1990-2030 .....................................................................................................
14.3. Global CO2 emissions from motor vehicles, 1990-2020...........................................................................
14.4. Motor vehicle emissions, GDP and population, 1995-2020......................................................................
14.5. Externalities from transport in Europe, 1995.............................................................................................
15.1. Air emission shares by region, 1995..........................................................................................................
15.2. Emission sources for selected air pollutants in OECD regions, 1997 .......................................................
15.3. Urban sites exceeding the WHO guidelines in the OECD region, 1993 ...................................................
15.4. Exceedence of critical levels for ozone in Europe, 1990 and 2010...........................................................
15.5. Exceedence of critical loads for sensitive ecosystems in Europe, 1995-2010...........................................
16.1. Apparent food consumption in OECD countries, 1974-2020....................................................................
16.2. Electricity demand by households, 1995-2020..........................................................................................
16.3. International tourist arrivals worldwide.....................................................................................................
17.1. Steel production, 1995-2020......................................................................................................................
18.1. Production flow in the pulp and paper industries, 1998 ............................................................................
© OECD 2001
Production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector, 1995-2020............................................................... 217
Chemicals production, 1995-2020 ............................................................................................................. 225
CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in OECD countries, 1997............................................................... 227
Production of CFCs for selected countries and regions, 1986-1997.......................................................... 228
Municipal waste generation, GDP and population in OECD countries, 1980-2020 ................................. 236
Municipal waste generation, 1995-2020 .................................................................................................... 237
Composition of total waste generated in the OECD region, mid-1990s.................................................... 238
Recycling rates in selected OECD countries, 1980-1997 .......................................................................... 240
Municipal waste management, 1995-2020 ................................................................................................ 241
Total burden of disease, with estimated environment-related share, mid-1990s ....................................... 250
Patterns of disease burden with estimated environment-related shares, mid-1990s .................................. 251
Resource and material intensity of OECD economies, total use and intensity of use relative to GDP,
1980-2020 .................................................................................................................................................. 267
Indices of real primary commodity prices, 1980-1998 .............................................................................. 269
Effects in 2020 of removing subsidies to primary sectors and applying a tax to agrochemicals
in OECD regions ........................................................................................................................................ 295
Effects in 2020 of removing energy subsidies and applying a fuel tax in OECD regions......................... 300
Effects in 2020 of removing subsidies, applying a fuel tax and a chemical use tax in OECD regions ..... 307
Nested structure of production in the JOBS model ................................................................................... 316
© OECD 2001
Section I
Executive Summary
Challenges for the future
Developing an
OECD Strategy
to tackle the main
At the beginning of the 21st century, OECD countries are taking stock of their natural
resources, the damage that is being done to the environment, and what actions they can
take to ensure a clean, healthy and productive environment to pass on to future generations. To support the development of the OECD Environmental Strategy for the First
Decade of the 21st Century, the OECD was asked to prepare an environmental outlook
report to analyse the likely environmental changes to 2020, and to evaluate policy options
for addressing the main problems.
… requires an
examining recent
trends and
outlooks to 2020.
This OECD Environmental Outlook provides an analysis of the forces driving environmental change, the recent and projected pressures on the environment, and the resulting
changes in the state of the environment to 2020. The Outlook focuses on selected economic
sectors and key environmental issues. The main drivers of environmental change include
economic drivers (economic growth and development, trade and investment liberalisation),
social drivers (demographic and labour force developments, and consumption patterns), and
technological innovation. When analysing recent trends and the projected outlook for the
driving forces and the sectoral pressures that will affect the state of the environment to 2020,
the extensive work of the OECD on economic and social developments was used. OECD
data and analysis of environmental change and the OECD Pressure-State-Response (PSR)
framework form the backbone of the analysis of environmental changes, and of possible
policy responses to address the environmental problems.
Traffic lights are
used to signal
key findings.
Traffic lights are used to signal key findings of the report. The “green light” signals
pressures that are decreasing or environmental conditions for which the outlook to 2020
is positive. It is also used to signal societal responses that have proved to help alleviate
the problems identified. The “yellow light” signals areas of uncertainty or potential problems. Finally, the “red light” signals pressures on the environment or environmental conditions for which recent trends have been negative and are expected to continue to be so
to 2020, or for which recent trends have been more stable, but are expected to worsen.
Green lights: proceed with caution
For many years, OECD countries have been trying to tackle environmental problems
they face. For some of these problems, major improvements have been registered or are
expected by 2020, such as decreasing emissions of some air pollutants, reversal of deforestation trends in OECD regions, and reductions in point source pollution from industry
(see Table 1).
There are some
“green lights”
pressures or
© OECD 2001
OECD countries have virtually eliminated lead emissions from petrol and emissions
of ozone depleting CFCs, and significantly decreased emissions of sulphur oxides, carbon
monoxide and some particulate matter. Implementation of already agreed emission reduction targets in many OECD countries is expected to lead to further decreases in the emission of these pollutants to 2020. The three industries examined in this report – steel, pulp
and paper, and chemicals – are examples of industries where increased efficiency and
improved production methods are significantly reducing the intensity of resource use and
the pollution and waste emitted per unit of product. After centuries of deforestation, forested area and forest volume have begun to increase in most OECD countries over the last
two decades, and are expected to remain stable in the OECD area to 2020. “Green” purchasing of environmentally friendly goods and products is gaining ground in many OECD
countries. The share of waste that is diverted from landfilling to recycling is continuing
to increase, and is expected to account for 33% of municipal waste generated in OECD
countries in 2020, compared with the current 18%. At the same time, organic agriculture
and other environmentally friendly farm practises are spreading rapidly. For these “green
lights”, OECD countries should “proceed with caution”.
Yellow lights: require further investigation or additional action
… and “yellow
lights” signalling
or potential
Several environmental pressures and problems fall under “yellow lights”, which signal uncertainty or potential problems. One such issue is water use in OECD countries,
which is continuing to increase in total, but has been declining per person in over half of
the OECD countries since 1980 and is expected to continue to decline per unit of GDP
to 2020 (see Figure 1). Similarly, while there have been significant improvements in surface water quality in OECD regions, with many of the worst polluted water bodies having
been cleaned up, few OECD countries satisfactorily meet basic water quality objectives.
Also, although CFC emissions have decreased significantly in recent years due to the
implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer continues to become thinner as
past emissions gradually reach the stratosphere.
For many environmental concerns, available data or scientific understanding are
inadequate. Effects on human health and ecosystem functions due to toxic emissions from
industry are still uncertain and poorly understood. Data on hazardous waste generation in
OECD countries have not been reliably collected, so recent trends are difficult to discern,
although there are some indications that hazardous waste generation has been increasing.
Similarly, with respect to many aspects of modern biotechnology, the potential effects on
both human and ecological health are still poorly understood.
While both aquaculture and plantation forests can help to alleviate pressures from
increased fish and forest product demand on natural resources (e.g. marine capture fisheries and old growth forests) through intensive production, both have potentially negative
effects on local ecosystem quality.
Red lights: need to be addressed urgently
“Red lights” need
to be addressed
A large number of environmental pressures and conditions have been placed under a
“red light”, signalling recent trends which have been negative and are expected to continue to 2020, or recent trends which have been more stable, but are expected to worsen.
These are the major problem areas, and need to be addressed urgently.
These include
biodiversity loss,
Many of the “red lights” relate to global issues – the state of environmental resources
or sinks of global significance, and for which OECD countries are only some of the users or
polluters. Over-fishing is a clear example of a “red light” issue of global importance: onequarter of the world’s marine fisheries are already either exhausted, over-fished, or recovering from over-fishing. All increases in the demand for fish to 2020 will need to be supplied
through aquaculture, since marine capture fisheries show no signs of increasing yield;
instead, their yields are likely to remain stable or even decline. Global deforestation is
another serious problem, as is biodiversity loss. Efforts in OECD countries to improve con© OECD 2001
ditions at home – such as through aforestation programmes and the expansion of protected
areas – are steps in the right direction, but insufficient to dominate the global trends, with
non-OECD regions expected to lose almost a further 10% of their forested area by 2020.
… climate change
and urban air
… to which energy
use and transport
are the main
pollution and
chemicals in the
are also expected
to be “red lights”.
Climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions is, arguably, one of the most
important “red light” issues faced by OECD countries. Despite commitments by Annex I
countries1 to reduce emissions, the release of total greenhouse gases in OECD countries
is expected to continue to increase to 2020, with emissions from non-OECD countries
also growing rapidly. Under current policies, OECD countries are likely to increase
CO2 emissions by a further one-third to 2020, far from the overall Kyoto Protocol target
for Annex I countries of a 5% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels
to 2008-2012. Stronger policies to tackle this problem are urgently required if the worst
effects of climate change are to be averted. Energy use and transportation are the main
contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to various air pollutants that lead to
urban air pollution. If current policy patterns continue, the impacts on climate change of
these activities are likely to continue in OECD countries and worldwide to 2020, with
motor vehicle kilometres travelled in OECD countries expected to increase by 40%
from 1997 to 2020, and passenger air kilometres expected to triple. Meanwhile, energy
use in OECD regions is expected to increase by 35% to 2020.
While groundwater pollution has not been a major concern for OECD countries in
the past, it is increasingly becoming one now. The main source of groundwater contamination is agricultural pollution. As human populations draw more and more upon groundwater sources for drinking water and other uses, the build-up of nitrates and other
pollutants in these sources will pose a growing problem. To 2020, nitrogen loading to
waterways from agriculture in OECD countries is expected to increase by more than onequarter, and persistent and toxic chemicals are expected to continue being widespread in
the environment over the next 20 years, causing serious effects on human health.
1. Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Annex I (industrialised) countries have agreed to
aim to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol established legally binding greenhouse gas limitation commitments for almost all Annex I countries.
© OECD 2001
Table 1. Signals of the OECD Environmental Outlook
• Industrial point
source pollution
ENVIRONMENT • Some air pollutants
(lead, CFCs, CO, SOx)
• Water use
• Toxic emissions from
• Hazardous waste
• Energy production
and use
STATE OF THE • Forest coverage in
OECD regions
• Surface water quality
• Biodiversity
• Forest quality in OECD • Tropical forest
• Ozone layer integrity
• Fish stocks
• Groundwater quality
• Urban air quality
• Climate change
• Chemicals in the
"Green” purchasing
"Green” agriculture
Protected areas
Resource efficiency
Energy efficiency
• Agricultural pollution
• Over-fishing
• Greenhouse gas
• Motor vehicle and
aviation air pollution
• Municipal waste
Forest plantations
Energy and transport
• Waste management
© OECD 2001
Integrity of ecosystems
The integrity
of ecosystems
is threatened.
Many renewable resources are used in unsustainable ways, threatening the integrity
of ecosystems. As indicated by the “red lights”, unsustainable marine fisheries are now
causing concern that current fishing practices and levels are not sustainable in the long
run, and that the diversity and catch of the world’s oceans may decrease significantly
to 2020. Human induced climate change is evident, and the effects on ecosystems are
expected to be severe, including rising temperatures and rising levels of the world’s
oceans. Biodiversity is threatened by economic development in OECD and non-OECD
countries, and tropical forests are continuing to diminish. Finally, freshwater scarcity is
becoming a problem in some regions and desertification, land degradation, and soil erosion are also threatening the health of ecosystems.
With the world’s population expected to increase by one-quarter to 2020, and economic growth and globalisation continuing steadily, human pressures on the environment
are not expected to ease unless strong policy actions are taken to protect ecosystems and
maintain the essential services they provide. In order to ensure ecosystem integrity over
the long term, policies will be needed to secure detoxification of the substances released
to the environment, decarbonisation of energy, conservation of biological diversity and
the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.
Technological change
New technologies
can help to
alleviate some
Technological responses have lessened a number of environmental pressures in the
past, and they can be expected to alleviate many – though certainly not all – of the
expected future pressures. Most of the technological developments have been in the form
of efficiency improvements, practices or technologies to increase the level of renewable
resources production (e.g. intensive forestry and agriculture, use of biotechnologies), and
to reduce or eliminate the release of pollutants to environmental media.
In many fields, there have been new technological breakthroughs recently, and others
are expected to occur in the period to 2020. These include new energy technologies, such
as fuel cell technology, that can contribute to improving energy efficiency and reducing
pressures on the environment.
… but may also
lead to new risks.
Modern biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), have the
potential to reduce the amount of damaging inputs (pesticides, fertilisers) used in natural
resource sectors (agriculture, forestry, fisheries), and increase production levels to meet
human needs. However, there may be negative effects on human health and on global ecosystems; coping with these potential threats will require more research and improvements
in risk management regimes.
De-coupling environmental degradation from
economic growth
Some de-coupling
of environmental
degradation from
economic growth
is expected, but…
© OECD 2001
In general, environmental degradation has increased at a slightly slower rate than
economic growth. The use of energy and other resources, like agricultural raw materials,
water and metals, now appears to be increasing at a slower rate than GDP in many OECD
countries, and the pollution intensity of output is growing even more slowly. These trends
suggest a potential for de-coupling economic growth from environmental degradation. In
some cases, reductions in resource intensity have been large enough to lead to absolute,
rather than just relative, environmental improvements by offsetting the overall effects of
growth in per capita incomes and population.
… will not be
enough to counter
the volume effects
of increases
in pressures.
However, despite improvements in resource efficiency, overall environmental degradation has persisted in most areas as the volume effects of total increases in production
and consumption have outweighed the resource efficiency gains per unit of product. Following recent trends, OECD countries are expected to reduce the energy intensity of their
economies by 20% to 2020, while increasing total energy use by 35% (see Figure 1).
Even with the use of new, more efficient, energy and transport technologies, it is unlikely
that total emissions from these sources will decrease much over the next two decades.
OECD countries will need to achieve more significant changes in the fuel mix than are
currently foreseen, with greater substitution of the more polluting fossil fuels with renewable resources and cleaner fuels.
Figure 1. Resource and material intensity of OECD economies, total use and intensity
of use relative to GDP, 1980-2020
Index, 1980 = 100
Total use
Generation of municipal waste
Intensity of use per GDP
Energy use
Water abstractions
Generation of municipal waste
Energy use
Water abstractions
Sources: OECD (1999) and Reference Scenario.
Policy action: learning from the past
We can learn from
our past successes
in the use of a
variety of policies,
What can policy-makers do to tackle these environmental problems? For a start, they
need to look at examples of where improvements have already taken place or are starting to
happen. Improvements have often been linked to pricing incentives or regulatory intervention. Recent reductions in water use have been most pronounced in countries that have
removed subsidies for water use and applied charges which better reflect the marginal costs
of water. Similarly, the main reductions in the energy intensity of OECD economies, while
not driven by environmental policy, occurred during the major oil price shocks of the 1970s
when energy prices increased rapidly.
© OECD 2001
… regulations and
restrictions, and…
Government regulations and restrictions have been particularly successful in reducing
industrial pollution, cleaning up the worst polluted surface waters, and reducing the levels of
some air pollutants, for example by phasing out the use of CFCs. Direct intervention by governments has also been successful in increasing the size and number of natural areas in OECD
countries which are conserved or where only restricted use is allowed, protecting ecosystems
and biodiversity. Again, while municipal waste generation continues to increase almost as rapidly as GDP, waste management policies in OECD countries have nevertheless led to a greater
share of waste that is recycled or reused, reducing its impacts on the environment.
… encouraging
changes in
and production
In other cases, government policies can facilitate environmentally beneficial changes
in consumption patterns. This is true for the development of organic agriculture and other
environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, the rapid growth of which in OECD
countries is partly due to greater consumer demand, and partly to government support. Similarly, the use of eco-labels and certification schemes can help to increase consumer awareness of the environmental and health impacts of their consumption choices, and direct
demand towards less environmentally-damaging products and services. In general, growing
public access to environmental information and the policy-making process can help to
inform individual consumption choices and increase support for environmental policies.
Addressing the social and environmental interface
… while bearing
in mind the social
Perhaps some of the most significant effects of environmental degradation from a
social and economic perspective are the effects on human health. It is estimated that environment-related health effects – such as increased asthma and respiratory diseases from
urban smog, skin cancer from a thinner ozone layer, and poisoning through chemicals in
the environment – may amount to as much as 2-6% of total health-related expenditures in
OECD countries per year. Furthermore, it is often the poorest regions of the world and the
poor communities in society that are particularly exposed to these effects, and that are the
least able to access the benefits, resources and services that the environment provides.
Policies that are developed to protect the environment and manage natural resources
should consider the distributive effects of environmental quality and access to natural
resources and, of course, ensure that they do not further exacerbate these effects. Some
strategies for addressing distributive issues in environmental policy design are discussed
in this report, including measures to reduce any potentially regressive effects of environmental taxes or charges (i.e. where lower-income groups spend a larger proportion of their
incomes on the tax or charge than higher-income groups).
Policy packages
Because of
the increasing
of many
concerns, and
their often global
© OECD 2001
To some extent, the most tractable environmental problems have already been dealt
with. The problems of the future are likely to be more complex, and their resolution will
require more difficult trade-offs and greater international co-operation. Thus, many of
the issues identified as “red lights” are problems of sharing the use of global resources
or sinks, such as biodiversity loss, over-fishing and the release of greenhouse gases.
While unilateral action can help to alleviate some of the pressures on these resources,
strong internationally co-ordinated policies will be required. A number of the other “red
lights” are the result of diffuse sources of pollution – e.g. poor urban air quality, the dispersion of chemicals in the environment, and groundwater pollution – which are difficult to tackle because they come from large numbers of dispersed or mobile sources
(e.g. cars, farms, consumers). In many cases it is difficult to identify the particular
source of pollution, and thus to design regulations or policies to directly address the
problem. Increasing the availability of and access to environmental information, as well
as increased public participation in environmental decision-making processes, can help
to improve understanding of environmental issues and increase support for environmental policy development.
… there is a need
for packages of
policy instruments
to successfully
address them.
For each of the “red light” issues examined in the Outlook, examples of appropriate
policy instruments for addressing the problem are identified, and – where possible – their
potential effects are quantitatively assessed. This report outlines a “policy package” or combination of instruments – regulatory, economic, and others – that can be used to tackle many
of the most pressing environmental problems. It is often difficult to design a single policy
instrument that will successfully provide the right incentives for a total reduction in resource
use or in pollution and waste generation. Instead, it will generally be necessary to employ a
mix of policy instruments. The policy mix suggested here involves the combination of a
robust regulatory framework with a variety of other instruments, such as stronger pricing
mechanisms to influence the behaviour of consumers and producers, voluntary agreements,
tradable permits, eco-labels and information-based incentives, land use regulation and infrastructure provision. In particular, the Outlook recommends the removal of environmentally
harmful subsidies and a more systematic use of environmental taxes, charges and other economic instruments to get the prices right.
The results will be
both beneficial for
the environment
and economically
Adopting this policy package could deliver significant environmental benefits at relatively low economic costs in OECD countries. A policy simulation was undertaken to examine the potential effects of some of the key elements of the combined policy package:
namely, the removal of all the subsidies identified in OECD countries, the application of an
energy tax linked to the carbon content of fuels, and a tax on all chemical use. The environmental benefits from this policy mix would be substantial (see Figure 2). As a result of
Figure 2.
Effects in 2020 of removing subsidies, applying a fuel tax
and a chemical use tax in OECD regions
Index, 1995 = 100
Energy demand (TPES)
CO2 emissions
2020 Reference Scenario
SOx emissions
2020 Subsidy removal
Total nitrogen
water pollution
Total methane
2020 Subsidy removal + taxes
Source: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
© OECD 2001
implementing the policy mix, CO2 emissions from OECD countries would be 15% lower
in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario, SOx emissions would be 9% lower, and
methane emissions 3% lower. Largely because of the effect of the chemical tax on fertiliser use in agriculture, nitrogen loading to waterways would be almost 30% lower in 2020
compared with the Reference Scenario. With this policy package, the economic costs of
achieving these environmental benefits were estimated to be quite low – less than a 1%
decrease in GDP for OECD regions overall in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario. Thus, implementing such a policy package would be cost-effective and lead to significant environmental improvements by 2020.
© OECD 2001
Context and Structure
of the Report
1.1. Objectives and context of the report
In April 1998, OECD Environment Ministers adopted a set of Shared Goals for Action. This included an invitation to OECD “to develop a new environmental strategy for the next decade... to ensure excellence in the OECD’s
contribution to the implementation of sustainable development in the next century”. The Ministers requested that
a draft of a new environmental strategy be presented for consideration at their meeting in 2001. In order to support
this exercise, the OECD Environment Policy Committee (EPOC) decided in November 1998 that the Strategy
should be underpinned by an economy-based Environmental Outlook to 2020. To directly support the identification
of objectives to be outlined in the Environmental Strategy, the Outlook would also include an analysis of the policy
options and potential policy packages that could be used to address the identified environmental problems and meet
the objectives to be outlined in the Environmental Strategy. The Outlook provides an overview of developments in
the economy to 2020, and examines how these will affect the environment, which policies can be used to address
the environmental problems identified, and how the implementation of these policies would affect the economy.
This Environmental Outlook is also a response to the 1997 report of the High-Level Advisory Group on the
Environment to the Secretary-General of the OECD, which recommended that “the OECD should, as a matter of
urgency, develop into the key intergovernmental organisation providing the industrialised nations with the analytical and comparative framework of policy necessary for their economies to make the transition to sustainable development.” By providing an environmental perspective on the policy challenges for the future, the Environmental
Outlook reinforces the environmental “pillar” of the OECD-wide Initiative on Sustainable Development.
While some environmental outlooks have been produced by other international organisations (such as UNEP,
1997 and 2000; EEA, 2000; and UNCSD, 1997), the OECD Environmental Outlook is distinct in that it provides a
detailed economy-based environmental outlook to 2020. It draws on the long experience and analysis by the
Organisation of economic and sectoral developments, and focuses on change in OECD regions, recognising that
the OECD countries have a special responsibility for taking action on environmental problems and for achieving
progress towards sustainable development. The broader global situation is also considered, particularly how developments in OECD countries can affect other countries, and vice versa.
The Outlook draws on OECD data and projections for economic and sectoral developments that affect the
environment to provide projections of the changes that may occur in the state of the environment to 2020. Based
on in-house analysis of environmental policies, the report examines potential policy options to tackle the most significant environmental problems for OECD countries, and analyses the potential environmental effects, economic
costs and distributive impacts of these policies. The Outlook does not exhaustively address all sectors and environmental issues of importance to OECD countries, but examines selected pressures and issues, and focuses on those
of highest policy relevance and for which information was available, both inside and outside the OECD.
1.2. Policy context
The Environmental Outlook starts from an economy-based vision of environmental issues. It recognises that
there are underlying economic, social and technological factors that drive the pressures on the environment and
that most of these pressures arise from activities in specific economic sectors. Global and regional economic developments are central to determining future pressures on the environment, and these pressures may either be supported or alleviated by the policies implemented by countries. In conjunction with increasing (but slowing)
population pressures, the most significant drivers of environmental change over the next two decades will be con© OECD 2001
tinued economic growth (particularly in non-OECD countries) further globalisation of trade and investment, the
use of new technologies (including information and communication technology) and changes in consumption patterns. Changes in these drivers could have both negative and positive effects on the environment, and policies will
be needed to address the negative effects.
The broader context in which environmental policies operate has been changing in recent decades, and is
expected to continue to evolve (see Table 1.1). Environmental problems that caused the greatest concern 20-30 years
ago related to point-source pollution, with political interest being driven mainly by short-term public health concerns. The need for decisive political action was clear, and there tended to be more winners than losers from such
policy actions. There was also relatively wide agreement on the policies that were needed (generally a ban on the
offending pollutant or its containment), and progress was rapid. In effect, environmental policies were good by definition. While business did face additional costs in some instances, it was able to keep a certain “distance” from
the environmental movement by respecting the new technical constraints that resulted from the environmental policies. The media coverage of environmental problems was extensive, but usually supportive, given the public
health dimension of many of the underlying issues. There was also a general perception that existing institutions
were capable of solving these problems. During this period, many of the most tractable environmental problems
were “cherry-picked”, in the sense that the easiest issues were largely dealt with, leaving behind the more difficult
(and more costly) questions to be faced in the future.
Table 1.1.
The evolving context of environmental policy-making
Last 25 years
Next 25 years
• Need is clear
• More obvious winners than losers
• Many “win-win” options
• Need is less clear (long-term; more diffuse
• More obvious losers than winners
• Fewer “win-win” options, more difficult
trade-offs required
Policy tools
• Available
• New ones needed
Public driver
• Immediate threats to public health
• Threats to strategic natural resources and
“common” resources
Resolution mode
• Confrontation
• Collaboration
• Significant progress
• Tactical gains
• Little progress
• Strategic trade-offs
Impact on business
• Additional cost of market entry
• Market structure changes
Implications for business
• Environment is mainly a technical issue
• Managing “objectivities”
• Environment is mainly a business issue
• Managing “subjectivities”
• Adequate
• More substantial changes needed
• High Profile
• Lower profile
Air and water quality
Noise and nuisances
Contaminated land
Wastes and recycling
Toxic chemicals
Endangered species
Climate change
Food security (topsoil )
Biotechnology, genetically modified
Adapted from Burke (1998).
Attention has thus shifted from point-sources of pollution to non-point, or diffuse, sources, such as agriculture
and other sectors. The number of actors with an interest in a given environmental problem has increased, complicating the policy task considerably. Awareness has also grown that environmental problems are very much part of
© OECD 2001
a broader “system”, and cannot be viewed in isolation from that system. For example, deforestation is now seen as
not just a forest management problem – it also increases erosion, alters flood risks, degrades water quality, and
ruins fish habitat, as well as causing “rebound” effects on the economy by destroying the resource base. The diverse
ecological services provided by the environment (as “sinks” for air and water pollutants, as habitats for commercial
fisheries and wildlife, and as a fundamental source of life itself) have therefore gradually come to be recognised.
Problems related to resource management (air, water, land, wildlife) are increasingly competing for attention with
problems related to pollution control. Because of these more complex interactions, the urgency of some environmental problems seems less evident than in the past. After all, few countries appear to be running out of water or
land, and a key characteristic of many of the resource management problems is that they can be put off until later
(“out of sight, out of mind”). As a result, there has often been a lack of a strong political constituency to lobby on
behalf of these “new” environmental issues. Even where potential for lobbying exists, the issues involved are often
so complex that they are difficult to explain to the general public. As a consequence, media attention has declined
in many countries.
The scale of environmental problems has also been changing rapidly. Whereas many environmental externalities were previously confined to local sources, these externalities have begun to spread to include entire
countries, to cross borders and, increasingly, to affect the entire world. Climate change, biodiversity losses, acid
rain and reductions in the thickness of the ozone layer all indicate that the world might be overexploiting the
assimilative capacity of some of its natural resources. As these issues become broader and more complex, touching on every aspect of social and economic activity, it is becoming clear that environmental policies alone may
not be sufficient to resolve them. Sectoral and economic affairs ministries, in particular, need to be actively
engaged in the process of protecting the environment, together with the business community and environmental
groups. In short, the focus has shifted away from simply “the environment” to “the environment in the context
of sustainable development”.
Another reason why economic affairs ministries and others are showing a greater interest in environmental
policies is their growing cost. Whereas environmental policies were “obviously” needed in the early days, environmentalists are now increasingly asked to justify their calls for new policies. The result has been a new emphasis on
“valuing” the environment (and its services) in economic terms. Efforts to quantify environmental externalities
across a wide range of issues have intensified, although these efforts are met with suspicion by many for which the
very idea of placing an economic “value” on environmental services is inappropriate. Nevertheless, tools such as
contingent valuation, cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment, regulatory impact assessment and cost-effectiveness
analysis are now finding their way into environmental policy decisions.
As we look toward the future, environmental issues are likely to continue to become increasingly complex.
The long-term nature of many environmental problems will become more apparent, as evidence grows of the accumulation of pollutants in ecosystems and of the gradual degradation of renewable resource stocks and qualities.
The role of these ecosystems in underpinning economic and social activity will become clearer, as will the need to
examine the impacts of economic activities on ecosystems. Environmental “science” will therefore take on greater
importance. On the other hand, the ability of science to deliver credible solutions to these problems is also likely
to be called into question more often, and debates about the need for “precaution” in dealing with environmental
matters will probably intensify.
We can also anticipate that decisions concerning environmental policy will increasingly have to be integrated
with social and economic policy decisions in a sustainable development context. Two key messages will in particular need to be delivered to economic and social policy-makers. The first is the idea that the environment is a vital
base upon which all economic and social activity ultimately depends. If this base is jeopardised, then these “derivative activities” will also be jeopardised. Second, it is no longer possible to completely separate economic and
social policies from environmental needs, as if “someone else” were looking after the environment. In order to
achieve full “policy integration”, policy-makers in the economic and social spheres will have to accept more environmental responsibilities (and vice versa).
© OECD 2001
Sources of information and modelling
This report examines the recent and projected future state of the environment to 2020 and the pressures exerted
upon it. The projections to 2020 are developed using an OECD global, dynamic general equilibrium model (JOBS)
to project economic developments in 12 regions and 26 different sectors, in combination with the Stockholm Environment Institute’s PoleStar framework to generate environmental projections. A Reference Scenario has been developed and is used throughout the report. Results of selected policy simulations are compared to the Reference Scenario.
Demand, production and prices in all sectors and regions are determined simultaneously in JOBS. The
assumed household income elasticities are among the important “drivers” in the model. They reflect how much
household demand for a given category of products or services will change when incomes change. The assumed
substitution elasticities between various production factors are also important in determining simulation results.
These elasticities tell how much the composition of factor use will change when the relative price between factors
alters. The assumptions used are described in greater detail in Annex 2 and in the individual chapters of the report.
The results from the JOBS model are fed into the PoleStar framework, with the macroeconomic variables setting the scale of activity within the sectoral modules. Once the economic and demographic variables have been
entered, projections for environmental and resource pressures are developed. PoleStar is essentially an accounting
framework for combining economic, resource and environmental information to examine alternative development
scenarios. The module algorithms and scenarios rely on an update of the Global Scenario Group’s Bending the
Curve scenarios (Raskin et al., 1998; Heaps et al., 1998).
Figure 1.1. Regions used in the OECD Environmental Outlook
Note: OECD regions: ANZ = Australia & New Zealand, CEU = Central & Eastern Europe, JPK = Japan & Korea, NFT = Canada, Mexico
& United States, and WEU = Western Europe.
Non-OECD regions: ARW = Africa & the Rest of the World, CHN = China, EAS = East Asia, FSU = Former Soviet Union,
LAT = Latin America, MEA = Middle East, and SOA = South Asia.
The quantitative data regarding recent past trends and the current state of the environment are primarily drawn
from OECD environmental data and indicators, particularly the country data collected in the OECD Environmental
Data: Compendium 1999 (OECD, 1999). Data from outside sources (such as various UN bodies) are also used
where in-house data are not available. The 1995 base year data in the Reference Scenario is a combination of
© OECD 2001
OECD and some non-OECD data for environmental issues. The base year data used in the JOBS model were
mostly taken from the GTAP (Global Trade Analysis Project) database developed at Purdue University. In addition
to the base year data, assumptions are made in the Reference Scenario concerning:
– total GDP developments (based on OECD Economics Department projections);
– population growth (based on UN median fertility estimations);
– labour supply (based on OECD Economics Department estimates and UN population data); and
– supply and productivity of certain agricultural inputs (based on OECD Agricultural Directorate analyses).
The Reference Scenario is based on current activities and recent trends. It does not take into account the adoption or implementation of new policies.
A more detailed sectoral model for transport (MOVE II) was used to develop projections of specific developments and pressures arising from the transport sector that were not well covered in the Reference Scenario. The
underlying assumptions of the MOVE II model are broadly consistent with the other models used in the Reference
In addition to its application in developing the Reference Scenario, the modelling framework has also been
used to examine the effects of particular environmental policies on economic and environmental conditions. Drawing on previous OECD analysis of policy options available for addressing environmental pressures and issues, the
impacts of potential “policy shocks” were first simulated in the JOBS model where, for instance, effects on input
use and real value-added for each sector were quantified. The changes compared to the Reference Scenario were
then fed into the PoleStar system, which simulated effects of the policy shocks on environmental conditions.
Because of the nature of the modelling exercise and the models available, the policy shocks examined quantitatively were primarily of the following types:
– the removal of subsidies to the production or consumption of particular products; and
– the introduction of taxes or charges on the production or consumption of given products.
Sensitivity analyses on other exogenous parameters, such as changes in the assumptions regarding autonomous energy efficiency improvement or transport and trade margins, were also performed.
While policy shocks were developed and analysed for particular sectoral pressures or environmental issues,
and are described throughout the report, a “package of instruments” was also developed that combines some of the
key policies for addressing the main environmental concerns of OECD countries in the next few decades. Those
elements of the package of instruments that could be modelled in a meaningful way have been put together in a
single policy shock to examine the net effects of a combination of policies – both in terms of synergies and in terms
of potential policy conflicts.
Consistency has been sought with other OECD modelling exercises, such as the modelling work of the Economics Department on greenhouse gas emissions using the GREEN dynamic general equilibrium model, and the
work of the International Energy Agency (IEA) using the partial equilibrium World Energy Model. Consistency in
the basic assumptions was sought, but because inter alia of the different structures of the models, as well as assumptions about the future value of exogenous variables, the resulting projections necessarily differ to some extent.
Identifying the most pressing environmental concerns
Based on recent trends and the future outlooks described in the chapters, the report identifies the most pressing
environmental concerns facing OECD countries over the next two decades, as well as some of the issues and
pressures that are currently being relatively well-addressed. The overall results of the analysis can be summarised
using the symbols of traffic lights. These serve to indicate and simplify the major results, but are to no extent a
detailed summary of all the conclusions of the analysis. More specific findings, including recent trends and projections to 2020 for economic sectors and environmental issues, are discussed in the chapters themselves.
© OECD 2001
The “green light” signals pressures on the environment or environmental issues for which recent
trends have been positive and are expected to continue in the future, or for which the recent trends
have not been so positive, but are expected to improve. Green light responses have also been
identified, signalling societal responses that help to alleviate environmental problems. For the
“green lights”, current policy approaches in OECD countries thus seem adequate, but in most
cases could be improved.
The “yellow light” signals areas of uncertainty or potential problems. These relate primarily to
environmental pressures and environmental issues for which current understanding is inadequate. “Yellow lights” are also attributed to societal responses that may help to alleviate the pressures on the environment, but for which there is uncertainty or concern regarding their effects
(e.g. on human health or ecosystems). For the “yellow lights”, efforts should focus on better
understanding the pressures and monitoring the state of the environment, and precaution is
needed when addressing these issues or pressures.
The “red light” signals pressures or environmental conditions for which the recent trends have
been negative and are expected to continue, or for which the recent trends have been stable, but
are expected to worsen in the future. The “red lights” need to be urgently addressed by OECD
Structure and contents of the report
The conceptual framework underlying the analysis and structure in the Environmental Outlook is the OECD
Pressure-State-Response framework (PSR). In this framework, “pressure” indicates pressures on the environment
from human activities, “state” indicates changes in the state of the environment and its natural resources resulting
from these pressures, and “response” indicates societal response to changes in the state of the environment
(see Figure 1.2).
Figure 1.2. The OECD Pressure – State – Response (PSR) framework
Indirect pressures
Direct pressures
Societal Responses
Air & atmosphere
(Intentions - Actions)
Land & soil
Living resources
Societal Responses (Intentions - Actions)
Source: OECD (1999).
© OECD 2001
The underlying drivers of the pressures and of environmental change – population growth, economic development, trade and investment liberalisation, technological innovation, and consumption patterns – are discussed in
Section II of the Environmental Outlook. Sections III-V focus on the recent and projected future developments in
selected economic sectors and for selected environmental issues. Given the resources and time available, it was
decided to focus on those sectors or environmental variables for which there was high policy relevance and sufficient material (both from within and without the OECD). Among the sectors and issues not examined in detail in
this Outlook are the service sector, tourism and soil quality. Section VI examines selected cross-cutting issues relating to the social and economic aspects of environmental change, including human health and the environment, the
social and environmental interface, and resource efficiency across the economy. The final section, Section VII,
describes past and possible future developments in institutional frameworks for the environment and analyses the
potential effects of packages of instruments that could be adopted by OECD countries to address the most pressing
environmental problems (the “red lights”) identified in the Outlook.
The Outlook includes the following sections:
Section I:
Executive Summary, Context and Structure
Section II:
Economic, Social and Technological Drivers of Environmental Change
Section III: Primary Sectors and Natural Resources
Section IV:
Energy, Climate Change, Transport and Air Quality
Section V:
Households, Selected Industries and Waste
Section VI: Selected Cross-cutting Issues
Section VII: Institutional Frameworks and Policy Packages for Addressing Environmental Problems
Using the Pressure-State-Response framework to structure the individual chapters, the majority of the
25 chapters of the Outlook follow one of three types of structures, depending on whether the chapter describes a
driver of environmental change, a sectoral pressure, or an environmental issue.
The chapters examining social, economic or technological drivers of environmental change first briefly outline the links between the drivers and the environment, then describe the recent trends and projected outlook for
changes in the driver, followed by an analysis of how these changes might affect environmental conditions. Where
relevant, some policy issues regarding the driver and its effect on the environment are discussed.
The chapters examining the selected sectors present the trends and projected outlook for major developments
in the sector, and analyses how these developments might affect the environment.
For the environmental issue chapters, there is first an analysis of the sectoral and other pressures affecting the
environmental issue, and this is followed by a discussion of the recent trends and projected outlook for changes in
this environmental media or natural resource.
Both the sectoral chapters and environmental issue chapters conclude with an examination of some of the
main policy options in use or under consideration in OECD countries for addressing environmental problems. This
includes, where feasible, an analysis of the potential effects that implementing these policies may have on the environment, the economy and particular sectors. Such an analysis is made possible by comparing the “policy shocks”
with the Reference Scenario. The main categories of policy options examined include technological development
and diffusion, regulatory instruments, economic instruments, voluntary agreements and information and other
instruments (see Table 1.2).
© OECD 2001
Table 1.2.
The array of environmental policy options used in the Outlook
and diffusion
Policies that encourage the development and use
of environmentally benign technologies, and limit the use
of those that are environmentally damaging. While direct
measures can be taken to guide technological development
and use, many of the policy instruments listed below also
provide incentives that encourage “environmental”
technological development and diffusion.
Technology information provision
Technology demonstration projects
Support to environmental research and
Legal instruments to enforce or restrict certain activities,
or the conditions under which they are carried out. Can
target particular activities, processes or products and set
exact environmental results for achievement. Are widely
used but can be economically inefficient as the costs of
additional abatement will tend to vary between polluters.
Furthermore, some regulations can lock in the use of
specific technologies or practices, limiting the development
of more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Ambient quality standards
Emission standards
Process standards
Product standards
Economic instruments typically involve a financial transfer
(e.g. taxes, charges, subsidies) and/ or the creation of markets
(tradable permits and quotas). They can maximise economic
efficiency by making the costs of additional abatement equal
between polluters, and by giving polluters a continued
incentive to develop low-cost abatement options. Economic
instruments also provide revenue (taxes and auctioned
permits) that can be set aside for environmental protection
(earmarking) or to reduce economic distortions
(e.g. distortionary taxes). However, they depend on the
measurability of the relevant activities or emissions, and
when used in practice, their economic and environmental
efficiency is often reduced through a large number of
Tradable permits
Environmental subsidies
Deposit-refund systems
Resource pricing
Approaches whereby firms make commitments to improve
their environmental performance beyond legal
requirements, including self-regulatory arrangements.
Can also involve other stakeholders, like trade unions
and NGOs, and are often used as a supplement to
regulatory and economic instruments. The extent to which
they induce abatement beyond “business as usual” is not
clear, and they are often not economically efficient
Unilateral commitments
Public voluntary schemes
Negotiated agreements
and education
Makes environmental information and training available
to decision-makers and stakeholders, enabling informed
decisions and participation in policy discussion. Includes
the collection of relative data and the development
of indicators of environmental quality and performance.
Education campaign for the general public
Data collection and monitoring
Development and use of indicators
Diffusion of technical information
Publicity of sanctions for non-compliance.
Regulatory standards
Environmental taxes and charges
Voluntary approaches
© OECD 2001
EEA (European Environment Agency) (2000), Environmental Signals 2000, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.
Heaps, C., E. Kemp-Benedict, and P. Raskin (1998), Conventional Worlds: Technical Description of “Bending the Curve”
Scenarios, PoleStar Series Report No. 9, Stockholm Environment Institute, Boston.
Burke, T. (1998), “Globalisation, the State and the Environment”, in OECD, Globalisation and the Environment – Perspectives
from OECD and Dynamic Non-Member Economies, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999), OECD Environmental Data Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
Raskin, P., G. Gallopin, P. Gutman, A. Hammond, and R. Swart (1998), Bending the Curve: Towards Global Sustainability,
PoleStar Series report No. 8, Stockholm Environment Institute, Boston.
UNCSD (United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development) (1997), Critical Trends: Global Change and Sustainable Development, United Nations, New York.
UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) (1997), Global Environment Outlook 1997, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi.
UNEP (2000), Global Environment Outlook 2000, United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi.
© OECD 2001
Section II
This section examines underlying drivers of the pressures on the environment
and environmental change. These include economic drivers (economic
development; globalisation, trade and investment liberalisation), social drivers
(demographic and labour force developments; and consumption patterns), and
technological change. The chapters in this section briefly outline the links
between the driver and the environment, then describe the recent trends and
projected outlook for changes in the driver, followed by an analysis of how these
changes might affect the impact of the driver on environmental conditions.
Where relevant, some policy issues regarding the driver and its effect on the
environment are discussed.
Demographic and
Labour Force Developments
• Human populations have an impact on the environment through how and what they produce and consume, the
waste and pollution they generate, the natural resources they deplete, and the natural habitats they destroy. These
impacts vary according to demographic variables such as population size, structure and density, and labour force
• Population increases are expected to put further stress on the environment. World population is projected to grow
by one-quarter, from the current 6 billion to 7.5 billion in 2020; the population in OECD countries is projected to
increase by less, from 1.1 billion in 1995 to 1.2 billion in 2020.
• The share of people over 60 years old in OECD countries is expected to increase from just over 17% in 2000 to
almost 24% in 2020.
• Urban areas are expected to continue to grow in the next two decades especially through urban sprawl, but with
lower growth rates than during the last two decades.
• The growth rates for the working age population (15-64 years old) in OECD regions are expected to continue to
decline to 2020 and, for some OECD countries, the growth rates may become negative.
2.1. Introduction
The environmental impacts of changes in population size and spatial distribution are a concern in both OECD
and non-OECD countries. These impacts are linked to production levels in economic sectors, land use patterns,
natural resource use, and waste and pollution generation. Qualitative aspects of populations – such as education
levels, affluence, workforce participation, age structure, etc. – and how these influence consumption and production patterns are also potentially significant drivers of economic and environmental change.
The main demographic trends in OECD countries are quite different from those in developing countries.
While population levels are still slowly increasing in most OECD regions, there is a tendency towards stabilisation
in the period to 2020. In non-OECD regions population levels are continuing to grow, though at a slower rate than
in the past. Population sizes in OECD countries are significantly influenced by migration levels, with many of the
arriving migrants of working age. The ageing of the population in OECD countries will affect demographic pressures on the environment – particularly through changes in consumption patterns and the proportion of the total
population that is active in the labour force. Many developing countries, on the other hand, are characterised by
very large shares of young people, due to both high birth rates and reduced child mortality.
Population density and changes in settlement patterns also have important implications for the environment. Many countries are continuing to experience an expansion of urbanisation – both in terms of a growing
percentage of the population living in urban areas and in terms of the physical expansion of urban areas into
rural zones (i.e. urban sprawl). As far as the population density of urban areas is concerned, the environmental
effects are not entirely clear. On the one hand, high population density leads to high local pressures on natural
resources, such as water and air quality, as well as natural habitats. On the other hand, urban areas are more compact than suburban or rural areas, with less land used per capita, more effective distribution of electricity and
© OECD 2001
water, less travelling, and more centralised waste collection. In terms of the physical expansion of urban zones
through urban sprawl, the environmental effects are more
clearly negative. Urban sprawl in most cases causes disproportionally high levels of land use, energy consumption and resource use compared with more central highdensity zones in cities.
The physical expansion
of urban areas (urban sprawl)
leads to increasing pressures
on the environment.
To some extent, the size of the population will have less influence on the environment than the number of
households, with the related demand for space, heating, equipment, etc. (see Chapter 16). The decreasing number
of persons per household being seen in many OECD countries, coupled with a trend towards urban sprawl, may
partially offset the beneficial environmental effects of a relative stabilisation of their total population levels.
2.2. Population size
The process of economic development in the 20th century has significantly affected the size of both the world
population and the population in OECD countries. Before the industrial revolution, most OECD countries experienced high birth rates and high mortality rates resulting in slow or no population growth. In the era of industrialisation, a demographic transition took place with death rates falling drastically while birth rates remained high,
resulting in very rapid population growth. This was largely the result of improved medical care and higher incomes,
with less exposure to health risks such as poor diets and poor living conditions. A further transition has taken place,
that of declining birth rates. This has primarily been driven by factors such as the greater participation of women
in the workforce, a dramatic reduction in infant mortality, the introduction of social security and pension systems,
and the availability of reliable birth control.
Overall, as a result of these changes, the population in OECD countries and the rest of the world has grown
rapidly since the 1950s, but with slower growth in the 1990s. It is projected to exhibit even lower growth rates in
the period to 2020, accompanied by an ageing of the population in OECD regions.
The population in OECD countries increased from about 1 billion in 1980 to 1.1 billion in 2000 (average annual
increase: 0.8%) and is projected to increase to 1.2 billion in 2020 (average annual increase: 0.4%) (Figure 2.1). Some
OECD regions are experiencing very low (less than 1%) natural increases, and the natural balance (births minus
deaths) has even been negative in a number of OECD countries. Western Europe, as well as Japan & Korea, are projected to face a decrease in total population after 2010.
Figure 2.1 also shows projected total percentage changes in population levels in the period from 1995 to 2020.
The growth rates of total population have declined and are projected to continue to decline in virtually all regions
of the world over the period up to 2020. The total world population was 4.4 billion in 1980, 6.1 billion in 2000
(average annual increase: 1.6%) and is estimated to be 7.5 billion in 2020 (average annual increase: 1.1%).1 Thus,
the world population is still increasing, but more slowly than before.
Besides natural increases, the populations of many countries also increase due to net migration. Since the mid1980s, international migration has rapidly gained in importance as a component of population change. The world
total of international migrants increased from 75 million in 1965 to 119 million in 1990, with an annual growth rate
that peaked at 2.6% in 1985-1990. Among OECD regions, Western Europe and North America have accepted the
highest number of international migrants (with total immigrant populations of 24 and 25 million respectively
in 1990), while Japan and Korea have experienced low immigration (300 000 and 60 000 migrants respectively in
the early 1990s). Net migration is the source of 75% of the population growth in EU countries and will most likely
be their main source of population increase in the short and medium-term.
1. This follows the UN medium fertility variant (UN, 2000a).
© OECD 2001
Figure 2.1. Total population, 1980-2020
Billion persons
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
10% 20% 30% 40%
Source: UN (2000a).
2.3. Population structure
The structure of the population also influences the environment, particularly through changing consumption
patterns and the workforce participation rates of different age groups, of men and women, etc. In OECD regions,
a significant change in population structure over the next twenty years is expected to be the ageing of the population. The median age – which divides the number of younger and older people into two equal parts – passed from
28.6 years in OECD countries in 1950 to 36.8 in 1998, and is projected to exceed 40 by 2020. The percentage of
the population over 60 years of age in OECD countries is expected to increase from over 17% in 1995 to almost
24% in 2020, with OECD Europe experiencing the most dramatic ageing of the population.
Changing age pyramids will also have important implications for the ability of society to generate sufficient
income to support dependants. Under current circumstances, it is likely that the proportion of dependants in society
(i.e. those not actively participating in the workforce) will grow in OECD countries as the ageing of society results
in a significant increase in retired people (Figure 2.2). A number of countries are already considering policies to
address this, including raising the retirement age to augment the labour force.
One way in which ageing populations in OECD
countries are likely to affect environmental pressures is
The effects of ageing populations
through changing consumption patterns (see also
on the environment are
Chapter 5). There is still substantial speculation as to the
not well understood.
net effects that will result from these developments. More
leisure time and the better health of retired persons may
lead to higher consumption levels (e.g. through increased tourism travel), or to relatively moderate or low consumption effects (e.g. through staying at home or lower income level). Furthermore, decisions on how to reduce or
increase working time (daily, weekly, annually, early retirement, etc.) have major implications on spatial settlement
patterns and thus on the environment.
© OECD 2001
Figure 2.2. OECD age pyramids, 1995 and 2020
Million persons
Source: UN (2000a).
2.4. Labour force
As a result of the tendencies described above, OECD countries are experiencing changes in the labour force
supply. One example is female participation in the labour force, which has increased in most OECD countries.
After a period of high unemployment, unemployment rates are now declining and slowly approaching 1980 levels.
The increase in the total population of working age, however, has led to an increase in the absolute number of
unemployed in OECD regions, such that it is now 57% higher than in 1980.
A long list of economic and social factors affect labour force participation rates, including the participation of
women in the workforce (which currently varies significantly across OECD countries and worldwide), education
levels, changes in retirement age, etc. For example, higher education levels have mixed impacts on labour force
participation rates. Higher education tends to decrease employment levels among persons under 30 years of age,
as university attendance is prolonged, but may increase participation of older age groups if it leads to greater job
satisfaction. Because of the inherent difficulty in projecting the net impacts of various conflicting trends on labour
force participation rates, the Reference Scenario for this Outlook assumes that a constant share of the population
aged between 15 and 64 participates in the labour force.
The growth in the number of working-age people varies considerably across OECD regions with Canada,
Mexico & United States showing the highest projected increase, and the regions of Japan & Korea and Western
Europe showing a projected decrease (Figure 2.3). In OECD countries as a whole, the total number of persons in
this age group is expected to increase by 0.6% annually from 1995 to 2010 – i.e. from 745 to 810 million – and
then stabilise between 2010 and 2020. For non-OECD regions, the number of people of working age is expected
to increase by 1.9% annually from 1995 to 2010, and 0.8% annually over the period 2010-2020.
Recent labour market developments and future prospects highlight the increase in part-time working and more
varied and flexible working lives (e.g. working from home, shift work, etc.). The effects of more part-time workers
and generally shorter working weeks on the environment are not clear. While they may lead to extra time available
for consumption and travel, they may also lead to less disposable income for such activities. Similarly, the
© OECD 2001
environmental impacts of the noticeable trend toward an increase in tele-commuting (working from home using
new information technologies) are not obvious although a number of observers expect that this may lead to reduced
transportation use, with an easing in pressures on the environment from commuting.
Figure 2.3. Persons aged between 15 and 64 years, 1980-2020
Billion persons
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
Source: UN (2000a).
2.5. Population distribution
The rapid population increases of the last century, and continued economic development, have had a major
impact on rural and urban settlements. The declining relative importance of the primary sectors and the growing
economic significance of the industrial and service sectors in OECD countries have led to larger and economically
more important cities. While the average population density of OECD regions lies below the median world population
density, it has grown slowly from 27.2 inhabitants per km2 in 1980 to 31.2 inhabitants per km2 in 1995, representing
an average annual increase of 0.9%. It is expected to increase only slightly in most OECD regions over the next twenty
years, following population levels, which show a tendency toward stabilisation at the end of this period. Population
density differs strongly across OECD countries and within them, with most of the population concentrated in coastal
zones and river valleys, and remote areas, like mountains and deserts, often being sparsely populated.
The same tendencies of urbanisation can be observed when using the OECD regional typology of sub-national
territorial units (OECD, 1994; OECD, 1996).2 Over the past decade, the share of the rural population has dimin2. The percentage of the regional population that lives in rural local communities – which correspond to local level administrative or statistical units and where the population density does not exceed 150 inhabitants per square kilometre (500 for
Japan) – is used to distinguish between three types of sub-national regions:
1) Predominantly rural – more than 50%;
2) Intermediate – between 15 and 50%; and
3) Predominantly urban – less than 15%.
© OECD 2001
ished in the majority of OECD countries. High population growth is concentrated in major metropolitan regions,
while many rural regions experience population loss. The trends have been for large urban areas to grow faster than
the rest of the country, driven by better employment opportunities and higher incomes. The leading metropolitan
regions are still recording rapid growth, although some other intermediate and rural regions appear to be catching
up. Overall, it is unlikely that these trends will change the regional population balance.
Figure 2.4. Urban and rural populations, 1980-2020
Index, 1980 = 100
OECD rural
Non-OECD rural
OECD urban
Non-OECD urban
Source: UN (2000b).
From an environmental perspective, the total population density of a country is perhaps not as important as
the density of populations at the local level within each country. Populations have been concentrating more and
more in OECD regions, with OECD countries generally being more urbanised than less developed ones. The gap
in urbanisation levels increased between 1950 and 1975, but has narrowed since 1975, and is expected to narrow
further by 2020, essentially because of higher urbanisation rates in developing countries. The world rate of urbanisation was 2.5% in 1980-2000 and is expected to be 2% in 2000-2020. The global urban population is projected
to increase, from 2.6 billion in 1995 to 4.3 billion in 2020. In OECD regions, urban dwellers, according to the
UN definition, represented 50% of the total population in 1950, 77% in 2000 and are projected to reach 83%
in 2020. The annual rate of urbanisation in OECD regions is projected to decrease from 1.2% in 1980-2000 to
0.7% in 2000-2020.
2.6. Policy issues
Total world population is projected to increase by almost one-quarter in the period from 2000 to 2020, with
intensified pressures on the environment as a result. In OECD countries in general, population levels are still
increasing but at a lower rate than before. Natural increases in population levels (not including migration) in some
OECD countries have been negative in recent years, and the trend seems likely to continue. The migration levels
assumed in the Reference Scenario (based on UN projections) will not be enough to fully offset declines in both
total population and the potential workforce in some OECD regions. There is a possibility that some OECD countries may find it necessary to attract more immigrants in the future to bridge this shortcoming, and so may adjust
current migration policies accordingly.
© OECD 2001
Another option is to encourage greater labour force participation. This could be done, for example, by raising
the retirement age, a policy solution already widely discussed in OECD countries. Another possibility may be to
encourage an increase in the number of women in the workforce. In some OECD countries, the rate of women
working is still relatively low, and stimulating their workforce participation could potentially balance out the higher
proportion of elderly people.
The link between demography and the environment is however, still not well understood. The example of ageing populations is symptomatic of the complexities involved in examining how demographic factors are likely to
affect the environment. Increased leisure time and longer lives may lead to higher consumption levels and a higher
share of services in total consumption, but reduced income levels can also be a constraining factor on actual spending power. It thus remains to be seen how an ageing population influences pressures on the environment. What is
clear, though, is that demographic developments are important drivers of environmental change because of both
the direct and indirect influences they have on consumption and production patterns (see Chapters 5 and 16), waste
(see Chapter 20) and pollution generation, and on the destruction of natural habitats, etc.
How the population is distributed – i.e. urban versus rural population – is another important demographic
development in relation to the environment. Urbanisation offers some environmental advantages. Greater population density in inner cities, for example, can lead to less travelling and more efficient water and electricity distribution. Population density is also strongly related to biodiversity loss. It has been estimated that population growth
in areas adjacent to the so-called “biodiversity hotspots” will be substantially higher than both global population
growth and population growth in developing countries (Cincotta et al., 2000). The physical expansion of urban
areas – i.e. urban sprawl – into nearby rural areas that is occurring in many OECD countries tends to have detrimental effects on the environment, particularly through the negative environmental impacts from providing sufficient public transport facilities to such dispersed housing. These pressures will need to be addressed in many OECD
regions in the future, possibly through better urban planning and public infrastructure development.
Cincotta, R.P., J. Wisnewski, and R. Engelman (2000), “Human Population in Biodiversity Hotspots”, Nature,
404: 990-992.
Mega, V. (2000), “Demography and Employment, Urbanisation and Land Use”, Background Paper for the OECD
Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1994), Creating Rural Indicators for Shaping Territorial Policy, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1996), Territorial Indicators of Employment , OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999), OECD in Figures, OECD, Paris.
UN (United Nations) (2000a), “World Population Prospects – the 1998 Revision”, UN, New York.
UN (2000b): UNFAOSTAT Database Gateway – Urban and Rural Populations
© OECD 2001
Globalisation, Trade
and Investment
• Since 1945, the global economy has experienced a rapid expansion in international trade and cross-border investment. This process accelerated following the completion of the last GATT trade round and the establishment of the
World Trade Organisation (WTO).
• In the Reference Scenario, world exports are projected to grow by 90% from 1995 to 2020.
• The environmental implications of globalisation can be both positive and negative. Globalisation can improve efficiency in natural resource use and management, but it can also pose threats to the health of the world’s natural ecosystems. The net effect of globalisation depends on the pace and direction of economic growth, and the existence
and effectiveness of institutions and policy frameworks to maximise the positive and minimise the negative environmental impacts.
• Well designed policies in the areas of trade and investment, as well as in the environment field, are needed.
3.1. Introduction
Globalisation can be thought of as a process in which economic markets, technologies, and communications gradually come to exhibit more “global” characteristics and less “national” or “local” ones. Viewed at the
level of the global economy, globalisation can contribute to the efficiency of economic activities. International
trade and international investment are highly visible parts of the economic globalisation process. Liberalisation
of international trade regimes, financial market deregulation, intensified competition, as well as rapid technological changes, particularly in information, communication, and transportation technologies, are the main drivers of this process. These trends accelerated in the 1990s, with the improvement in the investment climate and
rapid expansion of trade liberalisation.
Trade and investment policies are very powerful economic levers that can contribute to the achievement of
environmental goals. Economic globalisation contributes to income growth and higher standards of living through
a more efficient allocation of resources. However, it is also true that the global environment has been placed under
increasing strain by the resulting intensification of human economic activities. In addition, even if the effects of
globalisation on the environment and society are on the whole positive, the distribution of environmental pressures
will vary depending, inter alia, on the assimilative capacity and resource endowment and the degree of development in the different areas. The challenge for governments will be to find ways to maximise the positive environmental consequences, while limiting the negative ones.
3.2. Developments in globalisation, trade and investment
Between 1970 and 1998, world exports of goods and services, measured in current US$, increased 17-fold and
foreign direct investment (FDI) increased 45 times (Figure 3.1). Over the same period, global GDP increased by a
© OECD 2001
Figure 3.1. World exports, foreign direct investment and GDP, current US$, 1970-1998
Index, 1970 = 100
8 000
7 000
6 000
5 000
4 000
3 000
2 000
1 000
Source: World Bank (2000).
factor of 10. Several underlying and mutually reinforcing reasons for this strong growth in trade and investment
can be identified (OECD, 1997; WTO, 1999):
– the steady expansion of the multilateral trading system founded under the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT) and now overseen by the World Trade Organisation (WTO);
– the creation of regional trading blocs which have removed barriers to trade among groups of countries, such
as the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Common Market
of the South (Mercosur), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC);
– the evolution of global corporations operating in many countries simultaneously (internal trade between
subsidiaries of such companies accounts for about 30% of total world trade);
– rapid income growth in almost all countries, leading to increases in demand for capital and consumer goods
and new opportunities for foreign investment and trade;
– the explosive expansion of new means of communication and transportation that has helped to create a global culture and fuel consumer demand for products not necessarily produced locally;1
– the collapse of Soviet-style communism in the late 1980s and 1990s, and the opening up of the economies
of the former Soviet Union and Central & Eastern Europe to the world economy.
Over the past two decades, the ratio of world merchandise exports to global production has nearly doubled,
from 8% to 15%. As indicated above, this process has accelerated in recent years, following the completion of the
1. Communication and information technologies can significantly widen the scope for trade, allowing for the geographical
unbundling of once-integrated operations, including research and development, legal services, and customer services such
as insurance claim processing.
© OECD 2001
last GATT trade round, the Uruguay Round, in 1994. World trade growth doubled from 4% per annum
between 1980 and 1993 to 8% in 1994 to 1996, outpacing world output growth by a widening margin.
Between 1980 and 1995, trade in services grew even more rapidly, at double the rate of merchandise trade (8.7%
compared to 4.5%). Although a far lower proportion of services than goods is traded at present, trade in commercial
services accounted nonetheless for 23% of total world trade in merchandise goods and services in 1995.2
For OECD countries, trade has grown rapidly in recent years. Between 1990 and 1993, trade among OECD
countries grew at half the rate of world trade (2.2% compared to 4.4%), while their trade with non-OECD countries
grew much faster, at 7.5%. Trade between non-OECD countries also grew rapidly, rising more than 15% per annum
in the mid-1990s, until the sharp fall in commodity prices (which started in 1997) and the Asian financial crisis
of 1998. The product composition of world trade has also changed markedly over the past two decades.
Between 1985 and 1995, the share of primary products in exports from non-OECD regions to OECD countries fell
by half (to 29%). Exports from OECD countries, however, remained dominant in a number of high-tech and
medium-tech sectors (see Chapter 6). In terms of commercial services, OECD countries and a few Asian nonOECD countries, dominate world trade, with the EU accounting for about 45% of exports, Asia just over 20%, and
North America just under 20%.
With further reductions in communication and transport costs, and with high GDP growth in non-OECD economies stimulating demand, it is expected that international trade will continue to grow strongly (Figure 3.2). Under
Figure 3.2. World exports, 1995-2020
Billion 1995 US$
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000
2 000
3 000
4 000
5 000
6 000
7 000
8 000
Source: Reference Scenario.
2. Trade in services is in fact considerably underestimated by current balance-of-trade statistics, which fail to reflect transactions such as the cross-border intra-firm exchange of technical and financial advice, remote data processing and transmission, and revenue from services offered in the host country by foreign affiliates of multinationals (Brack, 2001).
© OECD 2001
the Reference Scenario, global exports are projected to grow by 90% from 1995 to 2020, measured in 1995 US$.3
Exports are expected to increase by 2.8% annually between 1995 and 2010 and by 2.3% between 2010 and 2020.
Corresponding export growth rates for OECD countries are 2.4% in 1995 to 2010 and 1.7% in 2010 to 2020. They
will surpass projected GDP growth rates throughout the projection period. The highest export growth rates are
expected in non-OECD regions, such as China and East Asia.
Five simulations were carried out to obtain a quantitative impression of how the global export projections
might change if economic globalisation was to grow even faster than the Reference Scenario suggests
(see Box 3.1). In all cases, the effects on real GDP in both OECD countries and the world were found to be positive,
reflecting increases in productivity resulting from improved allocative efficiency. Under Simulation 5 (combining
all of the various shocks representing increased globalisation), GDP is expected to be 0.5% higher in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario in OECD, and 1.1% higher worldwide.
Box 3.1.
Model simulations of effects of accelerated globalisation
• Simulation 1: Export taxes and export subsidies are cut by 25% annually in all regions, thus promoting “undistorted
• Simulation 2: Simulation 1 plus a 25% annual reduction in import tariffs in all regions, further promoting “undistorted trade”
• Simulation 3: Simulation 2 plus trade and transport margins in all regions decreased by 2% annually, instead of
1% annually as foreseen in the Reference Scenario, making trade between regions cheaper
• Simulation 4: Simulation 3 plus a 5% annual increase in Armington elasticities for all products in all regions, making domestic and imported products more substitutible among consumers
• Simulation 5: Simulation 4 plus the autonomous energy efficiency improvement in non-OECD increased by 50%
more per year than in the Reference Scenario, thus significantly increasing energy efficiency outside OECD
regions; possibly reflecting increased technology transfers
Figure 3.3 illustrates the impacts of the five globalisation simulations on exports in various regions of the
world. In general, the impacts of accelerated globalisation on exports would be much higher in non-OECD
regions, as OECD regions are already highly liberalised. For example, Simulation 5 would lead to an increase
in the volume of OECD exports of 14% compared with the Reference Scenario in 2020, and an increase of 22%
in non-OECD regions. Of the OECD regions, the largest impacts would be felt in Australia & New Zealand, followed by Japan & Korea and North America. While each of the five simulations generates positive impacts on
exports, the degree of impact and the regional variations differ considerably. For example, the impacts of reducing export taxes and subsidies (simulation 1) and transportation improvement (simulation 3) would be significantly smaller than those of reducing import tariffs (simulation 2) and globalisation of consumer demands
(simulation 4), for OECD regions. This would be particularly true in the regions of North America, Japan
& Korea, and Australia & New Zealand. Simulation 5, which increases energy efficiency in non-OECD regions,
is estimated to have small impacts on exports from OECD regions. For non-OECD regions, the reduction of
import tariffs (simulation 2) would substantially raise their exposure to trade. As for the effects these developments would have on the environment, these would to a large extent be materialised through the impacts on specific economic sectors (see Box 3.2).
3. The assumptions relating to trade in the Reference Scenario are 1) export taxes and subsidies and tariffs will remain
unchanged over the simulation period; 2) trade and transport margins in all regions decrease by 1% annually. See Annex 2
for further details of the model assumptions.
© OECD 2001
Figure 3.3. Change in exports in 2020 under globalisation policy scenarios,
compared to the Reference Scenario
% change from Reference Scenario
Australia & New Canada, Mexico
Central &
& United States Eastern Europe
Simulation 1
Simulation 2
Japan & Korea
Simulation 3
Western Europe
Simulation 4
Simulation 5
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
Box 3.2.
Sectoral effects of increased globalisation – forestry example
Depending on circumstances, the aggregate impacts of increased globalisation on the environment (both local
and global) may be positive or negative. Although not enough is known at present about their precise nature, the
specific effects of globalisation and trade liberalisation will be most noticeable at the sectoral level. One example
is forests.
The world’s forests and wooded land decreased by 2% in the 1980s. While the forest area in industrialised countries remained largely unchanged, the natural forest cover in developing regions was reduced by 8% (see Chapter 10).
The value of global trade in forest products has risen steadily over the last few decades, climbing from US$47 billion
in 1970 to US$139 billion in 1998. Exports as a share of total world production also increased significantly over this
period (French, 2000). These trends are expected to continue. The Reference Scenario projects that globally forest
sector production will increase by 87% from 1995 to 2020, with highest growth in non-OECD regions. The policy
simulations show that with accelerated globalisation, forest production in non-OECD regions is likely to increase
compared with the Reference Scenario, while in OECD regions it is expected to remain unchanged. As such, greater
attention to sustainable forest management will be needed in the developing world.
International investments
If growth in world trade is the most obvious indicator of expanding economic integration, then rapid growth
in cross-border investment suggests the deepening of such integration. Reductions in transport and communications costs, the opening of capital accounts, deregulation in financial markets and privatisation of state enterprises
have all created an attractive environment for international financial flows.
© OECD 2001
The volume of global foreign direct investment (FDI) has grown almost 47-fold since 1970, reaching
US$644 billion in 1998, and the number of transnational corporations worldwide grew from 7 000 in 1970 to some
60 000 in the late 1990s (OECD, 1997; OECD, 1998; World Bank, 2000). FDI outflows from OECD economies
have risen at 15% annually over the past decade. Between 1988 and 1994, nearly three-quarters of global FDI flows
took place between OECD countries. In the early 1990s, however, the developing countries’ share of FDI outflows
rose, from 7% in 1991 to 17% in 1994. In 1995, developing countries received approximately US$90 billion (38%)
of the US$240 billion total of FDI worldwide. The vast majority is destined towards the dynamic Asian economies
and China (OECD,1997). The sectoral destination of FDI outflows has also changed significantly over the last
decades, with FDI in the primary sector falling steeply and FDI in services rising equally rapidly. Privatisation,
especially of infrastructure, has played an important role in attracting FDI to Latin America and, more recently, to
Central & Eastern Europe. Mergers and acquisitions account for about 60% of global FDI, with estimates of 80%
in the US, and low figures in developing countries (Brack, 2001).
Portfolio flows4 comprise the largest segment of cross-border transactions worldwide – 55% in 1996 – though
they are much less significant as a source of finance for developing countries. Portfolio flows have tended to be far
more volatile than FDI. Portfolio investment in developing countries fell by 50% in 1998 due to the economic crisis
in Asian countries, while FDI declined by less than one-sixth. As with FDI, however, portfolio investment is
heavily concentrated in a small number of countries.
Commercial lending can also generate portfolio flows when interest in pools of loans is sold as debt securities
in secondary markets. In 1996, bank loans accounted for 23% of all international private investment flows. The
main motivation driving commercial lending is the credit-worthiness of the borrower and the likely rate of return.
As with portfolio investments, this can contribute to a high degree of volatility. Between 1996 and 1998, for example, annual commercial lending to developing countries crashed from over US$100 billion to almost zero.
While the Reference Scenario does not provide explicit projections for international investment flows, it can
be assumed that further liberalisation of trade and foreign investment will increase the attractiveness of – and
reduce barriers to – such financial flows. FDI will most likely show continued strong growth, and spread more to
non-OECD countries. With increasing stability and effective regulation of financial markets, new investment
opportunities may be created that would attract portfolio investors as well.
3.3. Environmental implications of globalisation
Globalisation changes the scale of economy, the economic structure, available technologies, the composition
of production and consumption activities, and the design and implementation of regulations. Its implications for
the environment can be either positive or negative, depending on the rate and direction of economic growth and
the presence and effectiveness of institutions and policy frameworks. The effects of globalisation on the environment will depend on the aggregate outcome of a number of impacts from trade and investment liberalisation. The
effects are mainly from an expansion of world economic output (scale effects), structural adjustment within and
between economies (structural effects), technological development and diffusion stimulated by expanding trade
and investment (technology effects), changes in the mix of products made and consumed within an economy (product effects), and changes in the regulatory framework (regulatory effects).
Scale effects
Scale effects occur when the liberalisation and expansion of trade and investment drive and accelerate economic
growth and resource use. This in itself can have both positive and negative environmental impacts. Positive scale
effects occur partly from the reduction in poverty-driven environmental degradation and partly from the increased
attention countries pay to environmental quality and regulation as income rises. Furthermore, following income
4. The term “portfolio” refers to the combined holdings of various financial assets by individuals and institutions. The most
common types are equity securities of less than 50% of a firm’s total equity and debt securities.
© OECD 2001
growth, environmental quality may become a political priority for citizens and governments with more resources to
devote to the issue. Some studies have shown that the scope of environmental regulation increases steadily with
growth in per capita income (Dasgupta et al., 1995) and that many indicators of environmental quality also improve
after an initial decline at low income levels – reflected in “environmental Kuznet curves” (see also Chapter 4)
(Grossman and Krueger, 1995). Negative impacts are most likely to occur when the expansion of production and consumption coincide with market failures (such as ill-defined property rights and a failure to incorporate environmental
externalities) or intervention failures, and through increased pollution resulting from transporting more goods.
Scale effects of economic growth caused by further
globalisation are likely to be on balance negative, largely
Scale effects of economic growth
because this contributes to increased production with the
on the environment, spurred
ensuing increases in resource and energy use and waste
by further globalisation,
production worldwide. However, the effects will still
are likely to be on balance
depend on the particular environmental factor under
investigation. Some local environmental effects – particularly water quality – may well improve in many countries, as growth delivers the income necessary for abatement actions. Effects on local air quality, on the other
hand, will be determined by the balance of increasing expenditure on pollution prevention and clean-up, and
increasing emissions from expanding industry and the increased distances travelled by motor vehicles. The most
worrying scale effect will be the expected increases in emissions of greenhouse gases in OECD countries, and
increases in local air pollution in non-OECD countries.
Structural effects
Structural effects relate to the adjustments within and
between economies that occurs when the pattern of
Structural effects on the
resource use shifts. To the extent that trade promotes allocenvironment are likely in general
ative efficiency among nations, globalisation will have
to be positive, as comprehensive
positive structural effects in ensuring that goods are proliberalisation of trade
duced with lower input and capital per unit of output worldand investment improves
wide. In general, newly industrialising countries have
resource efficiency.
experienced significant positive effects on environmental
quality from structural changes as they have moved from primary commodity production to resource processing
and then to light manufacturing and services. This last step in particular has resulted in environmentally beneficial
Structural effects are in general positive, as the comprehensive liberalisation of trade and investment reduces
or eliminates subsidies in areas such as agriculture, energy production, forestry and fisheries, thus improving
resource efficiency. Evidence suggests that the more open an economy is to international trade, the less pollutionintensive it will become (Lucas et al., 1992). However, the correct pricing of environmental assets and externalities
continues to be important, since, in its absence, trade could have negative structural effects, shifting activity to
more environmentally damaging sectors.
Technology effects
The technology effects of trade and investment liberalisation derive from the more rapid rate of diffusion of
new technologies which, in general, tend to use fewer resources and produce less pollution than their predecessors
– thereby improving eco- and resource efficiency in countries where trade and investment are being liberalised.
Trade liberalisation will also accelerate and promote the growing international market for environmental goods and
services – pollution clean-up equipment, cleaner production techniques, capacity-building assistance, and so on.
The liberalisation of investment, particularly of FDI, is important in the area of technology diffusion because foreign investors often bring with them modern technologies that represent environmental improvements over equipment available domestically (see Chapter 6).
© OECD 2001
Technology effects on environmental performance are
Technology effects of
generally expected to be positive or neutral, but can occaglobalisation on the environment
sionally also be negative. There have been instances of
are generally expected to be pos“technology dumping”, where equipment banned in enviitive or neutral, but may be
ronmentally strict countries (because of its poor environnegative in some circumstances.
mental performance) is sold to or “dumped” in countries
with less demanding environmental standards. Environmentally beneficial technologies can be promoted by removing subsidies for polluting technologies, thereby stimulating the development of more energy efficient alternatives. Even some of the negative scale effects may
accelerate the use of environmentally beneficial technologies since regulations to protect the environment will call
for low- or zero- emission vehicles, energy efficient consumer durables, water-saving appliances and more
resource-efficient agricultural techniques.
Product effects
The product effects of trade and investment liberalisation refer to changes in the mix of products made and
consumed within an economy. Some may be environmentally less damaging than the goods they replace
(e.g. organic foods, recyclable materials, low-sulphur coal, etc.); some may be more environmentally damaging
(e.g. high-performance vehicles). Trade liberalisation also makes outsourcing – for example for the manufacture
of components – more feasible, which may increase the transport-intensity of products.
In aggregate, product effects can be either positive or negative. To some extent, trade and investment liberalisation encourages environmentally beneficial changes in consumer behaviour, such as using low-emission vehicles, increasing investment in energy efficiency and using telecommunication to reduce commuting. But, at the
same time, rising incomes, especially in less developed countries, may lead to growing demand for environmentally damaging products such as air conditioning.
Regulatory effects
Regulatory effects refer to the legal and policy effects of trade and FDI liberalisation on the design and implementation of environmental regulations, standards and other measures, such as extended producer responsibility
and voluntary approaches. These effects can be positive when a country’s ability to issue and implement effective
environmental policies and regulation is enhanced as a result of the provisions of specific trade and investment
agreements. For example, WTO agreements, to some extent, incite governments to move away from policies with
negative environmental impacts, such as subsides for environmentally damaging activities. Negative regulatory
effects occur when the ability of governments to enact and implement appropriate environmental regulations is
undermined by the provisions of trade and investment agreements. In general, however, it seems likely that most
of the provisions of trade and investment agreements have no direct impact on the framework of environmental
policy in any particular country.
3.4. Policy issues
Considering the projected developments of trade and investment liberalisation, their overall impacts on the
environment are likely to be significant. Ensuring that environmental policy instruments are put in place to maximise the positive and minimise the negative effects will be a great challenge to the globalised world. Governments
will find that longer-term environmental goals will often conflict with shorter-term economic competitiveness
goals. Where the environmental effects are negative, this will often have to do with insufficient environmental policies, rather than poorly designed economic policies. Globalisation is thus likely to intensify the need for stronger
and better environmental policies, rather than to lessen it. With the globalisation of environmental issues, and the
economic competitiveness problems associated with these issues, a stronger environmental regime will also inevitably require more international co-operation.
© OECD 2001
Global trade agreements can have positive environmental effects by discouraging governmental policies with
negative environmental impacts such as, for example, subsidies to intensive agriculture, fisheries and fossil fuel
production and use. Removing restrictions on imports of environmentally sound technologies can also contribute
to better environmental performance. Nonetheless, much of the discussion has focused on the potential negative
environmental effects of the GATT and WTO agreements. One of the issues debated is the ability of governments
to take into account environmental concerns related to process and production methods (PPMs), as opposed to
product standards, for the goods they import while remaining in compliance with the disciplines of trade agreements.
There are two ways in which some PPMs can have a negative impact on the environment. They can affect the
characteristics of the product, so that the product itself may pollute or degrade the environment when it is consumed
or used (product-related PPMs), or they may have an environmental effect at the production stage (non-product
related PPMs). This distinction is important in the context of trade rules. WTO rules apply to “products” since like
products are to be accorded “like treatment”. When PPMs affect the characteristics of products, existing trade rules
permit the use of PPM criteria for imports, subject to agreed disciplines. However, WTO rules make no provision
for import restrictions based on the characteristics that are not physically embodied in the imported products.
Although recent interpretation of the relevant GATT rules seems to allow measures based on non-product related
PPMs, the application of such measures is subject to strict conditions (including the demonstration of a “nexus”
between the country imposing the restriction and the environmental resource to be protected). Other environmental
measures with potential trade implications include labelling, taxation, and trade bans and quotas.
Trade measures incorporated in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are another potential source
of trade conflict. At present, around 200 MEAs are in place, about twenty of which incorporate trade measures. A
number of them deal explicitly with the regulation of trade, e.g. the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the amended Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (OECD,
1999a). Although no complaint has ever arisen under the GATT or WTO agreements with respect to trade measures
taken in pursuit of MEAs, the relationship remains uncertain, particularly in the event of a conflict between countries which are party to an MEA and those which are not. The WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment was
established inter alia to help resolve these potential conflicts. The Committee has not yet reached any agreement
on possible modifications to the WTO system, but it has carried out extensive analytical work.
Regional trade agreements are paying increasing attention to environmental issues. The European Union
has an important environmental policy component to its work, and environmental protection is one of the objectives set out in the Treaty of Rome, subsequently strengthened through various amendments (see Chapter 24).
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is another example of linkages to environmental policy.
It is accompanied by an environmental side agreement, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, designed to safeguard the environment from any negative effects of NAFTA-stimulated trade expansion.
Other examples of promoting co-operation in environmental policy formation and implementation include the
Common Market of the South America (Mercosur), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). With growing concern over the regional environment, these
trends are likely to spread and intensify in the near future.
The Uruguay Round included the adoption of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures
(TRIMS Agreement), which is fairly limited in scope and application. OECD Member countries, as well as some
non-members, started to negotiate a much wider agreement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI),5 but
this initiative was eventually abandoned in late 1998. The interaction between FDI and the environment has been
the subject of considerable debate. Does FDI seek out destinations where environmental regulations are lacking or
poorly enforced (“pollution havens”)? Alternatively, does FDI contribute to rising environmental standards or performances in developing countries through superior technology and management methods (“pollution halos”)? So
far, there is not much evidence of pollution havens or pollution halos (see Leonard, 1988; French, 1993; USTR,
1992; Zarsky, 1999; Gentry, 1999). Similarly, environmental factors seem to have little impact on portfolio investors’ decisions (OECD, 1999b). Nevertheless, portfolio investment may have an effect on the location of invest5. The MAI aimed to apply “national treatment and most favoured nation” principles to investments and investors, and provide
a high standard of protection to foreign investors and investments when operating overseas.
© OECD 2001
ments and thereby on environmental quality. Also, the volatility of portfolio flows needs to be mitigated by
government action: stable financial markets, for example, created by effective financial regulatory structures can
do much to bring long-term environmental benefits.
FDI and portfolio investments can be both vehicles for raising environmental standards and a transfer mechanism for environmentally sound technologies. The greater the number of environmental factors that are integrated
into the framework of private investment, the more effective this process will be. Thus, host country governments
need to set clear rules about minimum environmental standards for investment. In addition, future negotiations on
international investment agreements need to ensure that FDI and portfolio investments do not undermine countries’
efforts to maintain high environmental standards.
Brack, D. (2001), “The Environmental Implications of Trade and Investment Liberalisation”, Background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Dasgupta, S. et al., (1995) Environmental Regulation and Development: A Cross-Country Empirical Analysis, World Bank,
Washington DC.
French, H. (1993), Costly Tradeoffs; Reconciling Trade and the Environment, Worldwatch Institute, Washington DC.
French, H. (2000), “Coping with Ecological Globalisation”, State of the World 2000, Worldwatch Institute, Washington DC.
Gentry, B. S. (1999), “Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment: Boon or Bane?” in OECD, Foreign Direct
Investment and the Environment, OECD, Paris.
Grossman, G. M. and A. Krueger (1995), “Economic Growth and the Environment”, Quarterly Journal of Economics
112: 353-377.
Leonard, J. (1988), Pollution and the Struggle for the World Product, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Lucas, R.E.B., D. Wheeler and H. Hettige (1992), “Economic Development, Environmental Regulation and the International Migration of Toxic Industrial Pollution 1960-88”, Low, P. (ed.), International Trade and the Environment, World Bank,
Washington DC.
OECD (1997), The World in 2020: Towards a New Global Age, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998), Open Markets Matter: The Benefits of Trade and Investment Liberalisation, OECD, Paris
OECD (1999a), Trade Measures in Multilateral Environmental Agreements, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), The Environmental Effects of International Portfolio Flows, OECD, Paris.
USTR (1992), Review of US-Mexico Environmental Issues, USTR, Washington DC.
World Bank (2000), World Development Indicators, World Bank, Washington DC.
WTO (1999), Press Release, “World Trade Growth”, 22 April, WTO, Geneva.
Zarsky, L. (1999), “Havens, Halos and Spaghetti: Untangling the Evidence about FDI and the Environment”, in
OECD Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment, OECD, Paris.
© OECD 2001
Economic Development
• The Outlook uses a Reference Scenario, which is largely based on a continuation of recent trends and present
policies. It represents a likely economic development path, but it should not be seen as a forecast of future developments.
• The largest absolute increases in GDP are assumed to take place in the regions of North America, Western Europe
and Japan & Korea. Relative growth is expected to be highest in Central & Eastern Europe and in regions outside
the OECD.
• It is assumed that GDP growth in OECD regions and worldwide will decrease gradually. In non-OECD regions,
however, growth is expected to accelerate.
• The Reference Scenario assumes a continuation of present globalisation processes, reflected in an annual decrease
in the costs of buying products from a foreign supplier.
• Energy efficiency is assumed to increase 0.75% per year autonomously in all sectors and regions, while the efficiency of resource use – as a technical assumption – remains largely unchanged.
4.1. Introduction
Economic development is a major underlying factor driving environmental change. In many cases, environmental pressures stemming from a given sector are directly related to the level of activity in that sector. On the other
hand, the higher income levels which result from economic growth generally increase the willingness – and ability
– to implement policies and measures to protect the environment.
In the Reference Scenario, main economic developments to 2020 in the different regions of the world are
included either as assumptions or as results from simulations in the general equilibrium model – JOBS – that has
been used in the preparation of this Environmental Outlook (see Annex 2 for a description of the model and a number of technical assumptions used in the simulations).
4.2. Assumed developments in GDP
The Outlook is based on assumptions of the OECD’s Economics Department concerning long-term developments in total GDP by region, which in turn are in part based on World Bank projections. The assumptions used
here are, as far as possible, the same as those used in the climate change policy analyses done by the OECD on the
GREEN model (Burniaux, 2000). The assumed growth rates are meant to reflect likely developments in a case
where no changes have been made to present policies; they should be seen as neither a forecast of future GDP
growth nor as representing an “optimal” development path.
It is not always obvious what represents “no change” in policy. For example, an underlying assumption built
into the Reference Scenario is that the globalisation process, in particular the trend of gradually increasing market
integration will continue. This is reflected in an assumed annual 1% decrease in the extra costs associated with purchasing a given product from abroad, compared to buying it from a local producer.
© OECD 2001
Another underlying assumption incorporated in the Reference Scenario is that energy efficiency will
improve by 0.75% autonomously every year. Autonomous energy efficiency improvements mean that a given
amount of output can be produced with less and less energy inputs. This effect comes on top of any changes in
energy requirements that result from changes in the composition of demand and production. In general terms,
the assumed rate of energy efficiency improvement is based on recent historical trends. Also, lacking any firm
foundation for differentiating among sectors or regions, uniform rates of efficiency improvement have been
assumed in the Reference Scenario, while simulations described in later chapters illustrate impacts of some alternative assumptions.
A further underlying assumption included in the Reference Scenario is that non-energy inputs in production
are used in fixed proportions throughout the simulation period. This should be seen as a technical simplification
used in the model simulations, while in practice resource efficiency will actually be affected by a number of trends,
as discussed in Chapter 23.
Figure 4.1 shows real GDP levels in 1980 and 1995, and the assumed levels for 2010 and 2020 in each region
in 1995 prices. It is evident that the regions of Canada, Mexico & United States, Western Europe and Japan
& Korea are the dominant ones in terms of GDP.
Figure 4.1. Real GDP, 1980-2020
Billion 1995 US$
35 000
30 000
25 000
20 000
15 000
10 000
5 000
Australia Canada, Central &
& New Mexico & Eastern
Zealand United States Europe
Japan &
Western Africa &
Europe the Rest of
the World
East Asia
South Asia
Note: The 1980 numbers were adjusted to reflect differences in 1995 levels in the IMF and GTAP databases.
Sources: IMF (2000a) and IEA (2000) for 1980 numbers; GTAP database for 1995 numbers; and Reference Scenario for 2010 and 2020 numbers.
It should be noted that GDP here is valued at market exchange rates. Thus, no correction is made for purchasing power differences reflecting, for example, the lower prices of many goods and services in non-OECD regions
due to lower wage levels. The following comparison is instructive, while non-OECD regions accounted for only
16% and 18% of global GDP in 1980 and 1995 respectively with GDP measured at market exchange rate, their
share of global GDP would be 35% and 39% in the same years if GDP were measured in terms of purchasing power
parities (IMF, 2000b).
© OECD 2001
Figure 4.2. Average annual change in real GDP, 1980-2020
Average annual % change
Australia Canada, Central &
& New Mexico & Eastern
Zealand United States Europe
Japan &
Western Africa &
Europe the Rest of
the World
East Asia
South Asia
Note: The 1980 numbers were adjusted to reflect differences in 1995 levels in the IMF and GTAP databases.
Sources: IMF (2000a) and IEA (2000) for 1980 numbers; GTAP database for 1995 numbers; and Reference Scenario for 2010 and 2020 numbers.
The increasing share of non-OECD regions in global GDP is to a large extent explained by the rapid growth
assumed in China. While China accounted for 1% of global production in 1980, its share will have risen to 6%
in 2020 under the Reference Scenario.1
Figure 4.2 shows the annual percentage changes in GDP between 1980 and 1995, and the assumed annual
growth rates for the periods 1995-2010 and 2010-2020 for each region. It is clear that some of the non-OECD
regions (China, East Asia and South Asia in particular) are assumed to experience the strongest growth rates in the
decades to come. Nevertheless, GDP is still expected to be larger in both the regions of Western Europe and
Canada, Mexico & United States individually than the combined GDP of all non-OECD regions in 2020.
GDP growth is assumed to decrease significantly in a number of regions. For the world as a whole, the
decrease is from an annual growth of 2.8% in 1980 to 1995, to 2.5% annual growth between 1995 and 2010, and
2% in the decade to 2020. This decline in global growth rates will to a large extent be driven by decreasing growth
in OECD regions, from 2.7% annually between 1980 and 1995, to 2.2% annually between 1995 and 2010, and
1.5% annually from 2010 to 2020.
For the non-OECD regions seen together, growth is assumed to accelerate from 3.3% annually between 1980
and 1995, to 3.5% and 3.7% in the periods 1995 to 2010 and 2010 to 2020 respectively. Average annual growth
over the 1980-1995 period was kept down by a 2.2% annual decrease in GDP in the Former Soviet Union as a result
of the collapse of the communist system, while annual GDP increases in China of more than 10% pushed the average growth rate upwards. For the coming decades, more stable growth paths have been assumed for both of these
1. Measured in purchasing power parities, China accounted for 3.5% of global GDP in 1980 and about 10% in 1995.
© OECD 2001
The decrease in the labour force assumed for several regions, as described in Chapter 2, played a major role
when assumptions concerning GDP growth were made, in particular the relatively low growth rates assumed for
OECD regions between 2010 and 2020. A higher labour supply than what is currently assumed, for example
through increased immigration to OECD regions, would increase GDP growth.
It should be emphasised that changes in GDP are
likely to have both positive and negative impacts on the
environment, and that the net impacts in each region will
depend on a number of factors, such as changes in the
structure of demand and production as GDP changes;
changes in capital stocks and the technologies employed;
the environmental policies in place and their enforcement;
and the assimilative capacities of local eco-systems.
Environmental impacts from GDP
growth depend on changes in
the structure of the economy,
technologies employed,
environmental policies, and local
environmental conditions.
The assumed GDP per capita developments used in the Reference Scenario for the period 1980-2020 were
obtained by combining assumptions regarding population (see Chapter 2) and GDP (see Figures 4.3 and 4.4). GDP
per capita is clearly highest in four OECD regions (the region of Japan & Korea in particular), while the level is
much lower in Central & Eastern Europe and the non-OECD regions.
The existing large disparities in GDP per capita are expected to increase in absolute terms over the Outlook
period. For instance, despite fairly moderate assumed GDP growth for the future, GDP per capita in the region of
Japan and Korea is assumed to increase by US$13 000 between 1995 and 2020 in real terms, with this increase
being more than 20 times larger than the total level of GDP per capita in South Asia in 2020.
Figure 4.3. Real GDP per capita, 1980-2020
1995 US$
50 000
45 000
40 000
35 000
30 000
25 000
20 000
15 000
10 000
5 000
Australia Canada, Central &
& New Mexico & Eastern
Zealand United States Europe
Japan &
Western Africa &
Europe the Rest of
the World
East Asia
South Asia
Note: The 1980 numbers were adjusted to reflect differences in 1995 levels in the IMF and GTAP databases.
Sources: IMF (2000a) and IEA (2000) for 1980 numbers; GTAP database for 1995 numbers; and Reference Scenario for 2010 and 2020 numbers.
© OECD 2001
Figure 4.4. Average annual changes in real GDP per capita, 1980-2020
Average annual % change
Australia Canada, Central &
& New Mexico & Eastern
Zealand United States Europe
Japan &
Western Africa &
Europe the Rest of
the World
East Asia
South Asia
Note: The 1980 numbers were adjusted to reflect differences in 1995 levels in the IMF and GTAP databases.
Sources: IMF (2000a) and IEA (2000) for 1980 numbers; GTAP database for 1995 numbers; and Reference Scenario for 2010 and 2020 numbers.
However, as can be seen in Figure 4.4, the percentage of growth in GDP per capita is assumed to be higher
outside OECD regions than within. While GDP growth per capita is assumed to decrease on average in OECD
regions, it is assumed to accelerate on average outside OECD. Between 2010 and 2020, GDP per capita is in fact
assumed to grow more than twice as fast outside OECD regions as within.
4.3. Changes in the composition of production
Whereas the developments in GDP and GDP per capita are entered as assumptions in the Reference
Scenario, changes in the composition of demand and production are simulated by the modelling exercise. These
changes are to a large extent driven by the assumed income elasticities in each region,2 which reflect how much
household demand for a certain category of goods and services is expected to increase when income increases by 1%.
Figures 4.5 and 4.6 illustrate the composition of real value added in the OECD and non-OECD regions
in 1995, 2010 and 2020 respectively, as calculated in the Reference Scenario. There are some clear differences in
the composition of value added between the two regions: the service sector exhibits a much larger share within
OECD regions than outside (around 37% vs. less than 25% respectively), while the agriculture sector (rice, other
crops and livestock) and the natural resource-based sectors (fisheries, forestry, minerals, coal, natural gas and, in
particular, crude oil) constitute significantly larger shares of value added outside OECD regions than within. Both
in OECD and in non-OECD regions the shares of the agriculture sector and the natural resource-based sectors in
total value added are in most cases estimated to decrease to 2020.
2. The income elasticities used in the simulations are taken from the (GTAP) database.
© OECD 2001
Figure 4.5. Composition of value added in OECD regions, 1995-2020
Share of total real value added (%)
Fi ck
Fo s
ru l
e f Na t e o
ra l
oi l ga
G ucts
r. 1
t. 2
er t
C foo
N on
-f e n d
rro ste
oo m e
pr als
th Mo
a n V eh
i. 4
on rin
Tr Wa
ad ter
Se . 5
1. Gas manufacture and distribution.
2. Electricity generation and distribution.
3. Pulp, paper and publishing.
4. Motor vehicle manufacturing.
5. Trade and transport services.
Source: Reference Scenario.
One might have expected a shift in the composition of value added over time towards the service sector, and
that the production structure in non-OECD regions in 2020 would converge towards that of OECD regions in 1995.
However, the figures reflect the net impacts of various trends and assumptions, such as:
– a shift towards a larger share of the service sector in production in many, but not all, regions;
– a shift in total GDP – both in OECD and non-OECD areas – towards regions where the service sector at the
outset plays a smaller role in production;
– whereas the composition of household demand is estimated to shift towards services (see Chapter 5), this
sector needs inputs from “material” sectors to produce the services that households demand;
– the technical simplification referred to in Section 4.2 causing non-energy inputs in production to be used in
fixed proportions;
– demand parameters are re-calibrated from year to year to make income elasticities more or less constant
over time.3 Hence, over the simulation period, a given income increase will lead to a fixed percentage
increase in demand for each demand category (but this percentage increase will differ between different
demand categories);
– the graph illustrates developments in real terms, i.e. using constant 1995 prices. In many cases, the service
sector is estimated to show increasing relative prices, thus its share in nominal value added is slightly higher
in 2020 than its share in real value added, both in OECD and non-OECD regions.
3. With the so-called “Extended Linear Expenditure (demand) System” used in JOBS, the income elasticities would otherwise
in the long term all converge towards 1, meaning that a 1% income increase would cause the demand for all demand categories to increase 1%. Such a result would be wrong for most goods, in particular for food, clothing, etc.
© OECD 2001
Figure 4.6. Composition of value added in non-OECD regions, 1995-2020
Share of total real value added (%)
ve s
Fi ck
Fo s
M ry
ru l
e f Na t e o
e d u ra l
oi l ga
G ucts
r. 1
t. 2
er t
Ir em
N on
an als
-f e
rro ste
oo m e
od s
th Mo
i 4
ac .
on rin
Tr Wa
ad ter
Se . 5
1. Gas manufacture and distribution.
2. Electricity generation and distribution.
3. Pulp, paper and publishing.
4. Motor vehicle manufacturing.
5. Trade and transport services.
Source: Reference Scenario.
4.4. Economic development and environmental pressures
The proceeding sections have illustrated some of the major economic developments in the Reference Scenario
of this Outlook. These developments impact on the environment in a number of ways. The increased scale of economic activity will – providing other factors remain unchanged – tend to increase negative environmental externalities through larger volumes of emissions of pollutants to air and water, increased (over-) use of renewable or
non-renewable natural resources, etc. However, most other things will normally not remain unchanged when the
scale of economic activity changes, and in order to estimate net impacts on the environment a closer look at the
changes in demand and supply is necessary.
One important effect in this context is that environmental quality is believed to be a “normal good” in economic terms. This means that the demand for environmental quality rises as household incomes rise. Thus, the willingness to pay for improvements in environmental quality increases.
It is also possible that the composition of demand for other (non-environmental) goods and services will
change when the scale of economic activity changes. This can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment – consumers might demand less or more of the goods and services that are particularly environmentally
harmful when they are produced, used or disposed of as waste. In general, it is expected that the demand for services will rise more than the demand for goods as incomes increase (see Figure 5.2). Many – but not all – services
cause fewer negative environmental impacts than goods from other sectors.4
4. See Rosenbaum, Horvath and Hendrickson (2000) for a study on environmental implications of service industries.
© OECD 2001
Furthermore, it is important to determine the “cause” of the increased scale of economic activity. It may be an
indication that more productive (and newer) plants are displacing other less productive, and often more polluting,
plants. In many cases new technologies will be “cleaner” than older technologies (e.g. if they are developed as a
response to environmental problems). On the other hand, new technologies can also give rise to new environmental
problems, or magnify existing ones. In addition, technological developments can reduce the costs of producing polluting products, causing decreases in their price and increases in their use.
A number of attempts have been made to establish and quantify linkages between economic development and
net impacts on the environment. Two studies from 1993 and 1995 by Grossman and Krueger were of particular
importance.5 They found evidence of an inverted U-curve6 relating economic growth to a number of environmental
problems: at low income-levels, increasing incomes were associated with increasing pollution levels, while beyond
a certain point increasing incomes were associated with reductions in certain types of pollution. However a number
of caveats need to be made.
First, the studies do not explain what causes the perceived relationships. There is no reason to believe that the
process is automatic. On the contrary, Grossman and Krueger suggest that the strongest link between income and
pollution is in fact via an induced policy response: as nations or regions experience greater prosperity, their citizens
demand that more attention be paid to the non-economic aspects of their living conditions.7
Second, environmental problems differ in drivers and character, as described in other chapters of this Outlook.
Increasing incomes might be associated with reductions in some types of pollution, such as local pollution problems that are more clearly visible and which affect people directly. However, any threshold for CO2-emissions, for
example, would be likely to be too high to stop human-induced climate changes. This is in part because the changes
in public opinion which cause policy responses to mounting problems are more likely to happen when they concern
relatively local environmental problems having immediate or near term consequences than for global and longerterm problems.
5. Bradford, Schlieckert and Shore (2000) have proposed a re-specification of the latter study. Magnani (2000) suggests that
the income distribution within richer countries is important for determining the emergence of a downward sloping segment
of the inverted U-curve. For a recent comprehensive discussion of the relationships between economic growth and the environment, see de Bruyn (2000).
6. Such a curve has also been labelled an “environmental Kuznets curve”, an analogy referring to the “inverted U” relationship
between the level of economic development and the degree of income inequality suggested by Simon Kuznets (1955). Most
recent empirical studies, however, reject Kuznets’ proposition.
7. A study by Komen, Gerking and Folmer (1996) indicates, for instance, that the income elasticity of public research and
development expenditures for environmental protection is positive, but less than unity.
© OECD 2001
Bradford, D. F., R. Schlieckert and S.H. Shore (2000), “The Environmental Kuznets Curve: Exploring a Fresh Specification”, Working Paper No. 8001, National Bureau of Economic Research – (NBER) Website, www.nber.org/papers/w8001.
de Bruyn, S. M. (2000), Economic Growth and the Environment, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the
Burniaux, J.-M. (2000), “A Multi-gas Assessment of the Kyoto Protocol”, Working Papers No. 270 by the Economics
Department, OECD, Paris.
Grossman, G. M. and A. Krueger (1993), Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement” in
Peter Garber, (ed.), The Mexico-US Free Trade Agreement, Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT Press: 13-56.
Grossman, G. M. and A. Krueger (1995), “Economic Growth and the Environment”, Quarterly Journal of Economics,
112: 353-377.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (2000), Database for Energy Statistics, IEA, Paris.
IMF (International Monetary Fund) (2000a), World Economic Outlook, IMF, Washington DC.
IMF (2000b), “The World Economic Outlook Database, September 2000”, IMF, Washington DC.
Rien, K., S. Gerking and H. Folmer (1996), “Income and Environmental Protection: Empirical Evidence From OECD
Countries”, Mimeo.
Kuznets, S. (1955), “Economic Growth and Income Inequality”, American Economic Review (XLV-1): 1-28.
Magnani, E. (2000), “The Environmental Kuznets Curve, environmental protection policy and income distribution”, Ecological Economics 32: 431-443.
Rosenbaum, J., A. Horvath and C. Hendrickson (2000), “Environmental Implications of Service Industries” Environmental Science and Technology, Nov. 15, 2000: 4669-4676.
© OECD 2001
Consumption Patterns
• Private and public consumption in OECD countries leads to a wide range of impacts on resource and material flows,
air and water quality, land use and wildlife habitat, climate change and waste generation.
• The main drivers of consumption patterns are current and expected income, the relative prices of goods and services, the social and cultural context, available technologies and infrastructure, information provision, and institutional arrangements.
• Per capita private consumption has increased steadily in OECD countries over the last two decades, and is expected
to continue to follow GDP growth in the period to 2020. In general, households are spending less on food, clothing,
furniture and household operation and relatively more on rent, fuel and power, health, services and recreation.
• Environmental pressures from consumption in OECD countries intensified in the second half of the 20th century
and are likely to increase in many areas over the next twenty years – driven by increasing per capita incomes and
resource- and pollution-intensive lifestyles.
• The most important future challenges for addressing the environmental effects of consumption will be to draw
clearer links between environmental quality objectives and consumption patterns; provide stronger signals for technology and product innovation and for infrastructure investment that reflect the environmental costs of products
and services; and stimulate public awareness and action.
5.1. Introduction
OECD economies are the world’s largest consumers of energy, materials and natural resources. With roughly
one-fifth of the world’s population and one-fourth of its land area, OECD countries account for 80% of global GDP
and 80% of world trade. In the late 1990s, OECD consumers consumed or used 45% of all meat and fish, 58% of
total energy, 68% of all fixed telephone connections, 82% of all mobile telephone networks, 84% of all paper, and
87% of all cars (UNDP, 1998; OECD 1999a). Forty-five to eighty-five tons of natural resources are required per
person every year to supply the products and services that OECD consumers, governments and businesses use –
the equivalent of 300 shopping bags per person per week (WRI, 1997).
Consumption patterns in OECD countries have wide environmental impacts on air and water quality, land use
and wildlife habitat, climate change and waste generation. Product and technological innovations have helped
reduce the energy and material intensity of many consumer goods. A small but growing number of consumers are
also making lifestyle changes to lessen the environmental impact of their consumption patterns. However, the
increasing volumes of goods used and discarded, and the structure of consumer demand in key areas such as energy
and transport, have outweighed many of these gains. As a result, environmental pressures from consumption intensified in the second half of the 20th century and are likely to grow in many areas over the next twenty years driven
by increasing per capita incomes and resource- and pollution-intensive lifestyles. This Chapter focuses on the
environmental impacts in OECD countries of OECD consumption patterns, but it is important to note that OECD
consumption patterns also lead to environmental impacts (e.g. on deforestation, biodiversity loss, material flows,
fish stocks) in other regions of the world.
© OECD 2001
Widely defined, “consumption patterns” include not only household purchases and use of goods and services,
but also public sector consumption and intermediate consumption in the private sector. This Chapter outlines the
broad context and policy challenges related to private household and public sector consumption patterns. Further
details on environmental impacts from household actors are provided in Chapter 16.
5.2. General consumption drivers and trends
Household consumption
Income and relative prices
Consumption patterns are influenced by a number of different drivers. Two primary determinants are current
and expected income and the relative prices of goods and services. Net disposable income per capita expanded
rapidly in OECD countries in the 20th century, doubling and even tripling in several countries between 1985 and
1997/8 alone (OECD, 2000a), and is projected to continue to rise to 2020. At the same time, consumers in OECD
countries enjoy a steadily expanding range of low-priced, mass-produced goods and access to a progressively more
global marketplace.
Private consumption per capita has increased steadily in OECD countries over the last two decades, rising
by approximately 40% from US$8 000 per capita in 1980 to US$11 000 per capita in 1998. Household consumption is projected to continue to increase along with growth in GDP in OECD countries in the period to 2020
(Figure 5.1). Government consumption per capita in OECD countries, on the other hand, has only increased by
Figure 5.1. Private and government consumption per capita, 1980-2020
Index, 1980 = 100
Index, 1980 = 100
Canada, Mexico & United States
Western Europe
Index, 1980 = 100
Private consumption per capita
Government consumption per capita
GDP per capita
Source: OECD (2000a) and Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
approximately 30% in the same period, largely due to actual decreases in North America in the 1990s. The share
of total private expenditure1 in GDP has been almost constant at 60% in Western Europe and Japan over the last
twenty-five years, although this share varies significantly among OECD countries (range: 46% to 74%).
The composition of household consumption has also changed. Trends are not uniform across OECD countries
but, in general, households are spending less than in the past on food, clothing, furniture and household operation,
and relatively more on rent, fuel and power, health, services and recreation, including restaurants, cafés and hotels
(OECD, 2000b; EEA, 1999). There are large differences among countries in some consumption patterns (Internet
connections, paper, air conditioning, water), but there are signs of convergence in others (televisions, refrigerators,
clothes washers, personal automobiles). It is significant, however, that nearly all OECD countries share a trend
towards larger houses, more household electrical appliances and greater travel distances, particularly for tourism.
In the period to 2020, the composition of household consumption in all OECD regions is projected to continue to
change towards higher shares of consumption of energy (including fuel and electricity), transport (including motor
vehicles), and services, while the share of food consumption is expected to decrease significantly (Figure 5.2).
Figure 5.2. Change in household expenditure, 1995-2020
Total % change
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
Central &
Japan & Korea Western Europe
& United States Eastern Europe
Food etc.
Motor vehicles
Other goods
Source: Reference Scenario.
Changing social and cultural contexts over the last thirty years have influenced the scale and structure of consumption patterns in OECD countries. Important recent trends include a rising number of women in the labour
force, expanded school and extracurricular activities for children, longer and better financed retirement, and an
increasing “individualisation” of activities and time schedules within households. The number of single-person
1. Final private expenditure here includes final consumption of households plus final consumption of private non-profit
© OECD 2001
households in OECD countries is also growing. In the European Union, for example, the share of single-person
households is projected to increase from its current level of 30% to approximately 36 % in 2015, and in Japan from
23% to 28% in 2010 (OECD, 1998).
Each of these trends has contributed in turn to changes in patterns of space and time organisation that create
both consumption constraints and opportunities. Common trends across OECD countries include the demand for
more and bigger housing and related land and infrastructure, convenience “time-saving” appliances and services
(household electrical appliances, processed and pre-prepared food), individualised product design and packaging,
and greater short-distance daily and weekend travel.
The ageing of the population in OECD countries may significantly change the lifestyles to 2020 (see also
Chapter 2). Potential effects of ageing are not well known, but it is expected that it will lead to an increase in the
number of single person households and increased time available for recreation for a large part of the population.
Technology, infrastructure, information and institutional arrangements
Technology, infrastructure, information and institutional arrangements are a third important set of factors that
influence consumption patterns. They create the prevailing conditions faced by consumers in their everyday life,
and can either expand or constrain consumption options.
A number of technological and product innovations have produced new consumer products and services that
reduce the environmental impact from consumption (see also Chapter 16). But new technology also creates a network of dependant products and behaviours that can have negative effects on the environment. The history of air
conditioning, for example, shows the development of a technology that has had repercussions on a set of corollary
systems and behaviour, including building design that eliminates cross-ventilation and expectations for indoor
climates that have increased energy requirements.
Transport and communication infrastructures, the housing stock and the built environment generally are, for
most individuals, as much a fixed condition of life as is the “natural” environment. The inertia inherent in infrastructure can lock consumers into particular consumption patterns for the medium to long term. The importance of
personal car travel in OECD countries, for example, is a result not only of its convenience and status, but also of
the policies, land-use decisions, and technology and infrastructure investments of the past half century that have
facilitated and promoted private car mobility.
In the marketplace, consumers receive information via prices, labelling and advertising, as well as via retailers, distributors and other “third party” sources (consumer organisations, environmental organisations, industry
associations). Providing information to consumers serves a number of purposes, in particular to protect consumer
interests, support informed consumer choice, and stimulate change in behaviour. Consumers also seek and receive
a vast amount of general information outside of the market on both consumption and the environment, particularly
from the mass media – television, screen, radio, print, and increasingly the Internet. Information helps shape individual and social perceptions and values on the environment and consumption. It can be effective in empowering
consumers to make environmentally sustainable choices. Currently, however, much environmentally relevant
information is confusing or lost in the midst of media messages that largely encourage indiscriminate consumption
(OECD, 2001).
Consumption decisions are also influenced by an often complex set of government policy and institutional
arrangements. These include environmental and other policy measures, such as regulatory measures that constrain
different consumption options or set minimum product standards which, together with economic instruments,
incorporate some of the external environmental impacts in the prices faced by consumers. They also include
macroeconomic fiscal and monetary policies intended to influence savings or stimulate consumption, particularly
of consumer durables or real estate. The link between macroeconomic policy and the scale and structure of environmentally significant consumption patterns has not been explored sufficiently to date.
© OECD 2001
Public sector consumption
The public sector in OECD countries accounts for a significant share of consumption expenditure, ranging
from 8% of GDP in Mexico to 25% in Denmark (OECD North America average: 14%; OECD Europe average:
17%) (OECD, 1999b). Although the size of OECD governments vary, most have large building and vehicle stocks,
manage vast land areas and are major consumers of goods and services. In all OECD countries, the government is
the single largest consumer. Government final consumption is extremely diverse: it involves both standard items
– from pencils to vehicles – and major capital equipment and infrastructure – from electricity generators and power
plants to asphalt for roads and defence equipment. Up to 75% of government expenses are for consumable goods
and services (OECD, 1997). The volume and nature of government spending makes the public sector a critical actor
in reducing the environmental impacts from consumption patterns.
5.3. Environmental implications of consumption patterns
OECD countries have made important progress in a number of areas to reduce the environmental impacts
related to consumption patterns. These include increased efficiency in the energy and materials used for consumer
products, a wider diffusion of pollution prevention and cleaner production strategies, and waste minimisation. New
markets have emerged for environmentally preferable products. Governments have reduced the environmental
impacts from their day-to-day operations through better environmental management and green purchasing. Also,
a larger number of local government and community initiatives now focus on changing consumer behaviour than
a decade ago.
However, environmental pressures from consumption continue to grow due to scale pressures from the persistent increase in the volume of goods and services consumed and discarded, and the structure of consumer
demand in key areas (e.g. the preference for heavier, more powerful vehicles that are less fuel-efficient). Added to
the natural resource pressures to meet the demand for more and larger housing, more roads, shops and tourism destinations, is the pollution associated with increasing energy consumption for space conditioning, water heaters,
food storage and travel, and the waste generated from the disposal of both consumer durables (automobiles, household appliances, office and home computers) and disposable products and packaging (see Chapter 16).
Since many environmentally significant consumption
patterns are closely tied to rising per capita incomes and
Growing environmental pressures
accompanying lifestyle changes, there is reason to believe
from consumption include
that environmental pressures from consumption will
increased use of natural resources,
increase to 2020. Two key developments will determine
pollution associated with
future environmental pressures from consumption. The
increased energy and transport
first will be whether the demand for certain goods and seruse, and waste generation.
vices will stabilise (saturate), and at what levels. For example, some analysts expect a slowing (but still increasing)
demand for household energy consumption as many OECD countries reach 100% ownership rates for major household electrical appliances. However, there remains significant demand potential for a myriad of small electrical
appliances, air conditioners, personal computers and Internet accessories. Also, earlier estimates of car ownership
per household have been overtaken by the observation that households, in at least some OECD countries, now purchase and use a diversified set of vehicles for different mobility needs (commuting to work or school, carpooling,
shopping, recreation). Current trends and projections to 2020 suggest little saturation in the next twenty years for
personal mobility, either for local use or long-distance transport for tourism.
The second key development will be the structure of technology and product options in the consumer market.
The characteristics of future products and technologies can either increase or reduce environmental pressures.
Although more attention is being given to environmental implications in the design and use of many products, historical trends have demonstrated that product and technological innovations to date have not been sufficient to
redress environmental impacts related to consumption patterns in many areas.
© OECD 2001
5.4. Policy issues
Early environmental policy in OECD countries
focused on pollution prevention and control in the proThe environmental effects of
ductive sector (see Chapter 1 and 24). More recent
current consumption patterns
policies seek to promote eco-efficiency, closed-loop proremain a peripheral issue in
duction and lifecycle environmental management. In
most OECD countries, treated
view of persistent environmental and natural resource
in an ad-hoc fashion.
pressures, however, OECD governments increasingly see
the need to address the impacts from public sector and private household consumption patterns. To date, economic and regulatory measures, and information and education schemes, have brought about limited changes in behaviour. Several OECD governments have also taken
important steps to reduce the environmental impacts from their consumption patterns, including in day-to-day
government operations (energy and water consumption, reduction of toxic chemicals, transport policy, green
purchasing). Some governments are also mandating or facilitating the establishment of environmental management systems in government agencies and facilities. For the majority, however, such initiatives are very recent
and not co-ordinated across government agencies. Similarly, the environmental effects of current consumption
patterns in general remain a peripheral issue in OECD countries, treated in an ad-hoc fashion. The share of consumers that are willing and equipped to reduce the environmental impacts of their consumption patterns is much
lower than necessary to make headway on key environmental problems such as climate change, habitat loss,
waste generation and air and water pollution.
Given new and better understanding of the factors that influence consumption patterns, OECD governments will need to embrace a broader strategy to promote less resource- and pollution-intensive lifestyles that
fulfil consumer needs at lowest environmental costs. Such a strategy would include drawing clear links between
environmental quality objectives and consumption patterns, providing strong signals where the market fails to
do so (e.g. via the price mechanism to more fully incorporate external environmental costs), technology and
product innovation and infrastructure investment that reflect the environmental costs of products and services,
and stimulating public awareness and action.
Governments will face a number of challenges in each of these areas. Demonstrating more clearly which
consumption patterns are significant for environmental quality will be central to more effective policy development and implementation. An important step in this direction is improving environmental impact data and indicators related to consumption, not only to provide a static view of past and current consumption patterns but also
to highlight trends and dynamic changes in consumption patterns over time. Indicators of both relative and absolute trends in consumption (i.e. consumption per unit of GDP or per capita and absolute consumption) will be
needed. The link between the two categories of consumption is not linear, as rebound effects (e.g. increased use
of appliances when running costs are reduced by increased energy efficiency) can reduce progress made on a
per unit basis.
A second important challenge will be to promote innovation in technology and product design related to
consumer products and behaviour. The continuing shift in OECD economies towards greater reliance on services
offers significant potential for creating less environmentally intensive consumption options through new consumer goods and services (personal “mobility packages”; leased carpets; re-used water plumbing). Nevertheless,
some market analysts have noted that most product innovation to date has gone little beyond marginal tinkering
on relatively static product conceptions. They point to a tremendous potential for applying principles of design
for the environment and for finding new ways to satisfy consumer needs at lower environmental costs. Not all
consumer products can or need to give priority to environmental considerations. Resources should be targeted
to those areas where lifecycle analysis identifies material flows or pollution from consumption, use or disposal
patterns which have significant implications for the environment.
© OECD 2001
The third and perhaps most difficult challenge in the
next twenty years will be further stimulating public
Consumers in OECD countries
awareness and action. In essence this means helping conare concerned about environsumers to go beyond current efforts to recycle their waste
mental quality, but
or make select environmentally preferable purchases and
their concern has often not
to recognise the broader connections between their lifebeen translated into
styles and associated pressures on the environment and
behavioural changes.
natural resources. Nearly every government, NGO, or private sector strategy for addressing current environmental
problems calls for a better informed and active public. However, providing information and stimulating action may
be hampered by a number of opposing factors. Public interest in the environment has been cyclical in the past, and
appears low as we enter the 21st century, despite an apparent rise in general concern for the state of the environment
across OECD countries. This decreasing interest is undoubtedly linked to consumer reactions to the growing volume and complexity of information on the environment, both in the market (eco-labels, green marketing) and in
the media, and their scepticism vis-à-vis the credibility of most information sources. In 1999, for instance, Europeans reported having little confidence in the majority of sources of information on the environment and reported
levels of confidence lower than in 1995 for nearly all sources of environmental information. They showed little
inclination to become better informed (EC, 1999). Governments will need to resolve this information dilemma. In
doing so, they must address the consumer’s view of both the personal relevance and urgency of environmental
problems, and the importance of individual contributions in addressing those problems. Innovative ways to call on
the consumer as a citizen in decisions regarding product development in the private sector, and technology research
and development and investment decision-making in the public sector, will be important.
EC (European Commission) (1999), Environnement ? Ce que les Européens en pensent, Sondage Eurobaromètre, EC,
EEA (European Environment Agency) (1999), Environment in the EU at the Turn of the Century, EEA, Copenhagen.
Geyer-Allely, E. and H.S. Cheong (2001), “Consumption Patterns”, Background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997), Greener Public Purchasing: Issues and Practical Solutions, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998), The Future of Food: Long-term Prospects for the Agro-food Sector, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), OECD Communications Outlook: 1999 Edition, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), “Towards More Sustainable Household Consumption Patterns: Indicators to Measure Progress”,
OECD (2000a), National Accounts of OECD Countries Volume 1 1988/1998: Main Aggregates, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000b), National Accounts of OECD Countries Volume 2 1988/1998: Detailed Tables, OECD Paris.
OECD (2001), Information and Consumer Decision-Making for Sustainable Consumption, OECD, Paris.
UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) (1998), Human Development Report 1998, Oxford University Press,
New York.
WRI (World Resources Institute) (1997), Resource Flows: The Material Basis of Industrial Economies, WRI, Washington DC.
© OECD 2001
Technological Change
• Over the past decades, scientific advances and technological development have brought about major changes in
society, and these are expected to continue to be significant in meeting the needs of future generations.
• Although the environmental implications of technological change can be either positive or negative, it is generally
recognised that technological change has a crucial role in de-coupling environmental degradation from economic
• In order to induce an environmentally sustainable technological trajectory, government policies should provide
adequate incentives for firms to invest in environmental research and development and to adopt environmentally
beneficial technologies in products and processes.
• While the role of government policies in technological development is vital, radical and continuous technological
change can only be achieved by the co-ordination of environmental policy and technological or innovation policy,
exploiting their complementarity.
6.1. Introduction
Technological change, which involves both changes in the means by which products are produced and
changes in the characteristics of the products themselves, has brought about major changes in society throughout
history. The Industrial Revolution and the technological changes it brought, such as internal-combustion engines,
electricity, and electronics, have changed the economic system as well as life-styles in modern society. However,
recently the pace of this change seems to have become much faster. Technologies such as computers, the Internet,
and modern pharmaceuticals have transformed the way we live, work, shop and communicate. Globalisation of the
world economy, which is leading to more rapid technological change, has transformed national economies, both in
developed and developing countries. These impacts are projected to be even greater in the 21st century. New developments in several critical areas, such as information and communication technology, biotechnology, and energy
technology will bring further changes to OECD countries as well as to the global economy.
The environmental impacts of social and economic activities are greatly affected by the rate and direction of
technological change. This linkage occurs because new technologies may either create or mitigate pollution, and
either reduce or increase the use of scarce natural resources. In the past, technological changes were often viewed
as being the source of environmental degradation, while recently they have been generally recognised as being one
of the major means by which “de-coupling” of environmental degradation from economic growth could be
attained. In fact, technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, technological development has provided
crucial means to address environmental issues through the use and diffusion of cleaner technologies, and shifting
the structure of the economy towards becoming less environmentally damaging. On the other hand, technological
changes can aggravate environmental pressures. In some cases, “better-performing” technologies, such as supersonic aircraft and intensive farming, cause adverse environmental impacts. As discussed further in Chapter 23,
increases in aggregate economic activities associated with technological change can result in a deterioration of
environmental quality, even as the pollution intensity and resource use intensity of the economy falls. As technological change together with the accumulation of physical and human capital increasingly drives economic development, ensuring that new technologies contribute to environmental sustainability will be crucial in the future.
© OECD 2001
6.2. Drivers of technological change
A number of factors drive technological development, including research, development and the diffusion of
new technologies. The scientific community – universities and public research institutes – generates a massive flow
of scientific discoveries. At the same time, the direct exploitation of scientific research by business has increased,
partly through the growth of new science-based sectors, such as biotechnology, and also through changes in the
innovation process and the greater availability of research results.
In the innovation process, the private sector is an important driver, currently funding more than 60% of total
spending on research and development (R&D) in most OECD countries. While government-funded R&D as a percentage of GDP fell across most of the OECD countries during the 1990s, the relative proportion of privatelyfunded R&D, which stagnated in the early 1990s, picked up over the 1995-1997 period (OECD, 1999a).
For the private sector, R&D investment decisions are governed by the cost of R&D and its expected return.
However, R&D investment entails greater uncertainty and intangible outcomes than other investments. Unlike
other forms of physical investments, the distribution of expected returns from R&D investment varies greatly and
the value of the assets acquired from R&D investment combine very low probabilities of success with potentially
very high profits for those which succeed. In addition, R&D investment differs from physical investment in that
assets produced by the research process, such as new skills and knowledge about how to make and do things, can
be copied and used by others quite easily. As such, there are important R&D “spillover” benefits for others in the
economy (Jaffe et al., 2000).
Recently, increasing competitive pressures in the private sector have encouraged firms to try to reduce uncertainty in research and development, and internalise some of the “spillovers” directly. Firms are integrating their
R&D efforts more closely with their business strategies. The desire to reduce product development time and costs,
and to achieve positive results more rapidly, is driving this trend. At the same time, the business sector is increasingly relying on co-operation with universities and public laboratories to keep abreast of fundamental research.
Synergies may not only exist between the private and the public spheres, but also between different agents in the
private sphere. While much of this is undertaken autonomously by firms, many OECD governments are promoting
“technology clusters”, private-private partnerships, and other mechanisms whereby different firms are encouraged
to collaborate in developing new technologies.
The long gestation period required for many R&D investments, along with the accompanying high costs and
uncertainty involved, plus the difficulty most firms face in generating sufficient financial returns from basic science, mean that governments will need to continue to support long-term research. However, governments can also
play an important role indirectly. Patents and other forms of intellectual property rights can be used to provide
incentives for firms to invest in research through market rewards. In fact, the existence of effective intellectual
property rights (IPRs) regimes is one of the preconditions for a successful national policy on technological innovation. Protecting IPRs is important to researchers since it protects their new ideas and products, and acts as an
incentive for them to continue doing research. Nonetheless, there are trade-offs. When determining the level of protection, governments have to balance the benefits of new invention and innovation, with the costs in terms of
reduced technology diffusion during the life of the patent.
In addition to ensuring that firms are able to appropriate the benefits from R&D through IPRs, governments
can influence other important variables such as the after-tax costs of R&D, the size of the market, and technology
opportunities (Jaffe et al., 2000). The after-tax cost of R&D can be changed via tax incentives, direct subsides,
grants for research, and accelerated depreciation schedules. Fiscal incentives can also be used to further encourage
the take-up of new technologies since industries generally bring new technologies into play only when existing
capital equipment is replaced.
Demand for new technology is one of the most powerful drivers for technological change since it is often not
a lack of research, but a lack of demand, that limits technological development. A technology pull from consumers
and markets for good quality products and for the protection of the environment can drive firms to be more innovative. Growing public awareness of environmental quality has increased the demand for environmentally friendly
goods and services, as well as for new environmental technologies. In OECD countries, however, R&D related to
© OECD 2001
the environment continues to represent only a small share of public research portfolios: about 2% of R&D budgets
for research are directly devoted to the environment, and an estimated 5% when environment-related research in
other areas is included (such as energy, agriculture, and atmosphere). Public policy also has a role to play on the
demand side, through environmental regulations. Furthermore, governments can affect the market for new technologies via direct government purchase, as well as through subsides for the installation of capital equipment incorporating particular technologies (Stoneman, 1987).
In addition to supporting research and development programmes, government support for the diffusion of
technology and dissemination of information on technologies is essential for promoting the enhanced use of new
technologies by a greater number of enterprises. This is particularly important for small and medium-sized firms
that do not have the resources to collect and process relevant technological information. At the microeconomic
level, the institutional environment of employment relations, and antitrust or other competition policies, also affect
the incentives and capability of firms to develop and adopt newer technologies. At the broad macroeconomic level,
governments can support R&D and technology adoption by ensuring stable macroeconomic policies and wellfunctioning financial, labour and goods markets.
Recent trends of economic globalisation are influencing the pace and direction of technological change. Countries that are now exposed to intensified global competition are taking advantage of their increasing technological
specialisation. On the one hand, globalisation is making the innovation systems of different countries more and
more interdependent, and knowledge, technology and people are moving across borders more freely. This affects
scientific research as well as technology strategies in the business sector. On the other hand, certain technological
developments, especially information and communication technologies and transportation technologies, are
directly promoting globalisation (see Chapter 3).
6.3. Technological change: trends and outlook to 2020
In the recent past, technological change has occurred at a rapid pace, owing to the strong performance of the
scientific community in OECD countries and the increasing efficiency of enterprises in turning research results into
successful products. A range of indicators show that OECD economies are shifting toward a knowledge-based
economy, and technologies are becoming more crucial to economic development. Investment in information and
communication technologies (ICTs), one of the key sectors in the knowledge-based economy, grew twice as fast
as GDP between 1987 and 1995, and represented 4% of GDP in OECD countries in 1997 (OECD, 1997
and 2000a). Investments in intangible assets, such as education, R&D, software, and training, are also increasing.
Scientific outputs continue to rise across OECD regions and patent data show a surge of innovation in all OECD
countries and across many technology fields. New technologies are being introduced and product life cycles continue to decrease in many industries. New structures and networks are emerging to produce, disseminate and manage knowledge and information. The development of the so-called “new economy” will continue to push
technological change forward in OECD countries for years to come.
Consequently, the structure of the OECD economies has changed significantly. The share of the manufacturing sector in their GDP continues to decline. Although high-technology manufacturing (e.g. aerospace, computers,
electronics, pharmaceuticals) has been able to maintain its share in the economy, medium-technology
(e.g. chemicals, energy production) and low-technology (e.g. food products, textiles, paper and wood products)
manufacturing have declined significantly in recent years (OECD, 1998). The service sector, which was traditionally regarded as being less dynamic with little innovation and productivity growth, has recently grown rapidly. Several services are innovative and new service jobs increasingly require skilled personnel. ICTs are enabling
productivity improvements in many sectors, including transport, communications, wholesale and retail trade, and
finance and business services. Between 1985 and 1997, around two-thirds of GDP growth in the business sector of
OECD countries resulted from growth in the service sector (OECD, 2000a).
While technological change is an important driver of economic growth and environmental change, projecting
future technological change is difficult. Governments and private institutions have undertaken a range of studies,
including technology foresight activities. These examine the longer-term future trends of science, technology, the
© OECD 2001
economy, and society, with a view to identifying the emerging technologies that are likely to yield the greatest
economic and/or social benefits. They suggest that a limited number of technologies will contribute to future
socio-economic development. Areas such as ICT, particularly high-density components and new types of software and health and life science technologies, including genomics and combinatorial chemistry, are expected to
be important technological developments. Equally, genetics, energy physics, space research, and superconductivity are expected to continue generating a significant stream of scientific discoveries (OECD, 1998). Among
technologies which are more directly environmentally-significant, the OECD projects that advanced sensors,
biotechnology, clean car technology, product recycling, smart water treatment, smart waste treatment, cleaner
industrial processes and micro-manufacturing, renewables and new energy technologies, and photovoltaics will
experience significant technological development in the near future (OECD, 1999b).
While these technological changes will continue to
have a major impact on the structure of OECD economies,
The environmental goods
this will vary from country to country. Broadly speaking,
and services market is
the OECD has identified four industrial sectors that may
projected to grow rapidly
experience particularly significant technological changes
in the future, although it is
(OECD, 1998). The ICT market is projected to produce
currently still small.
many new technological advances in the future and remain
a very dynamic part of the economy. The health-care sector
is also projected to continue exhibiting rapid growth over the coming years. The ageing of OECD populations and
greater health awareness, stimulated by income growth, are increasing the demand for health services
(see Chapter 2). Furthermore, advances in biotechnology and other health-related technologies are expected to create a range of new health-related products (see Chapter 21). The environmental goods and services market, which
is still relatively small, is also projected to grow rapidly. With increasing environmental awareness in many OECD
countries, demand for environmental goods and services, including those related to the energy market, are likely
to increase continuously. The environmental industry now links several economic sectors, including parts of agriculture, manufacturing, energy, construction, transport, and certain services. Specialised business-sector services
are a fourth market that is likely to see continuing rapid growth. This market covers sectors such as management
consulting and auditing. The growth of business services and the outsourcing of services are one sign of an increasing interaction between manufacturing products that are more and more dependent upon associated services, making services the main users of advanced technologies.
6.4. Environmental effects of technological change
Technological change affects the environment in various ways. The effects include: structural adjustment
within the economy (structural effects); efficiency gains in the use of resources and the reduction of pollution emissions by unit of production (efficiency effects); and increasing information and improving awareness of the complex impacts of technological change on the environment (information effects).
Technological developments have been an important driver of structural change within economies. Emerging
demand for new technologies may increase the role of the sectors that produce these technologies. As mentioned
before, the structure of OECD economies is continuing to shift towards services and knowledge-based industries
with a declining share of manufacturing sectors. In addition, productivity continues to increase, enabling cost and
price reductions in several parts of the economy (OECD, 1998). These structural changes have environmental
implications. A positive trend in the structure of OECD economies is their continuing improvement in productivity
by shifting towards high-quality goods and services with greater value-added and more flexible responses to changing demands. The development of many service sectors, including information processing, transport, communications, wholesale and retail trade, and finance and business services, provides the potential to continue economic
development without excessive damage to the environment through better performance of the economy in general.
However, adequate environmental incentives, such as the correct pricing of natural resources and the internalisation of external environmental costs, continue to be important (see Chapter 23).
© OECD 2001
Technological change can result in improvements in the environmental performance of products, processes
and activities due to efficiency gains. Considerable saving and substitution in energy consumption and the use of
materials (e.g. a reduction in energy consumption/material input per unit of output), as well as a substantial reduction in emissions and waste generation, can be achieved by optimising technological systems. Dematerialisation or
a reduction in the input of scarce materials (e.g. metals, groundwater and wood) per unit of output can also be
expected from improved industrial production systems and technological changes. Even larger efficiency improvements can be realised either by radically changing the design of contemporary technological systems or by developing new systems to take over the functions of an existing system. While the improvement of resource use
efficiency driven by technological development is beneficial to the environment, efficiency savings can at the same
time promote consumption, stimulate additional demand for leisure travel, and generate products with short lives
such as junk mail. In fact, the aggregate consumption of natural resources in OECD regions has kept on increasing
in spite of the continuous decrease in resource use intensity in recent decades. Thus, the volume effects of total
economic growth have outweighed the efficiency improvements achieved (see Chapter 23).
Technological development has broadened the understanding of the relationship between pollution and its
impacts on human health and the environment. New technologies help to identify emerging environmental problems and ultimately to provide solutions. They have also contributed to the formulation of environmental policies.
Technological development can increase the understanding of the highly interrelated, systemic character of the
environment and has become a driving force for an institutional transition to integrated permitting approaches.
Advanced control equipment, sensors, satellites and other sophisticated ICT systems could contribute to reducing
resource inputs. Furthermore, the growing awareness of environmental quality makes information effects more
important. Providing environmental information on products to consumers and encouraging them to act on the
basis of informed decisions is necessary for changing consumption patterns (see Chapter 5).
Development in information and communication technology is a good example of the significant environmental effects of technological change. Expected structural effects are both positive and negative. Positive effects come
from the fact that ICT and related services are enabling efficient use of energy and resource inputs in many manufacturing and service sectors through improving information processes, extensive networking, and co-operation
among firms (Romm, 1999). However, the potentially negative impacts include greater consumption of electricity
and paper for ICT devices and increasing waste generation from the short lifecycle of computers and consumer
goods in society in general. The efficiency effects are projected to be positive and will occur in the form of
improved management of environment-related material inputs in firms. The information effects are also projected
to be positive, since they can help organisations monitor different aspects of their environmental performance at
reduced cost. Advances in information technologies can improve the way information is treated, stored, and diffused. They can increase the concerns and awareness about the environment through improving the way the public
accesses and analyses environmental information. In order to assess the aggregate environmental impacts from
ICT, more integrated investigation is required.
The environmental impacts of technological change can be more easily understood by examining individual
technologies. Table 6.1 shows the economic and environmental impacts of current and potential future technological change in selected environmentally-sensitive sectors. Most new technologies are generally positive in terms of
economic implications. However, their environmental impacts are diverse: they can be positive, negative, and
sometimes ambiguous. For example, the electric arc furnace, which is used in steel production, shows generally
positive environmental effects (see Chapter 17). It reduces energy and raw material consumption, as well as air
emission, in production. In addition, it increases the recycling potential of steel scraps. Some of the technological
developments in fishing, such as sonar radar and global positioning system (GPS), may entail negative environmental impacts (see Chapter 9). They are generally geared towards improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness
of fishing activities or fish processing. These technologies increase the share of living marine resources that are
potentially harvestable, and have contributed to the overfishing of many fish stocks. The development of new and
efficient drilling techniques for fossil fuels clearly enlarges the stocks of economically accessible fuels (see
Chapter 12). However, these techniques encourage continued reliance on fossil fuels, with associated air pollution
© OECD 2001
Table 6.1. Economic implications and environmental effects for selected technologies
Economic implications
Environmental effects
Pesticides and fertilisers
Agricultural productivity
Pollution of ground and surface
Modern biotechnology
(use of GM crops)
Improved crop productivity
Potential adverse health and
ecosystem impacts;
Potential for limiting adverse
impacts from pesticides and
other chemicals
Fresh water
Reduced water expenditures;
High equipment installation
Decrease in water intensity;
Increase in energy intensity
Tertiary wastewater treatment
Increased infrastructure
Reduced costs of pollution
clean-up downstream
Reduced water pollution
Computer-aided fishing
(e.g. GPS, sonar radar)
More efficient fish harvesting
Decreased fish stocks;
Better tree breeding techniques
and use of biotechnology
Faster tree growth;
More desirable tree
Increased forest area;
Increased carbon sinks;
Monoculture forests
New drilling techniques for
fossil fuels
Enlarged stocks of economically
accessible fuels
Reduced opportunity of being
used by future generations;
Continued fossil fuel reliance
Hybrid, electric and fuel cell
Fossil fuel saving
Reduced air emissions
Electric arc furnaces
Reduced energy and raw material
Increased recycling of scrap steel;
Reduced air emissions
Pulp and paper
Totally chlorine free (TCF)
High capital investment;
Improved paper quality
Reduced pollutant emissions
(e.g. dioxins and BOD loading);
Reduced energy consumption
In some cases, the environmental impacts of technological change are ambiguous. Modern biotechnology has
Potential biotechnology advances
been increasingly applied to crop plant breeding. The comin agriculture have raised
bination of rising population and decreasing productivity
social, economic, and political
growth rates have led many observers to emphasise the
questions related to their potential
long-term need for the use of modern biotechnology in
health and environmental impacts.
agricultural production. While such biotechnological
advances are promising, they have raised major social, economic, and political questions related to their potential adverse health and environmental impacts. Many of these
questions remain unresolved. When these new technologies are brought to the market, provisions to ensure that
they are safe for both human health and the environment need to be introduced at the same time.
Again, it is not easy to project the precise nature of the environmental effects of new technologies. However,
technological changes are expected to play a crucial role in meeting the needs of current and future generations,
and in de-coupling environmental degradation from economic growth. Improved efficiency in the use of resources,
as well as increased knowledge of the environmental impacts of human activities, will probably bring positive
impacts. When the efficiency gains of technological change are linked with structural adjustment, society can
achieve even greater efficiency improvements.
© OECD 2001
6.5. Policy issues
Since policies that encourage general technological change can be positive, negative or neutral with respect
to their environmental effects, it is important to design and implement policies that provide long-term incentives
for the development and diffusion of technologies which are less environmentally damaging. Governments must
improve framework conditions so as to provide the right incentives and price signals to firms, and influence consumer awareness and behaviour with respect to environmental concerns. Improving these signals involves making
sure that existing prices better reflect the full marginal costs and benefits to society of different technical
approaches. This will include removing government subsidies, changing relative tax rates and reforming other
inappropriate public policy interventions. Thus, government subsidies (e.g. to energy) may stimulate overuse of
inputs or over-production of certain fuels, locking-in prevailing and often inefficient technologies. In addition to
getting the prices right, government policies in the areas of environment and innovation could be better integrated
to stimulate the development of clean technologies and more integrated approaches to pollution prevention
(OECD, 2000b).
Traditionally, environmental policies in most OECD countries have relied on rather direct forms of regulation,
such as emission standards, technology specifications and product bans. These regulations have been effective in
many cases. Assuming that the specifications remain constant through time, they provide firms with “insurance”
against the risk of undertaking inappropriate investments. Furthermore, they create direct pressure on firms to meet
the required environmental regulations and technology specifications. However, concerns have grown over the
innovation-stifling effect of technology specifications and the economic inefficiency of rigid application of environmental regulations. In recent decades, environmental regulation has evolved in three distinct directions, which
have all played a role in encouraging more innovation. First, the use of “adaptive” technology specifications, such
as best available technology (BAT) and BAT not entailing excessive costs (BATNEEC), has helped to encourage
innovation and diffusion of more efficient technologies by giving firms greater incentives to develop and invest in
environmentally-beneficial technologies (OECD, 1999c). Second, the shift toward flexible performance-based
standards has strengthened these incentives since they are neutral with respect to the type of technology that is
adopted by firms. And finally, economic instruments such as pollution charges and tradable permits have further
stimulated environmentally-beneficial technological change since innovators and adopters are given strong and
continuous incentives to develop and invest in the most efficient and effective technologies. Indeed, the experience
with economic instruments in the past decades illustrates in particular the importance of appropriate pricing of negative environmental impacts in enhancing environmental sustainability.
In addition to choosing appropriate instruments, general principles that guide environmental policy design
will be required to improve the long-term effects of technological change. For instance, the degree of predictability
of a particular policy measure may be more important than the nature of the instrument itself. In sectors which are
capital-intensive and in which technologies are long-lived, policy unpredictability can be a significant barrier to
technological change. Thus, it is important that regulatory authorities give clear and unambiguous signals. The
scheduling of policy changes can also be important for technological change. On the one hand, if forewarning is
provided, firms can schedule investments in cleaner technologies in line with capital turnover, reducing costs. On
the other hand, this may also result in increased environmental gains since firms will be better able to change their
production processes fundamentally rather than through more limited measures, such as add-on equipment.
Policy measures also need to be complementary. The practice of targeting discrete environmental problems in
a sequential manner has often led to excessive costs and may even misdirect the path of technological development.
Once a particular trajectory has been adopted to address one particular environmental problem, opportunities for
synergies may be lost, and in some cases the costs of meeting subsequent environmental objectives may even rise.
For instance, in the electricity supply industry, the sequential and separate introduction of policies to address
sulphur dioxide emissions and carbon dioxide emissions has led to very costly investments, which can even have
perverse secondary environmental consequences.
In this context, it is also important that environmental policy and technological/innovation policy be coordinated, particularly since responsibility for the two sets of policy measures often rest in different ministries. The
current trends of incorporating environmental objectives in technology policies, such as public and private partner© OECD 2001
ship and the use of foresight studies, show the potential in this field. Finding efficient and effective ways of realising synergies between the need to internalise negative externalities associated with the environment, and the need
to internalise positive externalities associated with research, development and diffusion, is one of the biggest tasks
facing OECD governments today.
The global nature of environmental pressures requires further international technology co-operation. Environmental performance at a global level will depend heavily upon the application of clean technologies in non-OECD
as well as OECD countries. That is partly because pollution emissions in non-OECD regions is likely to increase
more rapidly than in OECD regions, and partly because the capacity of these countries to take advantage of cleaner
technology options is limited. As indicated in the Reference Scenario (see Chapters 2 and 3), most of the global
population growth and much of economic growth over the next two decades are expected to take place in nonOECD regions. As a result, their share of global pollution emissions, such as carbon dioxide and municipal waste
generation, are likely to increase continuously. However, international science and technology co-operation to
encourage the development and diffusion of environmental technologies faces many barriers. Restrictions remain
on foreign participation in government-funded R&D and technology programmes, and differences in IPR regimes
also continue to limit technology diffusion and co-operation among countries. As a result, it has become crucial to
assess current international science and technology co-operation programmes from the perspective of developing
countries’ needs. While developing countries must take an active role, developed countries can assist in vital areas
like capacity building and the formulation of policy frameworks conducive to increasing demand for cleaner technologies. In this context, integrated approaches such as promoting public/private partnerships, need to be further
explored (OECD, forthcoming 2001).
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OECD (2000a), Science, Technology and Industry Outlook: 2000 Edition, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000b), Special Issue on Sustainable Development, STI Review No. 25, OECD, Paris.
OECD (forthcoming 2001), OECD Analytical Report on Sustainable Development; OECD, Paris.
Romm, J. (1999), “The Internet Economy and Global Warming: A Scenario of the Impact of E-Commerce on Energy
and the Environment”, The Centre for Energy and Climate Solutions, www.cool-companies.org/ecom/index.cfm.
Stoneman, P. (1987), The Economic Analysis of Technology Policy, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
© OECD 2001
Section III
This section examines selected primary sectors and renewable natural resources.
The sectoral chapters (agriculture, fisheries and forestry) present the trends and
projections for the overall developments in the sector, with an analysis of how
these developments might impact on the environment. The natural resource
issues chapters (freshwater and biodiversity) examine the pressures on the
resources and present an analysis of recent trends and future projections in the
state of the resource. All the chapters conclude with an indication of the policy
options available for addressing the problems identified.
• Agriculture represents a declining share of GDP in OECD economies although agricultural production is continuing to expand. Increased demand for food is expected both worldwide and in OECD countries to 2020.
• Future increases in agricultural yields and production efficiency are likely to be slower than in the past, although
greater use of biotechnologies could contribute to yield increases.
• Agriculture can have both positive and negative effects on the environment, depending on how and where it is
practised. Potential positive effects include land conservation, flood prevention, landscape amenities, and carbon
sequestration. Potential negative effects include degradation of soil, biodiversity habitats, and water and air
quality, as well as the release of greenhouse gases.
• Consumer concerns about health and environmental effects of agricultural production are likely to play an important role in determining production activities, including the spread of organic agriculture and the future use of
biotechnologies (e.g. genetically modified organisms).
• The most promising policy options for reducing the negative environmental effects of agriculture include reforming environmentally harmful subsidies to agriculture; increasing use of regulations and charges for chemical and
nutrient use; and disseminating information about the use of environmentally friendly technologies and farm management practices.
7.1. Introduction
Food is essential for human life. Food production, however, has complex links with the environment, and can
either reinforce or degrade the ecological conditions upon which it is based. Thus, depending on how and where
agriculture is practised, it can help prevent or contribute to flooding, provide attractive or unattractive landscape,
filter or buffer rainwater or add contaminants to it as it passes through or across the soil, provide wildlife habitats
or destroy them, sequester carbon or release it and other greenhouse gases to the air. The environmental impacts of
different food production systems are site specific, and their importance varies between and within countries.
As the nature of the food production industry changes, and demand for certain agricultural products increases,
the environmental impacts are also undergoing major changes. For example, the intensification of agricultural production has been driving greater energy intensity, greater risk in the use of agrochemicals, and accelerated land conversion in many areas. Persisting high levels of agricultural support and government trade policies continue to
distort the relative prices of agricultural inputs and outputs. On the other hand, more recent regulations and pricing
incentives in some OECD countries have led to less use of water, fertilisers and pesticides per unit of production,
as well as encouraged the adoption of agricultural measures to protect soil, habitat and landscape values.
7.2. Developments in the agriculture sector
The scale and structure of agricultural activity are driven by a number of often inter-related factors. While all
humans require a subsistence level of food, the main factors influencing the types of food demanded and any
© OECD 2001
additional demand above subsistence level are linked to demographic factors, socio-cultural influences, consumer
incomes, and product prices. On the food production side, the main factors driving changes are technological developments, government policies in agriculture, environment and trade, agro-food industry dynamics, consumer preferences and trade liberalisation.
Demand for agricultural products
Agricultural products are primarily used for direct human consumption, but as much as 36% of world cereal
demand (670 million tonnes) is used for animal feed. The amount of food available worldwide for direct human
consumption (after accounting for non-food uses and losses) has risen dramatically over the last 20 years – by
over 10% from 1980 to 1998 – and it is expected to increase by a further 10% to 2020, reaching 3 000 kcal/
person/day on average by 2020 under the Reference Scenario (Table 7.1). Already, average per capita availability is well above human requirements, but undernourishment continues to be a problem, affecting as much as
18% of the population of developing countries, or about 800 million people (FAO, 1999). As populations continue to increase (though more slowly) worldwide over the next two decades, and efforts are directed towards
further reducing undernourishment, overall demand for agriculture will continue to grow globally. As populations in OECD regions are stabilising, the expected increases in agricultural demand over the next two decades
will be slower there than in non-OECD regions; nevertheless, some continued increases in per capita food consumption are expected even within OECD regions.
Table 7.1.
Key agricultural sector statistics and projections
(or latest available
Total change
Gross production (1995 US$ billion)
1 022
1 902
1 429
3 689
Share of value added in the economy (%)
Direct and indirect employment (million persons)
1 069
1 302
Per capita food consumption (Kcal/capita/day)
3 138
2 525
3 397
2 781
3 500
3 000
Sources: Alexandratos (2001), GTAP database, and Reference Scenario.
Recent increases in per capita food consumption have been accompanied by significant changes in diet.
Cereals continue to be the dominant source of calories, providing on average 52% of world calorie intake. In recent
years, however, there have been significant increases in the shares of total calories coming from livestock products
(meat, milk, eggs) and vegetable oils, and reductions in those from roots, tubers and other products (see Chapter 16).
This trend is expected to continue over the next two decades, with changes in diet most pronounced in developing
Food consumption patterns in OECD countries have also
changed as consumer awareness of food quality and safety issues
has grown (see Box 7.1). Largely in response to health and environmental concerns, organic agriculture is growing in importance
in many OECD countries. Although organic agriculture has been
experiencing growth rates in excess of 20% per annum in a number of countries in recent years, it still occupies less than 2% of
total agricultural area in most OECD countries (OECD, 2000).
Although environmentally
friendly agricultural systems
still represent a small share of
total agricultural production
systems, they are increasingly
used in OECD countries.
© OECD 2001
Box 7.1.
Agriculture and food safety concerns
Consumer awareness of food quality and safety issues has broadened recently in some countries, and now includes
concerns about agricultural production processes, animal welfare and the environmental effects of agricultural production. Food safety crises, such as those involving salmonella in eggs and dioxins in poultry in several countries,
adulterated cooking oil in Spain, E. coli in beef in the US, and listeria outbreaks in soft cheeses, as well as the highly
profiled case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or “mad cow disease”, have sharpened consumer fears.
The current debate in many countries over genetically modified crops (soya, maize, etc.) is raising questions about
the potential environmental and health effects of these crops. Common to all these issues is concern about the appropriate paths for providing consumer information about agricultural production processes, and the environmental and
health effects of agricultural production.
Agricultural sector production
Worldwide, agricultural production is expected to grow by 94% between 1995 and 2020 in monetary terms,
while in OECD regions it may increase by almost 40% (Table 7.1). The increase in the value of agricultural production in OECD regions will follow in part from changes in the composition of production, with particularly large
increases in production for the highest-value products. Thus, the production of meats (especially poultry meat),
some cereals (e.g. wheat and coarse grains) and vegetable oils and seeds, is particularly expected to increase in
OECD countries in the coming decades (Alexandratos, 2001). Production volumes are expected to increase more
rapidly in non-OECD countries, with particularly significant increases in meat production expected to 2020
(Figure 7.1).
Figure 7.1. Agricultural production, 1995-2020
Regional shares by commodity, 1995
Total % change by commodity, 1995-2020
Other meat
Other meat
Wheat &
coarse grains
Wheat &
coarse grains
Other crops
Other crops
Australia & New Zealand
Central & Eastern Europe
Source: Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
Canada, Mexico & United States
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Over the last twenty years, significant increases in agricultural production in OECD countries have been
achieved. These have largely been realised through the intensification of agricultural production methods that rely
on both technological improvements and efficiency gains in the use of purchased inputs (e.g. animal feeds, land,
water, seeds, pesticides, fertilisers, energy, services) and on greater labour productivity. Recent developments in
technology and farm management systems have resulted in better timing and targeting of input applications
(e.g. through drip irrigation systems), more efficient feeding of livestock, advances in animal husbandry and in
plant breeding, and genetic improvements. Upstream and downstream industries of the agri-food sector have also
experienced significant technological developments, often directed towards maintaining market shares through
product differentiation, or lowering production or delivery costs (see Box 7.2) (OECD, 1995).
Box 7.2.
Structural changes in the agri-food industry
There have been a number of key structural changes in the agri-food industry in recent years. Food producers are
increasingly dependent on upstream and downstream linkages, with a global revitalisation, for instance, of contract
farming, where producers work directly for agri-business corporations (McMichael, 1994). Integration is also occurring between distributing, wholesaling and retailing in some countries. The sector has seen a concentration of market
power at all levels of the agri-food chain (OECD, 1995).
Improved refrigeration, new technologies for processing and packaging foodstuffs, and speedier and better organised delivery systems mean that products now reach supermarket shelves more quickly, and can generally be kept
longer, enabling wider distribution, longer shelf life and usually less risk of contamination. Distribution and retailing
have also undergone significant changes. Increased concentration and competition, and the relative inelasticity of
food demand in OECD countries, have led to an emphasis on non-price factors, such as advertising, value-added
product creation and differentiation, and near-market distribution and retailing, as a way for food manufacturers to
boost profits. Food systems have become increasingly specialised, and niche markets for fresh and processed food
have expanded globally.
Trade in agricultural products
World trade in agricultural products has increased fivefold since 1970. Trade in cereals experienced very rapid
growth, in particular in the 1970s, with gross exports more than doubling. Since then, growth has slowed, with current exports amounting to 225 million tonnes. Growth in cereal consumption in North Africa, the Near East and
transition economies in the 1970s and 1980s was largely fed by imports from the major exporting OECD regions
(North America, Western Europe, and Australia) and from Argentina (Alexandratos, 2001). With the collapse of
the oil boom and the systematic reforms of the transition economies, demand for imports diminished in many European and Middle East countries, but was replaced by increasing demand for imports in South East Asia and Latin
America. World exports of meat have grown from 7% of world meat consumption in the mid-1980s to 10% in the
mid-1990s, with poultry and beef growing more significantly than other meats. Japan and the Russian Federation
are the main importers, while New Zealand and Australia are leading meat exporters. The US has changed from a
net meat importer to a net exporter, and is expected to dominate future exports, especially of poultry meat. For oil
crops, developing countries are the main net exporters, while most OECD countries import.
The behaviour of world food markets has been heavily influenced by the agricultural support policies of major
food-exporting countries, leading to surplus production, stock accumulation, subsidised exports and depressed
world market prices (de Haen et al., 1998). The 1980s saw a rapid expansion of both agricultural subsidies and
agricultural non-tariff barriers in OECD countries. The multilateral trading rules established by the 1994 Uruguay
Agreement on Agriculture (and subsequent amendments), and numerous regional and bilateral trade agreements
concluded in recent years, have been instrumental in starting to re-orient the agriculture sector towards market conditions (see Box 7.3).
© OECD 2001
Box 7.3.
Agricultural subsidies in OECD countries
In 1998, total support to agriculture in OECD countries was estimated at US$362 billion, or 1.4% of GDP (OECD,
1999a). Most of it was in the form of support to producers through artificially high prices for their products (accompanied by trade barriers), or through subsidies to the use of inputs. These types of support – linked to output levels
or the use of particular inputs – are most likely to result in a large proportion of the support accruing to non-target
groups (e.g. primarily large farmers or the input suppliers) and tend to encourage excess production or use of often
environmentally damaging chemical inputs. As much as three-quarters of market price support may leak away from
the intended recipient (the farmer) largely through extra expenditures on inputs (OECD, 1995). Although such measures continue to dominate OECD agricultural support, the share of support which is provided by measures that are
de-coupled from current production or inputs is gradually increasing. In addition to “de-coupling” support from environmentally damaging activities, many countries now tie support directly to compliance with specific environmental
goals (agri-environmental measures).
7.3. Effects of agricultural production on the environment
Agricultural practices can have both positive and negative effects on the environment. While all farming sysAgricultural intensification has
tems, from intensive conventional farming to organic
led to a growing use of energy,
farming, have the potential to be locally sustainable,
water and agrochemicals,
whether in fact they depend on farmers adopting appropriincreased soil erosion, and reduced
ate technology and management practices (OECD, 2001).
habitat provision in OECD
Although existing evidence of the effects on environmental
quality is partial and incomplete, recent trends in agricultural development in OECD countries – particularly the more intensive use and increased risks of agrochemicals,
irrigation, and the use of larger and more powerful farm machinery – appear to have had negative effects on the
environment. They have contributed to the higher energy intensity of agricultural production, pollution of ground
and surface water by pesticides and fertilisers, soil erosion in some regions, and to increased resistance of pests to
chemical control.
Air quality and climate change
Air pollution from the agricultural sector is primarily related to intensive livestock production and the resulting emissions of ammonia from manure. Agriculture is not the main source of acid rain, but air-borne ammonia can
acidify soils many kilometres downwind (see Chapter 15).1 Total nitrogen loading to the environment (air, soil and
water) from livestock production in OECD regions is expected to increase by about 30% between 1995 and 2020,
with particularly large increases in Central & Eastern Europe, and levels in Western Europe actually declining
under the Reference Scenario (see Figure 7.2). Another source of air pollution from agriculture is topsoil blown
off erodable lands. Deposited topsoil can pollute rivers and lakes, damage buildings and machinery, cause respiratory problems and increase cleaning costs.
Agriculture also affects global atmospheric conditions – negatively through the emission of ozone-depleting
substances and greenhouse gases, and positively through the absorption of carbon in agricultural soils
(see Box 7.4). Agricultural production contributes about 39% of methane and 60% of nitrous oxide emissions
released in OECD countries (OECD, 2000). Methane emissions from agriculture are mainly produced by ruminant
animals and the handling of manure, while the main source of nitrous oxide emissions is nitrogen fertilisers.
To 2020, methane emissions from livestock in OECD countries are expected to increase by over 18%, while
1. In fact, acid rain pollution from other sectors has a negative impact on agricultural lands in many regions.
© OECD 2001
emissions from crops increase by roughly 10% under the Reference Scenario. Overall, agriculture-related methane
emissions in OECD regions are expected to increase by almost 9% from current levels, and worldwide by over 22%
to 2020 (Figure 7.2). Excessive fertiliser application and production of livestock manure can lead to the generation
of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O), as well as nitrate pollution of watercourses, contributing to the eutrophication of water bodies (see Chapter 8). As indicated above, nitrogen loading from livestock production in OECD
regions is expected to increase to 2020. However, agriculture is estimated to contribute only 1% of total CO2 emissions in OECD countries, and with further improvements in farm equipment fuel efficiency, OECD agricultural
CO2 emissions are expected to decline by almost 15% to 2020.
Figure 7.2. Changes in environmental effects of the agriculture sector, 1995-2020
Fuel use
Water use
Total CH4 emissions
BOD loading to waterways
Nitrogen loading to waterways
Total % change
Source: Reference Scenario.
Box 7.4.
Agricultural soils as carbon sinks
While agriculture contributes to the emission of some greenhouse gases, mainly nitrous oxide and methane, it can
also contribute to the capture and storage of carbon. Agricultural practices that improve soil quality can also increase
the amount of carbon-rich organic matter in the soil, thus providing a global depository for CO2 drawn from the atmosphere by growing plants. As of yet there are no systematic and agreed measurements of agriculture’s role as a sink
for greenhouse gases, but it has been estimated that it may be possible to sequester 40-80 Pg of carbon in cropland
soils over the next 50-100 years (CAST, 2000). It is clear that soil carbon sequestration may be significant and can
be influenced through the use of particular farm practices. This role may increase in the future in OECD countries,
particularly as most land use changes are from arable land to permanent grassland, forests, and wetland, all of which
imply increased carbon sequestration potential.
Freshwater use and pollution
Agriculture is by far the largest water user, accounting for 69% of global freshwater extractions. In recent
years, significant improvements in the efficiency of irrigation water use have been realised in some countries,
driven by price incentives, infrastructure refurbishment and improved agricultural management techniques. Thus,
© OECD 2001
while total irrigated lands have increased by 16% in OECD countries since 1980, the amount of water used for irrigation has been stabilising, with only a 4% increase since 1980 (compared with worldwide increases of 60%). As
yet, however, the adoption of sustainable irrigation techniques has been limited: drip-irrigation, for example, is
employed in less than 1% of the world’s irrigated areas. As a result, almost half of the water withdrawn for agricultural purposes worldwide is lost through inefficient pipes and irrigation systems before it can be used. Over the
next 20 years, total agricultural water use in OECD regions is expected to increase by a further 15% (Figure 7.2).
Agricultural production can contribute to the pollution
of water bodies, primarily through the leaching of nutriAgrochemicals run-off is one
ents, pesticides and animal wastes, and soil run-off and sedof the main contributors to
imentation. Currently, contamination by nitrates from
groundwater pollution in OECD
fertiliser use and livestock waste is perhaps the most sericountries, and is expected to
ous threat to groundwater sources in OECD countries
worsen to 2020.
(see Chapter 8). Elevated levels of nitrates and pesticides
are recorded in most OECD agricultural areas, with quality
standards being exceeded regularly where farming is particularly intensive (OECD, 1998a). In OECD countries,
agriculture contributes on average 40% of nitrogen and 20% of phosphorous emissions to surface waters
(OECD, 2000). To 2020, agricultural contribution to water pollution through nitrogen and biochemical oxygen
demand (BOD) loading of waterways is projected to increase by over 25%. Although the apparent use of pesticides
has declined in OECD countries, water bodies continue to be contaminated in intensively farmed land, areas vulnerable to run-off, and in humid regions. A more significant problem, however, is pesticide contamination of
groundwater: several of the most widely-used pesticides (e.g. atrazine, simazine, aldicarb) have the potential to
leach through soils under normal agricultural use. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, which are increasingly being adopted by OECD agricultural producers, offer the potential to reduce both the need for pesticides and
the risk of pesticide contamination of water supplies.
Soil degradation
The loss of soil organic matter and fertility remains a serious problem in cereal and intensive livestock production regions in OECD countries. Soil degradation occurs principally through wind and water erosion, compaction, salinisation and acidification, and biological erosion (e.g. decline in organic matter). These degradation
processes are linked to changes in farm management practices, climate and technology. For example, wind and
water erosion have been accelerated by several conventional agricultural practices, such as monoculture production, fewer rotations with forages, shorter rotations, deep or intensive tillage, the cultivation of marginal lands, and
overgrazing from intensive livestock production. Soil compaction can occur through the continued use of heavy
farm equipment when soils are passed over or tilled when wet. Compaction contributes to lost soil fertility by
reducing water and nutrient retention and movement. Salinisation and acidification contribute to the degradation
of soil chemical processes and ultimately reduce yields. Saline soils are common to most arid or semi-arid areas of
the world, but irrigation has contributed to the build-up of salts on irrigated cropland.
While the area of agricultural land at high or severe risk to water and wind erosion is not extensive in OECD
regions overall, for some OECD countries it represents more than 10% of agricultural lands (OECD, 2000). Over
the past decade, water-related soil erosion appears to have declined in a number of OECD countries, largely
because farmers are adopting conservation or no-tillage practices, crop production is becoming less intensive in
some areas, and marginal lands are being removed from production. Similarly, evidence suggests that other soil
problems (e.g. acidification, salinisation, soil compaction and toxic contamination) may be beginning to improve
in some OECD countries (OECD, 2000).
Natural resource use, biodiversity and habitats
Overall, there has been a marginal decrease (1%) in OECD countries of the total land area devoted to arable
and permanent crops in recent decades (OECD, 1999b). Only the Australia & New Zealand region has experienced
a real increase in lands devoted to cropping. In the future, OECD regions overall are expected to see a very
© OECD 2001
small (0.1%) increase in crop lands from 1995-2020 under the Reference Scenario, particularly in the regions of
Australia & New Zealand, and Canada, Mexico & the United States. The region of Western Europe, by contrast, is
expected to experience decreases in lands devoted to cropping. Worldwide, croplands are expected to increase by
just over 1% to 2020, while pasture lands will increase by 6%.
The increased agricultural production that has occurred recently, despite marginal decreases in cropland, indicates a wider trend in agricultural productivity gains, largely realised through agricultural intensification. While
intensification has the potential to remove pressure from natural lands for agricultural expansion, it also has negative effects on wildlife habitats and biodiversity. Large-scale monoculture in cereals and grains production, the
modification of grasslands, wetlands, and other specialised biotopes, land consolidation measures, farm mechanisation, intensive livestock production, and increases in the use of fertilisers and pesticides, have resulted in lower
population levels of many species and a reduction in plant and animal biodiversity and habitats.
7.4. Policy options and their potential effects
As population growth slows and there is less scope for per capita increases in food consumption than in the
past, it is expected that the demand for food and agricultural products will grow at slower rates in the next 20 years
than over the last 20, particularly in OECD countries. However, the absolute increments in output will still be fairly
large. The pressures on the agricultural resource base will continue to increase through further intensification. From
an environmental perspective, the main challenge facing agricultural development in OECD countries will be to
reduce the negative environmental impacts of continued agricultural intensification. Priorities will include reducing run-off of agrochemicals used for fertilisers and pesticides, reducing pesticide toxicity, improving the management of livestock manure, addressing concerns about genetically modified crops, improving soil management
techniques, and developing practices that are more compatible with habitat protection.
Technological development and diffusion
While there is still scope for developing technologies and management practices to increase agricultural productivity, the rates of increased efficiency and yields have been decreasing in recent years.2 The development of
such new technologies is slowing, and there are indications that uptake of the existing environmentally sustainable
technologies has been shallow and slow. Stronger incentives are needed to encourage a more wide-spread application of existing agricultural technologies. Appropriate measures include policies that discourage excess use of
inputs, for example through ensuring full-cost recovery for irrigation water use or by levying charges on the use of
polluting pesticides, surplus nutrient loading to soils, etc. Policies can also be used that directly encourage the adoption of the desired technologies and management practices, such as the use of GIS/GPS systems as tools for precision farming. The benefits of a more wide-spread adoption of available technologies could be significant: a recent
study of the International Water Management Institute found that about 50% of the increase in world water demand
to the year 2025 could be met by increasing irrigation effectiveness (Seckler et al., 1998).
Although considerable progress in input efficiency and productivity can be achieved through the wider adoption of existing technologies and farm management practices, more significant increases are likely to occur only
through the development of new biotechnologies (e.g. GMOs), particularly those which require less chemical
inputs or water, increase crop growth, and are resistant to adverse environmental conditions. As agreed in the Biosafety Protocol, the development and application of such technologies by Parties to the Protocol should take into
account precautionary approaches. The extent of their future use will depend on the analysis of their potential
health and environmental effects, and consumer acceptance of their use.
2. While average yields of the main arable crops continue to augment, increases were significantly lower for maize, rice and
wheat in the last decade than they had been in the previous two (Alexandratos, 2001).
© OECD 2001
Regulatory instruments
The agro-food sector is already subject to various environmental regulations, constraints and standards, but
more will need to be developed or applied to address emerging concerns. In particular, these will need to concentrate on the effects of agrochemicals (pesticides, fertilisers) on the environment and human health, food
safety, the control of particular site-specific activities, and water quality standards. Several OECD countries are
already defining and adjusting regulations to control the size and intensity of agricultural operations. Animal
waste storage, handling and spreading, for example, is controlled in several countries through regulations that
set limits on herd size, storage capacity and spreading times. Most OECD countries have also designed more
restrictive pesticide registration and use regulations, while at the same time trying to speed the spread of environmentally superior technologies. Further analysis of the effects of farm chemicals on the environment and
human health is needed, and should be accompanied by agreements on the use and handling of farm chemicals
that are damaging to the environment.
Economic instruments
Although agricultural support remains high in OECD
Subsidies to agriculture in OECD
countries, a number of steps have been taken to move the
countries are very large, and
sector closer to market conditions, or to reform agricultural
the majority are tied to potentially
policies in ways that will reduce some of the environmental
environmentally damaging
damage caused by agriculture. While support reforms have
production or inputs.
been implemented in many OECD countries, their effects
have been limited and most of the support continues to be
tied to production levels. Irrigation water use also remains heavily subsidised in OECD countries (see Chapter 8).
Further moves towards support that is de-coupled from potentially damaging activities could significantly reduce
negative environmental impacts of agriculture and in some cases improve economic efficiency. This might be done
by increasing the proportion of agricultural support that is based on land area (rather than on crop production or
headage) or, even better, that is provided through direct income payments. Furthermore, increasing the share of
support that is provided through agri-environmental measures – which provide payments or rewards to farmers for
undertaking specified environmental activities, such as land set-aside schemes, tree break planting, soil protection
or habitat conservation schemes – would also reduce the negative environmental effects of agricultural subsidies.
Although agri-environmental measures make up a small percentage of OECD agricultural subsidies, they have
already led to the removal of the environmentally most sensitive or ecologically most valuable lands from production in some countries (OECD, 1999a). A modelling simulation comparing the effects of removing agricultural
subsidies in OECD regions to 2020 found significant environmental benefits from such a policy compared with the
Reference Scenario (see Table 7.2). The reductions in irrigation water use and nitrogen loading from agriculture
are expected to be particularly significant, especially in the regions of Western Europe, Japan & Korea and Central
& Eastern Europe.
Table 7.2. Environmental effects of agricultural subsidy removal and a tax on agrochemical use in OECD regions
(% change from Reference Scenario in 2020 for OECD regions)
Agricultural subsidies
Tax on agrochemicals use
Irrigation water use
Agricultural methane emissions
Agricultural nitrogen loading
1. This policy simulation explores the impacts of eliminating all subsidies on agricultural products used as inputs of final demand, all agricultural
producer and export subsidies, all subsidies on inputs to agriculture, and market price support to agriculture in OECD regions. A proxy was used
to simulate the removal of OECD market price support, combining a tax on agricultural production equal to market price support estimates with
an equivalent subsidy to household consumption of agricultural products.
2. This policy simulation explores the impacts of applying an ad valorem tax increasing 2 percentage points each year (i.e. the tax rate reaches 50%
by 2020) on the use of all chemical inputs to OECD agricultural production.
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
© OECD 2001
While efforts have been made in a number of OECD countries to more broadly apply the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) to agriculture and internalise the external costs of agricultural production, in most countries charges for
agricultural pollution emissions are not applied. Partly this reflects difficulties in monitoring the emissions from
individual farms; the individual source of agricultural pollution is rarely identifiable because it is often diffuse pollution from agricultural run-off of pesticide and fertiliser residues.3 Such charges are more easily applied, however,
for animal waste (i.e. manure) or when they are based on the agrochemicals used as a proxy for the resulting pollution. Thus, taxes and charges on fertilisers and pesticides, and caps on animal waste storage, have been applied
recently in some OECD countries, although their application is limited by fears of a loss of competitiveness of
domestic agricultural products on the international market and low responsiveness of farmers to such charges
(i.e. low price elasticities). A policy simulation which examined the application of an ad valorem tax on chemical
input use to OECD agricultural production found significant reductions in nitrogen loading from agriculture compared with the Reference Scenario (Table 7.2), and similar reductions in run-off of pesticide residues could be
Voluntary agreements
Farmers, together with other landholders, have begun to form community-based, voluntary associations
(e.g. landcare groups, water user associations, conservation clubs, etc.) to improve the environment in several
OECD countries (OECD, 1998b). Governments are increasingly finding that for many environmental problems,
especially those for which a small group of people can be held collectively responsible (e.g. salinisation or excessive pesticide use in a given area), implementing policies through groups can be more effective and less costly than
those aimed at individuals. In most OECD countries, governments have so far been observers or facilitators in the
processes of developing these associations and their programmes, rather than participants. It is only in a limited
number of cases that they have taken a more active role in developing their agricultural policy actions to complement the voluntary programmes. To ensure that the best use is made of such programmes, governments need to
develop policies that encourage and complement voluntary programmes, and work with the associations to develop
targets and other regulatory and economic policies that can act as a framework within which the voluntary programmes can function.
Information and other instruments
Certification and eco-labelling schemes are increasEco-labels and agricultural
ingly used in OECD countries for indicating agricultural
certification schemes are
products that have been developed following set criteria
used in OECD
above and beyond those required by national regulations,
for example environmental and health criteria (e.g. organic
produce) or animal welfare criteria (e.g. eggs from free
ranging chickens). Such schemes in general aim to improve
labelling of the nutritional value and origin of food products. They tend to be developed by agricultural producer
associations in response to growing concerns by consumers, but require some independent body to verify that the
criteria are met and guarantee the certifications. Essentially, the schemes create a “market” for the additional environmental and health qualities associated with certain production processes, allowing concerned consumers to pay
above market prices for these products. Consumers are increasingly also demanding the labelling of agricultural
products made from genetically modified crops. With proper monitoring and independent certification, such
schemes can let consumers directly influence the extent of sustainable agricultural activities in place, but care must
be taken that they do not develop into trade barriers (e.g. by using an eco-label as a requirement for importation).
For these schemes to be successful, co-operation between agricultural trading partners is needed, with regional or
even internationally agreed certification schemes likely to be most successful.
3. It is often difficult to link any one farmer’s fertilisation techniques, for example, to the nitrate contamination of local ground
or surface waters. As a result, allocating the costs of such pollution to individual farmers in a way that efficiently and fairly
internalises the environmental cost is often impossible.
© OECD 2001
As indicated above, large inefficiencies in agricultural production systems continue to exist, even in OECD
countries. In many cases there are alternatives to current practices that could minimise environmentally damaging
impacts without significantly increasing management costs to the farmer. Many OECD countries employ active
farmer education and extension services to help disseminate the relevant information. Such programmes include,
for example, individual consultations to establish better-targeted chemical and water inputs to farm processes,
workshops or seminars on practices to reduce methane emissions from manure management systems, and longerterm educational and research programmes.
Alexandratos, N. (2001), “Agriculture and the Environment”, background document for the OECD Environmental
Outlook, OECD, Paris.
CAST (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology) (2000), “Storing Carbon in Agricultural Soils to Help Mitigate Global Warming”, Issue Paper No. 14, April, CAST, Ames, Iowa.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) (1999), The State of Food Insecurity in the World – 1999,
FAO, Rome.
de Haen, H., N. Alexandratos, and J. Bruinsma (1998) “Prospects for the World Food Situation on the Threshold of
the 21st Century”, in OECD, Food for the Future, OECD, Paris.
McMichael, P. (editor) (1994), The Global Restructuring of Agro-Food Systems, Cornell University Press, New York.
OECD (1995), Technological Change and Structural Adjustment in OECD Agriculture, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998a), Water Management: Performance and Challenges in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998b), Co-operative Approaches to Sustainable Agriculture, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000), Environmental Indicators for Agriculture: Methods and Results Executive Summary, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001), Adoption of Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems, The Wageningen Workshop, OECD, Paris.
Seckler, D., U. Amarasinghe, D. Molden, R. de Silva, and R. Barker (1998), World Water Demand and Supply, 1990
to 2025: Scenarios and Issues, Research Report 19. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute.
© OECD 2001
• There is abundant water worldwide, but significant scarcities exist on a local level. Some 25 developing countries
(almost one-quarter of a billion people) are expected to suffer high water stress by the year 2020.
• Increased local water scarcities will lead to competition for resources within countries (between sectors or regions)
and between countries, which could potentially lead to security threats. The increasing pollution of some water
bodies, particularly groundwater reserves, will further restrict available supplies.
• Many OECD countries have reduced per capita water consumption in recent years, but the scale effects of population growth have led to increases in total water use. While these trends are expected to continue, slowing population growth will begin to stabilise total OECD water abstractions by 2020.
• Many of the worst polluted surface water bodies have been cleaned up in OECD countries, and point-source pollution from industrial and municipal systems has been reduced. However, many OECD water bodies still do not
meet basic water quality standards.
• Policies are particularly needed to ensure full cost recovery for water services to agriculture and to address diffuse
pollution and the contamination of groundwater aquifers. Many OECD countries need to upgrade their water supply and treatment infrastructure, which may require substantial financing.
8.1. Introduction
Freshwater resources are essential for human health, economic productivity, and social development. Freshwater is a recyclable but finite resource: with careful use and treatment, it can be managed in a sustainable manner.
It is currently abundant on a global scale, but scarce in a number of countries or regions. While the water resources
of the Earth are constantly recycled by the hydrological cycle, available freshwater resources for human or environmental use are declining as many water bodies become contaminated with pollutants. As a result, local and
regional incidences of water scarcity are likely to increase over the coming decades.
Agriculture is responsible for the majority of global water withdrawals, although industrial water use in
OECD countries now surpasses agricultural use. The wider application of existing water saving technologies and
practices could significantly increase the efficiency of water use, but low water prices in most countries provide
poor incentives for adopting these technologies and techniques. Despite increases in the connection of OECD
households to sewerage treatment systems and greater regulation of industrial emissions, ambient water quality
standards are still not met for many water bodies. Non-point source pollution, such as that from agricultural runoff of farm chemicals, is increasing in OECD countries and has particularly severe impacts on groundwater
8.2. Pressures on freshwater resources
Total freshwater abstractions
Global water withdrawals have increased significantly over the last few decades, in part because of increasing
population pressures, but also because of significant increases in per capita water use worldwide. Over the last
© OECD 2001
50 years there has been a four-fold increase in global water withdrawals, while the total world population roughly
doubled over the same period. According to the Reference Scenario, future world water withdrawals are projected
to increase by 31% between 1995-2020.
Currently, there are significant regional differences in the use of freshwater. East Asia, Latin America, Africa
& the Rest of the World utilise approximately one-third the amount of water per person that is used on average in
OECD countries, and almost one-fifth of what is used in North America. There are also significant variations in
per capita water use between the OECD regions, with countries such as Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK using
as little as 180 m3/capita per annum or less, while the US and Canada consume almost ten times this amount
(OECD, 1999a). Central & Eastern Europe is the OECD region that is projected to realise the largest growth in
water withdrawals to 2020, largely due to expected increases in per capita water use combined with continued population growth (Figure 8.1).
Overall, per capita water consumption has decreased in OECD regions by almost 11% since 1980, with just
over half of all OECD countries realising a net decrease in per capita water use (OECD, 1998a). This indicates an
encouraging trend in de-coupling water consumption from economic growth. However, while per capita water
abstractions have been declining in many countries, the effect of net growth in population levels has resulted in
increasing total water abstractions overall in most OECD countries. Thus, only nine OECD countries – primarily
in Europe – reduced total water abstractions between 1980 and 1997 (OECD, 1999a).
Under the Reference Scenario, per capita water withdrawals are projected to remain relatively stable overall in
the OECD area from 1995 to 2020, with some decreases
experienced in North America and relatively large
increases taking place in Central & Eastern Europe. The
regional variations in the growth of per capita water use
Water abstractions in OECD
countries may increase by 10%
to 2020, while worldwide they may
rise by over 30%.
Figure 8.1. Water withdrawals per capita, 1980-2020
m3 per capita
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000
1 500
15% 25%
Sources: OECD (1999a) and Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
will to some extent balance the current disparities in use between the different OECD regions. Water use per person
in non-OECD regions is also expected to stay relatively stable, with per capita use remaining far below the average
for OECD regions.
Sectoral water demands
As total water abstractions increase, competition has been growing in most countries for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses of limited freshwater resources. Worldwide, agricultural use is responsible
for the largest proportion of freshwater withdrawals (69%), followed by industry (23%), and domestic use (8%).
In low-income countries, agricultural water use makes up a much higher proportion of total use, while in OECD
countries it is now surpassed by industrial use. Over the next 20 years, agriculture and industry are expected to lead
to the largest absolute increases in world water abstractions, although industrial water use will grow quickest (see
Figure 8.2).
Figure 8.2. Water withdrawals by sector, 1995-2020
1 000
1 500
2 000
2 500
3 000
3 500
4 000
Billion m3
Source: Reference Scenario.
Freshwater abstractions for industry and energy use have declined by approximately 12% in OECD countries
overall since 1980, while irrigation water and public supply abstractions have increased marginally (OECD,
1999a). To a large extent, these trends reflect the significant water efficiency improvements that have been realised
in the industrial sector in recent years in response to increased water prices (see Box 8.1), as well as the increasing
pressures on municipal systems from continuing population growth and domestic demand for luxury water uses.
A number of OECD countries have experienced a decline in water use per household in recent decades, most likely
reflecting the wider adoption of volume-based water charges that provide incentives for households to minimise
water use (OECD, 1999b). Worldwide municipal water use is likely to continue to grow, however, particularly in
regions experiencing significant urban expansion.
The relative stabilisation of irrigation water abstractions that has been occurring in OECD countries, and is
expected to continue, indicates that irrigation expansion may have peaked in many industrial countries. Worldwide
© OECD 2001
agricultural demand for water is projected to increase substantially over the next few decades, as much of the additional food that will be needed to feed the world population is expected to come from irrigated land (see Chapter 7).
Agriculture is likely to remain the primary abstractor of freshwater in the near future, but the Reference Scenario
indicates that industry will be the fastest growing water users driven largely by rapid industrialisation in many nonOECD countries. While the declines in industrial abstractions experienced in OECD countries in recent years are
primarily the result of increased water use efficiency by industries, they may also reflect a shift of some of the
water-intensive industries to non-OECD countries.
Box 8.1.
Increased water use efficiency in OECD industries
OECD industries have significantly increased the efficiency with which they use water, reducing total industryrelated water use by 9% since 1980, and increasing water recycling and reuse. To a large extent, these developments have been in response to greater industrial water charges across OECD countries and stricter ambient water
quality standards (OECD, 1999b). For instance, the pulp and paper industry has traditionally required large
amounts of energy and water (see Chapter 18). Through a wider use of closed-loop water systems and recycling,
some mills have reduced water consumption from 80 m 3 in 1970 to 10-15 m 3 today (CEPI, 1995). Since energy
needed for drying purposes is highly correlated to water consumption, this has also led to substantial reductions
in energy demand.
An important emerging trend in many OECD countries is the growing use of freshwater resources for cooling
purposes in electricity production. Over 50% of freshwater abstractions in at least eight OECD countries are attributable to electrical cooling purposes (OECD, 1999a). Water withdrawals for energy use are expected to increase
by almost 100% worldwide from 1995 to 2020 under the Reference Scenario.
Freshwater pollution
Many human activities have a negative impact on freshwater quality, endangering human health and freshwater ecosystems, and further restricting the amount of freshwater available for human use. Largely as a result
of public pressures, stricter controls have been imposed in most OECD countries on the main sources of freshwater pollution.
The main factor driving municipal water pollution
Most OECD households are
abatement in OECD countries has been the increasing
connected to basic sewage
number of households connected to basic sewage treattreatment systems, and more
ment facilities and better treatment of wastewater (i.e. the
advanced wastewater treatment
use of biological or other advanced treatment technoloprocesses are increasingly used.
gies). The total share of the population connected to public wastewater treatment plants in OECD countries rose
from 51% in 1980 to almost 60% in the mid-1990s, although connection rates vary among countries from a low
of under 10% to a high of almost 100% (OECD, 1997a). Those households that are not connected to public systems increasingly utilise local systems to treat their sewage waste. The situation is less encouraging in developing countries. Only an estimated 29% of the populations in low-income countries are connected to sanitation
systems (World Bank, 1999). With continuing expansion of secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment systems
in OECD regions, OECD household contributions to biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in freshwater systems
are expected to increase by only 15% to 2020 (see Figure 8.3). BOD loading from households in non-OECD
countries, however, is expected to increase by over twice as much.
Agriculture is an important contributor to water quality problems, particularly nitrate pollution in surface and
groundwater, phosphorous levels in surface water, contamination with pesticides, and the harmful effects of soil
sediment and mineral salts (see Chapter 7). In a number of OECD countries, agriculture accounts for more than
© OECD 2001
40% of all sources of nitrogen emissions and over 30% of phosphorous emissions into surface waters
(OECD, 2000). Although the trend in nutrient surplus from agriculture through fertiliser use and livestock waste is
declining in most OECD countries, the contribution of agriculture to the overall level of nutrient contamination of
water is growing. Projections indicate that while agriculture will remain by far the dominant source of BOD and
nitrogen loading to waterways both in OECD regions and worldwide, emissions from the sector will increase at a
slower rate in OECD regions to 2020 than in the past (Figure 8.3). While the use of pesticides has begun to decrease
in many OECD countries in the last decade, the long time lag between their use and their detection in groundwater
means that the situation could deteriorate before it starts to improve (see Chapter 7). Recent trends in soil erosion
losses in OECD countries indicate that soil sediment deposition in waterways continues to be a serious problem in
many countries, but in general is probably declining.
Figure 8.3. Emissions of water pollutants by sector, 1995-2020
BOD loading to waterways
by sector
Mega tonnes (mT)
Nitrogen loading
to waterways
from agriculture
Total % change, 1995-2020
Source: Reference Scenario.
Although a relatively small contributor to BOD loading to waterways, industry remains one of the largest polluters of water resources in OECD countries through other pollutants, and worldwide it is expected that there may
be a four-fold increase in industrial pollution to water courses by 2025 (OECD, 1997b; SEI, 1997). Industrial
impacts on the aquatic environment vary considerably, depending on the types of substances released and their
quantities. Industrial sites can be particularly important point sources of pollution to watercourses because of their
often large operational scales, even if the individual pollutants are not dangerous in smaller quantities. Some industrial processes (e.g. power generation) can also result in environmental degradation through thermal pollution,
which reduces dissolved oxygen while accelerating oxygen-demanding biochemical processes. In response to
increasing regulation of industrial emissions, OECD industries have had to develop better and safer systems of
wastewater disposal, often utilising their own in-house purification systems before releasing wastewater back to
the environment (if it is of sufficient quality) or to a wastewater treatment plant. The use of technologies to reduce
air emissions has also helped to reduce industrial water pollution, such as the use of sulphur scrubbers in coal burning plants which reduce the acidification of lakes and other surface water bodies.
© OECD 2001
8.3. The state of freshwater resources
Freshwater scarcity
Water scarcity can have direct negative effects on
human health, the economy, and the environment. Over the
By 2020, over one-quarter of
last 50 years there have been dramatic reductions in the
a billion people worldwide
global per capita availability of freshwater, from 17 000 m3
are expected to be living under
per capita per annum in 1950 to 7 300 m3 in 1995. This is
high water stress.
largely a result of increasing population pressures, but has
also been influenced by the decline in availability of
uncontaminated freshwater. Current trends indicate that the level of per capita available water resources is likely
to decline even further in the near future, as most countries continue to expand their populations and pollute available water sources. As a result, by 2020 over one-quarter of a billion people are expected to be living under high
water stress, representing an increase of 75% from 1995 levels.1 Because freshwater resources are distributed very
unevenly within and among countries, and the pressures on these resources are also unevenly distributed, water
scarcity can significantly affect one region while a neighbouring region has abundant freshwater. Even within
OECD countries there exist extensive arid or semi-arid areas where development is restricted by water scarcity.
As human use of surface waters reaches maximum limits, countries are increasingly drawing on their groundwater aquifers. In most OECD countries, irrigation has reached its maximum feasible limit as far as surface water
use is concerned, and abstractions are taken more and more from groundwater sources. However, most groundwater aquifers are replenished only slowly, with an average recharge rate that ranges from 0.1-0.3% per year. As a
result, groundwater abstractions are beginning to exceed rates of replenishment in some locations. Worldwide,
17 countries extract more water annually than is recharged through their natural water systems (i.e. they are “mining” their ground water reserves) (WRI et al., 1999). Overdrawing groundwater sources can result in significant
environmental effects, including the subsidence of the land above aquifers, the lowering of water tables, and the
intrusion of seawater where aquifers are sited near coastal zones, contaminating the freshwater resources with salt
and causing salinisation of coastal agricultural lands (UNEP, 2000).
While significant progress has been made in de-coupling water use from economic and population growth in
some OECD countries, the projected continued increases in total water use are likely to exacerbate water scarcity
in areas of low water resources and high demand. This will result in increasing pressures on human health (the
availability of water for human consumption and sanitation in some areas), the economy (restricting the development of various economic activities, e.g. agriculture), and the environment (increased soil salinisation, degradation
of water-based ecosystems, etc.). In addition, growing water scarcity has already contributed to conflict within and
between countries for scarce resources, and these conflicts may intensify in the future (see Box 8.2).
Freshwater quality
In addition to further limiting the water available for human use, the pollution of water bodies also degrades
ecosystems and impairs their ability to provide valuable ecosystem services. The discharge of inadequately
treated sewage in large cities causes severe deoxygenation and possibly ammonia toxicity, while nitrate pollution can stimulate rapid algal growth in waterways, leading to eutrophication in both inland waters and the sea
(UNEP, 1997; UNEP, 2000). Many of the algae produce toxins that, once ingested by molluscs and fish, either
kill or accumulate in them, endangering their predators in turn (WRI et al., 1994). Industrial wastes can lead to
contamination with heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium) and persistent organic compounds. Air
borne pollution can also be detrimental to water quality. For example, hundreds of lakes in Scandinavia are still
suffering from acidification that was largely created by sulphur and nitrogen emissions from fossil fuel combus-
1. Water stress is considered high when the ratio of withdrawals (minus wastewater returns) to renewable resources
exceeds 0.4.
© OECD 2001
tion. The situation is even more serious in developing countries. Trends there indicate that there is accelerating
contamination of available water supplies, especially in areas undergoing rapid urbanisation.
Box 8.2.
Water conflicts and environmental security
Many rivers, lakes and underground water aquifers cross national boundaries, with the potential for (geo-political)
conflicts to arise where there is transboundary water pollution or scarcity of water resources. Over the last few
decades, OECD countries have made considerable progress in resolving transboundary water issues: bilateral,
regional or multilateral agreements have now been reached for most such waters. Since 1974, OECD countries have
adopted OECD general principles related to transfrontier water pollution and integrated water management. OECD
countries have agreed on and are implementing numerous bilateral or multilateral plans and strategies (e.g. for the
Great Lakes, Lake Geneva, the Rhine). Several large basins (e.g. Rhine, Danube) are now managed in the framework
of international agreements, with a basin committee and permanent secretariat. However, the issue of equitable
apportionment of waters between riparian states of a given river is still not settled, though progress in this area has
been achieved for selected rivers. Outside the OECD regions, disputes over the management of transfrontier water
may well increase in the future as water pollution and regional scarcity increase unless management plans can be
Source: OECD (1998b).
In OECD countries water pollution continues to be a
problem. Despite major efforts to clean up many of the
The pollution of OECD groundwater
worst polluted water bodies over the last few decades, few
resources – particularly from agroOECD countries satisfactorily meet the baseline quality
chemical run-off – is expected to
standard for inland waters (i.e. suitable for fishing and
worsen to 2020.
swimming). Most OECD countries have been experiencing
particular difficulties with the protection of groundwater
quality, especially from non-point source pollution such as agricultural run-off or arsenic poisoning from mining.
Thus, nitrate concentrations (most commonly linked to fertiliser use) in excess of WHO drinking water guidelines
are now widespread in European and some North American aquifers. Available evidence suggests that there is a
trend towards a worsening of aquifer water quality in OECD regions. Once groundwater sources are contaminated,
they can be very difficult to clean up because the rate of flow is usually very slow and purification measures are
often costly. While many of the regulations and policies currently in place to address surface water pollution are
Box 8.3.
Institutional frameworks for water management
In many countries, responsibility for water supply and sewage treatment is fragmented among numerous federal,
state, and local government bodies, all of which apply different methods and standards. The lack of an integrated
regulatory approach threatens water supply systems in many areas. A number of countries have been developing new
water management frameworks to address these concerns, including better integration of surface and groundwater
management, addressing both supply and demand-side pressures, and the adoption of river-basin management
There has also been a general trend in OECD countries away from government as the “provider” of water services
and toward government being the “regulator” of these services. In many cases, this has meant increasing autonomy
of water utilities and, in some countries, this has been accompanied by privatisation of water service systems. The
majority of countries have opted for the “concession” model instead, whereby the private sector participates in managing some services, but the public sector retains ownership of the system (OECD, 1999b).
© OECD 2001
likely to improve surface water quality in OECD regions, the lack of comprehensive plans to manage groundwater
resources and address non-point source pollution will probably result in continuing contamination of groundwater
aquifers over the next few decades. As groundwater aquifers are a major source of drinking water and water for
agricultural and industrial purposes, it can be expected that this will further contribute to water scarcity problems
and lead to higher economic costs for water purification in many OECD countries.
8.4. Policy options and their potential effects
International concern about the potential for a world
water crisis during the next century is high, as was conOECD countries are increasingly
firmed at the Second World Water Forum held in the Hague
managing their water
in March 2000. For OECD countries, however, water scarresources on a river basin or
city is likely to be a problem only in selected sub-national
catchment basis.
regions over the next 20 years, with most OECD countries
continuing to have generally low water stress. In order to
ensure that water use stays at sustainable levels, policies are needed to ensure appropriate cost recovery and management of water demands. In the regions where water scarcity is an issue, co-operative approaches for implementing the right incentives to increase water use efficiency and reduce demand will be necessary. In terms of water
pollution, OECD countries will need to focus more on diffuse sources of pollution (e.g. agricultural run-off and
transport-related depositions) and, in particular, take urgent measures to stop the degradation of groundwater
resources. Conflicts over water use may arise in areas where transboundary water resources are scarce, or where
water pollution crosses national boundaries. The management of water resources on a regional level, particularly
reflecting the natural catchment area, (i.e. river-basin management approaches) can help to facilitate the management process and ensure ecological health. Such systems are already widely used within a number of OECD countries, and should also be applied where possible to transboundary river basin catchments.
Technological development and diffusion
Most of the recent reductions in water use in OECD countries can be attributed to efficiency improvements in
the distribution and use of water resources. Industrial users have already made significant progress in the development and adoption of technologies and processes that are more water efficient. This has largely been driven by their
own cost concerns where water is a major input and where water charges have been increasing. While industrial
water users have been quick to develop and adopt new water efficient technologies, significant improvements in
irrigation use efficiency can still be made in OECD countries. Recent agricultural developments, such as dripirrigation systems, provide the potential to increase irrigation efficiency considerably, but their diffusion has been
limited (see Chapter 7). Drip irrigation is not suitable for all crops or regions, but to some extent the wider adoption
of such technologies has been hampered by their high relative costs compared with the rather low, subsidised price
of irrigation water in most countries. As a result, the use of such technologies brings only relatively small benefits
to farmers. To better encourage the uptake of more efficient systems, governments should both increase research
and development efforts into more cost-effective systems, and take measures to recover the full costs of water provision (see economic instruments below), thus increasing incentives for agricultural water users to reduce their
New technologies for wastewater treatment and drinking water purification have also been developed, and are
increasingly used in OECD countries. A large majority of households in OECD countries are now connected to
public or independent sewerage treatment systems, although for most of these countries under 50% of domestic
sewerage receives tertiary treatment (advanced chemical treatment processes). In the future, greater use of tertiary
wastewater treatment will be needed to reduce pollution from domestic wastewater. Further research into the
effects of some industrial and agricultural chemicals (e.g. persistent organic pollutants and new pathogens) on the
environment and human health is needed, as well as the development of cost effective technologies for preventing
their emission to, or allowing their removal from water bodies.
© OECD 2001
Regulatory instruments
OECD countries have designed and implemented regulatory frameworks that are fairly successful in addressing some of the main sources of water pollution. However, in order to raise ambient surface water quality in many
areas and meet basic water quality standards, further efforts will be required, particularly in terms of the enforcement of existing regulations and the greater integration of permitting processes. Many OECD countries have begun
to realise that monitoring the sources of pollution entering groundwater resources is not sufficient, particularly
where many non-point sources are involved. In the future, more emphasis will be needed on integrated pollution
management and ambient water quality plans. Those described in the new European Union Water Framework
Directive will require EU countries to both monitor and address sources of pollution to groundwater reserves and
also to directly monitor the quality of groundwater in aquifers.
In the coming decades, significant efforts and capital expenditures will continue to be required in OECD countries to reduce water pollution. In particular, these will include decreasing the amounts of untreated sewage, agrochemical and other multi-source pollutants that are released into waterways. Regulatory instruments will generally
be most effective in addressing industrial point-source pollution and municipal wastewater, while diffuse agricultural run-off and non-point source pollution may require other policy approaches. For the more toxic pollutants,
such as certain agricultural chemicals, restrictions on their use can nevertheless be a very direct and effective measure to achieve the desired reductions in their release to the environment.
The use of regulations and legal requirements for addressing water scarcity problems is likely to be more limited. Some countries have started placing upper limits on the total amount of water withdrawals in regions suffering
from water scarcity, and this practice is likely to expand as water scarcity increases in some of these regions. Once
limits are placed, quotas can be allocated among different types of uses, and in some cases these might be tradable
between individual users.
Economic instruments
In recent years, most OECD countries have been striving to raise the price of water and decrease subsidies to
water use in order to reflect the full costs of water service provision (see Box 8.4). This has largely been the result
of pressures to finance essential water infrastructure repairs, extensions, and operating costs, but also reflects a
growing desire to manage water “demand” in the face of potential scarcity and to employ the Polluter Pays
Principle in wastewater charging systems. Despite increased water prices, few OECD countries achieve full cost
recovery of the operating and maintenance costs of water services provision, let alone any additional externalities.
Box 8.4.
Developments in OECD water prices
Over the last decade, OECD countries have seen a general increase in domestic water supply and sewage treatment
prices, with significant price increases occurring in some countries. Of 19 OECD countries with data available on
trends in domestic water pricing, all but one experienced real per annum increases in water supply prices over the
last decade, and five experienced average rates of real price increase of 6% or more per annum (OECD, 1999c).
Indications suggest that industrial water prices in OECD countries may also be increasing, either through water
tariff charges where consumers draw water from public networks, or through direct abstraction charges. Water for
irrigation use is associated with the lowest charges and the highest subsidies in most OECD countries. Currently,
most agricultural water tariff structures are based on the surface area irrigated, and are charged either as a flat rate or
according to crop type, and thus do not reflect the amount of water actually used. Some OECD countries apply no
charges at all to irrigation water abstractions (OECD, 1999d).
Many countries have resisted applying full cost pricing to domestic water services because of social equity
concerns. Analyses indicate that the wider use of household water meters and the use of innovative water tariff
systems in some countries have allowed the simultaneous achievement of equity and full cost recovery objectives
© OECD 2001
(OECD, 1999b). Changes in the structure of water tariffs, particularly replacing flat fees for water services with
consumption-based pricing, can also provide strong incentives to minimise water use. Evidence indicates that raising domestic water prices in a number of OECD countries has reduced water consumption levels, especially when
price increases were coupled with moves towards volumetric or marginal cost pricing (OECD, 1999c). A key element in implementing these charging systems is the widespread introduction of domestic water meters to measure
– and implement charges based on – actual water use.
In most OECD countries, water for irrigation use is
Although water charges in OECD
currently subject to the lowest charges and receives the
countries have been increasing,
highest subsidies. Although the share of water abstractions
in most cases the full costs of
for agricultural use is declining in OECD countries, signifproviding
water services are still
icant reform of water pricing policies will be required to
by water prices.
ensure local sustainability of irrigation use in regions with
water scarcity. Industry is probably the sector that is most
responsive to higher water prices, largely because industrial users have a wider range of technological options that
are cost-effective for them because of economies of scale. As municipal charges continue to increase and industrial
users choose to directly abstract their own water “off-line” to avoid paying these fees, direct abstraction charges
and limitations on total abstractions will be increasingly required.
Wastewater charges are calculated as a fixed percentage of water consumption (which is generally an accurate
proxy for household, but not industrial, wastewater) in most OECD countries, but some are moving towards the
direct measurement of wastewater produced and, for industrial users, graduating charges based on toxicity. A few
OECD countries have also begun to implement charges for agricultural water pollution, based on a proxy of fertiliser use or nitrogen application. While such charging systems are only just developing, they may hold the greatest
potential for tackling sources of diffuse pollution to water bodies. In many cases, however, reducing subsidies to
agricultural or industrial water use (particularly for energy intensive industries, such as aluminium smelters), and
applying pesticide or fertiliser taxes will require multilateral co-operation to address fears over a possible loss of
As mentioned above, limitations on total water use and the design of tradable permit schemes for water quotas
are underway in a few OECD countries. While these are generally allocated between individual users in a single
sector (e.g. agricultural users), there is also potential for using them to allocate resources among competing sectors
(e.g. industry, agriculture and municipal demands). Such schemes have been implemented in some countries to
manage an orderly shift from rural to urban water use through a reallocation of water use rights, water trading and
even buying out farmers’ water rights and redistributing them. Tradable permit schemes are also sometimes used
for allocating emissions for allowed levels of specific industrial pollutants.
Information and other instruments
Providing information and educational support to assist water users in increasing water use efficiency and
reducing pollution can be a powerful policy tool. Programmes already exist in some OECD countries to inform
farmers of more efficient irrigation techniques, industrial users of process improvements, and households of measures they can take to reduce their water use. The latter include the development of water-efficiency labelling
schemes for household appliances, and information on efficient lawn watering and gardening practices. In general,
however, these instruments are most effective when coupled with water pricing tariffs, thus also providing an economic incentive for the targeted actors to reduce water use or pollution.
Voluntary agreements also exist in a number of OECD countries between the government and industrial or
agricultural water users, and can be used to encourage water users and polluters to take pro-active steps towards
reducing water abstractions and emissions to waterways. For industry, voluntary agreements are primarily used to
regulate pollution to waterways, often based on the achievement of a given water quality target. If this target is not
met, however, stronger policy actions (e.g. regulatory measures or fines) will need to be imposed.
© OECD 2001
Investment in infrastructure
In recent years, major efforts in many countries have also reduced water losses in municipal networks, which
are now as low as 10-12% in some OECD countries, although they remain high in others (OECD, 1998c). Significant investments will nonetheless be required to maintain these low levels of loss (and achieve them in those countries with high losses), particularly where the pipe infrastructure is now reaching maturity. In quite a few OECD
countries, the economic limit in terms of sewerage connections has now been reached, and in the future alternatives
will have to be found for serving small, isolated communities whose connection to the main sewerage system is
not economically feasible.
The implementation of full cost recovery charging systems for irrigation water use could help to generate
funds for essential pipe repairs and renewals, as current pricing structures generally do not even cover operating
costs, let alone capital costs, in most OECD countries. In order to maintain or improve the current levels of sewage
treatment in OECD regions, many countries will need to invest heavily in expanding and renewing pipe infrastructure.
CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries) (1995), The European Paper Industry: Competitive and Sustainable,
CEPI, Brussels.
Mountford, H. (2001), “Freshwater”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997a), OECD Environmental Indicators 1997, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997b), “Water Subsidies and the Environment”, OCDE/GD(97)220, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998a), Towards Sustainable Development: Environmental Indicators, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998b), Water Management: Performance and Challenges in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998c), Water Consumption and Sustainable Water Resources Management, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), The Price of Water: Trends in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999c), “Household Water Pricing in OECD Countries”, ENV/EPOC/GEEI(98)12/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999d), “Agricultural Water Pricing in OECD Countries”, ENV/EPOC/GEEI(98)11/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000), Environmental Indicators for Agriculture: Methods and Results, Executive Summary, OECD, Paris.
SEI (Stockholm Environment Institute) (1997), Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World, SEI,
UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) (1997), Global Environmental Outlook, UNEP, Nairobi.
UNEP (2000), GEO 2000 Overview, UNEP, Nairobi.
WRI, UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank (World Resources Institute, United Nations Environment Programme,
United Nations Development Programme) (1994), World Resources 1994-95, Oxford University Press, New York.
WRI, UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank (1999), World Resources 1998-99, Oxford University Press, New York.
© OECD 2001
• Global production from the fishery sector increased by just over 70% between 1980 and 1998, reaching
127 million tonnes in 1998. Future growth is expected to be slower, if not declining. At most, production may
reach 160 million tonnes by 2020, with almost all of the increase coming from aquaculture production.
• Limiting overfishing in capture fisheries is a major challenge: 50% of fish stocks are fully exploited, 15% are overfished, 7% are depleted, and 2% are recovering. Marine ecosystems are also under threat from pollution (primarily
from land-based sources), excessive by-catch, and destructive fishing methods.
• The main national policy options to encourage sustainable fishing activities include the setting (and enforcement)
of limits on total catch levels, types, and fishing seasons; rationalising fishing capacity (including reforming environmentally damaging subsidies to the fishing sector); and reducing degradation of marine environments.
• International co-operation will be essential for implementing these policies, particularly in dealing with migratory
and straddling fish, regulating fishing in the high seas, and agreeing on multilateral reductions in subsidies to
fishing that encourage overfishing or environmentally damaging activities.
9.1. Introduction
Fish represent a major component of the food supply for the world’s population, accounting for almost onefifth of all animal protein in the human diet (WRI, 1998). Fish are a renewable resource and, as such, can be harvested in a sustainable manner over the long term. However, current fishing levels and methods place significant
pressures on world fisheries and marine ecosystems. The harvesting of fish stocks has moved successively from
one fishery to another as yields from each reach their peak and then decline. These practices have resulted in an
estimated 50% of the world fish stocks being fully exploited, 15% that are overfished, 7% which are depleted, and
2% that are recovering from over-fishing (FAO, 2000a). The remaining 25% of the main world fish stocks are still
capable of producing higher yields.
In addition to affecting the stocks of commercially valuable fish, fishing activities often contribute to the
depletion of non-target fish (through by-catch), marine pollution, and habitat destruction (e.g. through bottom
trawling and dynamite fishing). Marine degradation is further exacerbated, and fish stocks negatively affected, by
pollution and other ecosystem changes originating from non-fishery sector sources, such as agriculture run-off,
water pollution, the deposition of chemicals from air pollution, coastal zone development, and global warming. The
introduction of invasive species to fishery (e.g. through the release of ship ballast water primarily from commercial
shipping activities) can also lead to serious repercussions for fishery ecosystems.
9.2. Developments in the fishery sector
Several factors determine developments in the fishery sector. The biological limitations on marine fish stocks
are the ultimate constraint on fisheries sector development, although they can be counterbalanced to some extent
© OECD 2001
by increases in fishing capacity, technological developments in harvesting, and the development of aquaculture
production. While supply in the sector is limited by biological constraints, demand for fish and fish products by
consumers continues to rise. This demand is influenced by human population-levels, eating habits, available disposable income, and fish prices.
Demand for fish products
Worldwide consumption of fish and aquatic products has been increasing in recent years as populations grow
and as per capita consumption of fish increases both in OECD and developing countries. The main products include
fish for food consumption and fish for fishmeal and fish oil (for use as livestock feed, for example). FAO projections indicate that by 2010 total demand for food fish will be about 110-120 million tonnes a year, compared with
the current demand of 92.5 million tonnes, while demand for fishmeal and fish oil will remain stable at about
30 million tonnes of fish per annum (FAO 1998a).
Table 9.1.
Key fishery sector statistics and projections
(or latest available
Total change
Gross production (1995 US$ billion)
Share of value added (%)
Fish production (million tonnes)
Per capita fish consumption (kilogrammes)
Sources: FAO (1997; 1998a; 2000b) and Reference Scenario.
Worldwide, per capita consumption of food fish increased from 11.4 kg per annum in 1980 to 15.3 kg in 1997
(FAO 1998b). In OECD countries, per capita consumption of fish for food increased by 18% between 1980 and
1997, to an average of 27 kg per capita, with North America and Australia & New Zealand showing particularly
strong growth (OECD, 1999). In the OECD regions examined, most seem to have reached a peak in per capita fish
consumption around 1990, with stabilising or marginally decreasing consumption levels since then. Per capita consumption of fish products in OECD regions is projected to decline to 2020 under the Reference Scenario, particularly in the regions of Japan & Korea and Western Europe, in part reflecting limitations on the availability of fish
supply (see Table 9.1).
Fishery sector production
Total fish catch from world fisheries amounted to approximately 127 million tonnes in 1998, representing
more than a 70% increase compared with 1980 levels (FAO, 2000b).1 The majority (72%) of fish production currently comes from capture fisheries – the capture of fish in their natural environment – and the remainder from
aquaculture farms. Most of the increase in production over the last 15 years has come from aquaculture, with the
share of aquaculture in total world fisheries production increasing from 8% in 1984 to 27% in 1998 (FAO, 2000b).
Aquaculture is expected to account for most of future growth in fish production, as world capture fishery production remains stable or even declines to 2020 (see Figure 9.1).
The FAO projects that total fish supplies will probably remain around the level of 125 million tonnes for the
next 3-4 years, and then increase towards a total of 130-150 million tonnes by 2010 (FAO, 1998a). The share of
1. These figures include finfish, shellfish and marine mammals, but exclude aquatic plants (e.g. seaweed). Aquatic plants constitute a small component of aquaculture production.
© OECD 2001
value added in the economy from the fisheries sector is expected to decrease significantly to 2020, by over 20% in
both OECD regions overall and worldwide, reflecting a decreasing role of the fishery sector in the economy
(see Table 9.1). On the other hand, gross worldwide production from the fishery sector, in monetary terms, is projected to grow by 40% from 1995 to 2020 in the Reference Scenario. This growth in value compared with the relatively stable production levels may reflect increased focus on the production of high value aquaculture products
and efforts in capture fisheries to focus on high-value species, such as tuna and squid.
Figure 9.1. World fish production by region and production type, 1950-2020
Total capture fish production
Fish production by production type
Million tonnes
Million tonnes
Capture fish production
Sources: FAO (1997, 1998a, 2000a) and Reference Scenario.
Production from capture fisheries
While global production from capture fisheries grew
significantly between 1950-1990, it now appears to be levFish catch from capture fisheries is
elling off. Since the early 1990s, the average annual rate of
likely to remain stable, or possibly
growth in capture fisheries has been essentially zero, with
decrease, to 2020 because of poor
a significant drop experienced between 1997-1998.2 As a
management of fish stocks.
proportion of total capture fisheries production, the contribution of OECD countries has been declining steadily in
recent decades, from about 42% in 1980 to 31% in 1998 (FAO, 2000b). To 2020, world capture fishery production
is expected to remain fairly stable under the Reference Scenario.
Among OECD countries, two-thirds of fish catch is harvested by Japan, the US and the EU. The declining
share of fish catches by OECD countries in the world total can in part be explained by the status of fish stocks in
the fisheries closest to OECD countries. Of the fishery sub-regions of primary importance for OECD countries
listed in Table 9.2, the fish resources of four are estimated by the FAO to be overfished, one is fully fished, and the
2. The recent contraction in fish landings can be partly attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, which has led to a decline in
stocks of small pelagic species off the west coats of South America (FAO, 1998a).
© OECD 2001
last is believed to be rapidly heading towards being fully fished or may already have reached this point in 1998.
According to these fairly rough estimates, there is only limited scope for expanding harvests from these fisheries
– with a potential increase of 6 million tonnes per annum of landings from the current 43 million tonnes. Furthermore, most of this increase would need to come from better management of currently over-exploited resources.
Few of the marine fisheries of primary interest to OECD countries have significant potential for additional exploitation without improvements in the current fishery management regimes. Without appropriate policies to ensure
these improvements, harvesting from capture fisheries by OECD countries is expected to decrease by almost 10%
from 1995 to 2020 under the Reference Scenario.
Table 9.2. Comparison between estimated potentials and average landings for marine capture fisheries
of primary importance to OECD countries, 1990-1994 in million tonnes
NE Atlantic
NW Atlantic
Med. & Black Sea
NE Pacific
NW Pacific
SW Pacific
Year potential
landings 1990-94
Subjective degree
of reliability of regression
Less reliable
Reasonably reliable
Less reliable
Reasonably reliable
Reasonably reliable
Overfished, Increasing, Fully fished (based on date when rate of increase = zero).
The status of the fisheries indicated here reflects potential and actual landings for fishery sub-regions, not particular fish stocks. Some fish
stocks may be currently harvested at sustainable levels, but fall within a sub-region for which other stocks have been fished past their sustainable yield, thus earning the sub-region a status of “overfished”. The status of the fishery sub-regions is only a very rough indicator of fishery sustainability.
Source: FAO (1997).
Greater use is also being made worldwide of inland fisheries resources. However, mostly because of the large
number, dispersion, variety, and dynamic nature of inland water bodies, information is lacking on exact landings
and the state of these resources. Recorded landings in 1996 amounted to 7.6 million tonnes, with indications that
this capture has been increasing worldwide by about 2% per annum since the mid-1980s (FAO, 1998a). Asia is by
far the most important continent for inland capture fisheries (accounting for 65% of catch), followed by Africa.
Both of these regions are increasing their inland capture harvests, as is Western Europe. Harvests appear to be
declining in Central & Eastern Europe and in North America, with the decline in the former primarily due to overexploitation and loss of habitat, but also to recent political and economic changes.
Aquaculture production
World aquaculture production amounted to 34.8 million tonnes per annum by 1998, at a value of
US$47.5 billion (FAO, 2000b). Aquaculture production has increased dramatically in recent years, realising almost
a 300% increase in tonnage from 1984 to1998. Most of this increase has come from outside OECD regions, with
OECD area aquaculture production growing by an annual average of almost 3% over 1990-1997, while the rest of
the world realised growth rates of almost 13%. China is the most significant aquaculture producer, and currently
accounts for about 44% of world production in value terms (FAO, 2000b). Japan is the world’s second largest
aquaculture producing nation, and three other OECD countries (Korea, Norway, and the US) are in the top ten
(FAO, 1998a).
The aquaculture sector is not constrained in the same way as the capture fisheries sector and, in particular,
does not face the same biological production limitation that natural fish stocks have. In addition, aquaculture is an
enterprise under human control, whilst in capture fisheries man is dependent on a number of external variables
(biology, weather, hydrology, past fishing patterns, etc.) for production. Furthermore, aquaculture production does
not face the resource management problems confronting capture fisheries in the form of ill-defined property rights
characteristic of “open access” resources. As a result, it is expected that most, if not all, future growth in the fisheries sector over the next 20 years will come from aquaculture. Projections in the Reference Scenario indicate that
global aquaculture production has the potential to increase from the 39 million tonnes per year harvested in 1998
© OECD 2001
to almost 70 million tonnes in 2020. The majority of this growth is expected to take place in non-OECD regions,
but OECD area aquaculture production is expected to increase as well. Aquaculture development may be indirectly
limited, however, by the production constraints affecting capture fisheries, as many aquaculture activities are
dependent on nutrients derived from capture fisheries.3
Box 9.1.
Excess fishing capacity and subsidies to the fishing industry
Excess fishing capacity has contributed to unsustainable harvests in many world fisheries and poor economic performance. This has led to a problem of “too many boats chasing too few fish”, as fleet capacity increases and catch
rate falls (Figure 9.2). By the late 1980s, the world’s large scale fishing fleet had exceeded the maximum sustainable
yield (MSY) of global commercial fish stocks by 30% (McGinn, 1998). Since then, the situation has worsened:
between 1992 and 1997, the world fleet increased by 3% in tonnage and 22% in technical capability (McGinn, 1998).
Partly this has been the result of using more efficient harvesting technologies (e.g. radar, sonar, and aircraft for fish
spotting), and satellite technologies for navigation; weather and sea-surface monitoring; as well as new communications and electronic data systems. Subsidies to shipbuilding and fleet enhancement have also contributed to this problem where fishery management was inadequate. A very rough estimate suggests world subsides to the fishery sector
may be as much as US$14-20 billion per annum (Milazzo, 1998). Government financial transfers to fish harvesting
in OECD countries in 1997 amounted to at least US$6.3 billion, representing 17% of the landed value of the catch
that year (OECD, 2000). However, a good portion of these transfers is now allocated to research and the better management of fisheries.
Figure 9.2. Global fleet capacity and catch rate, 1970-1989
Million tons per GRT
Gross registered tons (GRT)
Fleet capacity (left scale)
Catch rate (right scale)
Source: McGinn (1998).
3. For example, aquaculture-produced Atlantic salmon rely upon a diet that is 45% fish meal and 25% fish oil, both derived
from capture fisheries (Naylor et al., 1998).
© OECD 2001
Trade in fishery products
In line with the upward trend in world fisheries production, trade in fish and fishery products has increased
over time. Currently, between 35% and 40% of fisheries production is traded internationally, with export volumes
having almost tripled in the last 25 years. The value of fish exports increased from US$11 billion in 1970 to
US$52.5 billion in 1997 (McGinn, 1998; FAO, 1998a, 1999a). Developing economies accounted for more than
50% of the fish traded internationally, with exports largely going to OECD countries (FAO, 1998a). Developed
countries import a large share of species such as tuna, shrimp, squid and salmon, as well as fish used for fishmeal
and fish oil (McGinn, 1998). Barriers to trade in processed fish remain common (e.g. high tariffs on imports of
already processed fish), as policies aim to keep fish processing (with its high value added) within the country where
fish is landed.
9.3. Pressures on fish resources
Fish stocks
As mentioned above, many of the world’s fisheries are
reaching, or have already surpassed, maximum sustainable
A number of common fish species
harvest limits. A good portion of world marine capture fish
are threatened with commercial
resources (70% according to one estimate) can now be catextinction.
egorised as mature or senescent, particularly the high value
species (Garcia and Newton, 1997). Some of the common
commercial species, and in particular grundfish, such as
Atlantic cod and haddock, are now threatened with commercial extinction. Some species, like tuna, are a global
problem due to their migratory nature. In general, the evolution of capture fisheries can be seen as a classic example
of “resource mining”: starting with the exploitation of the species and fisheries of highest value or lowest harvesting costs and then, as they become exhausted, moving successively to lower value/ higher harvesting cost ones.
The main factors that contribute to overfishing are the “open access” nature of the resources (i.e. the rights of
access to the fishery are open to anyone in the high seas) and excess fleet capacity (in terms of fish numbers and
gear). Under open access regimes, there is no incentive among fishers to conserve the resource for future use, since
no fisher has exclusive rights. This results in dissipation of profits and increased exploitation rates, pushing the size
of the fish stock below the size that produces maximum sustainable yield (MSY). While access to fisheries adjoining OECD countries is generally well-regulated, the existence of excessive effort in the fishing industry also means
that capital and labour – factors of production that could be better employed elsewhere in the economy – are occupied in a “race-to-fish”. Low profits lead to economic problems and social disruption. In many cases, these problems have prompted governments to implement policies to support their fishing industries. However, many of these
policies distort markets and further hinder sustainable fishing management, and it is increasingly recognised that
the introduction of fisheries management policies that seek to match fishing capacity to available resources are
more appropriate in the long run.
Ecosystem quality
In most capture fisheries, the target species intermingle with other species. The nature of the fishing equipment (gear) employed often has the effect that non-target species are also harvested (by-catch) along with the targeted species. The US National Research Council (1999) estimates that marine by-catch may amount to 27 million
tonnes per year, the equivalent of almost one-third of the total reported harvests from marine capture fisheries. A
number of policies have been implemented to reduce by-catch in some fisheries, including specifications on net
type and mesh size; periodic closure of fishing grounds; limitations on by-catch or non-target species mortality
4. Mature fishery resources are those which are being harvested at the maximum average long-term yield; senescent fishery
resources have been exploited beyond that limit and are, from a biological perspective, overexploited.
© OECD 2001
rates;5 or requirements to use certain fishing gear (e.g. turtle and dolphin excluder devices). Certain fishing methods, including both dynamite fishing and bottom trawling, directly contribute to the destruction of marine species’
habitat, including coral reefs. Global environmental changes may also impact marine ecosystems, such as rising
sea levels and permanent changes in ocean temperature resulting from increased greenhouse gas concentrations in
the atmosphere (see Chapter 13), and increased UV-B exposure from depletion of the ozone layer.
Most of marine pollution (about 70%) arises from land-based sources (UN, 1992). This is particularly true for
coastal zone pollution from urban settlements, construction of coastal infrastructure and discharges (e.g. sewage
treatment plants, stormwater run-off from roads), agro-chemicals run-off, tourism and industrial development.
Algal blooms and red tides are also common, with the principal cause appearing to be increased nutrient loading
of coastal waters (from the run-off of agricultural fertilisers) and high temperatures (see Chapter 8). Many of the
polluting substances that originate from land-based sources exhibit characteristics of toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation in the food chain. Maritime transport and marine dumping activities (such as disposal of dredgings)
represent a further significant contribution to marine pollution (UN, 1992). Roughly 600 000 tonnes of oil enter
the oceans annually from routine shipping operations, accidents, and illegal discharges (UN, 1992).
The development of aquaculture also poses some
While aquaculture can help
threats to local environments. Where it is undertaken on a
alleviate stress on capture fisheries
large scale at a single site, it can contribute to eutrophicafrom increased demand for fish,
tion,6 reduced landscape amenity, and interference with
it can also have negative impacts
other uses of coastal water space. The most important polon local ecosystems.
lution effects from cage rearing of fish are related to
organic enrichment around the sea cages, leading to
reduced species diversity (GESAMP, 1992). Large-scale shrimp culture has led to a degradation of wetlands, salination of water supplies and land subsidence because of groundwater abstraction (Barg et al., 1997). Often large
doses of antibiotics are applied to aquaculture to maintain healthy fish populations. However, the accumulation of
excess antibiotics can also affect other species and the ecosystem balance. The implications of escape of farmed
fish – for example those that have been genetically modified or that are non-native species – is also a concern.
Potential impacts include hybridisation, predation and competition, transmission of disease and changes in habitat
(Barg et al., 1997.). The introduction of invasive species which can squeeze out native populations, particularly in
enclosed water bodies, can also have severe effects, such as the introduction of the Atlantic comb jellyfish in the
Black Sea which caused the collapse of local fisheries.
9.4. Policy options and their potential effects
Despite the significant expected growth in aquaculture production, total world fisheries sector production may
increase by only a small amount over the next few decades, if at all. FAO projects that under current management
practices total world capture fishery production may even decrease to 80 million tonnes per annum by 2010 from
the recent levels of 87-95 million tonnes per annum (FAO, 1998a). However, FAO also suggests that with better
fishery management, capture fish harvests could actually increase by an additional 18 million tonnes (of which
6 tonnes would be in the fisheries of primary importance to OECD countries). To realise such a result, significant
policy actions – at the local, national and international level – will be needed.
International co-operation
Global governance of fisheries is focused on recommendations by international bodies, such as the UN General Assembly, regional fisheries management organisations, and the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (FAO, 1999b).
5. For example, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission defined a dolphin mortality limit of 7 500 for purse seine tuna
fishing in the eastern Pacific Ocean during 1997.
6. The overnourishment of aquatic ecosystems with plant nutrients (mainly nitrates and phosphates) can lead to excess algae
growth, hindering the development of other species.
© OECD 2001
These bodies have adopted policy and legal instruments that provide a framework for fisheries governance at various levels. A very important piece of international treaty law, pertaining to the international governance of marine
fisheries, is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, arising from the UN Third Conference on the Law of the
Sea, 1973-1982 (UN, 1982). Prior to this, coastal state jurisdiction over marine fishery resources typically extended
to no more than six miles from shore. The Convention codified the general practice of states to extend their jurisdiction over marine fishery resources to 200 nautical miles from their coastlines (under Exclusive Economic
Zones) from 1977 onwards. It has been estimated that 90% of world marine capture fishery harvests are based upon
fishery resources encompassed by Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The economic rationale for the EEZ regime
lay in the hope that its implementation would lead to the mitigation of the “common pool” problem afflicting
marine capture fisheries (Eckert, 1979). The results to date have been decidedly mixed, with the “common pool”
problem re-emerging within many EEZs.
A particularly troublesome resource management problem emerged after 1982 in the form of transboundary
fishery resources found both within the EEZ and in the adjacent high seas – straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. In retrospect, it is clear that the relevant articles in the Convention (116-120) did not deal adequately with these resources. In response to the growing worldwide resource management crisis for this type of
fisheries, the UN convened the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks,
1993-1995. That conference brought forth an Agreement (UN, 1995) which was designed not to supplant the Convention, but rather to support it. The Agreement calls for the management of straddling and highly migratory fish
stocks on a regional basis, through regional fishery management organisations (RFMOs). While the Agreement is
not yet in force, it had received 25 of the required 30 ratifications, and provided a framework for several attempts
to manage co-operatively fishery resources. A key challenge now is to ensure that the Agreement is fully and effectively implemented, and that the companion 1993 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas is also implemented. Overall, it is essential that the 1995 FAO
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing – a voluntary code of standards for the conservation of fishery resources
and the management and development of fisheries both within EEZs and outside of them – is adopted and implemented by all FAO members.
A number of regional fisheries bodies exist which collect and disseminate data to support conservation and
management, serve as a technical and policy forum to exchange information and disseminate “best practices”, and
promote harmonised policies and co-operation among members to promote sustainable management of fish stocks.
In general, however, regional fisheries bodies have not been successful in conserving and managing resource stocks
because of a failure to control fishing effort (OECD, 1997). A number of important issues will need to be addressed
Box 9.2.
Trade measures and fishing activities
The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing establishes the principle that international trade in fish and fish
products should not compromise the sustainable development of fisheries and the responsible utilisation of aquatic
resources (OECD, 2000). Two multilateral fisheries conservation agreements provide for the use of trade measures
against non-contracting parties: the 1992 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources,
and the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (OECD, 2000).
Bilateral trade measures have also been used to influence fishing activities harmful to the environment. Several
high profile cases concerning the fisheries trade and the environment have been taken to the GATT/WTO for resolution, including the complaint filed by Mexico against the US in 1991 (regarding a US embargo on tuna caught using
purse seine nets that endangered dolphins), and the complaint lodged by India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand
in 1996 against a US ban on the importation of shrimp and shrimp products from countries not using turtle excluder
devices in shrimp nets (Tsamenyi and McIlgorm, 1999). In both cases, GATT and WTO review panels ruled in favour
of the complainants. However, in the shrimp-turtle dispute, the WTO panel found that the US law requiring the use
of turtle excluder devices was not inconsistent with obligations under the WTO, although it failed to meet the necessary requirements to be justified under Article XX of the GATT 1994.
© OECD 2001
to rectify this, including the failure by some states to implement key international instruments (see above); the
unwillingness of some states to delegate adequate decision-making powers and responsibilities to regional bodies;
and the lack of enforcement of management measures (FAO, 1999b).
Technological development and diffusion
Fishing technology developments are generally
New technologies have the
geared towards improving the efficiency and costpotential to help improve fisheries
effectiveness of fishing activities or fish processing. These
management, but also to
technologies increase the share of living marine resources
increase the rate of unsustainable
that are potentially harvestable, and so have contributed to
fish harvests.
the overfishing of many fish stocks. However, many of
these technologies can also be adapted to support sustainable fishing practices, as is beginning to happen in some countries. For example, a fisheries computer-aided monitoring system has been developed that integrates a geographical information system (GIS), a global positioning
system (GPS) and a database management system. It can be installed on board vessels and used to monitor fisheries
effort and catch, providing valuable information to industry and fisheries managers. Australian fisheries already
use a satellite-based vessel monitoring system to ensure compliance by vessel operators with fisheries management
rules, and to collect data on catch and fishing. New technologies, such as turtle excluder devices, have also been
developed. A more wide-spread use of these devices could prove a significant benefit to fisheries managers whose
monitoring and compliance activities are often constrained by limited resources, although many of the devices are
installed by the fishers themselves in order to increase their efficiency and catch.
In some fisheries, policies are also being adopted that deliberately restrict the use of new technologies, either
to reduce potentially damaging side-effects from their use (e.g. the use of purse-seine fishing nets which also catch
dolphins) or to limit fishing effort (e.g. requirements that lobster fishers in the Chesapeake Bay in the US utilise
sail-powered boats only). However, such policies have limitations. Many of the new technologies that are now
being used (e.g. echo sounders, GPS, and automatic tracking systems) also improve safety on vessels. Furthermore,
since they do not address the underlying economic incentives to increase total fishing effort in an open access
resource, restrictions on the use of new technologies are unlikely to be effective in reducing fish catch in the longrun unless they are accompanied by other regulatory or economic policies.
Regulatory instruments
A number of regulatory instruments are used to limit fish catch and reduce the impacts of fishing or other
activities on ecosystems and species. These include regulations to protect fish stocks, restrain fishing effort, or limit
by-catch or degradation of marine ecosystems. Regulations that restrict fishing effort include limits on the fishing
season, on the fishing area (particularly applicable for nursery areas), on the allowable catch (i.e. setting a total
allowable catch – TAC – for a given fishery), or on fishing inputs (e.g. numbers of vessels, participants, nets, or
In terms of the degradation and pollution of marine resources, a number of countries have adopted regulations
to limit emissions or to hold polluters liable for large-scale pollution (e.g. from oil tankers or chemical spills).
In 1995, a Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities
was adopted to facilitate action by states to prevent, reduce, control, and/or eliminate degradation of the marine
environment, as well as to support its recovery from the impacts of land-based activities. The programme recommends approaches for dealing with, inter alia, sewage, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, nutrients, and
litter. Again, current policies only address effects within national EEZs, and agreements and principles are needed
to address transboundary pollution effects, or those occurring on the high seas. In some areas, regional initiatives
have developed to manage fishery resources, and often extend their zone of management beyond the EEZs. However, what jurisdictional authority these regional bodies have over the open seas in their regions is not entirely clear.
Further regulations are also required at the national level to deal with the potential degradation and pollution of
coastal zone areas from rapidly developing aquaculture production. These regulations should be based on the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) to provide appropriate incentives for pollution reduction.
© OECD 2001
Economic instruments
As discussed above, overcapacity in the fishing sector is a serious problem, and rationalising fishing capacity
is critical to promote sustainable fisheries management. A number of subsidies to fishing activities continue to contribute to increases in capacity in the sector. Many countries provide grants and low-interest loans for the construction of new fishing vessels and to offer training and wage supplements to young people interested in working in
the sector. The fishing effort is further stimulated by support that is transferred each year to fishing fleets in OECD
countries through modernisation grants, fish price support, interest subsidies and fuel tax exemptions. These can
encourage a build-up of capacity and an expansion of fishing activity, and some of the transfers may imbed industry
expectations that may complicate future adjustment efforts (OECD, 2000). The conclusion, ratification and implementation of multilateral agreements to ensure the phase-out of subsidies to shipbuilding and fishing effort can contribute to the reduction of over-capacity in the fishery sector.7 For these incentives to be effective, appropriate
fisheries management will be necessary, and any potential spill-over effects of excess capacity into other fisheries
will need to be addressed. Of course, better management of fishery resources is also in the long-term interests of
the fishermen who use these resources (see Box 9.3).
A number of other economic incentives are also in use to reduce fleet capacity (e.g. fleet “buy-back”
schemes), applying heavy vessel charges to discourage vessel introduction. OECD countries spent US$320 million
in 1996 on decommissioning old or redundant fishing vessels and easing fishers into early retirement (OECD,
2000). For these incentives to be more effective, any existing counter-subsidies which encourage increased fleet
capacity will need to be removed. In addition to vessel charges, many OECD countries also levy charges on permits
for fish farming or commercial fishing, or on fishing quotas. A modelling simulation was used to examine the
effects of removing all subsidies to fish production in OECD regions, coupled with the application of an ad valorem
tax on fish products that increased by 2% per annum to 2020 (reaching a 50% tax in 2020). This simulation found
Box 9.3.
Effects of changes in the environment on the fishery sector
The trends in over-fishing of particular fisheries, by-catch discard, and pollution of the marine environment have
important economic rebound effects on the fishery sector. As seen above, production in many fisheries has progressed past the point of maximum sustainable harvests, resulting in more fishing effort required to catch fewer available fish. Furthermore, the economic consequences of overexploitation are more severe than physical levels of
harvests would suggest because the current list of overexploited capture fishery resources is heavily weighted in
favour of the high valued species.
In terms of marine pollution, the open sea is still relatively clean but the coastal zones are under serious threat of
pollution (GESAMP, 1992). Degradation of the marine environment can have negative impacts on fish habitats and
stocks, especially since many fish species spend part of their life cycle in the coastal zone. Impacts include changes
in water quality, hydrological characteristics, nutrient concentrations, habitat availability and food supply. Establishing conclusively that a negative impact or change in fish stocks is the result of pollution is extremely difficult; this
is further complicated by the biological factors and variation in sex, age and reproductive characteristics, as well as
the mobility, of fish species.
These effects can extend beyond the harvesting sector into the post-harvest (processing and distribution) sector.
Fisheries that are regulated to restrict fishing seasons tend to create incentives to race-to-fish, ensuring that the fishing season becomes progressively shorter and shorter. Processing plants find themselves confronted with short periods of glut, followed by lengthy periods of famine, leading to higher than necessary processing costs and possibly
diminished quality of product (OECD, 1997).
7. The conclusion in 1994 of the OECD Shipbuilding Agreement marked an important step towards agreeing rules on government support to naval shipbuilding and establishing a dispute panel and legal instrument for dealing with signatories who
contravened the Agreement, but unfortunately it has not yet been ratified, and its coverage is limited in that it does not cover
the building of fishing vessels.
© OECD 2001
that gross production in the fisheries sector would decrease worldwide compared with the Reference Scenario, with
decreases of over 4% for OECD regions overall and only a marginal decrease (0.1%) for non-OECD regions.
The lack of well-defined property rights in fisheries is one of the main factors leading to over-fishing. For
some species, it is possible to define physical boundaries for property rights. For example, oysters stay in one place
on the seabed, and so it is possible to physically define oyster beds, which can be allocated to individual fishers.
Even where it is not possible to define physical boundaries, the right to catch fish can be applied through the use
of individual transferable quotas (ITQs), which allocate quotas for a part of the total allowable catch (TAC) for a
given fishery. The introduction of ITQs can help to increase economic efficiency of fishing fleets and vessels by
reducing the fishing effort put into harvesting the allowable catch. Once fishers have the right to catch a certain
amount of fish, they have a private incentive to maximise their economic value, and the setting of a total maximum
of fish catch for the fishery overall can help to ensure sustainability of the resources. Further scientific capacity
building is needed to better establish maximum sustainable yields from fisheries to enable the setting of total allowable catches based on a fully scientific basis, rather than on a combination of science and political bargaining. Currently, most IQ and ITQ schemes in operation are implemented at the national level in EEZs. With international
co-operation, multilateral schemes could be established for high seas fisheries. The development of communitybased fisheries management schemes can also be seen as a means to create quasi-property rights to limited harvests
(allocated to local communities or nation states for their management), if not to the resource itself.
Voluntary agreements
Because of the open access nature of high sea fisheries, and the lack of a strong regulatory framework to back
up agreements, voluntary agreements are unlikely to be a strong policy option for addressing unsustainable harvesting practices. However, such agreements may be more likely in the fish processing and purchasing industries,
where firms are already adding additional buying specifications for the fish they wish to purchase.8 These sectors
may be potential candidates for voluntary agreements in the future, influencing the demand for fish from the fishing
industry at the processing level. Such schemes may well emerge in conjunction with the further development of
eco-labelling schemes, which help to influence consumer demand.
Information and other instruments
Eco-labelling has emerged in some OECD countries as a response to consumer demand for information specifying that fish and fishery products have been harvested and processed in an environmentally responsible manner.
The Nordic Council, the European Commission and the FAO have each been holding on-going discussions on ecolabelling schemes for fish and fishery products. Some privately sponsored labelling or information programmes
have also emerged, including those of the Global Aquaculture Alliance and the US National Fisheries Institute. The
Marine Stewardship Council (initially set up as a partnership by Unilever and WWF in 1997 and now an independent foundation) has established a process for third-party certification of fishery or fish stock, as well as for fishing
methods and practices. It is now possible for retailers and consumers to purchase fish bearing the Council’s logo,
indicating that the fish comes from well-managed sources. To ensure their effectiveness and credibility, ecolabelling schemes for fishery products should comply with the national regulations in the countries where the
schemes are used, and they should be transparent, voluntary and non-discriminatory.
8. Some retailers now demand fish sizes that fit portion-sized packaging requirements (OECD, 1998a and 1999a). Some large
post-harvest operators, such as supermarkets and processors, have established their own specifications that exceed the
national sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements ensuring food safety.
© OECD 2001
Barg, U.C., D.M Bartley, A.G.J. Tacon and R.L. Welcomme (1997), “Aquaculture and its Environment: A Case for Collaboration” in D.A. Hancock, DC. Smith, A. Grant, and J.P. Beumer (eds.), Developing and Sustaining World Fisheries
Resources: the State of Science and Management. 2nd World Fisheries Congress, CSIRO Publishing, Victoria: 462-470.
Eckert, R.D. (1979), The Enclosure of Ocean Resources: Economics and the Law of the Sea, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1997), “Review of the State of the World Fishery
Resources: Marine Fisheries”, FAO Fisheries 920, FAO, Rome.
FAO (1998a), The State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1998, FAO, Rome.
FAO (1998b), “Fish and Fishery Products: World Apparent Consumption Statistics Based on Food Balance Sheets,
1961-1995”, FAO Fisheries 821, Rev. 4, FAO, Rome.
FAO (1999a), FISHSTAT, FAO, Rome.
FAO (1999b), “Regional Fishery Organisations or Arrangements as Vehicles for Good Fishery Governance”, Document FI:RFB/99/4, Meeting of FAO and Non-FAO Regional Fishery Bodies or Arrangements, Rome, 11-12 February.
FAO (2000a), “Agriculture Towards 2015/30: Technical Interim Report”, Global Perspectives Unit, April, FAO, Rome.
Garcia, S. and C. Newton (1997), “Current Situation, Trends, and Prospects in World Capture Fisheries”, Global
Trends: Fisheries Management, in E.K. Pikitch, D.D. Huppert, and M.P. Sissenwine, (eds.), American Fisheries Society Symposium 20, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda: 3-27.
GESAMP (1992), The State of the Marine Environment, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.
McGinn, A.P. (1998), “Rocking the Boat: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs”, Worldwatch Paper 142, Worldwatch Institute, Washington DC.
Milazzo, M. (1998), “Subsidies in World Fisheries: A Re-examination”, World Bank Technical Paper 406, Fisheries
Series, World Bank, Washington DC.
Munro, G., C. Bertuzzi, and C. Chung (2001), “Fisheries Trends: A Background Report”, background document for
the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Naylor, R.R., H. Goldburg, H. Mooney, M. Beveridge, J. Clay, C. Folke, N. Kautsky, J. Lubchenco, J. Primavero, and
M. Williams (1998), “Nature’s Subsidies to Shrimp and Salmon Farming”, Science 282: 883-884.
OECD (1997), Towards Sustainable Fisheries: Economic Aspects of the Management of Living Marine Resources, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999), “Towards More Sustainable Household Consumption Patterns: Indicators to Measure Progress”,
OECD (2000), Transition to Responsible Fisheries, OECD, Paris.
Tsamenyi, M. and A. McIlgorm (1999), International Environmental Instruments: Their Effects on the Fishing Industry, Dominion Consulting, Hurstville.
UN (United Nations) (1992), Agenda 21, Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,
Chapter 17: “Protection of the Oceans, All Kinds of Seas, Including Enclosed and Semi-Enclosed Seas, and Coastal
Areas and the Protection, Rational Use and Development of their Living Resources”, United Nations, New York.
US National Research Council (1999), Sustaining Marine Fisheries, National Academy Press, Washington DC.
WRI (World Resources Institute) (1998), World Resources 1998-99, Oxford University Press, New York.
© OECD 2001
• Forests provide a range of services to society, including economic benefits (e.g. timber, pulp for paper, cork, rubber), environmental services (e.g. air and water purification, biodiversity, carbon sinks, erosion control, wildlife
habitat), and social benefits (e.g. employment, recreational opportunities, cultural values).
• World demand for industrial wood (i.e. non-fuel wood) is expected to increase by up to 70% to 2020, with demand
in OECD countries increasing more slowly. Increased production will mainly occur in new plantation forests, primarily in the southern hemisphere.
• Total forest area in OECD regions has increased marginally in the last decade, and is likely to either remain stable
or decrease slightly to 2020. Deforestation is expected to continue in tropical countries, with a loss of biodiversity
and global forest coverage as a result.
• Forest quality is degrading in many areas in both OECD and non-OECD regions as natural forests are replaced
with mono-culture, intensively produced plantation forests, and industrial pollution reaches forest areas.
• Policies to ensure the production of environmental, social and economic services from forests are needed. Ecocertification systems for sustainable forest management and carbon sequestration schemes can complement existing regulatory frameworks and provide incentives for more sustainable forest management. Promoting the use of
timber for building and forest biomass for energy can encourage further forest expansion.
10.1. Introduction
Forests provide a range of services to humans, including wood products, recreational opportunities, and ecosystems services. Approximately half of the wood products harvested for human use worldwide are used for fuelwood and the other half for industrial purposes (e.g. building materials, paper products). Global demand for wood
products and fuel wood has increased steadily in recent decades, but now appears to be levelling off. Wood is taken
from natural forests that are undisturbed by man, semi-natural forests that are managed for timber production, and
full “plantation forests” that are deliberately planted and intensively cultivated for wood and fibre production. In
addition to providing wood for human use, forests provide essential environmental services, including air purification functions, carbon sinks, watershed protection, erosion control, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat. While all
forests contribute to these important environmental functions, the extent to which they do so depends on their size,
structure, density, and management.
Deforestation (forest clearance followed by land-use changes) and forest degradation (depletion of forest
growing stock, without changes in land use) are the main factors limiting the ability of forests to provide economic
and environmental services. The fragmentation of natural forest areas and the development of mono-culture plantation forests can reduce the quality of forest wildlife habitat, while intensive forest farming, with the use of fertilisers and pesticides, can affect soil, water and air quality. In many cases, natural forests can be managed so that
they continue to provide a range of services – for example combining limited timber harvesting with recreational
opportunities and providing high quality biodiversity habitats.
© OECD 2001
10.2. Developments in the forestry sector
Table 10.1.
Key forestry sector statistics and projections
(or latest available
Total change
Gross production (1995 US$ billion)
Share of value added in the economy (%)
Industrial roundwood production (million cubic metres)
1 447
1 516
1 500
2 600
Estimated fuelwood consumption (million cubic metres)
1 372
1 753
1 700
Sources: FAOSTAT (2000), GTAP database and Reference Scenario.
Demand for forest products
Approximately half of wood removals worldwide is for industrial roundwood1 use (1.5 billion cubic metres
per annum), while the other half is for fuelwood use (1.5-2 billion cubic metres). Roundwood is divided fairly
evenly between use for pulp and paper and other uses (i.e. sawnwood, plywood, veneer, etc). The main underlying
driving forces for industrial wood demand are population and income levels and, for sawnwood and panels, the
level of construction activity. The vast majority of fuelwood consumption occurs in the developing world, with
OECD countries accounting for less than 10% of estimated fuelwood consumption. Population growth in developing countries and lack of alternative energy sources (e.g. electricity supply) are the main drivers of fuelwood
Consumption of the main forest products rose by about 50% between 1970 and 1990, both in OECD regions
and the rest of the world, but has been stagnating since the mid 1980s. The consumption of wood-based panels and
of paper and paperboard has risen more strongly since 1970, while sawnwood demand has been slower, reflecting
more moderate growth in the construction industry. The consumption of processed products has generally followed
the economic cycle. Driven by population growth and low incomes in developing countries, world fuelwood consumption has risen consistently since the 1970s.
In OECD regions, growth in demand for the main forest products is likely to weaken over the period
1995-2020, as population levels stabilise and increased waste paper recycling reduces the need for virgin pulp. For
the developing world, increasing populations and income levels are expected to contribute to a continued growth
in demand for industrial wood. While projections for world demand for industrial wood in 2020 vary significantly
(see Figure 10.1), most projections indicate that the increases in demand will slow after 2010.
While demand for primary fibre inputs (including industrial roundwood, recycled paper and non-wood fibre)
to the pulp and paper industry is projected to increase significantly worldwide to 2020 (see Figure 10.2), an
increasing portion will come from recycled paper rather than roundwood. By 2020 recycled paper is expected to
account for almost half of all fibre inputs to the pulp and paper industry (see Chapter 18). The future demand for
fuelwood is more ambiguous, partly because of difficulties in measuring total fuelwood use in many countries.
Although the increasing incomes expected in developing countries are typically associated with shifts away from
fuelwood to other energy sources, continuing population growth is likely to counter this trend such that world fuelwood use remains stable to 2020 (see Figure 10.2). In OECD countries, fuelwood use currently amounts to less
than 0.2 billion cubic metres per annum, and this has been declining steadily since the mid-1980s (FAOSTAT,
2000). However, under the Reference Scenario, a small (4%) increase in fuelwood demand is expected in OECD
1. Industrial roundwood includes all wood extracted from forests for purposes other than fuel use, e.g. sawnwood for building
materials and furniture (lumber, wood panels, veneer), and fibre products (paper and paperboard).
© OECD 2001
Figure 10.1. World industrial wood production, 1970-2020
Billion m3
Sources: FAOSTAT (2000) for 1970-1995 numbers; Reference Scenario (dotted line)
and range of other projections cited in Bonnis (2001) and Edjo (2001) for 1995-2020
Wood production
Approximately 22% of current world timber harvests
Timber is increasingly being
come from natural forests, 44% from managed forests, and
harvested from second
34% from plantation forests. Harvests in OECD countries
and planted forests,
generally reflect the global proportions, with much of
on natural
Europe, the US and Japan harvesting from managed and
plantation forests, and Canada harvesting primarily from
natural and managed forests. Only a few countries (primarily in the OECD Pacific region, and some southern European countries) have significant production from exotic
industrial plantation forests. The share of wood production from plantation forests has been rapidly increasing
since the 1960s, and this trend is likely to continue, with new plantation forests developing particularly in nonOECD regions. About 25% of the world’s industrial wood (15% of OECD countries’ industrial wood) originates
from tropical forests, particularly from the Asia-Pacific region. Increased production from second growth and
planted forests has been displacing natural forest timber in recent years, with decreases seen in harvest levels from
primary natural forests as a result. In many countries forestlands are publicly owned, with leases provided for private harvesting (see Box 10.1).
Significant technological developments have been realised in recent years in both forestry production and in
wood processing. On the production side, there has been the use of better forest management techniques, irrigation
and fertilisation systems to increase growth, more intensive plantation forests, as well as new developments in tree
breeding and biotechnology to improve and standardise tree characteristics. The results are faster tree growth and
more desirable tree characteristics. Plantation forests have been found to produce 5-20 times the wood growth that
2. It should be noted that there have been changes in the definitions of plantation forests over time.
© OECD 2001
can be achieved in most temperate region forests. “Fibre farms” go even further than plantation forests, growing
fibre as an agricultural crop in very intensively managed short rotations. On the wood processing side, reductions
in wastage in tree harvesting and the re-use of processing by-products have significantly increased efficiency.
Figure 10.2. Demand for primary fibre inputs by type of use, 1995-2020
Million m3
Pulp & paper production
Sawnwood, plywood, veneer, etc.
Note: These figures include the use of industrial roundwood, recycled paper and non-wood fibre.
Source: Reference Scenario.
Box 10.1.
Characteristics of forest holdings in OECD regions
Almost one-third of forestland in OECD regions is privately owned, although there are large variations between
countries. Thus, in North America, 7% of Canadian forests are in private hands, compared with 73% of forests in the
US. In EU countries, the share varies from 23-93% of forests under private ownership. The long-term trend in many
European countries has been an expansion of public forests as a result of acquisition and afforestation. That trend is
now being reversed in some countries, however.
Average sizes of holdings vary considerably: 30-50 hectares in Scandinavia against 3-6 hectares in other European
countries, and 10 hectares in Japan. Even in the Nordic countries, there are a large number of holdings of less than
5 hectares.
Because of the greater processing efficiency that has resulted from these technological developments, wood
removals from forests have been increasing at a slower rate than wood consumption. Roundwood removals
increased by a third between 1970 and 1990, while wood consumption rose by a half.
It is unlikely that wood will be in scarce supply in OECD regions in the coming decades, as only about
55-60% of annual forest growth in OECD regions is currently harvested, with some room for increased harvests if
needed. Numerous studies on the economic availability of industrial wood support this projection, with no indication of future shortages.
© OECD 2001
Trade in forest products
Globally, most trade in industrial wood occurs in the northern hemisphere between industrial countries:
OECD countries account for roughly 80% of total exports and 90% of total imports. Already a net importer, the
OECD area is expected to increase net imports of wood products by almost 200% over the next 20 years. The three
dominant industrial wood importing markets – Western Europe, Japan and North America – are all expected to
more than double their net imports of wood products. While most of the industrial wood consumed in Western
Europe is produced within Europe (with large volumes being exported by the Nordic countries to other European
countries), by 2020 Western Europe is expected to more than double its currently modest net imports of wood. The
US and Canada are two of the world’s major producing regions and export (as well as import) huge volumes of
industrial wood, both to and from each other and globally. While net imports there remain relatively small, they
are expected to increase significantly. In Asia, Japan is the dominant consuming country and is the world’s largest
net importer of industrial wood. Slow growth in domestic production coupled with larger demand increases are
expected to further increase net imports in Japan.
Central & Eastern Europe is a net exporter of wood products, and is expected to significantly increase this
trade surplus over the next two decades as domestic production increases by over 150% and domestic demand
grows more slowly. Russia has been an important exporter of industrial wood to a number of regions in the past,
but considerable recent reductions in production have lowered Russian exports.3 There are growing exports from
plantation forests of the southern hemisphere (including New Zealand) to most of the world’s major industrial
wood markets. Most tropical wood exports flow to OECD regions (particularly to Japan, but also to North America
and Europe), most often in the form of plywood and sawnwood.
In general, OECD countries tend to have low tariffs on forest products, with the situation being more variable
outside the OECD area. Other trade measures apply to roundwood exports (many countries prohibit log exports)
and sawnwood exports (some countries apply export taxes). Eight of the largest forest product producing and trading countries agreed at the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to a tariff reduction of 33% on wood products and the removal of tariffs on paper products by 2004. A proposal by the Asia Pacific
Economic Co-operation Forum (APEC) to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) calls for a more rapid reduction
in tariffs on building materials and removal of tariffs on fibre products.
10.3. Environmental effects of forestry sector activities
Forest area and deforestation
Estimates indicate that in 1995 the world’s total forest area amounted to about 3.4 billion hectares, 20% of
which was situated in OECD countries (FAO, 1999). Globally, forest cover represents a third of total land area. The
largest remaining forest areas that have not yet been developed for large-scale commercial logging are found in the
Amazon, parts of eastern Russia, including Siberia, and northern Canada. Large portions of these forests are economically inaccessible, and are likely to remain so for the near future.
Commercial logging per se is rarely the major cause
of deforestation. This is true for both temperate and tropical
Tropical deforestation is expected
regions. Rather, permanent forest loss is typically driven by
to continue at alarming rates over
the desire to convert forestland to other uses, usually agrithe next few decades.
culture. Commercial logging in the tropics does, however,
extend road infrastructure into previously inaccessible forestlands, enabling access to these lands for future conversion to agriculture. FAO data indicate that as a result of continued pressures, forest loss in tropical countries has
been averaging over 15 million hectares per annum since 1980, although some of this may recover (FAO, 1999).
3. While Russian harvests are likely to increase from the current depressed levels – they fell by over 75% since the mid-1980s
(OECD, 1999), they are unlikely to return to previous levels when harvest and transport costs were heavily subsidised.
© OECD 2001
In certain areas, especially dry areas where forest growth is modest, fuelwood use also exerts pressures on tropical
forests. Deforestation is expected to continue in the tropics under the Reference Scenario, with non-OECD countries losing an estimated 15% of current forest area by 2020 (Figure 10.3).
Figure 10.3. Change in forested area by forest type, 1995-2020
3 500 000
1 000 000
900 000
3 000 000
800 000
2 500 000
700 000
600 000
2 000 000
500 000
1 500 000
400 000
300 000
1 000 000
200 000
500 000
100 000
Canada, Mexico
Central &
& United States Eastern Europe
& Korea
Protected forest (e.g. natural parks)
Commercially exploitable natural forest
Australia &
New Zealand
Plantation forest
Commercially unexploitable natural forest
Source: Reference Scenario.
In contrast, the temperate regions – largely in OECD countries – have been marginally expanding their forest
areas in recent years. The results of the recent UNECE/FAO temperate and boreal forest resource assessment and
of the FAO global forest resource assessment show that the expansion of forest areas, growing stock, and growth
increment is common in OECD regions (UNECE/FAO, 2000). This expansion has largely been driven by the abandonment of agricultural production on marginal lands and their natural reversion to forests, and has been further
enhanced by deliberate investments in reforestation in many countries. Evidence indicates that, overall, temperate
forests will continue to maintain their present size or decrease only slightly in the foreseeable future, while forest
growing stock will increase.
© OECD 2001
Forest ecosystem quality
Forests provide habitat for about two-thirds of known terrestrial species, and have the highest species diversity
of any ecosystem, and as such are an important reservoir of genetic material. They also have the highest number
of threatened species (see Chapter 11). In addition to the rich biological diversity encountered in forests, forests
also provide a wide range of ecosystem services (see Box 10.2). The environmental services they provide are
dependent not only on the stability of the forest cover, but also on the conditions of that cover (type and size of
forest, species mix, etc.). There are indications that forest quality or authenticity is deteriorating, although there is
a clear lack of reliable information on the (current and past) state of forest biodiversity. Acid rain, caused by sulphur
dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, has been identified as an important factor in forest demise. While there now
seems to be consensus that earlier worries about forest decline were exaggerated, there is still concern about the
possible long-term impact on the forest soil (acidification) and consequently on the forest environment. Similarly,
the effects of global warming on tree growth will vary according to the location and growing conditions of forests,
but it is expected that the effects may be quite detrimental in some regions, for example around the Mediterranean.
A more direct pressure comes from uncontrolled forest fires, which are often caused by man through negligence
or by arson. In some countries, forest coverage is burned off deliberately to open up land for agricultural development. For some forest types, however, such as the boreal forests of Canada and Russia, and many pine and eucalypt
forests (e.g. in Australia and the US), fire is an integral part of the natural disturbance regime.
Box 10.2. Environmental services provided by forests
Forests provide a range of essential environmental services as well as economic (e.g. timber, fruit and nuts) and
social (e.g. recreational activities, cultural) services. Forests help to clean the atmosphere by acting as a pollutant filter: they trap solid matter and suspended aerosols, and can absorb some chemical compounds. Forests also provide
a substantial CO 2 sink, countering the build-up of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Forests regulate water
flows, with tree roots reducing run-off and improving water infiltration into the soil. As a result, flood levels of
streams can be reduced, and improved infiltration also helps to replenish groundwater.
Forests also improve soil fertility. Tree roots penetrate deep into the soil and add inorganic substances at the
expense of parent rock. The falling leaves supply the topsoil with organic substances, which are decomposed by
ground life developing in the microclimatic conditions under the trees. Forests also play a vital soil protection role.
Branches and leaves intercept some of the precipitation and thus diminish the effects of rainwater erosion. In mountain areas, they protect against avalanches, while in sandy areas, shelterbelts reduce wind erosion. Finally, forests
host a number of species (from hundreds/ha in tropical forests to 5 or less/ha in boreal forests).
Another potential threat to forest ecosystem quality is
the increasing development of intensive plantation forests.
The share of wood produced in
Plantation forests are made of one or a limited number of
intensive plantation forests is
species. Compared with natural forests, their ecosystems
expected to increase in OECD
are simplified so the wildlife is likely to be less varied. Furregions to 2020.
thermore, mono-culture plantations populated with inappropriate species may acidify some soils (e.g. pine forests
in some regions). However, for the most part, both managed and natural forests provide many of the same environmental services. Plantation forests, for instance, provide numerous environmental services, including watershed
protection and erosion and flood control. In some cases, exotic (planted) forests are superior in providing some of
these services. Thus, fast-growing plantation forests may perform better in terms of carbon dioxide absorption than
natural forests. More important, the increasing development of plantation forests to meet industrial wood needs
may reduce pressures for harvesting from natural forests. Over the coming decades, plantation forests are expected
to increase as a proportion of total forested lands in OECD countries from 1% in 1995 to almost 5% in 2020 under
the Reference Scenario (see Figure 10.3).
© OECD 2001
10.4. Policy options and their potential effects
Maintaining forest coverage and meeting demand for forest products is not likely to be a problem for OECD
countries in coming years, but policies will need to be established to ensure the protection of remaining old growth
forests and to limit any negative environmental pressures associated with intensive production of plantation forests.
To a large extent, these policies will be in the form of regulations or subsidies to encourage sustainable forest management practices, the establishment of protected forest areas with buffer zones to protect biodiversity and restrictions on access to and use of these areas. A more urgent concern is the destruction of tropical and old growth forests
in non-OECD countries, with ensuing negative effects on climate change, ecosystems, and global biodiversity.
OECD countries can influence these activities through internationally co-ordinated programmes or a legally binding convention, bilateral co-operation, and through informing consumer decisions (e.g. eco-labelling). Continuing
developments in methods and technologies for timber removals, processing, and recycling of pulp and paper products can also help to reduce the energy and resource intensity of the forestry sector.
Technological development and diffusion
Significant technological developments have been realised in recent years in forestry production and in wood
processing, and it is likely that further developments will occur in the future, particularly through new tree breeding
techniques and biotechnologies.4 While fibre farms are still in the fledgling stages of development, they are also
likely to increase rapidly in coming years as they become a more cost-efficient source of fibrous material. These
changes will to a large extent be driven by cost considerations on the part of forest producers, as they have been in
the past. However, incentives and support – such as research, education campaigns, outreach, and subsidies – to
encourage technological development and diffusion in the forestry sector to reduce pressures on the environment
could hasten the transition to sustainably managed planted forests. Forthcoming technologies that can aid sustainable management of forest resources include software programmes to allow precision management in the application of inputs (e.g. chemicals, nutrients, and water) in farmed forests.
Regulatory instruments
In many OECD countries, codes of practice to protect or enhance the soil and water conservation functions of
forests have long been in place, including obligations to replant after harvest and to avoid clear-cutting on hill tops
and steep slopes. In the 1990s, a number of OECD countries further adapted their forest legislation to include biodiversity conservation. This was largely an outgrowth of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
and the “Statement of Principles on Forests” that agreed that all countries should practice sustainable forest management. The further adoption and enhancement of such measures are necessary to ensure sustainable forestry management.
In addition, to better incorporate biodiversity concerns into forestry codes of practice and ensure the continued provision
of environmental services from managed forests, regulations will increasingly need to be developed to govern the management of intensive plantation forests – in particular, to regulate the inputs and processes used in intensive plantation
forestry (e.g. chemical fertilisers, water, genetically-manipulated saplings, etc.) to minimise environmental damage.
OECD countries have been setting aside a growing
proportion of natural forest lands as protected or restricted
OECD countries have been
access reserves in recent years, and some expansion of
expanding the area of natural
these zones can be expected. However, as managed forests
forest that is protected in national
and plantations are becoming more economically-viable
parks or reserves.
timber sources than the remaining OECD area old growth
forests, there will be only a limited need for expanding protected forest zones there. Nonetheless, in tropical countries such provisions will be necessary to reduce deforestation, and it is likely that their development will require funding from OECD countries, either bilaterally or through
organisations such as the World Bank (see Box 10.3).
4. Public resistance to the use of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms in forestry production is likely to be less
than for agriculture, as there are not likely to be associated health risks.
© OECD 2001
Box 10.3.
International forestry initiatives
The 1992 Rio Earth Summit produced a “Statement of Principles on Forests” which recommended all countries
should practice sustainable forest management. Since then, a number of international initiatives have been devoted
to this issue, including the Helsinki Process in Europe, the Montreal Process and the Santiago Declaration for nonEuropean temperate countries, the Amazon Co-operation Treaty, the African Timber Organisation and the South
Pacific Forum. International standards for forest management are being discussed in the UN Forestry Council, and
the International Standards Organisation (ISO) is providing guidance on how ISO 14001 could be used as a basis for
developing a management system for sustainable forestry. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)
established the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) in 1995. One of the main objectives of the IPF was the
“implementation of forest-related decisions of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) at the national and international level” (UN, 2000). The IPF was succeeded by the Intergovernmental
Forum on Forests (IFF) in 1997 which, in turn, will be succeeded by the United Nations Forum on Forests that will
look into the possibility of developing legally binding instruments for forest management.
A global initiative of the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Alliance for Forest Conservation and
Sustainable Use, aims to significantly reduce the loss and degradation of all forest types worldwide. The World Bank/
WWF Alliance is working towards this goal by promoting forest conservation and internationally recognised best
practice in forest management, and has set three targets for achievement by 2005: 50 million hectares of new forest
protected areas; 50 million hectares of existing, but highly threatened, forest protected areas secured under effective
management; and 200 million hectares of the world’s production forests under independently certified sustainable
management. If this project goes ahead, the commercial logging and destruction of the last of the major “frontier”
forests of the world (e.g. in the Amazon, Russia and Canada) may already have reached their peak.
A new initiative by the World Resources Institute (WRI), called Global Forest Watch, has the potential to move forest
management oversight further into the public domain. It combines the use of satellite imagery, geographic information
systems, mapping software, the Internet and on-the-ground observation by community environment groups to record
actual forest uses compared with stated uses in forest lease agreements. The information is posted on the Internet, allowing the general public to directly monitor management of the world’s forests by timber companies. Already, IKEA,
Home Depot, Lowes, and other major timber purchasing companies have announced their intentions to source wood
supplies from companies operating in compliance with environmental laws, as indicated by Global Forest Watch.
Economic instruments
A range of economic instruments are already used in OECD countries to protect forest resources, including
felling fees or charges, non-compliance fees to ensure replanting, levies or taxes on the diversion of forest lands to
other uses, and subsidies for afforestation and sustainable forest management. Currently, forest management policies are dominated by subsidies in OECD countries, but should move in the future more towards charges and fees
in order to better reflect the User Pays Principle for the use of publicly-owned natural resources. Such charges can
help to increase the efficiency with which forest products are used, although policy simulations indicate that they
may not have a significant effect on the demand for forest products and the sector. Thus, a simulation examining
the effect of removing price subsidies to forestry in OECD countries and applying an annually increasing 2%
ad valorem tax on forest products was found to lead to only a very small reduction in OECD area demand for forest
products compared with the Reference Scenario.5
Support to forest activities remains significant in OECD countries, and in many cases has been the main driver
behind the expansion of forest resources. While originally the underlying objective was to raise wood production,
the emphasis is shifting towards payment for ensuring that forests provide social and environmental services.
Direct subsidies of this type can be essential in reducing the profitability gap between sustainable and unsustainable
forest techniques by forest managers. Thus, payments can be given to “compensate” forest owners for income loss
resulting from biodiversity protection activities or for ensuring soil protection. These measures should be geared
5. The impacts of this simulation on demand for forest products were limited in part because of assumptions in the model
regarding fixed shares of non-energy inputs in production (see Annex 2).
© OECD 2001
towards maximising the social, economic and environmental services provided by forests. At the same time, it is
essential to remove any implicit and explicit subsidies which promote logging and access to natural forests
(e.g. low stumpage fees, provision of roads through forested areas, support to agricultural expansion). Better
co-ordination of subsidy policies is needed to minimise the risk of conflicting policies and strengthen the incentives
for sustainable management. International co-operation on adverse subsidy removal through the World Trade
Organisation can help to alleviate any potential competitiveness effects, although the results of the policy simulation results described above indicate that these would be minimal.
Forests have a strong potential to absorb carbon dioxide emissions, a major greenhouse gas. If forest carbon
sequestration were taken as a significant tool for mitigating carbon build-up in the atmosphere, the global volume
of forest would have to increase. A global market of carbon rights could provide a financial incentive for industry
to finance extensive carbon-fixing afforestation programmes. Some initiatives are already underway in this direction on a local or regional basis. For example, the Sydney Futures Exchange announced that it would establish the
world’s first exchange traded market in carbon credits. Plantation of “Kyoto forests” has also started, particularly
in tropical countries (for example, in Costa Rica, through financing by US firms). Although such plantations may
be on the increase, impediments remain to their rapid development and the global coverage they would need for
maximum efficiency and effectiveness. In particular, agreement on carbon credits for forest sinks need to be
reached under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, and the concept of carbon
debits for conversion of forestland to other land uses introduced (see Box 10.4).
Box 10.4. Carbon sinks and the Kyoto Protocol
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed to commitments to reduce their overall emissions of greenhouse gases by 2012 (see Chapter 13). In order to help in this process, Parties to the Convention adopted a draft decision
in 1999 (COP5) to address the potential of adding in net changes in emissions and removals by sinks from afforestation,
reforestation and deforestation (sometimes referred to as “Kyoto lands”). The potential of forests to act as carbon sinks
is significant. The recent ECE/FAO temporal and boreal forest resource assessment estimates that the carbon sink function of temperate and boreal forests is equivalent to 16% of global emissions of greenhouse gases. If forest carbon
sequestration were to become a significant tool for mitigating carbon build-up in the atmosphere, the global volume of
forest would have to increase. Although much of this increase would probably be through plantation forests, attempts
to develop forest carbon sequestration could bode well for efforts to reduce tropical deforestation as well.
However, at this point there is still no consensus about which methodology should be considered by the Protocol
to measure the carbon sink function of forests and forest soils. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) was asked to clarify the issue of carbon emissions from sources and removals by sinks from land use, landuse change and forestry. No final decision was taken on the incorporation of sinks in the Kyoto Protocol at the
6th Conference of the Parties (COP6) in November 2000, but the issue will be further discussed at the continuation
of the Conference in 2001.
Voluntary agreements
An information-based voluntary instrument that has been gaining in importance in recent years in OECD
countries is the certification of forests as meeting sustainable management standards. Eco-certification has many
advantages: it guarantees that the certified wood comes from sustainably managed forests through a chain-ofcustody procedure. Under certain conditions, the certified wood can be sold at a price premium. Eco-certification
schemes have been developed by the forest industry (e.g. the Sustainable Forest Initiative of the American Forest
and Paper Association); by environmental NGOs (e.g. the Forest Stewardship Council – FSC); by the EU (e.g. the
recent Pan European Forest Certification Scheme – PEFC), and are being considered by the International Standards
Organisation. While it is possible to maintain several eco-certification schemes at the same time, this has the tendency to overwhelm consumers and lead to mistrust of the competing schemes. Efforts should focus on the combination of existing schemes into a single internationally agreed certification scheme, and the development of a
suitable monitoring and certifying agency (e.g. possibly under the FSC or ISO). In order to ensure compatibility with
WTO rules, eco-certification will need to remain voluntary, and not prevent the importation of non-certified wood.
© OECD 2001
Information and other instruments
Information dissemination to forest managers regarding sustainable practices and the use of new technologies
and processes, as well as to consumers about the sources of forest products (eco-labelling), are important tools for
encouraging sustainable forest management. While further research is required into new management techniques
and technologies, the main information needs now are gathering better data on forest quality and the environmental
services forests provide, and the wider dissemination of this information to forest managers and consumers.
Box 10.5. Incentives for increasing the use of wood products
Further encouragement of the use of wood as a building material could lead to environmental benefits: it is a recyclable material with low energy consumption and low waste generation. Current building codes, especially when they
are product-oriented rather than performance-oriented, are often discriminatory against wood. Undertaking comparative life-cycle analyses to compare wood with substitutes (cement, plastic, steel, etc.) could help to clarify the
advantages and disadvantages of the different materials, including the positive and negative externalities associated
with the production and use of the different raw materials. A recent study found that the implementation of a carbon
tax in European countries would lead to greater substitution of wood for steel in building projects because of the
higher CO2-intensity of the latter (OECD, 2000).
The development of indicators of forest quality and criteria for sustainable management is an essential
requirement for the design of appropriate forest management policies, and the monitoring and enforcement of the
success of these policies. Current forest inventories essentially evaluate changes in forested areas or stocks of timber. A closer monitoring of changes in forest quality components, including biodiversity and carbon sink indicators, is necessary to facilitate sustainable forest management policy-making and implementation. Furthermore,
there is a need for harmonisation of monitoring methodologies. Processes to develop sustainable forest management criteria and forest-related environmental indicators are already underway in various international fora, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s work on forest assessments.
Bonnis, G. (2001), “Environmental Outlook in the Forestry Sector”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) (1999), State of the World’s Forests 1999, FAO, Rome.
FAOSTAT (2000), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), http://apps.fao.org/default.htm
OECD (1999), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000), “Instruments and Technologies for Climate Change Policy: an Integrated Energy and Materials Systems Modelling Approach”, ENV/EPOC/GEEI(99)15/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001), “Draft Summary Record, OECD Workshop on the Environmental Outlook and Strategy for the Forestry Sector”, Jedlnia, Poland, 15-16 February 2000, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook,
OECD, Paris.
Sedjo, R.A. (2001), “Environmental Outlook: The Forestry Sector”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
UN (United Nations) (2000), “Report of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests on its Fourth Session, New York,
31 January – 11 February 2000”, E/CN.17/2000/14, UN, New York.
UNECE/FAO (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Food and Agriculture Organisization) (2000), Temperate and Boreal Forest Resources Assessment 2000, FAO, Rome.
© OECD 2001
Biological Diversity
• Many human activities contribute to biodiversity loss, including habitat destruction or alteration, the exploitation
of wild species, introduction of exotic species, species homogenisation, pollution, and global environmental
• As a result of these pressures, many natural ecosystems have been degraded or destroyed, seriously limiting the
essential ecosystem services they provide for humankind (e.g. water purification, CO2 sequestration, etc.).
• There are some positive trends, however: the number and extent of protected natural areas are increasing in OECD
countries, partly offsetting decreases in natural areas outside of these protected areas, and a number of previously
threatened species are now recovering.
• Over the next 20 years, biodiversity is expected to continue to decline in OECD countries due primarily to pollution, land use changes, and the intensification of agricultural and forestry activities. The situation is more serious
in non-OECD countries, where major threats to biodiversity – including tropical deforestation, ecosystem degradation, and species extinction – are likely to continue.
• The use of regulations and access restrictions to protect biodiversity (e.g. hunting bans or the creation of nature
reserves) is likely to be more limited in the future because these measures are often expensive to maintain. Instead,
there will be greater focus on the use of other instruments – economic instruments, awareness raising, certification
schemes, etc. – that allow for the productive use of biological resources, but in a sustainable manner.
11.1. Introduction
Biodiversity has been slowly and naturally evolving since the beginning of life, but human activities also play
a significant role in shaping biodiversity. The impact of human activities on biodiversity has been characterised by
mankind taking from ecosystems what it needed for sustenance, and at times over-exploiting certain species
because of high demand for their products or because of a perception of them as pests. The main pressures on biodiversity in OECD countries come from land use changes as populations increase, the unsustainable use of the natural
resource base (e.g. in fisheries, agriculture, and forestry), climate change and pollution. Although some of these
pressures are expected to decrease in the near future, the total burden on biodiversity is expected to remain high to
the year 2020. Biodiversity loss in developing countries is even more serious, with the main driver being habitat
loss as natural areas are opened up to agriculture and natural resources exploitation.
The loss of biodiversity has socio-economic consequences that translate into diminishing amenities and
decreasing options for future generations, threatening both current and future economic productivity and social stability. However, while it is clear that biodiversity loss affects human welfare, measuring this impact is difficult
since appropriate and consistent data both on the physical/biological side and the socio-economic side are lacking
(see Box 11.1). Furthermore, the benefits associated with biodiversity are often not clearly perceived, and are diffused across a wide range of actors, making them more difficult to identify than the benefits that accrue to a limited
number of actors through exploiting the resources. Thus, because of the benefits all people gain from global biodiversity (through ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation, future option value such as for genetic
material for medical uses, pure existence value, etc.), biodiversity losses in one country will also affect those living
in other countries.
© OECD 2001
Box 11.1.
Difficulties in defining and measuring biodiversity
A number of concepts and indicators have been developed in recent years to try to define and measure biological
diversity and changes in this diversity. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biological diversity
as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic
ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems” (UNEP, 1994). Making this definition operational and translating it into numbers, however,
is difficult. First, cultural and geographic variation across countries means that biodiversity has a different meaning
for different people. Furthermore, unlike specific biodiversity resources such as fish for which physical measures are
quantifiable, overall biodiversity lacks a common denominator that can be used to produce an indicator reflecting the
state of the ecosystem. In addition, interactions among species within an ecosystem and with man and man-made
events are often unclear, making it difficult to identify the specific pressures acting on biodiversity. For the sake of
simplicity, most indicators focus on species richness instead of attempting to reflect ecosystem health more broadly
(Brookes, 1998). However, research efforts are underway to establish more generally applicable measures of the state
of biodiversity, with one example provided in Box 11.3.
Despite the data limitations, there is growing recognition that not only are a number of individual species
under threat, but whole ecosystems in some cases. In response to this, biodiversity-related issues have gained in
importance throughout the 1990s. A range of international conventions and agreements focusing on biodiversity
are being discussed and implemented, and policy makers are becoming increasingly responsive to biodiversityrelated concerns.
11.2. Pressures on biological diversity
Almost all human activities affect biodiversity. Table 11.1 indicates some of the potential pressures that traditional economic sectors exert on biodiversity. While sometimes these effects are positive, the reduced size of natural habitats and ecosystems in most regions indicates that in many cases the impacts have been negative and
significant. The main direct causes of biodiversity loss can be categorised as: i) habitat destruction or alteration;
ii) exploitation of wild species; iii) introduction of exotic species; iv) species homogenisation; v) pollution; and
vi) global environmental change.
Modelling exercises of global biodiversity pressures for the 21st century indicate that land use changes will
remain the main cause of biodiversity loss, with climate change and nitrogen deposition the next major pressures
(Sala et al., 2000). Of the economic sectors identified in Table 11.1, it is evident that in OECD countries the primary
sectors – agriculture, forestry, and fisheries – play key roles in biodiversity loss, particularly contributing to the
first four categories of proximate causes identified above. The agriculture sector occupies the largest share of total
land area for most OECD countries, accounting for over half of all land area in most OECD countries, and currently
covering approximately 39% of total OECD total lands (OECD, 2000a). This figure has remained fairly stable over
the last few decades, although it is projected that agricultural cropland and pastures in OECD countries will
increase marginally to 2020 as shown in Figure 11.1.
While agricultural lands can contribute positively to biodiversity conservation, for example through providing wildlife habitat, pollination and increasing soil fertility, many agricultural systems also negatively affect
the environment (see Chapter 7). Intensification of agricultural production has resulted in the degradation of the
natural resource base in many areas. This has been exacerbated by the growing reliance on fewer crop and animal species,1 and there are concerns that a greater use of genetically modified species could further increase this
1. FAO and UNEP estimate of the domestic animal breeds for which precise population data exist, at least one-third (i.e. 1 350)
are at risk of extinction, 119 are officially confirmed as extinct and another 620 are reported to be so (FAO/UNEP, 2000).
The biggest threat to domestic animal diversity if the export of animals from developed to developing countries, which often
leads to crossbreeding or even replacement of local breeds.
© OECD 2001
agricultural homogenisation and perhaps spill over into natural ecosystems, posing a threat to their stability. Finally,
agricultural run-off of chemicals has also resulted in serious ecosystem damage and habitat loss in, for example, wetlands and water bodies. These pressures have reduced the number and variety of wildlife species using agricultural
land as habitats in the last few decades, but there is evidence that this trend may be reversing in some OECD countries,
especially where policies are implemented with the aim of ensuring habitat conservation (OECD, 2000a).
Table 11.1.
Pressures on biodiversity
and plantation
• Creation of diverse • Natural ecosystem
• Maintenance of
conversion to agriculture
ecosystem services,
• Support for
or forest
enrichment of
biological functions • Fragmenting habitats
biological diversity
• Introduction of non-native
in some cases
• Pollution of ecosystems
through farm chemicals
• Genetic
through monoculture
• Erosion, siltation, etc.
• Destruction of habitats
through damaging fishing
• Potential over-fishing of
target species or by-catch
• Introduction of non-native
• Pollution of marine and
fresh water ecosystems
through effluent
discharge, excessive
nutrient and chemical
loading (aquaculture),
noise, etc.
(natural forests
• Habitat loss or
fragmentation through
forest clearing and
• Pollution of forest
ecosystems through
effluents and noise
• Erosion and associated
• Colonisation of natural
areas facilitated
through infrastructure/
access provision
Oil production
• Decreased
• Pollution of ecosystems
dependency on
through spills
renewable natural
• Destruction of ecosystems
resources (e.g. wood
through infrastructure
• Pollution of ecosystems
through extraction
(e.g. effluents,
noise, etc.)
• Pollution through
leaching, etc.
• Habitat destruction
through infrastructure
• Reduced resource
extraction through
• Pollution of ecosystems
linked to use of inputs
in extraction
(e.g. effluents, noise,
Transport and
• Facilitates access to
fragile ecosystems,
fragments habitats,
pollution, etc.
• Use of land for transport
• Brings people to
conservation sites,
increases awareness
• Pollution associated
with transport use,
including greenhouse
gas and air pollution
Water and
• Creation of special • Water pollution and
• Water conservation
measures beneficial
over-use destroys habitats
to ecosystems
and ecosystems
Based on Biller (2001).
© OECD 2001
• Pollution of ecosystems
• Loss of habitat through
With the exception of a few countries, deforestation
trends seem to be part of the past for most OECD regions
Forest quality and biodiversity
(see Chapter 10). However, the quality of OECD forested
habitat in OECD countries may
areas in terms of natural habitat and biodiversity is decreasdecrease to 2020 because of more
ing in many cases due to a move from primary old growth
intensive forestry practices.
forests towards secondary growth forests and monoculture
plantations, often using intensive forestry production practices. Under the Reference Scenario, the proportion of total forested area in OECD countries under intensive plantation management is expected to increase from 1% in 1995 to roughly 5% in 2020, while the area of primary or
old growth forest continues to decrease. Worldwide, total forest lands are expected to decrease by almost 6% over
the next two decades. A large part of this reduction will take place in currently unexploited forests, particularly in
South Asia and Africa.
Many of the major changes in land ecosystems are being brought about by infrastructure development. As
indicated in Figure 11.1, while built environment remains a relatively small percentage of total OECD land use, it
is expected to show the most significant growth rate in OECD regions to 2020. This reflects the increasing urban
sprawl and the expansion of rural towns and cities occurring in most OECD regions (see Chapter 2). In OECD
countries, the expansion of road networks poses a serious threat to biodiversity through the fragmentation of natural
ecosystems, breaking them down into smaller, more isolated components. Between 1970-1997, road network
lengths increased by almost 14% in OECD countries (OECD, 1999a). Roads also contribute to habitat loss indirectly
through substantially lowering the costs of colonising an area, and so encouraging the spread of agricultural and rural
developments. Pollution associated with road use is also increasing, and is expected to be one of the main contributors
to OECD biodiversity loss in the future (McNeely, 1997). Humans have also significantly modified natural waterways
in the last century, with dams having perhaps the greatest impact on freshwater ecosystems. Currently, dams impound
14% of the world’s runoff. Furthermore, it is estimated that half of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the
20th century, as land was converted to agriculture and urban areas or filled in to combat diseases (UNDP et al., 2000).
Figure 11.1. Changes in OECD land use, 1995-2020
Total change, 1995-2020
Built environment
Crop land
and woodland
Built environment
Crop land
Forest and woodland
Source: Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
In the face of the expansion of infrastructure development and the
Protected natural
conversion of old growth forest and natural grasslands to other land uses,
areas are
protected areas have grown significantly both in size and number
growing both in
since 1980 in almost all OECD countries, reaching 12% of the total
number and size in
OECD land area in 1996 (OECD, 1998a). The potential for these areas to
OECD countries.
expand further in the future will depend directly on policy developments,
including public and private partnerships for nature conservation. The
establishment of marine parks and protected coastal zones has also been increasing in recent years, as awareness
grows of the threats to these ecosystems and their species, particularly from commercial and tourism activities.
Inland waterways are under pressure in OECD countries as well, primarily from excessive siltation, industrial
and agrochemical run-off, while marine ecosystems are under threat from the degradation of coastal zones, marine
pollution, and over-exploitation. The main threat to reef ecosystems is over-exploitation for tourist or harvesting
purposes, with land-based pollution of coastal reefs also a significant pressure. The considerable number of largescale oil spills that have occurred in recent years have also had a strong impact on coastal ecosystems. Global climate change is likely to exacerbate pressures on species highly dependent on water temperature, such as some corals. For commercially viable fish stocks, over-fishing is the primary threat, and a number of fisheries have reached
or are approaching collapse as a result of these pressures (see Chapter 9). Non-commercial fish and marine wildlife
species are also threatened as by-catch in commercial fishing processes, or through the use of habitat-destroying
fishing methods, or general pollution of the marine environment. In many cases adverse incentives are in place that
encourage over-fishing or other environmentally damaging commercial activities (see Box 11.2).
Box 11.2.
Perverse incentives and biodiversity loss
Perverse incentives, which encourage environmental damage and biodiversity loss, are present throughout OECD
economies. They are often in the form of subsidies encouraging certain (environmentally harmful) activities, but also
may take the form of direct payments from government budgets, tax exemptions or reductions, or the subsidised provision of private and public services (e.g. road infrastructure). Regarding the conservation of biodiversity, they can
be particularly harmful by generating rents through the consumption of natural resource intensive goods, or are
directed towards certain economic sectors (see Table 11.1).
Estimates indicate that direct subsidies to agriculture in OECD countries amounted to as much as US$361 billion
in 1999, while government support for marine capture fisheries amounted to US$6.3 billion, and for coal production
it was US$6.2 billion (OECD, 2000b; OECD, 2000c; IEA, 1998). While some of these subsidies – such as agricultural land set-aside or fishing vessel buy-back schemes – aim to reduce pressures on biodiversity and the environment, it is likely that the majority contribute to further destroying the natural resource base, exploitation of wild
species, pollution generation and climate change.
11.3. Changes in the state of biological diversity
Measuring the state of biodiversity, let alone establishing recent trends or drawing future projections
(see Box 11.1), is fraught with practical and theoretical difficulties. To a large extent, it is necessary to rely on indications of the pressures acting on biodiversity or proxy indicators of biodiversity quality (e.g. changes in particular
species or the state or extent of specific natural resources). However, some work is underway to develop broader,
operational indicators of biodiversity, such as the Natural Capital Index (NCI) framework being developed under
the Convention on Biological Diversity (see Box 11.3). A provisional, pressure-based application of the NCI
framework for Europe found that in that region only about 50% of the land is still natural area, of which only a
small part is protected under existing biodiversity-related legislation (RIVM, forthcoming 2001). The remaining
© OECD 2001
natural areas are under high pressure, particularly from pollution, fragmentation, and urban development. It is
expected that biodiversity loss will continue in Europe, although at a slightly reduced rate. However, it is expected
that there will be an increase in the protection of the most threatened species and in land set-aside programmes for
nature protection (EEA, 1999).
Box 11.3.
The Natural Capital Index (NCI) framework
The Natural Capital Index (NCI) framework is a simple index of natural and man-made areas and their quality. It
was developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity as a general framework to describe and assess ecosystems in a comparable and universal manner (UNEP, 1999; Ten Brink, 2000). The framework was accepted as a starting point for further discussions at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Bratislava in 1998, and is
still evolving.
The NCI framework provides information on the state and changes in biodiversity due to human interventions. The
NCI is defined as the product of the size of natural areas and their quality, using a range of 0-100%. Ecosystem quantity is calculated on the basis of what remains of an ecosystem and the percentage of total land area this represents.
This calculation is relatively easy as it is made with land-use statistics. Ecosystem quality is calculated by averaging
the current or baseline ratios of a representative core set of species or other ecosystem quality variables. This relies
essentially on species monitoring and research. When data on ecosystem quality are not available, a pressure index
can be used instead, since it is probable that a high quality ecosystem will show an inverse relation to the pressures
exerted on it. The NCI is not perfect and can require significant amounts of data gathering if applied comprehensively. Nonetheless, one of the advantages of this approach is that it offers a consistent and understandable method
for measuring biodiversity, which in principle is traceable and can project future trends, and which can be useful in
Once the individual components of biodiversity have been examined more closely, particular areas of concern
and the threats that ecosystems will face in the near future become more apparent. The continuing pollution of ecosystems and changes in agricultural production and land use are expected to further degrade biodiversity in OECD
countries. It is estimated that about two-thirds of agricultural lands worldwide have been degraded in the past
50 years by erosion, salinisation, compaction, nutrient depletion, biological deterioration, or pollution, and that
over half of this land has been strongly or very strongly degraded (UNDP et al., 2000). More fish species may
become commercially extinct due to over-exploitation, with species such as Atlantic cod, some tuna, and haddock
already threatened. Marine habitat loss, increasing incidence of exotic or invasive species, and coral bleaching all
contribute to a decline in coastal biodiversity. Biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems is also under serious threat,
with an estimated 20% of the world’s freshwater fish extinct, threatened, or endangered (UNDP et al., 2000).
While forests have the highest species diversity of any ecosystem, many forest-dwelling large mammals, half
the large primates, and nearly 9% of all known tree species are at some risk of extinction (UNDP et al., 2000).
Recent estimates place the worldwide loss of tropical rainforest caused by human intervention at around 12 million
hectares per year. In South East Asia alone, a forest area equal to the size of Switzerland is being lost each year,
while it is estimated that about 55 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest have been cleared since
the 1970s.
In many OECD regions, the introduction of non-native (exotic) species can also pose a threat to biodiversity
and natural resource management, as well as to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, when these are invasive weeds or animal species. Australia and New Zealand are acutely affected by the impact on non-native species,
because of their distinctive biota, but other OECD regions are also affected. In the US, a government study provides
a conservative estimate of US$97 billion for the economic losses suffered from the spread of non-indigenous species over the last hundred years (Office of Technology Assessment, 1993).
© OECD 2001
11.4. Policy options
While land use changes will continue to put pressure on biodiversity in some OECD regions over the next few
decades, the main pressures are likely to come from the continued pollution of ecosystems, natural and humaninduced changes in the global climate, greater crop and tree homogenisation, and over-fishing. Policies for tackling
biodiversity loss in OECD countries will need to focus particularly on reducing habitat degradation (e.g. lowering
pollution levels, especially of persistent and toxic chemicals), limiting habitat fragmentation from infrastructure
development, minimising agriculture and forestry intensification, and addressing the causes of over-fishing. Of
more concern is biodiversity loss in non-OECD countries, which is expected to continue at alarming rates in some
ecosystems and for some species.
A range of policy measures can be used to tackle these problems. Because of the uncertainties surrounding
biodiversity, and the complex inter-relationships that contribute to its maintenance or loss, a “package” of policy
instruments or “policy mix” will generally be required (OECD, 1999b). In order to ensure the stability of the whole
ecosystem, biodiversity policies need to be applied within the framework of an ecosystem approach, which calls
for a comprehensive strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use of the ecosystem in an equitable way. The Conference of Parties to the CBD has recognised the ecosystem approach as the primary framework for action under the Convention, and OECD countries
have begun responding with a policy shift that focuses less on protecting endangered species and more on developing holistic biodiversity strategy plans. The 2000-2001 edition of the World Resources report produced by
UNDP, UNEP, Work Bank and WRI uses the ecosystem approach as the underlying basis for analysing natural
resource health (UNDP et al., 2000).
International co-operation
Because of the global nature of many biodiversity problems, and the benefits ecosystems bring both in terms
of the direct services they provide and their associated existence and option values, there are a number of international agreements and conventions to protect biodiversity and species.2 While many of these have been successful
in ensuring the development of systems for monitoring ecosystem integrity (e.g. the Ramsar Convention and World
Heritage Convention) or proposing appropriate policy actions for addressing threats to biodiversity (e.g. the CBD
and Desertification Convention), few have made much headway in gaining country commitments to implement the
necessary policies. Increased co-operation between the Conventions (for example, between the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the CBD), and a greater focus on their
complementarities would help in this process.
In many cases, financial or other incentives need to be employed at the international level to ensure that the
necessary actions are taken. Because many of the biodiversity-rich areas are in less developed countries, and the
concern for the protection of biodiversity and the funds to enable such protection tend to be available in more developed countries, increased transfers of funds through bilateral or multilateral agreements to protect biodiversity are
needed. Thus, it is likely that global efforts to halt deforestation in South America and South-East Asia will only
bring results once viable economic alternatives to the activities that lead to this destruction are offered. Where
funds are available, they also need to be better targeted to address the most pressing threats to biological diversity,
rather than simply the most popular or well-known concerns.
Regulatory instruments
The use of regulations and access restrictions to protect biodiversity or biological resources is already widespread in OECD countries and internationally. Included in this are the delineation of natural parks and conservation
2. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992), the Convention to Combat Desertification (1994), the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1973), the Convention on
Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention, 1983), the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention, 1971),
and the World Heritage Convention (1972), to name a few.
© OECD 2001
zones, and the enactment of prohibitions on the harvesting or use of wildlife species. They are conceptually easy
to understand, and can contribute to the achievement of clear, pre-formulated objectives such as reducing the direct
pressures on threatened or endangered species. As a result, a number of protected or natural heritage areas have
already been established worldwide, and a number of threatened species have been identified. Established principles for protecting these species and areas are in many cases in place, such as the agreement by signatories to
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to ban trade in products of endangered species,
or the World Heritage Convention list of sites whose outstanding values should be preserved for all humanity. The
use of these types of measures will need to continue and perhaps even expand in the coming decades in OECD
countries and elsewhere, as the integrity of natural areas outside of specifically protected zones diminishes.
While the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources is one of
the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, it has received little attention so far. In the future,
the distributive aspects of restrictions on access to biodiversity, and the use of its components, will need to be
addressed (see also Chapter 22). As protected natural areas increase, co-operative agreements which ensure the
sustainability of the resources while allowing some productive use of their components will be necessary, particularly in non-OECD countries, where access or use restrictions may come into direct conflict with the economic
development of local communities dependent on these resources for their livelihood. Similarly, clear intellectual
property rights and agreements on the sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources (e.g. for scientific
or medical purposes) is essential to establish the rights of all parties involved in bio-prospecting (OECD, 1998b).
Economic instruments
Because access or use restrictions tend to be costly policy instruments both to government administrations and society, they will increasingly need to be complemented with more flexible mechanisms that provide positive incentives for
sustainable use. Where they are earmarked for particular environmental purposes, the charges can also help to raise revenues for maintaining the regulatory measures and access restrictions. For example, visitor fees for national parks can be
introduced to raise revenues to fund park maintenance, or permits sold for the sustainable use of some components of a
protected area. In most cases, however, revenues from taxes or charges should be returned to the central revenue fund
and dispersed through the regular budget mechanisms. The use of agri-environmental payments is also growing in
OECD countries, with payments to farmers for undertaking certain nature conservation or habitat enhancement practices
(see Chapter 7). These incentives can be used to make up the profitability gap between unsustainable and sustainable
use of biological resources.
A range of economic instruments is available, but the
Perverse incentives, including
most widely used ones in OECD countries are park fees or
subsidies to some sectors, continue
charges, resource extraction charges, hunting and fishing fees,
to encourage environmentally
subsidies for conservation efforts, taxes on unsustainable
damaging activities resulting
activities, and individual tradable quotas. While such instruin biodiversity loss in OECD
ments are widespread in OECD countries for tackling some
natural resource use problems (e.g. wastewater treatment
charges, hunting license charges, or national park fees), they
are less well-developed or wide-spread for other problems (e.g. wetlands protection, or soil protection). Where charges
or fees are levied on biodiversity-threatening activities, they are often too low to provide the appropriate incentives or to
cover the full environmental costs of the activity. This may be true, for example, with timber stumpage charges in many
countries, or charges for livestock grazing on public lands. Furthermore, a range of sectoral policies also have the perverse effect of encouraging environmentally-damaging activities (see Box 11.2), and may counter the effects of other
instruments employed to encourage biodiversity protection. The reduction or elimination of these perverse incentives,
while at times politically difficult, can serve to increase efficiency in both the economic and the environmental sense
Increasingly, transferable development rights, or rights to use certain aspects of protected lands, are being
employed. These allow the conservation of the essential components of the ecosystem, while at the same time allowing
the sustainable use of some components, thus generating incomes. Examples include transferable development rights in
rural areas, or allowing the sustainable use of forest ecosystems for fruit and nut production, rather than for harvesting
© OECD 2001
old growth timber. Again, these can be used to make up the profitability gap between sustainable and unsustainable use
of the resources, while ensuring that the social, economic and environmental benefits of the resources are realised.
Information and other instruments
An important pre-requisite for all biodiversity policy-making is the gathering, processing and dissemination
of information. Appropriate treatment of biodiversity information and the development of suitable indicators of
biodiversity quality not only have the potential to improve enforcement through capacity building, but can also
improve instrument design. In the past, the lack of physical and economic information regarding biodiversity values has hampered efforts to design policies to protect it. Increasingly, new indicators are being developed (e.g. the
NCI discussed in Box 11.3), innovative techniques are being used for managing biodiversity monitoring or classification (e.g. the identification of eco-regions or biodiversity hotspots), and increasingly planning decisions require
at least an attempt to establish a valuation of the environmental benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services
(see Box 11.4). Significant progress still needs to be made, however, in the monitoring of key natural resources,
the understanding of the pressures that act upon them, and the design of efficient and effective policies to ensure
the conservation or sustainable use of biological resources
Consumers are increasingly demanding ecologically sound products while investors worry about their reputation when searching for opportunities in which to invest. This has translated into the release of a myriad of products that claim to be less harmful to the environment than their usual counterparts. Eco-labelling and certification
schemes for forest, fishery and agricultural products are gaining in importance in OECD countries to indicate the
reduced environmental effects of some products or processes, and can have a significant impact on consumption
patterns (see Chapter 5). These in effect assist in the creation and functioning of markets for “environmentally
friendly” goods and services, allowing consumers to choose to pay higher prices for products which are developed
in ways they consider more compatible with nature.3 For similar reasons, investment funds that are aimed at ecologically sound investments have begun to appear in many OECD countries. As experience has indicated that many
consumers are willing to pay more for such products, the use of these schemes is continuing to grow rapidly in
OECD countries. A challenge for the future will be to ensure their legitimate use and effectiveness, and that they
are clearly understandable to consumers.
Box 11.4.
Revealing the economic value of biodiversity
Assessments of the economic value of biodiversity can help to raise public and political awareness of the importance of biodiversity, and to inform cost-benefit decisions regarding land use and other activities that may impact on
the environment. Partly because measuring biodiversity or biodiversity loss is difficult (see Box 11.1), estimating
economic values for the services ecosystems provide is particularly hard. However, since without such estimates the
market value of biodiversity is often assumed to be zero or infinite, efforts are being made to establish reliable and
agreed methods for calculating biodiversity value.
The main valuation methods can be divided into two categories. First, there are revealed preference techniques
(e.g. market prices, hedonic pricing method, travel cost method, discrete choice modelling, and production function
approaches), which attempt to separate out the amount people pay for given biodiversity products or services from
the total bundle of services and goods they may be purchasing. Second, there are stated preference techniques
(e.g. contingent valuation method, contingent ranking, rating or choices, and expert valuation) which rely on questionnaires to establish people’s preferences. OECD is developing a handbook on the valuation of biodiversity in order
to help OECD countries establish common principles and procedures for valuation (OECD, forthcoming 2001).
Once economic values of biodiversity loss or the benefits that ecosystems provide have been established, these can
be used to inform policy decisions or for establishing economic incentives to internalise the full costs of natural
resource use.
3. OECD is currently preparing a major report on the creation and use of markets that promote biodiversity conservation and
sustainable use (OECD, forthcoming 2001).
© OECD 2001
Biller, D. (2001), “Biodiversity”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Brookes, M. (1998), “The Species Enigma”, in New Scientist, 111: 1-4, June.
EEA (European Environment Agency) (1999), Environment in the European Union at the Turn of the Century, EEA,
FAO/UNEP (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation/United Nations Environment Programme (2000),
World Watch List for Domestic Animal Diversity, FAO, Rome.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1998), The Role of IEA Governments in Energy: 1999 Review, OECD/IEA, Paris.
McNeely, J.A. (1997), Conservation and the Future: Trends and Options toward the Year 2025, IUCN, Gland.
OECD (1998a), Towards Sustainable Development: Environmental Indicators, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998b), “Economic Issues in Benefit Sharing: Concepts and Practical Experiences”, ENV/EPOC/GEEI/
BIO(98)7/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), OECD Environmental Data Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), Handbook of Incentive Measures for Biodiversity: Design and Implementation, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000a), Environmental Indicators for Agriculture Volume 3: Methods and Results, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000b), Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: Monitoring and Evaluation, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000c), The Impact on Fisheries Resource Sustainability of Government Financial Transfers, OECD, Paris.
OECD (forthcoming 2001), Handbook on the Applied Valuation of Biological Diversity, OECD, Paris.
Office of Technology Assessment (1993), Harmful Nonindigenous Species in the United States, United States Congress,
OTA-F-565, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC., Online at: www.ota.nap.edu/pdf/1993idx.html.
RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment), (forthcoming 2001), “Biodiversity Loss”, Economic
assessment of Priorities for a European Environmental Policy Plan , Technical Background Report 9 prepared for Directorate
General XI (Environment Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection), RIVM, Bilthoven.
Sala, O., F. Chapin, J. Armesto, E. Berlow, J. Bloomfield, R. Dirzo, E. Huber-Sanwald, L. Huenneke, R. Jackson,
A. Kinzig, R. Leemans, D. Lodge, H. Mooney, M. Oesterheld, N. Poff, T. Sykes, B. Walker, M. Walker, and D. Wall
(2000), “Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100”, Science 287: 1770-1774.
Ten Brink, B.J.E. (2000), Biodiversity Indicators for the OECD Environmental Outlook and Strategy: A Feasibility
Study. Report Number: 402001014, RIVM, Bilthoven.
UNDP, UNEP, WORLD BANK, and WRI (United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environmental
Programme, World Bank and World Resources Institute) (2000), World Resources 2000-2001: People and Ecosystems, the
Fraying Web of Life, WRI, Washington DC.
UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) (1994), Convention on Biological Diversity, UNEP, Geneva.
UNEP (1999), “Development of Indicators of Biological Diversity”, UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/12, UNEP, Montreal.
© OECD 2001
Section IV
This section examines the closely interrelated sectors of energy and transport,
and the issues of climate change and air quality. The energy and transport
chapters discuss the trends and projections of the overall developments in the
sectors and the environmental impacts of these changes. The climate change and
air quality chapters examine past and projected future emissions of greenhouse
gases and air pollutants, and analyse the possible impacts on the environment of
these changes. All the chapters conclude with an indication of the policy options
available for addressing the problems identified.
• Energy use in OECD countries grew by 36% from 1973 to 1998. By 2020 it is expected to grow by a further 35%
and by 51% worldwide. Commercial and residential energy uses, as well as transport, represent the most rapidly
growing demands for global energy use.
• The production and use of energy is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and nuclear
waste generation, and also leads to noise, water pollution, and ecosystem degradation. Energy-related air pollution
has significant negative effects on human health.
• In the 2020 timeframe there is a potential for significant improvements in the efficiency and environmental performance of fossil fuel combustion, and for a growing market share for renewable energy and new technologies such
as fuel cells.
• However, expected total increases in energy use, combined with an increasing demand for electricity and declining
use of nuclear energy, is likely to lead to increased total primary energy use and energy-related emissions.
• To achieve significant reductions in energy-related environmental pressures in OECD regions, more aggressive
policies are needed to accelerate the use of natural gas, renewables and other low emission technologies, and
quicken the pace of improvements in conversion efficiency for fossil fuel use in the industry and power sectors.
Policies aimed at consumer demand management can improve energy efficiency in the residential, commercial,
agricultural and transport sectors, as well as promote “green” power.
12.1. Introduction
Energy production and use is fundamental to modern, industrialised economies, and supports all economic
activity. Energy is used to move vehicles, heat homes, and power industry. However, producing and using energy
also leads to adverse environmental effects, including air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and nuclear waste.
Energy systems also result in noise, water pollution, and ecosystem degradation, as well as impact on human
health. In general, the impact of energy use on the environment is a result of several factors: the mix of fuels used
to produce energy; the efficiency of conversion of primary energy into useful energy (including distribution); the
technology in use; and the total level of energy used. The use of fossil fuels in the fuel mix for energy with today’s
technologies continues to pollute the air and emit greenhouse gases, though pollution intensities are declining.
Nuclear energy production entails the risk of costly nuclear accidents and the need to dispose of radioactive waste.
Even renewable energy sources have some negative environmental impacts: hydropower may degrade the ecosystem by altering the natural state of river basins, with resulting effects on flora and fauna, and other renewable
energy systems, such as wind, have visual and noise impacts.
Numerous new technologies are under development which could significantly transform the links between
energy production and use and the environment. In addition to electricity systems based on renewable energy, these
include the use of cellulose ethanol fuel in motor vehicles, and the development and use of hybrid vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and CO2 capture technologies. A key challenge in the development of a sustainable future is the transition to cleaner technologies and energy sources which improve the balance between security and reliability of
supply, costs of production and use of energy, and environmental externalities.
© OECD 2001
12.2. Developments in the energy sector
Demand for energy
It is projected under the Reference Scenario that
worldwide total energy use will grow by about 51%
OECD countries are achieving
between 1995 and 2020, with much of the increase arising
some de-coupling of energy
in non-OECD countries. The share of OECD area energy
use from economic growth.
consumption in the world total is projected to fall from
35% in 1995 to 32% in 2020. Compared with recent trends
in energy demand, these figures represent a decline in the
energy intensity of the economy both for OECD regions and worldwide, indicating that some de-coupling of energy
use from economic activity is taking place (Table 12.1). However, per capita energy use is expected to continue to
increase to 2020 in both OECD countries and worldwide.
Table 12.1.
Key energy sector statistics and projections
(or latest available
Total change
Total primary energy supply (TPES) (PJ)
170 068
299 817
213 400
402 569
275 622
586 193
Total final energy consumption (TFC)
123 636
202 096
145 155
278 244
197 768
417 460
Energy intensity of economic activity (TPES/GDP)
(GJ/1 000 US$ GDP)
Energy intensity per capita (TPES/capita)
Sources: IEA (2000a), IEA (2000b), GTAP database and Reference Scenario.
In OECD regions, energy use has been growing more
slowly in North America (1.1% p.a.) and Europe
Energy consumption in OECD
(0.9% p.a.) since 1973 than in the OECD Pacific countries
countries and worldwide
(2.7% p.a.) (IEA, 2000b). Over the next two decades, the
is projected to continue
rates of increase in energy demand will be slower, particuto increase to 2020.
larly in Western Europe and Japan (Figure 12.1). In nonOECD regions, the demand for energy in China and East
Asia will continue to increase rapidly over the next 20 years (at roughly 3% and 2% per annum respectively),
driven by strong economic and population growth. The dramatic drop in final energy use that was seen in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union in the 1990s1 due to major political reforms and economic decline will be
reversed, and energy demand there is expected to grow again over the next twenty years.
In OECD countries, transport accounts for one-third of current final energy consumption, but has represented
almost two-thirds of the growth in consumption since the early 1970s. Industrial energy consumption constitutes
almost a further third of current consumption, with the remainder split among households, services and, to a small
extent, agriculture. According to the IEA World Energy Outlook 2000, by 2020 transport is likely to account for
more than half of world oil demand, 62% of OECD country primary oil demand, and account for all oil-demand
growth in OECD regions (IEA, 2000b).
1. From 29 100 PJ in 1990 to 16 300 PJ in 1997 for the Russian Federation (OECD, 1999a).
© OECD 2001
Figure 12.1. Total final energy consumption (TFC), 1995-2020
Peta Joules (PJ)
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
50 000
100 0000
150 0000
200 0000
250 0000
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Source: Reference Scenario.
In the industrial sector, final energy consumption has been falling slightly in OECD countries, mainly due
to changes in the structure of economic activities – with a shift from industrial manufacturing to services –
along with increased efficiency in energy use. Structural shifts in the economies of the US, Germany, and
Japan are estimated to have led to significantly lower total energy use (by at least 10%) (IEA, 1997). In parallel to this decrease in energy consumption, there has been a trend towards increasing use of fuels from less
carbon intensive energy sources, for example the growing use of biomass energy in the pulp and paper sector
(see Chapter 18).
The commercial and residential sectors are continuing to increase their energy use, with greater use of electrical goods (such as more computing and Internet time), more floor space per capita, and higher levels of cooling
and heating comfort (see Chapters 5 and 16). Because of these trends, energy use by the household and services
sectors is expected to continue to increase in OECD countries to 2020.
Energy supply
Significant changes in the types of fuels used to feed energy production have occurred over the last few
decades. The current fuel supply mix for the OECD area is dominated by oil, followed by solid fuels (largely coal)
and natural gas (Figure 12.2). The shares of coal, and to a lesser extent oil, in total energy supply have fallen
steadily in OECD regions in recent years, reflecting increased electrification, relative reductions in the importance
of energy intensive manufacturing sectors and, the substitution of natural gas for oil and coal, especially in the electricity sector. In OECD countries, virtually all the increase in demand for coal stems from power generation. Gas
has increased its share in overall energy use, and a further deregulation of energy markets and technological
© OECD 2001
advances in combined-cycle gas turbines is expected to continue to increase the penetration of gas in electricity
production and some industrial uses over the next two decades. New renewables have been growing at a very rapid
rate in recent decades, but from a relatively small base.
Figure 12.2. Fuel shares in energy mix of OECD countries, 1995-2020
Fuel shares, 1995
Total % change in fuel use, 1995-2020
Natural gas
Natural gas
Sources: IEA (1998c) and Reference Scenario.
The turnover of energy generation capital has a significant influence on the changing fuel mix in different sectors. The power sector typically has a slow capital stock turnover, as fossil fuel and nuclear stations have life spans
of at least 20 to 40 years. As a result, the bulk of generation facilities needed to meet demand in 2020 in OECD
countries have already been built, limiting the extent to which new sources, such as renewables, can penetrate the
electricity generation market.
Perhaps the most important trend in energy production over the last few decades has been the rapid increase
in the share of energy from electricity, which has almost doubled its share of total energy consumption since 1975.
This is partly the result of increased growth in the electricity-intense residential and commercial sectors. Many
applications in these sectors, especially business equipment and residential appliances, have no realistic alternative
fuel source to electricity. Furthermore, there has been a shift in all sectors to greater electricity use. This reflects
the wide range of uses of electricity, its flexibility, safety and cost. In some regions in OECD countries, where the
electricity supply system is too unstable to provide the continuous energy required for high-powered computer use,
an increasing share of electricity is obtained from off-grid power sources.
Most of the growth in energy use in OECD countries to 2020 is expected to come from greater oil and natural
gas use, with the former being driven by the demand for mobility in the oil-dependent transport sector, and the latter
by increased use of gas for electricity generation. The share of renewables is expected to increase to 6% of total
fuel use by 2020 in OECD countries, but this will largely depend on financial incentives from government. While
nuclear fuel use has grown significantly in OECD countries over the last few decades, accounting for nearly 40%
of the increase in their total energy use from 1973 to 1996, it has slowed in recent years. Political, economic and
technical issues have led to a halt or reduction in nuclear power plant construction in most OECD countries, and
several are phasing out their existing nuclear power facilities. From now to 2020, about 30% of existing plants are
expected to be retired, although there is a possibility that some life extensions will be granted (IEA, 2000b). Projections indicate that total final nuclear energy use in OECD countries could decline slightly to 2020 as a result.
© OECD 2001
Energy intensity
Although total energy use in OECD regions has been rising, the energy intensity of the economy (total primary
energy supply per unit of GDP) has decreased by just over 16% since 1980. This mainly reflects improved energy
efficiency across the economy, and fuel and technology changes in the power sector, and has largely been driven
by changes in energy prices as well as market reform policies. Energy intensity fell rapidly, especially in OECD
countries, following the oil price rises of 1973/74 and 1979. Although the rate of decrease in energy intensity
slowed after 1985 when real prices fell to about their pre-shock levels, there was no sharp rise in energy use following the fall in prices, indicating that some energy efficiency improvements have been “locked in” to OECD
economies through infrastructure and permanent behavioural change.2 Recent OPEC arrangements to reduce oil
output were responsible for large price rises in 1999 and 2000. Future energy price trends are difficult to predict,
but will depend largely on OPEC arrangements and on the pace of energy market reforms (Box 12.1).
Box 12.1.
Energy sector reforms
Most OECD countries have begun a process of liberalising energy supply and distribution services. In most cases
policy reform in the electricity sector is leading to lower electricity prices as industry becomes more efficient and
competitive. The continuing reform of these markets can be expected to further drive down electricity prices, increasing demand. In order to counter-balance the negative environmental impacts that will result from these reforms, it
will be necessary for countries to adopt policies to encourage greater energy efficiency, emission reductions, and use
of cleaner fuels. Appropriate policy tools are discussed in Section 12.4.
In OECD countries, there has also been a general decline in recent years in the overall efficiency of converting
primary energy to final energy. This reflects the increased share of electricity in final energy use, but is offset to
some extent by efficiency improvements in the conversion from primary to final energy. These will result when
available higher-efficiency technologies (e.g. combined cycle-gas turbines, CCGT) will be brought on stream with
the turnover of power generation capital stock. Improved technologies offer significant potential for high efficiencies, and the market potential for new gas-fired cogeneration is also high. The energy efficiency of OECD economies is expected to improve to 2020 as measured by TFC/GDP (see Table 12.1).3
Trade in energy
As energy consumption in OECD regions rapidly outstrips energy production, the Reference Scenario indicates that more imports of fuels will be required over the next few decades, particularly of natural gas and oil. Currently, OECD regions produce roughly 74% of the amount of energy they consume. Energy self-sufficiency
reached a peak of 78% in the 1980s, and has been gradually declining since. The energy self-sufficiency of different
fuels varies substantially. While OECD countries are self-sufficient in the use of nuclear and renewable energy
sources, and import only a small proportion (3% in 1998) of the coal they use, more than 15% of gas and more than
50% of oil used are imported from non-OECD countries.
Energy self-sufficiency is projected to drop significantly to 2020, as total energy consumption rises by over
20% and energy production in OECD countries remains stable or declines slightly. An increasing percentage of
world crude oil supplies is expected to come from the Middle East OPEC countries (from 54% in 1997 to over 74%
in 2020) (IEA, 2000b). OECD regions, particularly Western Europe, are projected to significantly expand imports
of natural gas over the next 20 years, while non-OECD countries will expand exports. These changes in trade patterns, and dependence on sources of gas supply from non-OECD countries, could have implications for gas supply
2. Price elasticities tend to be asymmetric, with consumers more responsive to a rise in price than to a decline.
3. A considerable degree of uncertainty exists over the rate of this “autonomous energy efficiency improvement” (AEEI) however. For the sake of simplicity, the Reference Scenario assumes that AEEI will be 0.75% per year for all sectors and regions
to 2020. See Annex 2 for more details.
© OECD 2001
security. As open regional electricity markets continue to expand, so will the inter-regional electricity trade and,
depending on the fuel mix within the markets (hydro/fossil fuelled/ nuclear), could either increase or decrease local
and global emissions. Domestic power pool dispatch systems that operate on an auction basis favour the power
source with the lowest marginal cost which, in the case of existing plants, tends to be nuclear power.
12.3. Environmental effects of energy production and use
Energy production and use can affect the environment in many ways, with very diverse impacts from different
fuel sources. The expected total increases in energy use in OECD countries will increase the environmental effects
of energy use and production, while the effects of changes in the composition of fuel use will depend on the final
fuel mix. Reduced reliance on coal in OECD regions will lead to lower emissions intensities for sulphur oxides
(SOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon dioxide (CO2), while reduced reliance on nuclear may counterbalance
these effects and lead to increased nitrons oxides (NOx) emissions depending on the fuel that is used to replace the
declining share of nuclear. The decline in the share of nuclear energy in the fuel mix will, however, lower the risk
of nuclear accidents and reduce the generation of radioactive waste.
Air quality and climate change
Air pollution and human induced climate change are
the most pressing environmental problems arising from
Fuel combustion remains
energy use. While situations vary significantly among indithe major source of greenhouse
vidual countries, fuel combustion is the major source of air
gas emissions and many
pollution across OECD regions as indicated in Table 12.2,
air pollutants.
with subsequent impacts on human health and well-being,
as well as on ecosystems (see also Chapters 15 and 21).
Regional and global impacts on ecosystems include acid rain through SOx and NOx emissions, and climate change
through increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. In 1998, the energy sector (stationary fuel
combustion and transport) accounted for approximately 80% of total reported anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in OECD countries, excluding land use change and forestry (see also Chapter 13).
Table 12.2.
Contribution of energy use to air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions
% of total emissions in OECD countries deriving from energy use, mid-1990s
Air pollutant
Electricity production
Other combustion
(industry and residential)
SO x
Greenhouse gas emissions from Annex I Countries, mid-1990s (as reported to UNFCCC)
Air pollutant
Energy sector contribution
Main source within energy sector
N 2O
Fuel combustion
Fugitive emissions
Fuel combustion
Sources: OECD (1999a), UNFCCC (2000).
Most air emissions from energy result from the use of fossil fuels.4 Oil is the largest contributor to energyrelated CO2 emissions, accounting for 46% of energy-related CO2 emissions in OECD regions in 1996
4. Although burning biomass can produce substantial emissions of methane (CH 4), non-methane volatile organic compounds
(VOC), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM) and soot.
© OECD 2001
(IEA, 1998c). More than half is from the transport sector, which is also the main source of carbon monoxide (CO)
and NOx emissions, and consequent peaks in localised ozone concentrations. The power sector is the dominant
source of SOx emissions, followed by stationary energy use in the industrial sector – which are also the sectors
where coal use is highest. Emissions of particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion is also significant, but declining rapidly under strict regulations and the introduction of more effective control technology.
The Reference Scenario indicates that OECD regions will see an increase in energy-related sulphur dioxide
emissions of about 26% to 2020, a significantly lower increase than that expected in non-OECD countries. CO2 emissions are expected to increase in both the OECD area and worldwide under current policies, although more slowly
than in the past, with total increases of about 33% and 61% respectively from 1995 to 2020. To some extent, the lower
rates of growth in CO2 and SOx emissions in OECD countries in the Reference Scenario will result from an increased
share of energy supplied through natural gas and the use of relatively clean gas turbine technology (with relatively
low greenhouse gas, sulphur and NOx emissions), as well as a rising share of renewables. These reduced growth rates
will also reflect improvements in end-of-pipe controls for SOx, NOx and VOC, though not for CO2.
Water and soil
A significant portion of the water abstracted in many OECD countries is used for cooling in electrical power generation, and the share of water used for this purpose has increased dramatically in recent years (see Chapter 8). While
this water is generally returned to the source, it often has a higher temperature than when it was abstracted, and a lower
oxygen level. This thermal pollution of waterways can lead to oxygen depletion in freshwater ecosystems. Thermal
pollution is regulated in most OECD countries, usually through siting permits. Pollution of water and soil from energy
use also occurs directly through leaking oil tanks and indirectly through acidic deposition caused by air emissions of
NOx and SOx (predominantly produced from fuel combustion). This has led to severe effects on lakes and rivers and
on forests in some regions, with damage to freshwater fish, other fauna, and habitats.
Natural resource use
Fossil fuels are essentially non-renewable resources: as they are depleted they need to be substituted by other,
more abundant or renewable, resources. Over the period to 2020, however, it is unlikely that constraints on fossil
fuel resources will play a significant role in energy supply. The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2000 projects that the
world oil-resource base is adequate to meet demand over the projected period to 2020, but assumes a steady price
rise to US$28/barrel in 2020 to enable capital investments. Reserves of natural gas are estimated at 1.9 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, and although world demand for gas is growing faster than for oil, serious supply shortages
are not expected until after 2020. World coal production is expected to match demand much beyond 2020, with any
local supply deficiencies covered through the international market.
The environmental impacts of coal extraction include land degradation (and consequent changes in habitats)
from open-cast coal mining and leaching of mine drainage water containing dissolved/suspended solids and acids
into nearby waterways. Oil extraction and transport, particularly off-shore extraction, can result in spills and leaks,
and gas and oil production results in emissions of CO2 and CH4. Coal mining is also a major source of CH4. Uranium mining generates radon gas, dust, and contaminated rainwater streams, as well as mining waste which forms
the bulk (in volume) of waste associated with nuclear power production. Large hydropower dams have a substantial
impact on water flow, although effects on marine life are often reduced through minimum water flow regulations.
Dams can also have potentially significant localised effects on bird life and other fauna or flora through the flooding of land. Recent studies indicate that dams lead to significant releases of CH4 from accelerated degradation of
organic matter in flooded areas. Visual and noise pollution, together with bird kill, are frequently cited as negative
environmental impacts of wind power. However, the negative environmental impacts of small-scale renewable
electricity generation are generally limited (and site-specific).
© OECD 2001
Both coal mining and the combustion of coal generate significant quantities of solid waste (slag and ashes),
which may cause pollution and reduce visual amenities. The amount of waste produced per tonne of coal mined or
combusted will vary from site to site, depending on the chemical characteristics of the coal seam. Coal cleaning
also results in emissions of particulates to air, and in emissions of “black water” (with suspended particulates).
Nuclear waste carries unique risks in relation to its transport and disposal, as it can remain highly radioactive
for hundreds of years. Furthermore, there is a threat of accidental releases of radioactive material from nuclear
power generation facilities. While many OECD countries have agreed that isolation of nuclear waste in stable geological structures is the most appropriate option, implementation of this policy has been slow for political reasons.5
In addition, there is no consensus on whether waste disposed in such a manner should be retrievable – in case
another method of storage is subsequently preferred – or irretrievable, so as to minimise the risk that the storage
facility could turn into an illegal source of nuclear materials.
12.4. Policy options and their potential effects
In OECD countries, there have been rapid increases in both energy production and consumption since
the 1980s, although the energy intensity of the economy has been declining. This seems likely to continue, with
energy use in OECD countries projected to grow by another 35% to 2020, while worldwide it increases by 51%.
In order to reduce the environmental effects of energy use, particularly air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,
energy policies will need to be geared towards better demand-side management (to reduce growth in overall energy
demand); ensuring a higher share of low-emission energy sources in the fuel mix; and encouraging the development and uptake of low-emission, energy-efficient technologies. The main environmental driver for new energy
policies in OECD countries will be to meet agreed targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike emissions
of “conventional” air pollutants, there are no economically viable end-of-pipe controls available as yet for emissions
of CO2. The focus will need to be on emissions abatement or reduction, which implies a reduction of energy use and/
or a switch to using no- or low-emission technologies or fuel sources, such as renewable energy. On the supply side,
the increasing share of electricity in energy supply makes this a particularly important focus of future policies.
Technological development and diffusion
A number of fuel sources and technologies are coming on-stream which can reduce the environmental impacts
of energy use and production (see Box 12.2). For many of these, however, the still high costs of their use, compared
with more traditional fuel sources or technologies, means that they are unlikely to command large shares of the
Box 12.2.
Energy-related technologies
Improvements in fossil-fuel combustion technologies, including advanced gas turbines and coal gasification, offer
considerable emission abatement potential over older fossil fuel technologies. Falling costs of renewable energy are
making wind and biomass competitive in an increasing range of applications, and improved power storage and grid
management technologies will help in the market penetration of renewable energy. For transport-related energy use,
hybrid electric/petrol and bio-ethanol/petrol vehicles have recently been commercialised in several OECD countries and
can offer a strong potential for fuel savings and emission reductions. Hydrogen fuel cell technologies are also nearing
commercialisation in the transport sector and these could radically change the sector’s energy requirements and environmental impacts. Technologies are also being explored for addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector (see Chapter 13), such as CO2 scrubbing processes which would pump CO2 into used gas wells for storage.
5. The first installation for high-level nuclear waste storage is not expected before 2010 (IEA, 2000c).
© OECD 2001
market in the next 5 to 10 years. The relatively slow rate of capital turnover in the power sector hampers the uptake of more efficient technologies, although the relatively fast turnover of vehicle stocks could lead to more rapid
penetration of new technologies in the transport sector.
To accelerate the process of developing and adopting sustainable energy systems, including more energy
efficient end-use appliances, governments will need to provide further support to research and development in
these alternatives, and to their adoption. While the share of total IEA government support to energy research and
development that is devoted to energy conservation and renewables (respectively 13.6% and 8.2% of total) now
surpasses the share attributed to either coal or to oil and gas, most R&D support continues to go to the development of traditional fuels such as nuclear (IEA, 2000e). Energy research, development and incentives to encourage the up-take of renewables and energy efficient technologies will need to be accelerated to counter-balance
expected increases in the demand for energy. Ensuring price differentials that reflect environmental externalities
between different fuels and energy technologies would provide significant incentives for the use of cleaner
energy systems.
Regulatory instruments
In most OECD countries, the wide adoption of many end-of-pipe environmental technologies in the energy
sector, in particular to reduce air emissions from fuel combustion, has primarily been driven by emission regulations. These include technical emission standards, product standards, and/or air quality standards. In turn, these
regulatory policies have accelerated adoption of flue-gas desulphurisation, the use of low sulphur fuels, low
NOx burners and catalysts for NOx reduction, as well as the phasing out of leaded petrol.
In addition to encouraging further end-of-pipe emission reductions, regulations may increasingly be used in
the energy sector to set specific targets and drive changes in the fuel mix and conversion efficiency towards greater
use of renewables and high-efficiency applications, including co-generation and low emission motor vehicles. A
number of OECD countries are already adopting portfolio standards, often as an accompaniment to general energy
sector regulatory reform, which require that a certain percentage of new power generation or vehicles be fuelled
by renewable or non-fossil fuel energy sources. This could significantly affect air emissions from the energy sector:
a modelling simulation of adopting a policy across all OECD regions that would require a minimum of 15% renewable energy in the energy supply in OECD regions to 2020 indicated that both CO2 and SOx emissions could be
reduced by over 7% compared with the Reference Scenario. However, OECD research indicates that such targets
may be relatively costly for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when compared with the use of economic instruments (OECD, 2001). Despite this, such targets may in many cases be the most practical option for ensuring reductions in the environmentally damaging effects of energy use, and they can provide clear and consistent signals to
the public and business community of government environmental aims.
Energy efficiency standards for equipment can also play a potentially important role in reducing energy use,
and consequent environmental impacts. Research indicates that energy efficiency standards can be particularly
effective in overcoming market barriers to investment in energy efficient equipment (IEA, 2000d).
Economic instruments
Energy is considered to be one of the most heavily
subsidised sectors in the OECD area (OECD, 1998).
Most subsidies to energy
OECD data on coal subsidies for selected countries shows
production continue to support
that direct producer subsidy equivalents (PSE) have
the more environmentallydropped significantly in recent years, but in 1997 the level
damaging fuel sources.
of PSE for coal production in these countries still stood at
almost US$8 billion per year. Subsidies to the entire
energy sector have been estimated as being an order of magnitude higher than that, with the bulk of support
going towards nuclear, coal and oil production, often for purposes of maintaining regional employment
© OECD 2001
(de Moor and Calamai, 1998).6 Subsidies to specific fuels lead to an economically inefficient energy supply level
and mix, and discourage new fuel or technological developments that could reduce negative environmental effects.
In OECD countries, the reform of environmentally damaging subsidies – particularly those that are tied to the use
of more polluting fuels (e.g. fossil fuels, especially coal) or to energy production or consumption – could contribute
to meeting Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions and national environmental targets.
Following the Polluter Pays Principle, removing support to energy production and consumption should be
accompanied by levying charges or taxes on fuels in order to internalise their environmental impacts. Ideally, such
charges should reflect the respective environmental damage caused by different fuels, for example reflecting their
carbon content as a proxy for their contributions to climate change. A number of OECD countries have discussed,
or already introduced, energy levies or carbon taxes. In order to avoid any adverse effects on the competitiveness
of large energy-intensive industries, however, most countries exempt these industries from such taxes, reducing the
economic efficiency and environmental effectiveness of the instrument.
Table 12.3 provides the results of an energy policy simulation comprising the removal of all subsidies to
energy sources in OECD countries and all subsidies to energy production, combined with adding an annually
increasing ad valorem tax on fuel use in OECD countries. The ad valorem tax increases by 2 percentage points per
annum for coal, 1.6 percentage points for crude oil and 1.2 percentage points for natural gas, reaching a total tax
levy of 50%, 40% and 30% of pre-tax prices respectively in 2020. The yearly increases in the taxes are linked to
the carbon content of each fuel, but as the starting point for the increases have no such link, this shock should not
be seen as simulating a proper “carbon tax”. As can be seen from Table 12.3, the policy simulation has fairly significant effects on fuel demand in OECD countries, particularly on coal use. Worldwide there would also be reductions in total coal, oil and natural gas demand compared to the Reference Scenario, although in non-OECD
countries a small leakage effect would be expected, with fuel use in these regions increasing marginally. The environmental effects of the subsidy removal and energy tax implementation would be more substantial. Compared to
the Reference Scenario, introducing these policies would result in 25% reductions in both SOx and CO 2 emissions,
thus significantly improving air quality and reducing climate change effects of energy use in OECD countries. The
economic effects of these policies would be small, reducing expected GDP in OECD regions in 2020 by approximately 0.1% only.
Table 12.3. Effects of energy subsidy removal and energy tax use in OECD countries
(% change from Reference Scenario in 2020)
Effect on demand in OECD countries for:
SOx emissions
CO2 emissions
1. This policy simulation explores the impacts of eliminating all subsidies on all energy sources and all subsidies on inputs used in production in
the energy sectors in OECD regions, combined with a 2%, 1.6% and 1.2% ad valorem tax added each year on coal, crude oil and natural gas respectively.
2. The energy subsidies reflected in the model are based on the data available from national accounts and listed in the GTAP database (see
Annex 2 for further detail), reflecting only a small proportion of actual energy subsidies. Thus, energy subsidies in OECD countries listed in the
GTAP database amount to US$4.7 billion in 1995, while other estimates indicate these might be US$70-80 billion (de Moor and Calamai, 1998).
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
A number of OECD countries are discussing, or have begun to establish, national emission trading schemes
for greenhouse gases or other air pollutants from energy production (OECD, 1999b) (see also Chapters 13 and 15).
When such permits are used in combination with an overall cap on emissions, and with specific allocations for indi6. While subsidy removal to coal production is likely to lead to negligible but positive effects on net employment in the long
run (through increased economic efficiency), this does lead to unemployment in the affected sector and regions in the short
term unless measures are taken to support transition to new employment or training opportunities. To allow time for adjustment, transition measures should be considered, and subsidies be removed gradually.
© OECD 2001
vidual firms or entities (cap-and-trade schemes), they can help to efficiently allocate a chosen level of emission
allowances between competing firms and provide strong incentives to reduce emissions. Their wide introduction,
however, requires significant investment in emission monitoring systems and regulatory oversight to provide clear
incentives for compliance. In general, emission trading schemes make economic sense when there are many
emitters with widely varying marginal costs of reduction, and where the environmental benefit does not vary
widely with the location of the emission reduction. The latter is true for greenhouse gas emission reduction but not
necessarily for other pollution problems stemming from fuel combustion, such as thermal water pollution, conventional air pollution, or noise.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements to reduce energy use in the industrial and power sectors have been in use for almost a
decade. Such agreements often form part of a country’s national climate change policy package (see Chapter 13).
However, the effectiveness of voluntary agreements in reducing industry energy use and emissions has been questioned. Moreover, some countries have found it difficult to attract a large number of interested private-sector participants from a broad range of sectors. New voluntary, or negotiated, agreements are being set up for consumer
appliances, such as clothes washers and consumer electronics (IEA, 2000d). The voluntary agreement on clothes
washers as part of the EU’s SAVE agreement succeeded in phasing-out the least efficient washers in 1998.
Information and other instruments
Energy-efficiency labels and standards for appliances and equipment− predominantly for household use – are
being used in 37 countries, and the range of products to which they are being applied is continuing to expand. The
use of such labels can influence consumer choice to a significant degree. For example, the sales-weighted annual
average energy-efficiency index of “cold appliances” (fridges and freezers) improved by 4.5% from 1994 to 1996
during the EU’s cold labelling programme (IEA, 2000d).
Accompanying the deregulation of energy markets, a number of OECD countries have introduced “Green
Pricing” schemes whereby consumers can choose to use electricity that is produced only from renewable energy
sources. While such schemes currently have very low take-up rates because the electricity is still relatively expensive, they may offer the potential for significant changes in fuel mixes driven by consumer demands in the future
as the price for renewable energy falls (IEA, 1998b).
© OECD 2001
de Moor, A. and P. Calamai (1998), Subsidizing Unsustainable Development: Undermining the Earth with Public Funds, Earth
Council, San José, Costa Rica.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1997), Indicators of Energy Use and Efficiency: Understanding the Link between Energy
and Human Activity, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (1998a), World Energy Outlook: 1998 Edition, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (1998b), Renewable Energy Policy in IEA Countries Volume II: Country Reviews, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (1998c), CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000a), Key World Energy Statistics from the IEA: 2000 Edition, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000b), World Energy Outlook 2000, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000c), Review of Nuclear Power, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000d), Energy Labels and Standards, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000e), The Role of IEA Governments in Energy: 2000 Review, IEA/OECD, Paris.
Newman, J., N. Beg, and G. MsGlynn (2001), “Energy and Climate Change: Trends, Drivers, Outlook and Policy
Options”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998), Improving the Environment through Reducing Subsidies, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), Implementing Domestic Tradable Permits for Environmental Protection, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001), “Instruments and Technologies for Climate Change Policy”, ENV/EPOC/GEEI(99)15/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) (1998), “Second compilation and synthesis
of second national communications, FCCC/CP/1998/11/Add.1, September 1998.
UNFCCC (2000), “UNFCCC database”, www.unfccc.de drawn from official national inventory submissions, UNFCCC,
© OECD 2001
Climate Change
• OECD countries contribute approximately 50% of emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O), but this
share is expected to decline in the period to 2020.
• Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in OECD countries increased by 4% in the 1990-1998 period. The emissions grew most rapidly in North America and in the Asia-Pacific region, while emissions in Europe have decreased
by almost 5%. GHG emissions are likely to increase substantially in the period to 2020.
• Projections by the OECD show that total CO2 emissions in OECD countries are likely to increase by about 33%
from 1995 to 2020. This illustrates the challenge of achieving Kyoto Protocol targets, which could require OECD
countries to reduce emissions by roughly 20% to 40% below Reference Scenario levels.
• GHG emissions will lead to increases in global mean temperatures and a possible rise in sea levels. The climate is
already changing, which in turn will almost certainly require adaptation measures.
• The most urgent policies needed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions are: wide implementation of taxes on greenhouse gases; reform of subsidies that contribute to climate change; promotion of alternative transport fuels, vehicles
and modes, and renewable energy technologies; and introduction and effective implementation of domestic and
international emission trading systems.
13.1. Introduction
Recent scientific evidence indicates that global warming is a reality. Observed changes show that despite large
variations from year to year, global mean temperature has risen significantly over the last hundred years. In this
past century, the temperature rise was faster and lasted longer than at any period over the past ten thousand years,
and the decade of the 1990s was the warmest on record for the Northern Hemisphere. A range of other indicators
confirm the global warming trend, including increased precipitation, decreased snow cover and sea ice, and sea
level increase.
Scientists believe that the observed global warming is mainly due to changes in human activities and related
increases in greenhouse gas emissions. These changes are driven by worldwide population and economic growth,
and the underlying production and consumption of fossil fuels, as well as the intensification of agricultural activity
and land use changes. OECD countries are the main past and present contributors to human induced climate change
and, as such, have a special responsibility in implementing policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and
enhance sinks. However, OECD countries will not be able to effectively combat climate change on their own –
long-term stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations will require broadening the effort to include emission
reductions from at least the world’s major developing economies.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing sinks is the aim of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC), which has more than 170 signatories. Action under the Convention has advanced
beginning with the targets that were established for industrialised countries (Annex I countries) under the Kyoto
Protocol. The coming years will show whether or not OECD countries are able to demonstrate leadership and take
action to ratify and implement the Protocol as a first step towards achieving the long-term objective of the
© OECD 2001
Convention – the stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. The Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) in The Hague made progress on governance, financing, and technical elements related to the Protocol,
but was unable to arrive at a final comprehensive agreement.
13.2. Pressures on the environment: emissions of greenhouse gases
Overall emission trends
Three greenhouse gases account for the majority of human induced global warming effects: carbon dioxide
(CO 2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) (see Figure 13.1).1 CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas, accounting for 75% of global emissions and 81% of emissions from OECD countries (excluding land use and forestry
uptake). This is followed by methane (10% in the OECD regions) and nitrous oxide (roughly 7% in the OECD
regions). Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) account for a small
share (about 2%) of total emissions in OECD regions, but they are growing quickly and thus are subject to management under the UNFCCC (Burniaux, 2000; UNFCCC, 2000).
Figure 13.1. Greenhouse gas emissions
by gas in OECD countries, 1998
Note: Gases are in CO2 equivalents.
Source: UNFCCC (2000).
CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion can be broken down into emissions related to energy production
and transformation (to a large extent power generation) and emissions related to other energy end-use sectors
(industry, transport, residential and commercial). The largest CH4 emission sources in OECD countries are the natural gas and oil industry (leaks and deliberate releases), livestock enteric fermentation (the normal digestive process of livestock) and landfilling of solid waste (the decomposition of organic matter in landfills) – accounting for
75% of total methane emissions. The largest source of N 2O emissions in OECD regions is agricultural soil (over
60%), with industrial processes accounting for another 15%. N 2O emissions from transport grew rapidly (over
20%) during the last decade and are closely linked to air-fuel mixes and combustion temperatures, and to the use
of pollution control equipment (catalytic converters) on vehicles.
1. Unless otherwise noted, the figures used in this chapter are based on UNFCCC “official” national data and refer to emissions
of the 3 main gases – CO2, CH 4, and N2O – and do not include emissions from the land use change and forestry sector. Data
may not be completely consistent across time or countries
© OECD 2001
Recent trends in greenhouse gas emissions for OECD and other Annex I countries 2 are carefully monitored
under the UNFCCC. Total OECD country emissions (excluding Mexico and Korea) of all greenhouse gases
increased by about 4% over the 1990-1998 period, reaching 13 902 Mt CO2 equivalent in 1998. All but five
OECD countries have reported emission growth during this period, partly due to robust economic growth. Emissions are rising, although the pace of emission growth has tapered off in the last few years. OECD country emissions in 1996 alone grew more than the first five years of the decade combined,3 but this rapid growth appears
to have levelled off in 1997 and 1998. The five largest emitters in the OECD regions (the US, Japan, Germany,
PCanada and the UK) account for around 75% of OECD country greenhouse gas emissions, which means that
OECD trends are dominated by changes in these countries.
OECD countries currently account for about 50% of global CO2 emissions from energy use, but the share of
emissions from OECD countries is gradually falling as other parts of the world show higher economic growth. For
the other greenhouse gases, the OECD area share is smaller and is likely to decline in the period to 2020.
Total emissions of CO2 in OECD countries increased by about 6% in the 1990-1998 period, reaching
11 026 Mt in 1998. In the OECD regions, the highest rates of growth in CO 2 emissions have occurred in North
America (11% from 1990 to 1998) and Asia Pacific (12%), while emissions in Europe actually decreased by 5%4
(UNFCCC, 2000). From 1996 to 1998, the emissions growth rate from fuel combustion has slowed considerably
in the US, from 3.5% to 0.5%. During this period, Annex I emissions as a whole declined by 7%, due to the economic slowdowns in countries with economies in transition.
The Reference Scenario and other scenarios show that
CO2 emissions are likely to increase substantially to 2020,
Emissions of CO2 in OECD
both in OECD countries and in other regions of the world
countries are projected to
(see Figure 13.2). In the Reference Scenario, emissions in
increase by approximately
OECD countries are projected to increase by approxi33% from 1995 to 2020.
mately 33% from 1995 (38% from 1990) to 2020 and
almost 100% in non-OECD countries. It projects average
annual OECD emission growth rates of 1.2% from 1995 to 2010, and 1.1% from 2010 to 2020. The projections are
within the range of results from other major modeling exercises, as shown in Figure 13.2. CO2 emissions in Central
& Eastern Europe are projected to grow by 78% from 1995 to 2020. In Australia & New Zealand the projected
increase is 38%; in North America it is approximately 35%; and in the regions of Western Europe and Japan &
Korea, growth is estimated at 23% and 17% respectively. In all OECD regions, the growth rates for CO2 emissions
are projected to be lower from 2010 to 2020 than in the period 1995 to 2010, mainly because economic growth is
expected to slow down after 2010.
The IPCC A2 scenario, which assumes regionally oriented economic development with fragmented and relatively slow per capita economic growth and technological change, projects a 40% increase in emissions to 2020,
slightly above the Reference Scenario. The B1 scenario of the IPCC – which assumes global solutions to economic,
social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives –
projects an increase of 13%. The real difference in the environmental outcomes of the two IPCC scenarios is due
to the emissions intensity of the energy used, with scenario B1 showing a rapid decline in emissions intensity.
The World Energy Outlook scenario by the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects a 34% increase in
emissions from 1990 to 2020, slightly lower than the Reference Scenario used here (IEA, 2000). The OECD
GREEN scenario shows a higher rate of CO2 emissions growth, largely because the model assumes that as oil
and gas reserves are depleted, energy demand will shift toward coal and a carbon-based fuel substitutes, so there
is an increase in the carbon intensity of fuel use. The model also assumes no further reductions in energy subsidies, which would be a change from trends in recent years.
2. Under the UNFCCC, Annex I (industrialised) countries agreed to an aim of limiting their greenhouse gas emissions.
Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol established legally binding greenhouse gas limitation commitments for almost all the
Annex I countries.
3. For an overview of national emission trends, Kyoto objectives and EU burden sharing, see Newman et al. (2001).
4. The number for Europe includes some non-OECD eastern European countries with economies in transition.
© OECD 2001
Figure 13.2. Projected CO2 emissions from OECD countries, 1990-2020
Index 1990 = 100
Environmental Outlook Reference Scenario
Notes: 1990 data for the GREEN and WEO scenario’s are calculated from IEA (1999).
Sources: Reference Scenario, Burniaux (2000), IEA (1999), IEA (2000) and IPCC (2000b).
Methane and N2O emissions in OECD regions are
likely to grow more slowly than CO2 emissions, and in
Meeting Kyoto targets will
some cases even decline slightly. During 1995-2010, emisrequire reducing greenhouse gas
sions of N2O in Annex I countries are projected to increase
emissions in OECD countries by
by 0.9% on average annually (14% in total), while emisroughly 20% to 40% in 2020
sions of methane are projected to decrease by 0.8% annucompared with Reference
ally and 13% in total (Burniaux, 2000). Over the same
Scenario projections.
period, total emissions of the three greenhouse gases are
projected to increase by 1.4% annually (23% in total) in
Annex I countries. The projected increases in greenhouse gas emissions indicate the challenge of achieving
Kyoto targets, which could require the OECD countries to reduce emissions by as much as 40% below the Reference Scenario should they choose to meet targets unilaterally. If OECD countries work with countries with
economies in transition, the gap could be reduced to approximately 18%.
Emission trends by sector
Stationary fuel combustion – mostly for power generation – is the largest single source of greenhouse gas
emissions (59% in 1998) (see Figure 13.3). CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion can be broken into emissions related to energy production and transformation (34%), and emissions related to other energy end-use sectors
(industry 17%, transport 27%, residential and commercial 13%), with other sectors contributing 9% in 1998. Presently, coal is responsible for 34% of total CO 2 energy-related emissions, while oil is responsible for 45%
(IEA, 2000). Due to market reform policies and changes in technology, recent shifts away from coal towards natural gas have led to a drop in carbon intensity from electricity production and other industry sectors. However, this
decline may not continue if, or when, nuclear power is phased out (see Chapter 12).
© OECD 2001
Figure 13.3. Greenhouse gas emissions
by sector in OECD countries, 1998
3% 3%
Stationary fuel combustion
Industrial processes
Fuel production
Note: Gases are in CO2 equivalents.
Source: UNFCCC (2000).
In many countries, increasing demand for electricity production is a main driver for CO2 emission trends. The
IEA estimates that CO 2 emissions from the power sector in OECD countries will rise to 21% above their 1997 level
in 2010 and 33% in 2020. Growth in CO2 emissions is projected to remain slightly below the growth in electricity
demand because of improvements in fossil-fuel power generation efficiency (IEA, 2000).
In most OECD countries, emissions from transport have risen faster than those from all other energy-related
sources since 1990 (Schipper et al., 2000). Emissions from transport rose from 19% of total GHG emissions
in 1990 to about 21% in 1998, the absolute increase for the sector being 15% (UNFCCC, 2000). Within the transport sector, emissions from aviation are the most rapidly growing, although they still account for a relatively small
share of total transport emissions.5 CO2 accounts for the overwhelming majority of increasing emissions from
transport, but N2O emitted by that sector is increasing even more rapidly. It is projected that the contribution of the
transport sector to total CO2 emissions in OECD regions will increase from approximately 20% in 1995 to 31%
in 2020. Other main sectoral sources of greenhouse gas emissions are agriculture (9% in 1998), industrial processes (5% in 1998), waste (3% in 1998), and fuel production (3%).
Land use and forestry activities are accounted for separately from other greenhouse gas sources. The establishment and harvest of plantations, commercial forest management, and fuel-wood gathering lead to changes in
forests and other woody biomass stocks. Converting forests for agricultural use and abandoning managed lands
affects not only the amount of carbon stored in above-ground biomass, but also the amount of carbon stored in the
soil. Depending on the overall change in forest coverage and density, and change in agricultural land use, these
activities may result in either net emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, or net removal.
5. International aviation emissions are not covered under national mitigation obligations in the UNFCC or the Kyoto Protocol,
as these emissions are considered to be “international” rather than “national” in origin. Countries report the emissions but
they are not included in national inventory totals.
© OECD 2001
As of 1998, changes in land use and forestry are estimated
to be a net CO2 sink for most OECD countries. Across countries that reported data, the aggregate sink is equivalent to about
10% of total annual CO2-equivalent emissions in 1990.6
According to current national inventory accounting under the
UNFCCC, absolute carbon sequestration in OECD countries
declined significantly over the 1990 to 1998 period, with a drop
of about 25% (IPCC, 2000a).
Changes in land use and
forestry are estimated
to be a net CO 2 sink
for most OECD
13.3. The effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change
Climate change scenarios prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show a wide
range of possible impacts from global warming in the next century. Based on the range of climate sensitivities and
the plausible ranges of greenhouse gas and sulphur dioxide emissions reported by the IPCC, a number of climate
models project that the global mean surface temperature could increase by about 1.5 to 6.0 degrees C by 2100. This
range is comparable to that reported earlier by the IPCC of 1.0 to 3.5 degrees C (IPCC, 2001a).
Worldwide precipitation is likely to increase, but projections vary by region (e.g. decreases in precipitation
levels are expected in subtropical areas). Changes in precipitation and temperature levels are expected to increase
the risk of more extreme weather events in some regions, such as flooding. In some regions, the frequency and
severity of droughts could increase with drier summers and lower precipitation overall as the result. A continued
decline in glacier mass is foreseen, as well as a decline in snow cover and sea ice, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. For the next 100 years, the scenarios also show a wide range of possible sea level rise, from 15 to 95 cm.
Climate change will have an impact on human life and the
ecology of the planet in a variety of ways. Some of the major
impacts will affect agriculture, water supply and quality,
human settlements, and human health, and will also affect the
ecosystem, including biodiversity and migratory patterns. Our
understanding of the impacts resulting from long-term climate
change is limited, although in-depth regional studies have
recently yielded important insights.
Projected emissions of
greenhouse gases will lead
to increases in global
mean temperature and a
rise in sea levels.
In the Northern Hemisphere, potentially significant shifts in agricultural productivity could occur due to
changes in growing seasons and pest or plant disease vectors from climate change. Water supply and quality could
also be affected, intensifying existing pressures on water supply. Another impact of climate change in both the
Northern and Southern Hemispheres is likely to be the spread of vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and
malaria (WHO, 2000). Adverse impacts could partly be offset by some positive impacts, such as increased agricultural productivity in some regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and lower energy use due to warmer winter seasons. Effects will be varied. Forest productivity is expected to increase in northern Europe and decrease in southern
Europe. Overall studies show that some of the most adverse impacts are bound to occur in the Southern Hemisphere
where countries are most vulnerable and least likely to easily adapt to climate change. Finally, scientists indicate
that unprecedented rates of global climate change raise the potential for surprises and catastrophic or irreversible
developments to happen, making it difficult to adopt successful adaptation strategies.
Humankind has throughout history adapted to normal climate variability, and has absorbed the economic
losses that result from weather instability and shifting climatic conditions. Decisions about which adaptation measures to take with regard to climate change involve choices about the level of expenditure and the benefits to be
gained. While an over-expenditure on adaptation would result in high costs from using resources better spent elsewhere, under-investment would have more severe consequences. Under-investment on land-use planning and flood
protection may result in significant damage to buildings and infrastructure caused by flooding, and high produc6. With all OECD countries reporting except Greece, Iceland, and Luxembourg.
© OECD 2001
tivity losses in the agricultural, commercial, and industrial sectors. Under-expenditure on public health programmes and in disaster preparedness (for fires, flooding, and other natural catastrophes) may lead to high welfare
losses in the event of catastrophic weather events or climatic conditions.
Since climate change poses a risk of uncertain (and perhaps very serious) consequences, it would seem appropriate to extend the precautionary approach to the improvement of adaptation capacity. Moreover, it seems clear
from the increased losses due to extreme weather events over the last decade that current expenditure on adaptation
falls far short of what is required to prevent significant economic losses.
13.4. Policy options and their potential effects
OECD, IEA and IPCC projections of greenhouse gas emissions show that significant policy action and
changes in investment and consumption patterns will be required to meet Kyoto commitments and, more importantly, to stabilise long-term emissions and mitigate human induced climate change. IPCC suggests that in order to
stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at “safe” levels, reductions of global emissions in the range of 50-60%
compared to present levels will be required by around 2050 (IPCC, 1996).
Policy instruments for addressing greenhouse gas emissions at the sector level have been analysed in the sectoral chapters of this report. Policy instruments recommended in those chapters are mainly economic instruments,
such as taxes and removal of subsidies, combined with regulatory and other instruments, and the promotion of more
environmentally friendly technologies. Instruments such as carbon taxes, tradable permits and voluntary agreements are receiving far more attention in the climate change context than before and are briefly reviewed here.
The management regime of the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol cover emissions of all
direct greenhouse gases.7 This provides the flexibility to mitigate emissions where it is least costly to do so. While
non-CO2 emission sources may appear relatively minor compared to CO 2 emissions from energy use, they appear
to offer cheaper mitigation opportunities in the short term, and may thus allow more time for making the transition
in the energy sector to cleaner technologies and fuels.
Box 13.1.
Ancillary benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation
Greenhouse gas mitigation has benefits beyond those directly associated with climate change – the so-called ancillary benefits. In particular, reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases also have positive effects on urban air pollution, and thereby on human health. Estimates of the magnitude of such ancillary benefits per tonne of carbon
reduced in OECD countries vary widely. Nevertheless, even the most conservative estimates suggest that they are
substantial, and may offset a third or more of the abatement costs for modest mitigation efforts. A study in Hungary
estimated that a 7.7% reduction in CO 2 emissions would result in health benefits of US$650 million – enough to
cover the investment required to implement the CO2 reduction measures (Aunan et al., 2000). A second example of
ancillary benefits is greenhouse gas reduction policies that lower demand for transport and lead to social benefits,
such as those that result from less traffic congestion.
The prospect of large ancillary benefits has the potential to lower the net social costs to society of reducing greenhouse gases. It is therefore important to identify the major areas where these benefits are present, to develop methods
to quantify them and find the best ways of injecting this information back into the regulatory and decision-making
7. In addition to carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, direct greenhouse gases are perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The indirect greenhouse gases are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen
oxides (NOx), and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs). While Parties are encouraged to provide emission
projections for these gases, they are not required for inclusion in Parties’ National Communications.
© OECD 2001
National climate change policies are still in their initial stages and it is too early to assess overall costs and
effects. Present policies are fragmented rather than strategic and comprehensive. With these policies alone, emissions across OECD regions are expected to grow steadily in coming years. In order to meet Kyoto objectives on
time, more comprehensive and consistent policy-making across OECD countries will be needed (OECD, 1999c).
A basic framework for national climate action emerges from OECD analyses of environmental policy experience.
The elements for a framework of good practices include: getting prices right; creating and using markets
(e.g. through tradable permit schemes); a mix of other complementary policies; improved monitoring of emissions
at end-use; improving institutions for decision-making, and international co-operation.
International co-operation
Impacts and costs of climate change are likely to be unevenly distributed among major regions of the world
and among sectors of the economy within a country. In addition, countries that have caused the bulk of emissions
in the past differ from those most likely to suffer the worst impacts. The majority of harmful impacts will occur in
the developing countries, possibly aggravating current economic disparities between different regions of the world
(IPCC, 2001b). Thus, devising equitable sharing of costs to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be key to
global agreement on an effective policy response. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
establishes an initial framework for international action and basic principles for burden sharing.
The objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that
would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Achieving this objective clearly
requires extensive international co-operation, contributions from different levels and areas of government, as well
as stakeholder engagement to change current production and consumption patterns.
The Kyoto Protocol emerged in 1997 as a first step towards implementing the UNFCCC. The Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) in The Hague in November 2000 produced some advances on governance, financing,
and the design of specific elements of the Protocol. Although there was a narrowing of views among countries on
technical and political points, delegates were unable to arrive at a final comprehensive agreement. It is hoped that
such an agreement will be reached in early to mid-2001 and lead to rapid ratification so that the Protocol could
enter into force in 2002. The Protocol establishes binding, greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for individual
developed countries with a view to achieving at least a 5% aggregate reduction from 1990 emissions levels in the
period 2008 to 2012.
Box 13.2. The Kyoto Protocol and market mechanisms
The Kyoto Protocol also calls for the establishment of three types of market mechanisms to help Parties to the Protocol achieve their national emission targets at lowest cost :
– International emissions trading: Allows any Annex I Party or authorised legal entity to trade a portion of its
allowable emission level; any additional emission reductions below a Party’s target level may be traded to
another party or any legal entity to another Party. (Article 17 of the Protocol)
– Joint Implementation: Allows any authorised legal entity in any Annex I Party to achieve emission reductions
through specific projects and to transfer them to another Annex I Party. The Party acquiring a certain amount of
project-level emission reduction units is permitted to increase its level of allowable emissions, while the
transferring Party would decrease it. (Article 6 of the Protocol)
– Clean development mechanism: Allows developing countries (i.e. non-Annex I Parties) to transfer certified
emission reduction units from projects to Annex I Parties. The Article allows Annex I Parties to count such
project-level emission reductions achieved from the year 2000 towards their compliance in the first commitment
period (2008 to 2012). (Article 12 of the Protocol)
The specific design and rules governing these mechanisms are still the subject of international negotiations. A priority
is to maintain a balance among key criteria, such as environmental effectiveness, economic efficiency and equity.
© OECD 2001
Economic analyses indicate that the cost of meeting
Kyoto targets for Annex I countries would be low (0.2% of
Economic analyses indicate
GDP per year in the 2010 time frame), and even lower with
that the costs of meeting Kyoto
an effective international emission trading system (0.1% of
targets for Annex I countries
GDP or lower) (Burniaux, 2000). Yet adjustment or transiwould be low, though
tion costs are expected to be significant in some sectors.
adjustment costs may be
Results assume multiple gas mitigation policies (CO2, CH4
significant in some sectors.
and N2O) as this is estimated to lower the marginal and
average costs of achieving Kyoto targets by 20-30% compared to CO2 only policies. Thus the main policy challenge is to identify and implement an effective method of
achieving greenhouse gas emission reduction and abatement. Policies targeting CH4 and N 2O emissions, as well
as landuse and forestry options, may help to ease the transition in the energy sector.
In the case of forestry and land use, policies could be designed to either augment the storage and accumulation
of carbon in forest ecosystems and agricultural lands, or reduce the release of stored carbon. These policies could
enhance the use of forests as net carbon sinks, and maintain or expand pools of carbon stored in soils and vegetation. To offset national emission reduction obligations, the Kyoto Protocol allows accounting for changes in sinks
that have occurred due to human intervention after 1990. Even though the details of sink accounting have not yet
been agreed, they could influence the level of emission reductions otherwise required under the Protocol.
Technological development and diffusion
While the energy technologies necessary to meet the Kyoto targets are largely “on the shelf” today, diffusion
is a problem due to their relatively high costs (OECD, 1999a). Programmes supporting clean technology diffusion
are a traditional focus of energy and environmental policy in OECD countries and are becoming an important part
of national climate programmes. Although such programmes need to be designed carefully to ensure costeffectiveness and to avoid subsidising certain technologies or firms, they can be effective in accelerating the development and use of environmentally sustainable technology.
Besides providing direct government spending, governments can also foster industry research and development investment through a variety of fiscal instruments, such as tax incentives. These policies may accelerate the
pace of clean technology diffusion by speeding up capital turnover in targeted areas. Under normal conditions,
companies only replace old technologies with new ones when the former have reached the end of their useful lives.
Fiscal policies can allow companies to accelerate depreciation schedules or provide tax credits for investment in
clean technologies, although at the cost of premature scrapping of productive equipment. Experience with a limited
number of these programmes suggests that they may be valuable, but more studies are needed on their effectiveness
and efficiency. At a minimum they may be useful if used in a temporary manner to help create niche markets for
new, clean technologies. This in turn can bring down the cost of new technologies, allowing them to compete with
conventional alternatives.
Legal and regulatory instruments
Standards (voluntary and regulatory) can be useful in encouraging the development, marketing and purchasing of more energy efficient products, vehicles and buildings (see also Chapter 12). The gap between real investment decisions and opportunities for cost-effective investment in more energy efficient products reflects high
transaction costs, conflicting incentives (e.g. between tenants and building owners, or between building owners and
developers), and information failures. Performance standards, when introduced with enough lead-time for manufacturers and builders to adapt, can overcome these barriers. They can help shift investment and narrow the efficiency gap, making increased energy efficiency into a viable alternative to increased energy supply, and improving
its competitiveness (OECD, 1998).
© OECD 2001
Economic instruments
An important element in a policy mix to mitigate climate change is getting the prices right. Policies should
aim to include price signals that reflect the full costs of different courses of action. Carbon taxes, removal of subsidies that have adverse effects on the climate, and the creation and implementation of domestic and international
tradable permit systems are the most important economic instruments to mitigate climate change.
In OECD countries, significant subsidies are in place in most sectors that emit greenhouse gases. Since many
of these subsidies contribute to increases in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, OECD countries should
consider their removal or reform as an important element in achieving Kyoto targets. While many OECD countries
have started to reform or remove environmentally damaging subsidies, the process has been slow and significant
levels of support remain in place. Various OECD studies have found a significant potential for greenhouse gas
emission reductions through subsidy removal. Thus, a series of OECD case studies that simulated the effects of
removing coal and other energy subsidies, either at the world or country level, found that in 2010 CO2 emissions
in these sectors would be reduced by 1 to 8% compared to the business as usual scenario (OECD, 1997). Where
the economic effects were analysed, most studies suggested real increases in GDP, indicating that subsidy removal
may be a “no regrets” policy (IEA, 1999).
OECD countries can also introduce energy taxes to encourage reductions in total fuel use or – where the tax
rates are linked to fuel carbon content – substitution with fuel sources that emit less greenhouse gases. A policy
simulation was undertaken to examine the effects of removing subsidies to energy production and use in OECD
regions combined with the application of an annually increasing ad valorem tax on fuel use in OECD countries,
with the increase linked to the carbon content of the fuels (see Chapter 12).8 The tax was thus set to increase by 2
percentage points per annum for coal, 1.6 percentage points for crude oil and 1.2 percentage points for natural gas,
reaching a total tax rate of 50%, 40% and 30% of pre-tax prices respectively in 2020. The effects of this simulation
were substantial: CO2 emissions were almost 25% lower in 2020 for OECD regions than projected under the Reference Scenario, and 11% lower worldwide. Applying an energy tax of this magnitude, in combination with subsidy removal, would not enable countries to reach Kyoto targets (CO2 emissions in OECD would still increase by
3% from 1990 to 2010), but would move OECD countries much closer to that objective.
Other OECD and external modeling work has studied the level of carbon tax that would be required to achieve
the Kyoto targets through domestic action alone. The OECD has estimated that meeting the Kyoto targets in OECD
countries could be achieved with a multigas GHG tax at a cost of 0.2% of GDP (Burniaux, 2000). While a number
of OECD countries already have carbon taxes in place as a key element of their climate change policies, their success to date has been limited because of the preferential low rates or large exemptions offered to large industrial
energy users due to concerns about effects on their international competitiveness. Countries that have such taxes
in place should make an effort to strengthen them, and those that have none, should introduce carbon taxes with no
exemptions for large energy users. Taxation may also be appropriate for a number of other greenhouse gas sources,
such as landfill methane, or nitrous oxide from industrial sources (OECD, 2000).
Another option that has become important and is gaining recognition is domestic and international tradable
permit systems. As trading permits are likely to play a major role in the international regime, many OECD countries
are currently examining them for use at the domestic level, with the intention to join an international regime over
time. Unresolved issues, such as the allocation of permits, inclusion of non-energy emissions and other factors,
have meant that no country has implemented a comprehensive national regime so far. An international regime has
not yet been established either, due to delays in concluding the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. However, a number
of OECD countries already have, or are planning, pilot national emission trading systems as part of their climate
strategies. OECD modeling (using the GREEN model) shows that with emissions trading in an international
regime, the costs of achieving Kyoto targets in OECD regions could fall from 0.2% to 0.1% of GDP. OECD countries should implement comprehensive national permit schemes to realise this potential to lower the overall costs
of achieving Kyoto targets.
8. Because of the limited number of energy-related subsidies listed in the GTAP database used in the modeling exercise, the
effects of simulating the removal of subsidies included in the database were found to be insignificant.
© OECD 2001
It is important to recognise that greenhouse gas mitigation policies can be closely linked to resource saving
projects in other sectors. In the transport sector, investment in public transportation and effective transport planning
policies reduce local pollution and congestion in addition to greenhouse gas emissions. The promotion of sustainable forestry and land use could have positive consequences for biodiversity protection and welfare gains for farmers and smallholders, as well as for enhancing CO2 uptake. If policy incentives for sustainable forestry are to be
established for climate change, care must be taken to ensure coherence with sustainability criteria, e.g. the preservation of old-growth forest. Energy efficiency and materials use policies may also interact in positive ways, both
leading to CO2 reductions.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements figure prominently in OECD national climate programmes and target mainly the industrial sector, although they take many different forms (OECD, 1999a). The distinguishing features of these measures
are whether they are enforced or closely monitored; the rigidity, clarity and magnitude of the emission reduction
objectives; and the nature of the participants (e.g. whether industry associations or individual industry players have
signed the agreements). Voluntary agreements also vary by the degree of government involvement. Unilateral commitments, initiated by industry without involvement of a government authority, have also emerged in some countries, most notably in Japan (OECD, 1999a). Recently, unilateral commitments by multinational corporations have
emerged. It is unclear how these unilateral actions by multinationals can be taken into account in national policy
Nevertheless, voluntary agreements could be an important element in the policy mixes used by governments
to achieve climate change objectives. They provide a flexible policy instrument and a means to fully engage industry in greenhouse gas mitigation. In addition, voluntary agreements may be particularly effective for exploring mitigation action in areas where learning about technical mitigation options and costs is essential, as with the industrial
process emissions and SF6, HFC and PFC (OECD 1999b). While the effects of voluntary agreements are difficult
to measure, there is a broad consensus that they can influence the environmental culture of industries and businesses by raising the profile of greenhouse gas performance or energy efficiency objectives (OECD 1998; 1999b).
Information and other instruments
Education and public awareness policies are an essential complement to other greenhouse gas mitigation policies. Attitudes in business and industry, and among consumers, will ultimately influence the acceptance and pace
of uptake of new “green” products and technologies throughout national economies. Green power schemes, where
consumers may choose to pay more for “green” electricity, are an interesting example of combining information
with real choice for the customer (see Chapter 12). Overall, education and information instruments should be seen
as complementary to other policies that provide more direct and continuous incentives to think, act and buy
Monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, and the effects of policies and measures in particular, requires significant government administrative capacity. OECD countries have varying capacities to monitor emissions and policy
performance and could benefit from stronger networking to share experience. Goal setting and comprehensive
monitoring can also be effective at the local level to raise awareness and stimulate mitigation initiatives. OECD
and IEA are working to extend and reinforce the monitoring framework established under the UNFCCC. OECD
Performance Reviews in the energy, transport, agriculture, environment and economic areas cover some aspects of
climate policy. Over time, the OECD reviews should provide insights about the driving forces behind emission
trends in OECD regions, identify and examine good practices, assess current policies and promote better policy
© OECD 2001
Aunan, K., H.A. Aaheim, H.M. Seip (2000), “Reduced Damage to Health and Environment from Energy Saving in
Hungary”, in OECD (2000), Ancillary Benefits and Costs of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation OECD, Paris.
Burniaux, J.-M. (2000), “A Multigas Assessment of the Kyoto Protocol”, Economics Department Working Paper
No. 270, OECD, Paris.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1999), World Energy Outlook – 1999 Insights: Looking at Energy Subsidies: Getting the
Prices Right, OECD, 1999.
IEA (2000), World Energy Outlook 2000, OECD, Paris.
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (1996), “Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate
Change: Scientific Technical Analysis”, in Watson, R. T., M.C. Zinyowera and R.H. Moss (Eds): Contribution of Working
Group II to the Second Assessment Report of the IPCC, Cambridge University Press, Geneva.
IPCC (2000a), Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, IPCC, Geneva.
IPCC (2000b), “Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, A Special Report of Working Group III of IPCC”, Cambridge
University Press, Geneva.
IPCC (2001a), “Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis”, Working Group I Third Assessment Report, IPCC,
IPCC (2001b), “Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability”, Working Group II Third Assessment
Report, IPCC, Geneva.
Newman J., N. Beg, J. Corfee and G. McGlynn (2001): “Energy and Climate Change: Trends, Drivers, Outlook and
Policy Options”, Background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997), Reforming Energy and Transport Subsidies: Environmental and Economic Implications, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998), “Energy Efficiency Standards for Traded Products”, Annex I Expert Group on the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change, Working Paper No. 5, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), Voluntary Approaches for Environmental Policy: An Assessment, OECD, Paris
OECD (1999b), National Climate Policies and the Kyoto Protocol, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999c), Action Against Climate Change: The Kyoto Protocol and Beyond, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000), “The Potential for Using Tax Instruments to Address Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: CH4, N20, HFCs
Schipper, L. C. Marie-Lilliu, and R. Gorham (2000), Flexing the Link Between Transport and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A
Path for the World Bank, World Bank, Washington DC.
UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) (2000), “UNFCCC database (www.unfccc.de)
drawn from official national inventory submissions”, UNFCCC, Bonn.
WHO (World Health Organisation), (2000) Climate Change and Human Health: Impact and Adaptation, WHP/SDE/ODE/
00.4, WHO, Geneva.
© OECD 2001
• Growth in the transport sector continues to be strong, with road transport (passenger and freight) and aviation showing the highest growth rates.
• Motor vehicle kilometres travelled are projected to increase by 40% in OECD regions and by 86% worldwide
to 2020. Over the same period, air travel is projected to triple worldwide.
• Emissions from transport in OECD countries have been reduced for some major air pollutants, notably lead, carbon
monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and more recently for nitrogen oxides (NOx). At the same
time, emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide (CO2), from transport have increased in OECD
• Further reductions of 15% to 55% compared to present levels are expected for the above air pollutants for transport
in OECD countries by 2020. However, CO2 emissions from motor vehicles in OECD countries are projected to
increase by approximately 44% from 1995 to 2020.
• Projected worldwide increases in transport will have serious impacts on public health and the environment. Issues
causing the most concern are climate change, air pollution, noise and land use.
• More focused transport policies are needed which address growth in transport and integrate measures to support
technological improvements and transport demand management. The available instruments are well known and
have been thoroughly assessed, but there is a significant implementation gap. In the future, economic instruments
need to be strengthened, better combined and more consistently deployed.
14.1. Introduction
A striking feature of economic development in the 20th century was the tremendous growth in the number of
motor vehicles, both for passenger and freight transport. Transport demand has been growing rapidly in OECD
countries and worldwide – it more than doubled over the last 25 years in OECD regions. This growth has been
almost entirely in the form of road transport and, more recently, aviation. Without major changes in policies and
practices, these trends seem set to continue for several decades.1
Transport activities have major adverse impacts on the environment and human health, in particular on climate
change and local air pollution. Other effects include noise, deterioration of ecosystems through acidification and
eutrophication, habitat-disrupting land use, water pollution and waste generation.
Although important fuel efficiency gains have been achieved for individual vehicles, overall growth in transport in OECD countries and worldwide has largely outweighed these improvements. De-coupling environmental
impacts of transport from overall economic growth worldwide has not yet taken place, except for some air pollutant
emissions in OECD regions.
1. To produce detailed sector-specific projections for the transport sector, the modelling framework used for the Reference
Scenario in this chapter differs from that used for other chapters (see Annex 2). Thus, the regions used here differ slightly
from those of other chapters.
© OECD 2001
14.2. Developments in the transport sector
Table 14.1. Key transport sector statistics and projections
(or latest available
Total change
Road motor vehicle stocks (million)
1 200
Distance travelled in motor vehicle kilometres (billion km)
4 924
8 472
11 000
11 900
20 500
Air travel (billion passenger km)
1 310
3 000
9 000
Sources: OECD (1999b; 2001b) and Reference Scenario.
Transport supply and demand
Transport is a sector that contributes 4-8% of GDP and 2-4% of the labour force in OECD countries (OECD,
2001a). The supply of transport includes the production, maintenance and use of transport infrastructure and
mobile equipment. Transport also plays a substantial role in international trade, in business operating and household consumption expenditures, and in public expenditure (see Chapters 5 and 16).
Demand for transport derives from the demand for access to people, places, goods and services in modern
society. The demand for personal mobility, and thus demand for passenger transport, is closely related to income
levels, location, distance from home to employment and educational services, and shopping and recreational opportunities. In the last few decades, growth in income, improvements in technology and infrastructure, and more leisure time have allowed people to travel more and longer distances, and have given them more freedom to choose
their mode of travel. This choice depends largely on all of the above factors, but also on personal preferences and
The demand for freight transport is closely linked to economic growth and international trade, to the overall
development of the various sectors of the economy, and to land-use planning and infrastructure. Freight transport
has been growing faster than passenger transport in the past decades, but total vehicle kilometres travelled for
freight transport is still less than for passenger transport.
Historically, there has been a strong correlation between economic growth and the demand for passenger and
freight transport in OECD countries. Growth of GDP has been accompanied by slightly higher rates of growth in
overall transport demand, particularly for road transport. While GDP in OECD countries has grown by 46%
from 1980 to 1995, the number of motor vehicles has increased by 59% and vehicle kilometres travelled by 72%
from 1980 to 1997. Growth rates in air traffic have been much higher than GDP growth rates in OECD countries
in the past decades, increasing by around 10% annually.
Road transport, both passenger and freight, has experienced tremendous growth over the past decades, having
more than doubled in the last 25 years in OECD countries. Road transport is the dominant transportation mode,
representing over 90% of passenger travel and 75% of goods transported. Today, over 550 million motor vehicles
(75% of which are passenger cars) are registered in OECD countries, and almost 700 million worldwide (OECD,
It is projected that the total motor vehicle stock in OECD countries will increase from 552 million vehicles
in 1998 to approximately 730 million vehicles in 2020, a total growth of 32%. At the world level, the stock is projected to increase by 74% in the same period. Growth will take place across all vehicle categories with higher
growth for passenger cars and light trucks in OECD countries. Cars will continue to be the dominant vehicle category worldwide.
© OECD 2001
Motor vehicle kilometres travelled are projected to be at substantially higher levels in 2020 than today
(Figure 14.1). Total distances travelled are projected to grow by 40% in OECD countries. Within OECD regions,
growth rates are expected to be very high in Central & Eastern Europe, but more moderate in the other OECD
regions. Growth in vehicle kilometres travelled is expected to be higher at the world level, with a total increase of
approximately 86% from 1997 to 2020.
Transport activity by heavy trucks is projected to become much more important worldwide, with distance
travelled by heavy trucks expected to almost double from 1995 to 2020. Total distance travelled by passenger cars
is projected to increase by 79%.
Figure 14.1. Motor vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT), 1990-2020
Transport activity by region
World transport activity by vehicle category
Billion VKT
25 000
Billion VKT
25 000
20 000
20 000
15 000
15 000
10 000
10 000
5 000
5 000
North America
& Eastern Europe
Heavy trucks
Light trucks
Passenger cars
Source: Reference Scenario.
The outlook for rail transport is completely different from that for motor vehicle traffic. The share of railways,
both for passenger and freight transport, has declined in recent decades in all OECD countries, except in the US
where rail freight has been growing rapidly. While total passenger transport by rail has experienced a growth of
10% over the past fifteen years, it accounts for only 6% of passenger travel in OECD countries. It is projected that
rail freight will increase by 40% in the period to 2020, although it is expected that rail will continue to lose market
share in freight transport (OECD, 1997a).
Water-bound transport has also experienced a declining market share, both for inland waterways and seaborne
shipping, although overall freight transport by these modes has been growing steadily in recent years in many
OECD countries. Maritime transport is projected to increase by approximately 90% from 1990 to 2020, and thus
increase its market share (OECD, 1997a).
Air transport’s share of global passenger travel is currently less than 3%. However, in OECD countries, the
volume of passenger travel by air in 1997 was approximately 10% of total passenger travel. The international aviation industry has grown tremendously over the past 30 years as a result of economic growth, higher disposable
incomes and increased leisure time on the demand side, and falling airline tariffs and technical change on the supply
side. Passenger traffic has expanded at an average rate of 9% annually since 1960, and air cargo by 11% annually.
© OECD 2001
Figure 14.2. Global passenger air travel, 1990-2030
Billion passenger kilometres
16 000
14 000
12 000
10 000
8 000
6 000
4 000
2 000
North & South America
Middle East
Source: IPPC (1999).
Aviation is projected to experience significantly larger increases in activity than the other modes of transport, with
projected increases of approximately 200% in global air passenger kilometres from 1997 to 2020 (see Figure 14.2).
The highest growth rates are expected for intra-Asia air travel, between Europe and Asia, and on trans-Pacific routes.
14.3. Environmental effects of transport
Considerable progress has been made in reducing some traditional air pollutants from transport in OECD
countries. However, transport activity continues to cause large adverse impacts on the environment and human
health, in particular on climate change, local air pollution and noise. It also results in significant depletion of nonrenewable resources.
In OECD countries, road transport is responsible for most of the transport sector’s impact on the environment.
It accounts for over 80% of all transport-related energy consumption (OECD, 1999b). More recently, there has been
a growing concern over environmental impacts from air traffic, which have been increasing rapidly, particularly
for private and leisure trips. Air transport currently represents about 11% of transport-related energy consumption
(OECD, 1999b). Rail transport – including high-speed rail – causes considerably less environmental impacts than
road and air traffic. As for maritime transport, shipping is generally associated with lower overall environmental
impacts per tonne-km transported than aviation, road or rail transport.
Air pollution and climate change
Transport contributes significantly to climate change and to air pollution at the local, regional and global level.
Air emissions from transport are directly related to the consumption of fossil fuels, and represent a high proportion
of overall man-made emissions in OECD countries (OECD, 1995). Carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2),
nitrogen oxides (NO x), particulate matter (PM), lead (Pb) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) are the main pollutants emitted from transport.
© OECD 2001
At the local level, road transport is the main contributor to air pollution in urban areas where road traffic and
congestion concentrate, degrading the urban environment. Human health effects cause the most concern, particularly from nitrogen oxides and fine particles emitted by diesel vehicles. For a number of these pollutants, motor
vehicles are the single largest source of total emissions in OECD countries. In 1997, motor vehicles contributed
89% of CO emissions, 52% of NOx emissions and 44% of VOC emissions (OECD, 1999a).
Stringent emission standards and targets for motor vehicles to 2005 and beyond have been adopted in Europe,
Japan and the US. With measures in place in OECD countries, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic
compounds (VOC), carbon monoxides (CO) and fine particulates are expected to decline by 15% to 55% between
now and 2020, and possibly stabilise thereafter at much lower levels. However, a similar development for all air
pollutants is not expected for the rest of the world, where CO, NOx and VOC emissions from transport are expected
to increase by 70%, 20% and 55% respectively to 2020 (Wiederkehr, 2001).
The primary energy sources of transport are fossil fuels. In OECD regions, their use for transport increased
by more than 45% from 1980 to 1997, while for rail transport it decreased by 17% over the same period. Total
transportation fuel use continues to increase along with growth in vehicle stock and distances travelled. This has
resulted in growing emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular CO 2, worldwide, and in an increasing contribution
to global warming. Emissions of greenhouse gases from transport rose from 19% of total greenhouse gas emissions
in OECD countries to 21% in 1998, faster than emissions from any other source (see Chapter 13).
Global CO 2 emissions from motor vehicles are projected to increase by approximately 83% from 1995 to
2020, and almost double from 1990 levels (Figure 14.3).
In OECD countries, CO 2 emissions from motor vehicles
are projected to increase by approximately 44%
from 1995 to 2020 (59% from 1990). The contribution of
the transport sector to total CO 2 emissions in OECD
countries is projected to increase from approximately
20% in 1995 to 30% in 2020 (see Chapter 13).
The contribution of the
transport sector to total
CO2 emissions in OECD
countries is projected to
increase from approximately
20% in 1995 to 30% in 2020.
Figure 14.3. Global CO2 emissions from motor vehicles, 1990-2020
Mt of CO2
9 000
8 000
7 000
6 000
5 000
4 000
3 000
2 000
1 000
Western Europe
Source: Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
& Eastern Europe
OECD Pacific
North America
A de-coupling of environmental impacts from overall growth in transport activity worldwide is not expected.
As mentioned above, emissions of major air pollutants (e.g. VOC, NOx and CO) are expected to significantly
decrease in the OECD region in a period of continued growth of vehicle stock and transport activity (Figure 14.4).
Yet, CO2 emissions from transport will continue to grow rapidly due to the absence of strong policies that target
fuel efficiency improvements.
Figure 14.4. Motor vehicle emissions, GDP and population, 1995-2020
Index, 1995 = 100
Index, 1995 = 100
Source: OECD (2000b) and Reference Scenario.
Compared to road transport, aviation represents a relatively small, but rapidly growing, source of environmental impacts, including noise, air pollution and global climate impacts from its growing CO2 emissions.
Between 1980 and 1997, energy consumption by air transport increased significantly, by 65% in OECD countries,
and by almost 50% worldwide (OECD, 1999b). The highest growth in energy consumption by air transport has
been noted for the Asia-Pacific region (158%) and Europe (86%) over the same period. Commercial aviation
releases annually more than 500 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to approximately 2.5% of global greenhouse
gas emissions, and representing 12.4% of transport emissions of CO2 (IPCC, 1999). Aviation-related CO 2 emissions have accelerated in recent years as a consequence of increasing demand and increasing aviation services, and
continuing rapid growth in air traffic is expected to generate further upward pressure on future emissions.
When assessing the environmental impacts from aviation, it is important to take into account the emission of
all pollutants to the mid- to upper- levels of the atmosphere. A recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the total global warming impact from aviation emissions of all pollutants
amounts to two to four times the global warming impact from aviation CO2 emissions alone (IPCC, 1999). Based
on these findings and projected growth rates for aviation and motor vehicles, the contribution of aviation to global
warming could surpass the impact of passenger cars and heavy trucks by 2020 and beyond, despite aviation’s comparatively low CO 2 emissions at present (OECD/BMFLUW, 2000).
© OECD 2001
Land use
Land use for transport is both a factor in generating transport activity (infrastructure induced mobility) and a
contributor to environmental stress. Transport infrastructure, mainly in terms of roads, consumes about 25-30% of
land in urban areas, and just under 10% in rural areas in OECD countries. The road network occupies 93% of the
total land area used for transport in the EU. Rail is responsible for 4% of land take, and airports for less than 1%.
Railways require the lowest land take per transport unit, being 3.5 times lower than for passenger cars (EEA, 2000).
Due to the expected increase in economic and transport activity, the area of land used for transport infrastructure
(roads and parking, rail corridors, airports and harbours) is likely to grow to 2020. This will put growing pressure
on biodiversity because of habitat fragmentation and destruction, and the contribution of transport to acidification
and eutrophication (see Chapter 11). As infrastructure may act as barriers to movement and interchange between
animals, this can clearly affect habitat and species.
The production, maintenance and use of transport infrastructure and mobile equipment including cars, trains and
airplanes, contributes to the generation of solid and hazardous waste in OECD countries (see Chapter 20). Some
50 million vehicles are scrapped annually generating large waste streams of metals, plastics, tyres and used oil.
Requirements for recyclability and final disposal of most of the vehicle parts in OECD countries aim to close the loop
for material flows in order to save energy, materials and scarce resources. The flow of municipal and hazardous wastes
to land fills, incineration plants, recycling and other treatment facilities also increases the demand for transport. Studies in France have shown that the transport of waste accounts for approximately 5% of the total energy consumption
by the transport sector, and that 15% of freight movements involves the transport of waste (EEA, 2000).
Transport noise, particularly from road traffic and aircraft movements, is the major source of external acoustic
Noise levels seriously affecting
nuisance in urban areas. Low-level noise affects the wellhuman health are still
being of people, while at levels higher than 65db(A) it is
recorded in many OECD
detrimental to health. Noise standards for cars and comcountries.
mercial vehicles and airplanes have been progressively
improved over the last 20 years in the majority of OECD
countries. However, excessive noise levels of 65dB(A) and above are still being recorded in many countries, seriously
affecting health by contributing to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. In European OECD countries,
about 30% of the population are exposed to road traffic noise levels above 55 dB(A), and some 13% above 65 dB(A)
(EEA, 2000). Low-noise technologies for vehicles and road surfaces together with noise protection measures could
reduce current levels significantly. There is also a large potential for reducing railway noise. The use of disc-brakes,
reducing noise characteristics of wheels and fitting noise absorbers, and the use of noise reduction aprons and lownoise protection walls could bring down railway noise to levels where exposure would not exceed 55 dB(A). It is estimated that some 10% of the population in the EU are seriously disturbed by aircraft noise, i.e., above 55 dB(A).
Despite technological progress to reduce noise at the source and the introduction of low-noise technologies
(road surfaces, tyres, wheels, protection walls, etc.), future prospects are less promising. Noise nuisances are
expected to worsen near roads due to projected increases in vehicle traffic, and more aviation will generate considerably higher noise emissions around airports and along airways.
Environmental and social externalities from transport activities
Negative environmental and health externalities arising from transport impose a high cost on society. A recent
study undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO) examined the effects of exposure to very small
© OECD 2001
particles (PM 10) on human health in Austria, France and Switzerland (WHO, 1999). The study found that longterm exposure of adults to air pollution from motor vehicles caused 21 000 premature deaths annually from respiratory or heart diseases in these countries – more than twice the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents. The
study confirmed that road transport is the most important source of human exposure to air pollution and noise. A
similar study done on additional cancer risk from exposure to diesel particulate matter has been carried out by the
South Coast Air Quality Management District in California (SCAQMD, 1999). It concluded that mobile sources
(primarily motor vehicles) were responsible for 90% of the cancer risk due to air pollution in the area, and that 70%
of that was attributable to diesel particulates; for all the metropolitan areas across the US, the estimate was that 125
000 cancer cases were caused by diesel particulates.
Total environmental and health costs from transport – including impacts from air pollution, noise, accidents
and climate change – have, in a recent study, been estimated to amount to almost 8% of GDP in European countries
(excluding congestion costs). For 1995, this represented some 530 billion Euros, primarily from accidents (21%),
and air pollution and climate change (48%) (INFRAS/IWW, 2000). Road transport is responsible for 92% of these
costs, followed by aviation with 6%, and rail with approximately 2% (Figure 14.5). Two-thirds of the costs are
caused by passenger transport, one-third by freight.
Figure 14.5. Externalities from transport in Europe, 1995
Billion euro
Road transport
Rail, water and air transport1
Billion euro
Upstream processes
Urban segmentation
Nature & landscape
Air pollution
Climate change
Note: Includes passenger and freight.
Source: INFRAS/IWW (2000).
© OECD 2001
14.4. Policy options
Advances in technology are not likely to be sufficient to overcome increased environmental pressures and
impacts stemming from growing transport demand in the period to 2020. The principal areas of concern will continue to be climate change, air pollution, noise, congestion, resource use (fuels, materials, etc.), land use and habitat
Numerous measures have been taken or are being discussed to reduce the negative environmental and health
impacts of current transport systems. Through national and international regulations controlling vehicle emissions
and fuel quality, there have been significant gains with respect to specific pollutants, notably carbon monoxide and
lead. However, many of the measures proposed for the future, in particular those targeting structural changes in
transport activity or those aiming to reduce CO2 emissions, lack a framework for effective implementation. Moreover, many do not address the prospect of continuous transport growth which threatens to outweigh the gains likely
to be achieved through technological improvements.
A more focused and target-oriented policy approach is needed at international, national and local levels, as
well as across the sectors concerned, which places environmental and health goals higher on the political agenda.
Such an approach has worked well in the field of air pollution control, for which air quality goals adopted at the
national or international level have been used to set stringent control requirements in the form of standards, limits
and target levels for emissions and fuel composition to meet these goals.
The feasibility of achieving agreed environmental and health goals in the long term by using a set of specific
targets derived from these goals has been explored within the OECD project on environmentally sustainable transport (EST), and the EST Vienna guidelines (OECD, 1996; OECD, 1997b; OECD/BMLFUW, 2000). The EST
project has concluded that ambitious, but appropriate, goals may be met through a combination of measures ensuring technology advancements and, especially, influencing transport demand through i) improved transport management to promote better use of existing infrastructure and modes; ii) inducing transport modes with lower
environmental impacts; and iii) achieving efficiency improvements through integrated mobility services and logistics. However, there is currently an implementation gap between the potential offered by demand management
measures and the level of public support and political will.
Technological development and diffusion
Technologies already exist which could significantly
Barriers to the widespread use
reduce the environmental impacts of motor vehicles. If the
of more environmentally
presently available improved technologies were introduced
friendly transport technologies
today for all new passenger cars and commercial vehicles,
and good practices exist across
they could contribute to reductions in fuel consumption by
OECD countries.
around 30% by 2010. The development and wider use of
alternative fuel technologies, e.g. hybrid fuel cell vehicles,
could further reduce emissions. However, a range of barriers across OECD countries has prevented their wide-scale
use. These include their high costs and consumer preferences for large vehicles, but also the reluctance of industry
to market more fuel efficient vehicles which could counter current trends. Market forces have so far failed to generate widespread demand for vehicles with best available technologies. It is therefore important to introduce pricing and fiscal policies that would encourage technological development and facilitate market penetration of
vehicles with less impact on the environment.
At present, combinations of advanced emission control technologies are available that could allow cars and
other light-duty vehicles to meet tailpipe emission standards 50% to 80% tighter than the most stringent values
currently in effect in OECD countries. Existing fuel efficiency technologies and the downsizing of vehicles could
generate further fuel and resources savings of at least 50%, compared with today’s average fuel consumption in
OECD regions. Technologies to substantially reduce CO2 emissions from motor vehicles, however, will not saturate the market in the short term, as their deployment and market penetration will have their full effect only in about
© OECD 2001
20 years, when the entire vehicle stock has been completely renewed. To ensure faster market penetration of these
new technologies, incentives will have to be provided and gradually increasing performance standards will have to
be introduced.
Alternative fuel technologies do exist and, if competitively priced and used more broadly, they could bring
about significant decreases in environmental pressures. Natural gas and bio-diesel could be promoted for different
applications, in particular for urban buses and corporate vehicle fleets with central fuelling facilities. To reduce fossil fuel use and environmental impacts, OECD governments should encourage and provide incentives for the development and deployment of hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as fuel cell vehicles. The development of clean
fuels, particularly very low-sulphur or sulphur-free fuels, should also be promoted, as they are necessary for introducing advanced control technologies that will significantly reduce pollutants.
Legal and regulatory instruments
Standards, limits and restrictions have worked most effectively in reducing air pollution when based on clear
health and environmental goals and objectives. Other successful policies include the recent ban on leaded petrol in
many OECD countries, as well as the introduction of lower speed limits. In urban areas, limiting access of motor
vehicles to city centres by parking restrictions and charges will continue to be efficient in restraining traffic,
although this should be combined with economic measures such as city road tolls.
National and international efforts should focus on using legal and regulatory instruments to introduce clean
and very low-sulphur fuels to reduce the formation of particulate matter. These fuels have multiple benefits. Compared to current fuels, they will not only reduce traditional pollutant emissions considerably, but also CO2 emissions. In addition, they make possible the use of advanced catalysts to reduce NOx emissions, and high efficiency
filters to eliminate particulates from the exhaust. Efforts should continue to reduce sulphur levels in fuels to 30 ppm
and possibly to 10 ppm or less, as proposed by several OECD countries. International co-ordination and clear regulatory requirements for fuel quality, together with longer-term targets and deadlines, will provide the necessary
information and time for industry to prepare and adjust their business plans accordingly.
Economic instruments
In OECD countries, subsidies are still commonly used for all modes of transport. These include wide-spread
tax deductions for transportation (e.g. for employer provided motor vehicles), and fuel subsidies which contribute
to higher overall transport levels, and thus increased negative effects on the environment. A gradual removal of
environmentally harmful subsidies across OECD countries would result in significant decreases in environmental
pressures from transport, in particular on air pollution and climate change.
A number of OECD countries, particularly in Europe, are reforming their tax systems to provide incentives to
reduce external environmental costs of transport (OECD, 2001a). Changing the tax structure for motor vehicle use
in OECD countries can substantially reduce environmental effects caused by increased transport levels. However,
the impact on demand of a changing tax structure could differ from region to region depending on, for example,
the existing tax structure and geographical conditions. Fully applying the Polluter Pays Principle and the User Pays
Principle would mean greater reliance on road pricing, vehicle and fuel taxes, as well as removal of subsidies,
across OECD countries. Such changes in taxation can ensure that prices fully reflect the social and environmental
costs of growing motor vehicle use, and should be structured so that they encourage optimal changes in behaviour.
A shift in emphasis from taxation based on ownership to emission-related and use-based vehicle taxes would
affect the level of transport use and contribute to environmental improvements and less resource use, in most cases
without reducing mobility and choice of transportation. However, resistance can be expected and equity concerns
would need to be addressed. Fiscal measures, such as road or user charges, should be applied to rapidly increasing
road freight to encourage greater efficiency and more completely internalise its high external costs.
To promote the use of public transport, which in dense areas is more energy efficient and less environmentally
damaging than individual motorised transport, OECD countries need to counter the factors that have contributed
© OECD 2001
to its decline. These include the current trend of rising prices for public transport. Alternatives need to be explored
to increase its attractiveness, reliability and performance, while balancing real costs and prices. The increased use
of private passenger cars to a large extent reflects their declining operating costs primarily due to lower fuel prices
which decreased in real terms in the 1980s and 1990s. Action could focus on bringing diesel fuel taxes in line with
petrol taxes in order to better account for their higher externalities. However, recent protests against the increasing
fuel prices and the levels of diesel taxes in many European countries indicate that this will be very difficult to
achieve without accompanying measures that provide attractive mobility alternatives.
Attempts are being made to introduce taxation on aviation fuels, at least for domestic flights in some European
countries, while internationally this sector enjoys full tax exemptions. Due to the very high growth rates of air traffic, which are expected to continue to 2020 and beyond, such taxes, if effective in changing demand, could help
reduce environmental impacts and would also be consistent with the Polluter Pays Principle.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements can provide opportunities for reducing environmental effects from transport. While
such agreements are not considered to be effective as a stand-alone instrument in the transport sector, in combination with and as a supplement to other policy measures they have proven to be useful for achieving improvements
beyond the minimum requirements of regulations. Voluntary agreements – possibly long-term agreements on fuel
efficiency, negotiated between government and vehicle and aircraft manufacturers, industry, and airline or rail
operators – could prove to be effective in increasing fuel efficiency and reducing total fuel use if combined with
other instruments.
Information and other instruments
The importance of information and other instruments is likely to increase in the future since they could be
crucial in changing consumer behaviour and transport demand. Some policy options have already proved effective
in OECD countries and should be explored and expanded further. These include: provision of integrated mobility
services by combining car-sharing schemes with public transport services; comprehensive and real-time passenger
information and education services; public transport incentives for employees; awareness raising and experimental
programmes; and support for local initiatives, as well as marketing campaigns, to promote walking, cycling and
using public transport.
However, experience with fuel efficiency labelling of vehicles has shown that simply providing consumer
information has a limited influence on customers when they are buying a car because of the low priority they give
to fuel efficiency in the face of other criteria, such as vehicle size, power, comfort, and accessories. In order to be
effective, consumer information campaigns and education have to be supplemented more consistently with other
policy instruments, in particular financial and fiscal incentives.
Integrated urban and transport planning for demand-side management
Carefully conceived and integrated urban land use and transport planning is a potentially effective approach
for significantly modifying demand for travel in the long term, especially in favour of public transport, and for
reducing adverse impacts on habitat. Such planning should make use of the different types of instruments discussed
Household and business location preferences are major drivers of land use development and transport
demand, and of environmental impacts from transport. Better planning for land use and development should
improve the accessibility to jobs, shops and other facilities without the need to travel by car. Zoning, in particular
the introduction of low-traffic zones, has proven to be effective in changing urban travel patterns and reducing
environmental impacts. Other policy options include the establishment of more car-free zones, greater traffic control, improving and extending railway and other public transportation networks, providing terminals and logistics
© OECD 2001
centres for combined and optimised transport, and establishing roadway priority for public transport, bicycles and
Measures for influencing transport demand generally fall into three categories: incentives for using (or not
using) a particular mode of transport; providing an alternative mode (i.e. inducing modal shifts); and introducing
user charges to influence transport organisation. Success has already been achieved for certain areas through
restricting access to historic city centres by motor vehicles, traffic calming zones, restrictive parking policies, etc.
A more effective use of existing infrastructure, as well as more innovative approaches for passenger and freight
transport, such as the ones listed below, could result in considerable cost savings and reduce environmental
impacts. They should be further explored by OECD countries:
– Better use of existing infrastructure: introducing road user charges to increase vehicle occupancy and load
factors and reduce the number of empty freight runs (some 30% in Europe); bundling freight movements to
improve efficiency and reduce dead weight; enforcing speed limits to harmonise traffic flows, reduce
congestion and save fuel; and promoting non-motorised transport by expanding walking and cycling infrastructure.
– Increasing the use of public transport (the mode with the least environmental impacts and external costs) in
locations where it can serve passenger demand efficiently as well as environmentally by increasing frequency, reliability, comfort and safety.
– Encouraging dual or hybrid systems that combine public-private partnerships and organising transport to
provide better access to both public transport and individual car use.
– Developing combined road-rail transport where this can help serve markets in environmentally friendly and
efficient ways by applying transport chains and total time management for ordering, producing and delivering products.
OECD countries should further explore, develop and apply demand-side management tools. They can be
effective in encouraging transport that both meets mobility needs and minimises negative environmental effects.
Experience in a number of OECD countries suggests that comprehensive packages of instruments ensuring technological advancements and transport demand management offer the most promising prospects for significant
environmental improvements for the sector.
© OECD 2001
EEA (European Environment Agency) (2000), Environmental Signals 2000, EEA, Copenhagen.
INFRAS/IWW (2000), External Costs of Transport: Accident, Environmental and Congestion Costs of Transport in Western Europe,
INFRAS and IWW, Zurich and Karlsruhe.
IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (1999), “Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, Summary for
Policy Makers – A Special Report of the Working Groups I and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change”, IPCC, Geneva.
OECD (1995), Motor Vehicle Pollution: Strategies Beyond 2010, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1996), “Environmental Criteria for Sustainable Transport: Report on Phase 1 of the Project on Environmentally Sustainable Transport (EST)”, OCDE/GD(96)136, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997a), “Freight and the Environment: Effects of Trade Liberalisation and Transport Sector Reforms”,
OECD/GD(97)213, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997b), “Environmentally Sustainable Transport: Synthesis Report on Phase 2 of the EST Project”, ENV/
EPOC/PPC/T(97)1/Final, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), “Indicators for the Integration of Environmental Concerns into Transport Policies”, ENV/EPOC/
SE(98)1/Final, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001a, forthcoming), Analytical Report on Sustainable Development, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001b), Policy Instruments for Environmentally Sustainable Transport: Report of Phase 3 of the EST Project, OECD, Paris.
OECD/BMLFUW (OECD/Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Austria)
(2000), “est! Environmentally Sustainable Transport – Futures, Strategies and Best Practices, Synthesis Report of
the OECD project”, presentation at the International est! Conference, Vienna, 4-6 October 2000.
SCAQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District) (1999), “Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study in the South
Coast Air Basin (MATES II)”, SCAQMD, Los Angeles.
WHO (World Health Organisation) (1999), “Health Costs Due to Road Traffic-Related Air Pollution – An Impact
Assessment project of Austria, France and Switzerland: PM10 Population Exposure, Technical Report on Air Pollution”, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen.
Wiederkehr, P. (2001), “Environmental Outlook to 2020 for Transport”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
© OECD 2001
Air Quality
• Efforts in OECD countries to meet air quality objectives have resulted in significant reductions in emissions of sulphur oxides, carbon monoxide and lead, and are likely to result in further reductions in emissions of these pollutants
in the period to 2020.
• Emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds have not been reduced to the same
degree, although reductions have been observed in some countries. This is primarily due to the strong growth in
motor vehicle traffic, which has largely outweighed the efficiency gains from new technological development, and
contributed to photochemical smog (tropospheric ozone), acid deposition and eutrophication.
• Air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide, tropospheric ozone and fine particulate matter, as well as critical loads
for acid rain and eutrophicating depositions, are still exceeded in many OECD countries and it is projected that this
will continue to 2020.
• Important policy options to improve air quality are: further developing and implementing regional and global
agreements and air quality action plans; strengthening of legal and regulatory instruments, including combinations
of regulations and standards on emissions and fuel use; applying economic instruments to promote clean fuels and
fuel substitution, and to encourage energy saving measures; and the use of voluntary agreements.
15.1. Introduction
Emissions of air pollutants reduce air quality in OECD countries and have significant effects on human health,
in particular in urban areas where the majority of people in OECD countries live. Pressures on urban air quality in
OECD countries are caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), particulate
matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ozone (O3) generated primarily by
the transport, energy and industry sectors. Levels of SO2, CO and PM – which cause winter smog – have been significantly reduced in OECD countries. However, summer smog (tropospheric ozone), which mainly comes from
emissions of NOx and VOC, has increased. Toxic trace pollutants – including particle-bound heavy metals
(e.g. cadmium, lead, zinc) and hazardous volatile organic pollutants (e.g benzene and halogenated organics) – emitted from specific industries (e.g. smelters, coke ovens and waste treatment facilities) further reduce air quality in
urban areas in OECD countries.
Air emissions also cause acid rain and eutrophication of soil and water. Deposition of SOx, NOx and ammonia,
which are mostly produced by transport and agriculture, contribute to acidification of surface waters and damage to
forests in large parts of Europe, North America and Asia. Furthermore, emissions of NOx contribute to nitrogen deposition and eutrophication of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, which remain serious problems in OECD countries.
15.2. Pressures on air quality
Emission trends and outlooks
In the 1990s, significant reductions in emissions of SOx,
CO, PM and Pb were achieved in many OECD countries.
Emissions of NOx and VOC remained broadly stable over the
last two decades, but have decreased slightly since the
early 1990s.
© OECD 2001
Significant reductions in emissions
of sulphur oxides, carbon monoxide
and lead have been achieved in
OECD countries.
In the period to 2020, emissions of most air pollutants are projected to decline in OECD countries,1 but high
emission levels still raise serious health concerns in urban areas, and cause high ozone concentrations, acidification
and eutrophication in OECD countries.
Sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions contribute to winter smog and acidification. SOx emissions declined significantly
in all OECD countries over the last twenty years, with average decreases of between 30-50%. OECD countries contributed about 40% to global SOx emissions in 1995, with North America contributing 25%, OECD Europe 13% and
OECD Pacific countries 1% (Figure 15.1). Assuming that improvements in emission controls and the use of clean,
low-sulphur fuels in OECD countries will continue, emissions of SOx are expected to decline by a further 30%
from 1995 to 2020 (Wiederkehr, 2001). In North America, a more than 20% reduction (compared to 1990 levels)
seems realistic by 2010 as a result of full implementation of the acid rain programme in the US. For Europe, a decrease
of 75% of total sulphur emissions between 1990 and 2010 is achievable and would reflect efforts to meet the target
agreed by the EU and under the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) to reduce
acid deposition (UNECE, 1999). Emissions in the OECD Pacific region could stabilise or slightly decrease due to
more stringent controls in Japan, but they may increase if stricter controls are not introduced in other countries of the
region. At the global level, emissions of sulphur oxides are expected to considerably increase because of strong economic growth and the use of high sulphur coal in some – primarily non-OECD – countries.
Figure 15.1. Air emission shares by region, 1995
North America 16%
Non-OECD 32%
North America 41%
OECD Europe 7%
OECD Pacific 0%
Non-OECD 77%
OECD Pacific 3%
OECD Europe 24%
North America 25%
North America 32%
Non-OECD 47%
Non-OECD 61%
OECD Europe 13%
OECD Europe 19%
OECD Pacific 2%
OECD Pacific 1%
Source: OECD (1999a).
Carbon monoxide (CO) emissions contribute to winter smog. A downward trend has also occurred with respect
to CO emissions across OECD regions, with emissions decreasing between 10-25% in OECD countries since 1980.
In 1995, CO emissions from OECD countries contributed approximately 68% of worldwide emissions, with North
1. In order to expand the range of air emissions examined beyond those covered in the PoleStar model, the projections used
in this chapter are based on the MOVE II model for mobile sources (see Annex 2) and on the background report of
Wiederkehr (2001) for other sources. While the underlying assumptions remain the same as in the rest of the Reference Scenario, these projections differ in that they assume the implementation of some new and additional policies in order to ensure
already agreed national and regional targets will be met. The regions used here also differ slightly from those of other chapters.
© OECD 2001
America contributing 41%, OECD Europe 24% and the OECD Pacific region 3%. Global emissions of carbon
monoxide are likely to continue to increase, while for OECD countries they could decrease by a further 35%
to 2020, with the highest decreases in OECD Europe and North America, if emissions standards for motor vehicles
are further tightened (Wiederkehr, 2001).
NOx emissions contribute to summer smog, the formation of tropospheric ozone and to acidification and
eutrophication. NOx emissions have either been stable, decreased or increased only slightly in most OECD countries over recent decades. The contribution to global emissions from OECD countries in 1995 was 53%, with North
America contributing 32%, OECD Europe 19%, and the OECD Pacific region 2%. Emissions are likely to decrease
in OECD countries to 2020, primarily because of continued efforts to tighten motor vehicle emissions. Large
reductions are expected in OECD Europe (approximately 60%) and in North America (approximately 30%)
(Wiederkehr, 2001). For other parts of the world, emissions of nitrogen oxides are likely to increase substantially
as a result of economic growth and a rise in motor vehicle traffic.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) have steadily decreased in North America and in the OECD
Asia-Pacific region, while in OECD Europe they increased in the late 1980s and then started to decline. The large
amount of emissions from motor vehicles have led to a greater formation of ground-level ozone (summer smog) in
most OECD countries (OECD, 1995b). Emissions of VOC in the OECD region are expected to decrease by approximately 40% to 2020, primarily due to emission controls for motor vehicles (Wiederkehr, 2001). In the rest of the
world, the emissions are likely to substantially increase, especially in those parts with modest or no emission controls.
Fine particulate matter emissions have significant
Emissions of fine and ultra-fine
negative impacts on human health in urban areas. Combusparticulate matter have been
tion of coal and oil-fired power plants, smelters, cars and
increasing in OECD countries,
diesel vehicles represent the largest sources of fine particuwith significant negative impacts
late matter. Total emissions of particulate matter in OECD
on human health in urban areas.
countries have decreased over the past decades as a result
of stringent dust control for stationary sources. However,
emissions of fine and ultra-fine particles have been increasing, since conventional control systems have not been
able to remove them from exhaust gas. The contribution of OECD countries to global emissions of particulate matter in the mid-1990s was 23%, with North America contributing 16%, OECD Europe 7%, and the OECD Pacific
region less than 0.5%. It is very difficult to project future emissions from the OECD regions as the amount of fine
and ultra-fine particles released into the air will depend on the potential for introducing high-efficiency filter equipment. In other parts of the world, emissions of particulate matter are likely to increase due to growth in energy and
transport demand, as well as the lack of efficient emission controls.
During the 1980s and 1990s, lead (Pb) emissions were reduced very efficiently in most OECD countries. This
was achieved mainly through the phase-out of leaded petrol. Emission reductions of more than 90% have been
achieved in the US and Japan since the 1980s, and over 70% in the EU (EEA, 1999). Future lead emissions from
motor vehicles in OECD countries are projected to gradually decrease to negligible levels. However, emissions
may well increase in other parts of the world, as leaded petrol is not being phased out in all countries.
Ammonia emissions in Europe could decrease by 15% to 2010 if the target agreed within the multi-effects
protocol to the UNCECE LRTAP convention to reduce acidification, eutrophication and the formation of tropospheric ozone from 1999 is met (UNECE, 1999; Wiederkehr, 2001).
Emissions of greenhouse gases, including the three major gases of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and
nitrous oxide (N2O), have increased in most OECD countries in the past decade and are projected to increase substantially to 2020. In addition to their impacts on climate change, they also contribute to air pollution (see also Chapter 13).
Tremendous progress has been made in OECD countries in phasing out the emission of ozone-depleting
substances, which have now been stabilised at very low levels. In some non-OECD countries, emissions of
chlouroflourocarbons (HCFCs) are increasing and are likely to remain in the stratosphere for a long time (see
Chapter 19). Also, the global impacts of the remaining substances from past releases are not expected to have their
maximum effect until a few years from now.
© OECD 2001
For most of the numerous toxic trace pollutants, there are no long-term emission trends available, except for
some heavy metals (e.g. lead, cadmium, zinc and arsenic), some carcinogens (e.g. benzene and 1,3-butadiene) and
some persistent organic pollutants (OECD, 1995a). Data from OECD countries (primarily Europe, Japan, and the
US) show that emissions of particulate-bound heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and zinc, have declined
by more than 65% since the 1970s. Benzene emissions are expected to decline in the future due to stringent emission control for motor vehicles.
Emission trends by sector
Energy, transport, industry, agriculture and the household sector contribute to a variety of pollutant emissions.
The contribution of different sectors to total emissions varies among the different pollutants (Figure 15.2).
Emissions from the transport sector represent a high proportion of overall emissions in OECD countries: about
85% of CO emissions, 52% of NO x emissions, 44% of VOC emissions, at least 50% of airborne lead emissions,
but only 4% of SOx emissions (OECD, 1999a; OECD, 1995b). Generally, the proportion emitted by transport – in
particular road transport – is increasing, except for some countries where emission regulations have been stringent
enough to counteract the total growth in traffic volume (see Chapter 14).
Energy production by public utilities is a major source of SOx emissions (23%) and the second largest contributor to NOx emissions (28%), but only a minor source of VOC emissions (5%) and CO emissions (2%). SOx
emissions have been reduced substantially in most OECD countries as a result of flue gas treatment (desulphurisation), use of fuels with lower sulphur content, and replacing coal by oil (and ultimately by gas) as the primary fuel
(see Chapter 12).
In the mid-1990s, emissions from industry (including from industrial energy production) contributed about
65% of SOx emissions, 29% of VOC emissions and 11% of NOx emissions, but only 2% of CO emissions. NOx
emissions from stationary sources have been reduced effectively in many OECD countries. The industry sector is
also an important source of methane emissions from oil production (e.g. gas flaring) and natural gas distribution.
Industry is also the main source of emissions of ozone depleting substances.
The household sector contributes to CO, NOx, VOC and particulate matter emissions through fuel combustion
(see Chapter 16). However, its contribution is much less than that of other sectors, namely 11% to CO, 6% to SOx
and 5% to NOx and VOC.
Agriculture is a main source of ammonia, nitrous oxide and methane emissions (see Chapter 7). Ammonia
contributes to acidification and eutrophication, while nitrous oxides and methane are important greenhouse gases.
Figure 15.2. Emission sources for selected air pollutants in OECD regions, 1997
6% 2%
5% 4%
Source: OECD (1999a).
© OECD 2001
15.3. Changes in air quality
Air quality
In heavily industrialised and densely populated areas,
Despite progress in reducing
substantial progress has been made in improving air quality
air pollution emissions in
related to emissions of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide,
OECD countries, serious air
dust and lead. However, levels of fine and ultra-fine particquality and related human
ulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone have not
health problems persist.
decreased to the same extent. Data from thousands of monitoring sites in different locations – primarily in urban areas
in Western Europe, North America and Japan – were analysed to determine which of these sites exceeded the WHO
Air Quality Guidelines for major air pollutants: CO, lead, NO2, O3, PM and SO2 (see Figure 15.3).
For SO2, which causes winter smog and contributes to acidification, almost none of the sites exceeded the
long-term annual average guideline, while about 12% of the reported sites still had concentrations higher than the
daily short-term (24-hour) guideline value. Since the late 1980s, SO2 concentrations have declined by 39% in the
US, and up to 50% at highly polluted sites in Western Europe. Concentrations have generally remained at low levels in Japan. While it is rare that the chronic effect level (50µg m-3, annual average) of SO2 is surpassed in OECD
regions, the acute health effect level (125µg m-3, 24-hour average) is exceeded at more than 20% of urban residential sites in Western Europe and the US, but at only a small fraction of sites in Japan.
About 10% of the reviewed sites exceeded the short-term guideline for CO. Trends of CO concentrations show
that significant reductions have been achieved in OECD countries, contributing to reducing the problem of winter
smog. Despite this, approximately 30% of the sites in the largest cities of OECD Europe, and about 10% of the
urban sites in the US, still exceed the WHO guideline which aims to prevent adverse health effects (10 mg m-3,
8-hour average) in areas with heavy traffic.
For NO 2 – which contributes to high ozone concentrations (summer smog), acidification, eutrophication
and climate change – 50% of the monitoring sites exceeded the annual long-term guideline, while about 10%
were above the short-term guideline. Over 95% of the sites exceeded the 8-hour ozone guideline in Western
Figure 15.3. Urban sites exceeding the WHO guidelines in the OECD region, 1993
Total suspended particles/
Particulate matter (10 µm)
Long-term guideline
Note: Annual values, except for ozone.
Source: OECD (1999b)
© OECD 2001
Short-term guideline
Europe and the US. Since the late 1980s, NO 2 concentrations have declined by between 14-30% in both Western
Europe and the US, while they have remained stable in Japan. The WHO guideline for maximum daily values
of NO2 (150µg m-3) is widely exceeded in cities throughout OECD regions. In areas with heavy traffic, about
70% of sites in Western Europe, 60% in the US, and 65% in Japan exceed the long-term guideline (40µg m-3,
annual average).
Almost all lead monitoring sites were below the long-term guideline. Lead concentrations have declined by
more than 55% in both Western Europe and the US since the late 1980s, predominantly due to reduced emissions
from leaded petrol. Almost all OECD countries have lead concentration levels below the limit of the WHO guideline of the no-adverse-effect level (0.5µg m-3), although a few European countries exceeded that limit in the
early 1990s. In Japan, lead concentrations have remained unchanged since the 1980s at very low levels.
Applying the 24-hour guideline value for total suspended particles and tentative criteria for PM10 as a basis,
about 75% of the sites were found to be above acceptable levels. Suspended particulate matter in the atmosphere
consists of particles of different size and chemical composition. Particles smaller than 10µm and 2.5µm in diameter
are referred to as PM10 and PM2.5 respectively. PM10 can enter the upper respiratory tract, while PM2.5 can penetrate the lungs. Increasing evidence suggests that health effects of particulates are primarily caused by fine particles, PM2.5 and smaller. Recent research shows there is no “safe” threshold level for particulate matter. Since the
late 1980s, total suspended particulate concentrations have declined in urban areas of Western Europe by some
35%. In the US, PM10 concentrations have been reduced by 35%, while in Japan they have remained stable over
the same period, though at lower levels.
Concentrations of toxic trace pollutants and hazardous air pollutants
For many toxic trace pollutants – which contribute to chronic respiratory and other diseases – insufficient
monitoring data are available to allow an assessment similar to that performed for major air pollutants. However,
monitoring data in a few countries show that concentrations for several particle-bound heavy metals (e.g. cadmium,
lead, zinc) have fallen considerably due to stringent dust controls of point sources of pollution and restrictions on
the use of products containing these pollutants (e.g. leaded petrol). Ambient air quality levels for toxic trace pollutants have decreased by 20-50% since the 1980s, and by more than 75% since the 1970s in some OECD countries
(OECD, 1995a). Concentrations of hazardous volatile organic pollutants, such as benzene and halogenated organics, have decreased by 30-50% during the 1980s in OECD countries as a result of control efforts to reduce health
risks. However, benzene concentrations in Europe are still exceeding the limit values, exposing about half of the
population in urban areas to excessive levels.
Tropospheric ozone concentrations
Summer smog, caused by high tropospheric ozone concentrations, occurs frequently in many OECD countries. Current daily mean concentrations of ozone (O3) in Europe are twice as high as in the 1950s. These levels are
mainly the result of substantial increases of emissions of NOx and VOC from industry and transport. The complex
formation processes for secondary pollutants like ozone involve numerous substances, sunlight and chemical reactions that need time and energy to develop. Thus, high ozone concentrations tend to occur far away from emission
sources and during the summer season, with intense sunlight favouring ozone formation. It is increasingly recognised that large scale formation of photochemical oxidants (including ozone) is a global phenomenon caused by
the large amount of emissions from highly industrialised and densely populated areas that substantially change the
chemical composition of the lower layers of the atmosphere.
Since the late 1980s, ozone concentrations (using maximum 8-hour values as defined in the WHO guideline
of 120µg m-3) have increased in urban areas in Western Europe and Japan by about 15% and 5%, respectively. In
some parts of the US, where concentrations were already much higher, peak levels have decreased by 4%. This
difference is due to the relative changes in emissions of NOx and VOC. The WHO ozone limit value is widely surpassed: 95% of the monitoring sites in the US and Japan, and about 90% of sites in Western Europe, exceed revised
© OECD 2001
WHO 8-hour guidelines aimed at protecting human health. In some urban areas, ozone concentrations are more
than twice as high as the guideline limit.
About 330 million people in Europe are exposed to ozone levels above the threshold value, and more than
33 million people living in urban areas in Europe are exposed to excessive levels for more than 25 days per year
(EEA, 1999). The WHO guideline for ozone is also used in Europe in relation to the critical levels concept as
adopted by the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) to estimate the accumulated ozone exposure of the population above the threshold value of 60 ppb (AOT60 indicator). Extensive modelling has been carried out for Europe to estimate the AOT60 in 1990 and 2010, taking into account the emission
ceilings that have been agreed under the 1999 multi-pollutant protocol of the LRTAP Convention (50% for NOx
and 53% for VOC emissions) The model projects that in 2010 the health relevant AOT60 levels will be reduced
by 68% in Western Europe and by 74% in Central & Eastern Europe (see Figure 15.4). Nevertheless, levels will
remain well above the targets and large proportions of the population will be exposed to ozone concentrations
above the critical level for many days of the year. The forthcoming new EU ozone directive defines the target value
to 25 days of exceedence in 2010.
An indicator for exposure of ecosystems has also been defined using the concept of accumulated ozone exposure above a threshold value of 40 ppb (AOT40 indicator) for assessing effects from ozone on vegetation during
the relevant growing season. Most recently air quality targets have been agreed among the parties to the UNECE
LRTAP Convention using the AOT40 indicators for determining the “critical levels” with a view to assessing
effects on agricultural crops and forests. It is projected that for 2010 the AOT40 levels will be reduced by 45% in
Western Europe and by 43% in Central & Eastern Europe (EEA, 1999). These results clearly demonstrate that significant improvements in ozone levels are to be expected from these emission reductions. The effect of these emission reductions seem more pronounced for peak values as indicated by the AOT60 levels, while lower ozone levels
that protect agricultural crops and forest ecosystems will be much more difficult to achieve (less reduction of the
AOT40 levels). Projections indicate that tropospheric background concentrations of ozone will continue to
increase in both the North American and Euro-Asian continents (EEA, 1999). This steady growth is caused by
increases in background levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane.
Human health
(AOT60 index)
(AOT40 index)
Figure 15.4. Exceedence of critical levels for ozone in Europe, 1990 and 2010
Central & Eastern Europe
Western Europe
Central & Eastern Europe
Western Europe
Critical levels
Notes: AOT40/10: cumulative vegetation exposure index (1 000 km2 “excess” “ppm” hours).
AOT60: cumulative population exposure index (million persons “ppm” hours).
Source: EEA (1999).
© OECD 2001
100 ppm - hours
In the US in the mid-1990s, some 90 million people lived in areas that violated the national ambient air quality
standard for ozone. Projections for the next ten years indicate that excessive ozone levels will still occur in 28 nonattainment areas (US EPA, 2000). The situation in the US is similar to that described for Europe: in 1997 more than
110 million people lived in areas that exceeded one or several standards. Longer-term projections of air quality levels have also been performed for the US using emission projections and modelling of air quality trends to estimate
exposure of the population to excessive pollution levels. In 2007, more than 129 million people are estimated to
live in areas which still exceed air quality standards of one or several pollutants, i.e. 28 non-attainment areas for
ozone and 80 areas with marginal exceedences are to be expected (US EPA, 2000). Estimates for other parts of the
world are not available.
Acidification and eutrophication
Acid deposition originates from emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia
which are mostly produced by the combustion of fossil fuels for power generation, transport and agriculture. Deposition of these compounds and their reaction products causes acidification of surface waters and damage to forests
in large parts of Europe, North America and Asia (see Chapters 8 and 10). While significant progress has been
made in controlling sulphur compounds to reduce the acidification problem, nitrogen deposition has not been
reduced to the same extent.
Current acid deposition levels in Northern Europe and parts of North America are at least twice as high as
critical levels. Between 25% and 40% of the surface area of sensitive ecosystems in Europe receive higher depositions than can be tolerated, leading to continued acidification (Figure 15.5). This is expected to decrease to less
than 10% in both Central & Eastern Europe and in Western Europe by 2010 (EEA, 1999). In other parts of the
world, further substantial reductions of sulphur emissions beyond 2000 are unlikely, as the focus is on controlling
SO2 emissions from power plants rather than reducing total deposition loads. Thus, acid depositions are likely to
continue to contribute to acidification of surface waters and soils in these areas and reduce the quality of the most
sensitive ecosystems.
Eutrophication remains a serious problem in OECD countries. Emissions of NOx contribute to nitrogen deposition and eutrophication of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The areas of sensitive ecosystems experiencing
nitrogen depositions above critical loads were almost 80% in Central & Eastern Europe and almost 40% in Western
Europe in 1995. In the period to 2010, these values are expected to decrease to under 60% for Central & Eastern
Figure 15.5. Exceedence of critical loads for sensitive ecosystems in Europe, 1995-2010
Central & Eastern Europe
Western Europe
Central & Eastern Europe
Western Europe
5% limit
Source: EEA (1999).
© OECD 2001
Europe and about 20% for Western Europe (Figure 15.5) (EEA, 1999). Unfortunately similar studies and estimates
are not available for other parts of the world.
15.4. Policy options
Adopted and planned control strategies are likely to
High emission levels of nitrogen
lead to further reductions of air emissions over the next
oxides and volatile organic
decade in OECD countries and substantial reductions
remain a concern in
by 2020 (Wiederkehr, 2001). Nevertheless, high emissions
due to their
levels of NOx and VOC remain a concern due to their concontribution
tribution to the formation of photochemical smog (primaphotochemical
rily ozone). Particulate matter emissions will continue to be
a significant health impact in urban areas unless high-efficiency filter technology or sulphur-free fuels are introduced, and other sources of fine particles are controlled.
Existing air pollution control programmes have focused on various environmental media (air, water, land) and
sectors (industry, energy, transport, agriculture and households) and addressed them separately, with an emphasis on
end-of-pipe controls. Integrated approaches and upstream pollution prevention policies have been rather limited to
date, as have area-wide air quality management approaches that simultaneously address stationary, mobile and diffuse
A forward looking strategy for achieving lasting improvements in air quality and meeting stringent environmental standards and targets should strengthen existing regulatory instruments, better combine them with different economic instruments, and involve voluntary approaches in support of regulatory action. Such a strategy could make use
of existing instruments, but they would have to be carefully combined, packaged and more consistently deployed in
order to achieve environmental targets. This involves, first of all, the development of a comprehensive air quality and
management action plan (as required, for example, by the EU directive) that combines regulations on emissions from all
sources, including products and fuel use, economic instruments to enhance the development of clean technologies, vehicles and fuels, as well as voluntary agreements to supplement regulatory action.
Since some of the large-scale air pollution problems are caused by the long-range transboundary transport of air
pollutants and the formation of secondary pollutants (such as ozone), a number of regional and global international
agreements have been developed over the least two decades to address these pollutants. These regional agreements –
in particular the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), the regional sea
conventions for the protection of the North Sea (OSPARCOM) and the Baltic Sea (HELCOM), and EU directives –
have more recently focused on the concept of critical levels and loads as targets for setting longer-term emission
reduction targets. Extensive modelling and evaluation suggest that this effect-oriented approach will result in much
greater improvements than conventional approaches using available control technology.
Legal and regulatory instruments
Some OECD countries have set emission and performance standards for stationary and mobile sources that
have resulted in significant improvements over time through continuous technological improvements. A precautionary approach is taken in a number of OECD countries, allowing the introduction of best available technology
(BAT), and making continuous improvements in emission controls, even where the full environmental and health
implications of the pollutants are not fully understood. Environmental permits for industrial facilities are important
for efficiently implementing environmental requirements and ensuring compliance through appropriate monitoring
and reporting.
Regulations of highly polluting fuels (e.g. heavy fuel oil, residual fuels, wastes) and limits on their composition (e.g. sulphur, heavy metals, toxic and aromatic content) should continue. Clean and low-sulphur, or sulphurfree, fuels that have numerous technological and environmental advantages should also be introduced.
© OECD 2001
Tighter emission standards for motor vehicles are needed, especially for diesel vehicles and motorcycles. In
addition, monitoring and emission control programmes are necessary to ensure compliance with standards over
time and prevent the use of highly polluting vehicles. Comprehensive and more stringent emission control programmes for motor vehicles (both light and heavy-duty) in Europe, Japan and North America may – over the next
eight to ten years – lead to further significant emission reductions of CO, NOx, VOC and particulate matter (notably
from diesel vehicles).
There is also a need for better integrated pollution prevention and control, area-wide air quality action and
management plans with goals, targets and deadlines covering all sources, and BAT-based performance standards
for stationary combustion sources, including large industrial sources and power plants to control emissions of SOx,
NOx, PM and heavy metals.
Regulations in most OECD countries require existing facilities to meet standards for new sources when retrofitted or major process changes have been made. There are a large number of facilities (up to 90%) that avoid this
rule by declaring retrofitting and process changes as maintenance activities to improve the regular operation of the
plant. This has significant implications on the environmental performance of these plants, as retrofitted plants usually operate with higher output capacity, but under more lenient emission controls than what is required and achievable by using state-of-the-art controls. Future control strategies and enforcement should address this issue and
focus particularly on implementation.
Economic instruments
Economic instruments are increasingly used to supplement traditional regulatory approaches to air quality
improvement in OECD countries. They include emission fees and charge systems, subsidies and accelerated depreciation schemes and, more recently, the trading of pollution credits. The main issue for the future application of
economic instruments is to more fully internalise external environmental and health costs and to move from a
piecemeal approach to more comprehensive tax reform. Several OECD countries have started to change their tax
structure accordingly. These efforts need to be strengthened and better integrated into air management policies.
Taxes on vehicle use and emissions have been broadly applied in many OECD countries, and are an important
source of government revenue. Differentiated taxes targeting sulphur levels and lead content of fuels have
contributed significantly to pollution prevention. Pricing and tax incentives should also be enhanced to promote
fuel substitution (e.g. natural gas, electricity) and encourage energy saving measures. Energy taxes for all types of
fuels (but less for aviation fuels and kerosene) have also been introduced and should be promoted where possible
(see Chapter 12).
External environmental and health costs can also be integrated through the use of fiscal incentives to support
the development and use of low-sulphur, and ultimately sulphur-free, fuels which have numerous environmental
advantages (e.g. reduced sulphur and PM emissions). The use of advanced diesel NOx and PM control technologies, as well as improving the performance of other advanced technologies that lower fuel consumption and particulate emissions, should also be encouraged through economic incentives.
Market-based emission allowance and trading schemes among stationary sources have been used primarily in
the US to reduce primarily SOx, but also NOx, CFCs and VOC emissions. The sulphur emission trading scheme is
expected to reduce compliance costs of industry by 25-50% by giving industry maximum flexibility to reduce
Particular attention should be given to the application of market-based instruments to improve the environmental performance of small- and medium-sized enterprises. They are a growing source of pollution and have not
yet been targeted by regulations. Pricing and fiscal incentives may prove to be very effective in this regard.
© OECD 2001
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary approaches and agreements have been increasingly used with industry to supplement air pollution
regulatory programmes. They may take several forms, and range from relatively less stringent voluntary initiatives
and arrangements to more stringent, negotiated agreements, with goals and targets, deadlines and reporting requirements. Most of them have been used to promote energy efficiency improvements in industry and electricity generation, fuel efficiency improvements of passenger cars, and a less polluting use of chemicals and consumer products.
Voluntary agreements can be useful to supplement conventional types of regulatory approaches in areas where
regulation and enforcement are difficult, or if the sector is too heterogeneous or has too many units (e.g. small- and
medium-sized enterprises). If carefully designed, negotiated and implemented, the limitations of voluntary agreements can be reduced and their role in air quality management enhanced. Experience is still too recent to come up
with a final assessment of their effectiveness, but generally voluntary agreements should be combined with or
linked to other instruments, such as permitting, regulations, or pricing and fiscal incentives, to ensure effectiveness.
Their credibility and transparency can greatly be improved by public reporting and independent verification of their
compliance with binding targets.
Information and other instruments
Improving urban air quality will not only depend on the effectiveness of pollution prevention and control policies, but also on the availability of green areas in cities. The size, type and distribution of green areas are becoming
more important in large cities. Green areas, such as parks and tree-lined avenues, improve the urban climate,
enhance air circulation, absorb atmospheric pollutants and enable residents to enjoy nearby recreational activities.
It has been estimated that urban trees improve air quality by removing several tonnes of pollutants. Therefore,
maintaining appropriate green areas in cities should be an important component of overall air quality management
that also contributes considerably to the well-being and quality of life of residents.
Regular monitoring and public reporting, as well as access to information on the status and trends in air quality, are very important for raising awareness about these problems, showing progress, and motivating participation
of the business sector, governmental bodies and the public. Also, targeted information and education programmes
are of increasing importance to demonstrate effectiveness of programmes and good practices.
EEA (European Environment Agency) (1999), Europe’s Environment: the Second Assessment, EEA, Copenhagen.
OECD (1995a), Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1995b), Motor Vehicle Pollution: Reduction Strategies Beyond 2010, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), Environmental Data – Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), “Advanced Air Quality Indicators and Reporting”, ENV/EPOC/PPC(99)9/FINAL, OECD, Paris.
UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) (1999) “Gothenburg Protocol – to the Convention on
Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution”, ECE/ENV/99/8, UNECE, Geneva.
US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) (1999), “National Air Quality and Emissions Trends
Report, 1998”, US EPA, Washington, DC.
Wiederkehr, P. (2001), “Environmental Outlook to 2020 for Air Quality”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
© OECD 2001
Section V
This section examines the environmental implications of developments in the
household sector, the steel, pulp and paper, and chemicals industries, and
analyses recent trends and projections for waste generation and management in
OECD countries. The households chapter focuses on the direct impact household
activities have on the environment through their energy and water use, waste
generation, travel patterns and consumption levels. The industry chapters (steel,
pulp and paper, and chemicals) first discuss recent trends and future projections
for developments in the industries themselves, and then present an analysis of the
impact of these developments on the environment. The chapter on waste
examines the recent trends and future outlook for the generation of different
categories of waste, developments in waste management, and discusses the
associated environmental impacts. All the chapters conclude with an indication
of the policy options available for addressing the environmental problems
• Consumption by households has increased considerably in OECD countries in the past decades along with economic growth, and is projected to continue to grow to 2020.
• Pressures on the environment from household activities in OECD countries have increased in recent decades and
are expected to continue to increase to 2020.
• Future environmental pressures from the household sector will arise from growing energy and water consumption,
greater use of motorised transport and air travel, and increases in household waste generation.
• Households in OECD countries are generally aware and concerned about environmental pressures but, for a variety
of reasons, that concern has not led to a change in most households’ behaviour.
• To reduce the environmental impacts from household purchases and behaviour, existing policies that address the
full lifecycle of key consumer goods need to be more widely implemented and new measures introduced. Efforts
should be made to raise the environmental awareness of households and encourage them to act in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
16.1. Introduction
Households in OECD countries affect the environment through both their day-to-day decisions on what goods
and services to buy and the use they make of them, and their decisions on where to live and work, what kind of
dwelling to have, and where to go on vacation. Although the environmental pressures of individual households are
sometimes minor compared to environmental impacts from the industrial and public sectors, the combined impact
of many households is an important contributor to a number of environmental problems, including air and water
pollution, habitat alteration and climate change. In areas such as household energy use, travel and waste generation,
material and energy efficiency gains have been outweighed by the absolute increase in the volume of goods and
services that are consumed and discarded.
One of the defining characteristics of the 20th century is the development of a “consumer culture” and the
progressive multiplication of the products and services offered to, and demanded by, households. Rising per capita
income and accompanying changes in lifestyles have led to more individualised buying patterns, a shift towards
more processed and packaged products, higher levels of appliance ownership, and a wider use of services. Higher
incomes have also increased the number of objects households purchase. For instance, whereas before households
used one standardised product for the majority of household cleaning tasks, they now use a range of products, each
with its own specific application. The purchase, use and disposal of some semi-durable (clothing, linens, small
electric appliances) and even durable goods (motor vehicles, large household appliances, computers) are accelerated by considerations of style, product attributes or obsolescence.
The environmental impacts from household purchase and use of consumer goods depend on the characteristics of the good, including its material and energy content; the resource (energy, water) load associated with its use;
the type, the amount and the reusability of product packaging; hazardous pollutant content; and the disposal
© OECD 2001
16.2. Household food consumption
Households in OECD countries increasingly demand a food supply that offers convenience and variety. These
trends, along with lifestyle changes and more individualised time allocation within households, have led to a
greater consumption of processed and imported food, and to individual portions and packaging. More meals are
prepared outside of the home. At the same time, consumer awareness of food quality and safety issues has grown,
leading to a greater demand for organic produce.
Households consume more meat, fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood than in the past. Although it is already
high, the total calorie intake is increasing in many OECD countries. A few of these have not yet reached saturation
levels for per capita consumption of individual commodities and/or aggregate food consumption, but per capita
consumption is continuing to grow even in countries that have very high levels of national consumption. Projected
food demand for 2020 (compared with 1995/97 levels) includes a 7% increase of per capita meat consumption for
OECD regions as a whole, with higher increases for Mexico, Korea and Hungary (OECD, 2000). Per capita consumption of cereals (mostly in refined form) and vegetable oils is also likely to increase (Figure 16.1).
Figure 16.1. Apparent food consumption in OECD countries, 1974-2020
Total % change, 1995-2020
Meat, milk, eggs
Meat, milk, eggs
Vegetable oils,
& products
Vegetable oils,
& products
& products
& products
1974-76 average
1995-97 average
1 000
1 200
1 400
Source: Alexandratos (2000).
Several factors play a role in how patterns of household food consumption will affect the environment, including where and how food is produced, processed, packaged, preserved, distributed and prepared. The most significant environmental impacts occur early in the production chain. However, households in OECD countries
influence trends in these areas through their choice of diet and their demand for food-related services. The demand
for year-round availability of fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, means more energy for greenhouse production or long-distance transport by road or air. The growing demand for meat has led to intensive pork and poultry
production, which are important sources of water pollution. Other impacts result from the food processing and services sectors (e.g. energy consumption for the preparation and distribution of chilled and frozen foods).
© OECD 2001
Households also affect the environment directly by how they purchase, store and prepare their food and how
much organic and packaging waste they generate. In one OECD country where trends have been explored, households use almost as much energy in driving their food home as producers do in transporting it to the shops
(OECD, 2001a). Food waste, although a declining share of household waste streams, appears to be increasing in
many countries. Packaging waste from food is also increasing as a share of household waste, and has diversified
to include a larger percentage of plastic waste which is generally more difficult to recover (OECD, 2001b). Some
household food consumption patterns may be leading to a trade-off of impacts between actors in the food chain.
For instance, the combination of out-of-home food processing and quick home preparation may result in lower
energy use for food preparation at the household level, but potentially greater energy use for household food preservation. Lifecycle analysis of the preservation and preparation of food products is needed to identify the net effect
of these trends and determine both where environmental impacts are heaviest and where technological or policy
measures are most necessary.
As consumer awareness of food quality and safety, and of potential environmental effects of food production,
has grown in the past decades, household demand for organic food products has increased steadily. Organic agriculture has experienced growth rates of over 20% annually in a number of OECD countries (see Chapter 7).
16.3. Household energy use
Two trends are shaping household energy demand in OECD countries. Rising incomes have led to a demand
for larger houses. At the same time, family size has decreased, so per capita dwelling area has increased. Bigger
dwelling area leads to a greater demand for energy for heating and cooling rooms and for heating water. Increased
ownership of energy- and water-consuming appliances are driving a greater demand for energy and water. On the
other hand, household heating systems and electrical appliances are more efficient and more households are
equipped with energy conserving technologies (e.g. double-glazing and insulation). Moreover, in many countries,
households now have better access to reliable information (e.g. household energy audits) on their energy use.
Higher energy prices, stricter building codes, subsidies for conversion from oil to other energy sources, and
programmes to encourage home insulation, have significantly reduced the energy intensity1 of household space and
water heating. Energy intensities for electric appliances have also fallen, although more modestly. New appliances
may use less electricity than older ones, but the growing number of household appliances and electronic communication and information devices has outweighed improvements in the efficiencies of almost all their uses. Of particular importance is the rapid growth in the number of dishwashers, clothes dryers, freezers, and air conditioners
in many OECD countries (Table 16.1). These trends explain the rising importance of electric appliances and electricity in general in the household total final demand of energy by end use.
Household energy demand is expected to continue to
rise in the short- to medium-term (see Chapter 12). In the
Reference Scenario, electricity demand by households is
projected to increase substantially in all OECD regions. In
the period from 1995 to 2020, the highest relative changes
are expected in Central & Eastern Europe (approximately
200%), but significant increases are also expected in the
other OECD regions (Figure 16.2).
Household energy demand is
likely to continue to rise in
OECD countries to 2020, but
there is a large potential for
further energy efficiency gains.
The environmental impacts of increased household energy consumption will depend on future approaches to
residential space and water heating (e.g. small-scale co-generation, decentralised energy production in the residential sector, solar power) and the interaction between larger dwelling areas and higher levels of appliance ownership
and energy efficiency improvements achieved via building standards, technology or product modification, or
changes in household behaviour.
1. Energy intensity refers to the amount of electricity needed for a particular end-use, such as space and water heating or running household appliances.
© OECD 2001
Table 16.1. Household appliance ownership for selected OECD countries, 1973-1997
(units per 100 households)
Refrigerators &
combination units
Clothes washers
Air conditioners
IEA (2000).
Figure 16.2. Electricity demand by households, 1995-2020
Million 1995 US$
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
Source: Reference Scenario.
16.4. Household water use
Household water consumption varies considerably among
OECD countries, ranging from 100 to 300 litres per capita per day.
Household demand for
Pressures on water supplies stem from the growing number and
freshwater has stabilised
capacity of water-consuming household plumbing units and applior declined in a number
ances (e.g. showers, toilets, water heaters, dishwashers, and
of OECD countries.
clothes washers) and other uses of water (e.g. lawn watering,
swimming pools). The increases in total water use are somewhat
offset by increases in the efficiency of water use, such as through reduced municipal pipe leakage, increased water
efficiency of household appliances or toilets, etc. As a result, household demand for water has declined or stabilised
© OECD 2001
in a number of OECD countries in recent years (OECD, 1999a), including in countries with an already low consumption level (i.e. 100 litres/cap/day). OECD countries using water pricing systems that approximate marginal
costs (i.e. where households pay per unit of water used, rather than by household size or number of occupants) have
seen the most significant reductions in household water use. The impact of such systems is strengthened when they
are combined with relatively high or increasing water tariff rates (OECD, 1999a). These trends suggest a strong
potential for households in other OECD countries (and particularly those with high per capita water consumption
levels) to reduce their use levels once they have appropriate information, water-efficient technologies and strong
Households are relatively low consumers of water compared to other sectors (see Chapter 8). However, the
pressure on water supplies from household water demand is important, particularly in regions of OECD countries
that experience periodic or permanent water shortages. Urban and rural municipalities are also increasingly competing with other users for water where supplies are limited. A growing number of cities in OECD countries are
facing rising costs to supply water of drinking quality and sanitation facilities to urban residents. Households also
have an impact on water quality through the effects of wastewater releases on oxygen availability in aquatic ecosystems (known as biochemical oxygen demand or BOD), contamination by household products (including phosphate detergents, oil and grease), and run-off of lawn chemicals applied on gardens. OECD countries have
improved basic water pollution abatement from households by increasing the number of households connected to
basic sewage treatment facilities, and expanding secondary and tertiary treatment. BOD levels due to household
sewage release, however, are still projected to increase to 2020 for OECD regions (see Chapter 8).
16.5. Household travel
Individual private car use and air travel are two of the
Household private car use and
most significant ways in which households contribute to
air travel will increase to 2020,
environmental pressures, including global climate change,
contributing strongly to
local air and water pollution, noise exposure, and land
growing emissions of
alteration for roads and transport infrastructure. Household
greenhouse gases.
travel meets the need for three kinds of mobility: commuting and other work-related travel, family and civic excursions (shopping, school, medical visits, various meetings, etc.), and social and recreational trips. Commuting
accounts for around 25% of household travel in OECD countries (IEA, 1997). Households use their cars mostly
for social or recreational purposes.
Although the demand for all forms of transport has risen (see Chapter 14), car ownership in particular has
increased steadily since 1970. Day-to-day car use has grown substantially while road distances travelled by car
have nearly doubled. Rising incomes in OECD countries have driven the increases in car ownership and a shift
towards heavier and more powerful cars. Variables such as family size and lifestyle, children, the number of workers in the household and geographical factors – where people live, work and shop – are also important, as is access
to mass transit. For example, urban sprawl increases the road distances travelled by car (see Chapter 2). To 2020,
private vehicle stock and kilometres travelled are projected to increase substantially both in OECD and non-OECD
countries (see Chapter 14).
Significant gains may have been made in car fuel efficiency in all OECD countries, but greater car use and
preferences for heavier, more powerful, and more comfortable cars have offset these improvements. Moreover, the
frequency of trips has increased while the number of people per car has dropped. Among the different types of vehicles, cars collectively emit the greatest amount of the pollutants carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic
components (VOC) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
Household tourism patterns are a second important source of environmental impacts from household travel.
International tourism has grown at an annual average rate of 7.1% since the 1950s, and is projected to grow at an
annual average rate of 4.3% to the year 2020 (Figure 16.3). Overall, the World Tourism Organisation projects that
by 2020 tourism arrivals worldwide will be triple their 1995 levels (WTO, 1999). One characteristic of this growth
© OECD 2001
is that long-haul tourism travel (travel that takes place between world regions) could grow at a faster rate than intraregional travel, particularly in Europe and the Americas. Inter-regional (mostly intercontinental) travel involves
great distances of air travel where environmental impacts tend to be highest.
Figure 16.3. International tourist arrivals worldwide
563 million tourist arrivals
1 602 million tourist arrivals
Intra-regional trips
Long-haul trips
Source: WTO (1999).
Household leisure travel currently represents a relatively important source of transport energy use and CO2
emissions, roughly of the same magnitude as emissions from other household travel (e.g. commuting, shopping).
However, aviation-related CO2 and other emissions have increased rapidly in recent years, largely driven by longdistance leisure travel. Of all tourism-related activities, travel represents the most important source of energy use
and greenhouse gas emissions.
16.6. Household waste generation
Rising per capita income and accompanying changes in lifestyles have increased the number of objects households purchase and dispose of. In 1997, households generated on average 67% of municipal waste loads (with a
range of 41-96%) (OECD, 1999b). Household waste is made up of organic waste (garden and food residue), durable and non-durable goods, inert materials, metal, containers and packaging (glass, paper and paperboard, plastics,
composite packaging), motor oils, and textiles. Households also produce very small quantities of hazardous waste,
such as aerosol cans, paint, household and automobile batteries, and home and yard chemicals. The composition
of household waste has changed significantly. Food wastes as a percentage of municipal waste have declined,
although the amount of food waste in the waste stream has increased. This is due to better storage (refrigeration,
packaging) and also to a greater consumption of processed food (OECD, 2001b). Packaging materials account for
a relatively larger share of household garbage. This trend began earlier than most might realise. The term “throwaway society”, which many equate with current lifestyles and consumption patterns, was coined in 1955 – even
before the advent of plastic packaging (Brower and Leon, 1999).
Most OECD governments have been shifting waste strategies from simple collection and disposal to a “waste
hierarchy” approach with an emphasis on preventing waste generation. While household awareness and participa© OECD 2001
tion in waste management have improved significantly, the generation of household waste is nevertheless still
growing and is projected to increase further to 2020 (see Chapter 20). Municipal waste generation in OECD
regions is projected to grow by 43% from 1995 to 2020, for total generation amounting to about 770 million tonnes
per year by 2020. In the EU, household waste is projected to increase 22% from 1995 to 2010, with increases in
paper and cardboard waste of between 44-62%, and glass waste of between 24-53% (Fischer, 1999). End-of-life
(scrapped) vehicles are expected to increase by roughly 30% in the EU region (European Topic Centre on Waste,
2000). With increasing awareness and participation of households in waste-related environmental issues, recycling
has improved remarkably over the last two decades. However, it has not been sufficient to counter the overall environmental impacts from greater waste generation.
16.7. Policy options
Most OECD countries have in place, or are developing, measures to modify the environmental impacts from
households. These measures are often part of strategies for tackling major environmental problems, such as climate
change or local air pollution. They aim to influence household decision-making both directly, by encouraging
changes in consumer behaviour, and indirectly, by requiring that more environmentally benign goods become
available on the market or by imposing regulatory standards which increase the relative prices of products with
greater negative environmental impacts (OECD, 1998).
Some of these policies have resulted in limited changes in behaviour. Nevertheless, since many of the environmental impacts resulting from household decisions are expected to intensify over the next couple of decades,
OECD governments will need to reinforce their policies to help households make day-to-day and major investment
decisions at a lower cost to the environment. From a household perspective, changing purchase and behaviour patterns may incur a high personal cost for a shared public benefit (e.g. better air quality). As a result, governments
face several challenges in promoting more sustainable household behaviour.
To tackle these problems more coherently, the environmental objectives of technology, infrastructure and
research and development (R&D) policy will need to be expanded, and regulations and standards that define a minimum level of effort (e.g. waste recycling targets, minimum energy efficiency performance) more widely applied.
These, together with the use of economic instruments and better information-based instruments and initiatives to
raise awareness, will be important in sending clearer signals to households on the full costs associated with their
decision-making. There is a broader set of policies that also influences household decision-making, and their
design should take into consideration their environmental effects. These include landuse and physical planning,
labour policies, and education and social policies (e.g. childcare).
Technology, infrastructure and R&D policy
The current lack of options to reduce pressures on the environment from the household sector underlines the
importance of medium- and long-term government promotion of the development of technologies and infrastructures (energy, transport, waste) that will support sustainable household behaviour. In the area of waste, for example,
waste policies need to be better integrated into an economy-wide approach of lifecycle resource management to
reduce the material input into the economy and achieve closed materials cycles up to the point where the economic
costs involved do not exceed the environmental benefits achieved. At the household level, resource efficiency
should translate into a reduced flow of materials into the household to begin with.
Reducing environmental impacts from personal travel will require measures to induce the use of new or
improved motor vehicle technologies; reorienting and augmenting investment for public transport systems; and reexamining incentives for private car use (e.g. company car policies, flexible working hours) (see Chapter 14). But
it will also require going beyond the current public vs. private transport debate which tends to focus on means of
transport rather than on transport system objectives. A new and promising approach of multi-modal mobility services offers a wide palette of transport options for “seamless” multi-modal trips that would reduce the need for personal car use. Such systems are already being successfully marketed in a number of OECD countries.
© OECD 2001
In the area of food consumption, some OECD governments have begun to develop technical assistance programmes to improve waste reduction and management skills in the processing and food service sectors. Measures
will also be needed to improve recycling of packaging wastes and composting organic wastes. The low recovery
rates for plastics are of particular concern, and call for advances in private sector technology and public policy to
make the safe reuse of plastic packaging possible (e.g. minimum recycling content for food and cosmetic packaging) (OECD, 2001b). An important area for future policy research will be the possible environmental, economic,
and social implications of expanded e-commerce, for example in the food sector with home food delivery
(see Chapter 6).
Regulatory instruments
Governments can act directly to influence or constrain household decision-making by rationing, or through
other restrictions on product ownership. Examples include the enforcement of speed limits to slow and harmonise
traffic flows, or restrictions on the use of disposable goods in the service sector (restaurants, hotels, etc.). Some
regulations can also directly influence the way in which households operate and use products, such as limitations
on hosepipe use to reduce household water consumption, or curbs on personal car use on peak pollution days. The
use of direct regulations in the household sector is relatively rare, but industry regulations regarding products and
production processes may influence household choices indirectly. For example, bans on the production or sale of
certain products necessarily change the composition of household consumption.
Governments have generally taken a more gradual approach to influencing household consumption patterns
through imposing or increasing minimum product standards (e.g. minimum levels of energy or water efficiency for
household products or tightening building regulations). Labelling requirements and minimum energy efficiency
standards for electric appliances and equipment, for example, have proven to be an effective environmental policy
instrument – delivering tangible results at relatively low cost (IEA, 2000). Despite early successes in North America,
more recent attempts to extend and develop new fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles have fared less well.
Efficiency standards could be applied to a wider range of consumer goods.
Economic instruments
Economic instruments – including full-cost pricing, environmental taxes and charges, green tax reform, and
the removal of environmentally harmful subsidies – have an important role to play in influencing consumer behaviour. Where the price of energy, road fuels, water or waste does not fully reflect the associated environmental costs,
households have an incentive to consume more than they would if they faced the full costs of their consumption
In the area of transport, many countries have successfully used differential fuel levies to encourage the initial
development of a market for lead-free petrol and the subsequent major shift to cars that use lead-free petrol. Some
countries are now using differential tax rates to encourage gas-powered cars and low-sulphur diesel. Countries can
also use a package of measures, for example imposing a lower tax rate for biofuels and, at the same time, supporting
their production and distribution to encourage more rapid introduction and uptake of the environmentally less damaging options. However, while getting the price right is a necessary condition, it is not always a sufficient condition
to change household patterns, especially where purchases and use are driven by non-economic factors such as
cultural habits (OECD, 1998). The environmental effectiveness of pricing is closely related to price elasticities, the
amount by which consumer demand for a given product will change if the price of the product changes. If environmentally damaging products are price inelastic – i.e. consumer demand for the product does not change significantly in response to changing prices – price signals may not be sufficient to produce the desired environmental
results. In such cases, regulatory instruments, such as product bans, may be more effective than economic instruments.
In the area of household waste production, a new generation of policies uses unit pricing to make the cost
of waste management visible to households. Unit pricing (“Pay-As-You-Throw” – PAYT) policies use marginal
price structures that penalise higher levels of waste generation. In the US, PAYT has been adopted in over
© OECD 2001
3 900 communities. Although success rates vary, PAYT communities on average have reduced total waste generated by about 14-27%, while increasing recycling by about 32-59% (Miranda and LaPalme, 1997). Complementary programmes (curbside recycling, yard waste collection, bulky item pick-up, and education campaigns) can
increase PAYT effects on source reduction and recycling rates, and discourage illegal dumping.
Information and other instruments
Along with providing information, OECD countries use other instruments in their initiatives to influence
household behaviour. These encompass a range of policy instruments, such as awareness raising schemes, education in the broadest sense, labelling and information campaigns, encouraging action by community and consumer
groups, support for work by non-governmental organisations on sustainable consumption, and working with industry and others through voluntary agreements. Providing appropriate environmental information combined with
adequate price signals can incite households to make environmentally sound choices and change their consumption
and waste disposal patterns. Changes in household demand will then lead to concomitant changes in production
OECD countries use different measures to make conSome OECD governments are
sumers aware of how they could adopt more sustainable lifusing information instruments
estyles. Campaigns to promote energy efficiency in the
in combination with other
home, limit the use of water, reduce waste and increase
measures to stimulate
recycling are widespread. Publicising relevant national
environmentally friendly
indicators of sustainability and consumption could also
consumer decisions.
improve public understanding of the subject, but so far this
has not been sufficiently developed. Information and labelling schemes can improve consumer understanding of a specific environmental issue or of a product’s environmental effects. There is a wide range of national and regional ecolabelling schemes that intend to inform and influence
consumer decisions either by focusing on some key aspects of the environmental impact a product or service may
have, or by trying to assess the relative impact on a lifecycle basis. Ecolabelling programmes face a variety of problems, however, as “green” labels and claims proliferate, creating an often overwhelming information environment
for the consumer. Partly as a result of this, consumer trust in most sources of information on the environment has
declined in recent years.
In the future, governments will have to better target and communicate information to households. Several governments provide guidance to households on voluntary waste minimisation strategies, including guidance on making careful product purchases (e.g. re-use potential, product life, minimum packaging, minimum toxicity, “no-buy”
options). Not all this information needs to concern the environment directly; environmental objectives can be
achieved even when households are more concerned with financial or health considerations.
Innovative approaches in some OECD countries include combining information with co-ordinated media
campaigns, training and motivation of retail store staff, voluntary agreements with manufacturers and retailers to
broaden the choice of environmentally friendly products and services, and economic incentives (e.g. tax rebates)
to stimulate environmentally aware consumer choices. These approaches recognise that information is only useful
if there is an environment in which the consumer can put that information to use.
Finally, the education system has a central role to play in promoting environmentally responsible household
attitudes and behaviour. Within schools and universities, students can learn not only about the nature of environmental problems, but also about the consequences of their own actions and how changes in their patterns of consumption could reduce those impacts. Furthermore, educational institutions are major consumers of energy, water
and other resources in their own right. An increasing number of schools and universities should address the greening of their own organisations. Efforts to integrate the activities of schools into their communities, and to develop
links with local businesses, could be encouraged. Professional training, continuing education and non-formal
schooling are all vital for educating, empowering and involving consumers in environmental choices and the decision-making process.
© OECD 2001
Alexandratos, N. (2001), “World Agriculture, Food Security and the Environment”, background document for the
OECD Environment Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Brower, M. and W. Leon (1999), The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of
Concerned Scientists, Three Rivers Press, NY.
European Topic Centre on Waste (2000), “Scenarios and Projections”, [www.etc-waste.int/activities/0000121.htm], European
Topic Centre on Waste, Copenhagen.
Fischer, C. (1999), “Future Waste Amounts in the EU,” European Topic Centre on Waste, Copenhagen.
Geyer-Allely, E. and H.-S. Cheong (2001), “Consumption Patterns”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1997), Indicators of Energy Use and Efficiency: Understanding the Link between Energy
and Human Activity, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (2000), Energy Labels and Standards, IEA/OECD, Paris.
Miranda, M.L. and S. LaPalme (1997), “Unit Pricing of Residential Solid Waste: A Preliminary Analysis of 212 US
Communities”, [www.epa.gov/payt/research.htm].
OECD (1998), Towards Sustainable Consumption Patterns: A Progress Report on Member Country Initiatives, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), The Price of Water: Trends in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000), The Agricultural Outlook, 2000-2005, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001a), “Sustainable Consumption: Tourism and Travel Patterns – Part I, Tourism Travel Trends and Environmental Impacts”, [ENV/EPOC/GEEI(2000)5/FINAL], OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001b), Household Food Consumption, OECD, Paris.
WTO (World Tourism Organisation) (1999), Tourism: 2020 Vision, WTO, Madrid.
© OECD 2001
The Steel Industry
• The steel sector is very intensive in material and energy use. The main environmental impacts from this sector
include air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination and waste generation.
• The steel industry in OECD countries has made much technological progress over the last 20 years, fostering
increased efficiency in energy and resource use, and reducing pollutant emissions. The use of recycled materials in
the industry has also been constantly growing.
• In the Reference Scenario, world steel production is projected to double from 1995 to 2020 while steel production
in OECD countries may increase by around 65%. CO2 and SOx emissions from the steel sector in OECD countries
are projected to increase by about 63% and 51% respectively, while water and fuel use may grow by 79% and 64%
each to 2020.
• The most important policy options for tackling the negative environmental effects of the steel industry are the use
of economic instruments (e.g. subsidy removal, green taxes, emission trading), continued support to technological
development and uptake, and voluntary agreements with the industry.
17.1. Introduction
The iron and steel sector is by far the largest and most important metallurgical industry. Steel plays a key role
in modern economies because its physical properties and chemical resistance makes it an important material for
structural and engineering works, industrial and automotive manufacturing, road and rail infrastructure, construction, and for other diverse uses (e.g. electronic components, packaging, medical equipment).
Steel production has significant negative environmental and health effects. The most important environmental
effects of the sector are its contribution to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, its air pollution and
particulate emissions, and water and soil contamination. Since the 1970s, the industry has made efforts to reduce
greenhouse gas and other emissions, and has introduced processes for water treatment and reuse. Significant reductions have been achieved in energy requirements. The industry has also increased output per tonne of crude steel
input: it is using more recycled materials and by-products, reducing the demand for natural iron ore mining. As
global steel production is projected to increase to 2020, the need to de-couple the environmental impacts of steel
production from continued growth in the sector will persist.
17.2. Developments in the steel sector
Table 17.1.
Gross production (1995 US$ billion)
Share of value-added in the economy
Direct employment (million persons)
Steel consumption (million tonnes)
Key steel sector statistics and projections
Total change
1 088
1 852
Sources: OECD (1990), ILO (1997), IISI (2000), GTAP Database and Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
Demand for steel
Demand for steel closely follows patterns of economic growth and the highest levels of steel consumption are
seen in OECD countries. Current steel consumption per person per year is estimated to range from approximately
20 kg in Africa to around 340 kg in Europe, 435 kg in North America, 635 kg in Japan and 830 kg in Korea
(IISI, 2000). Demand for steel increases during periods of steady investment in infrastructure, transport, construction, and in the development of automobiles, etc. Demand for steel as an intermediate input to industries varies with
industrial structure, economic trends and the demand for specific products. Oil shocks, the instability of newly
independent states and economic crises in some Asian economies have affected steel demand in recent years.
Today, OECD country steel producers are concentrating on key sector markets (e.g. construction and automotive)
as their main drivers of growth.
The share of OECD countries in world steel consumption increased from 49% in 1980 to 58% in 1998, a share
which is likely to be maintained to 2005 (OECD, 1990; IISI, 2000). The Reference Scenario confirms this trend
and projects that demand for steel in OECD regions will grow by around 68% from 1995 to 2020 at an annual rate
of 2.1%; the projected change in world demand is 105% for the same period.
Production of steel
Steel is manufactured using either integrated or non-integrated processes. Integrated plants produce steel by
using iron ore, scrap, coal, and limestone as raw materials processed in coke ovens and basic oxygen furnaces
(BOF). Non-integrated plants make steel by refining scrap1 in electric arc furnaces (EAF), the so-called mini-mills.
The non-integrated process is the result of major technological changes that have occurred in the sector, bringing
significant improvements in productive efficiency and reduced environmental impacts. Scrap, as raw material,
accounts for 30% of iron input in basic oxygen furnace plants and more than 90% in electric plants. The old and
inefficient open-hearth furnaces have been replaced for the most part by processes based on oxygen conversion,
continuous casting and electric arc furnace technology. The share of electric arc furnaces in liquid steel production
is currently 33% and is expected to continue to increase, reaching 40% of total production by 2010 (IISI, 2000).
World crude steel production increased from 595 million tonnes (Mt) in 1970 to 777 Mt in 1998. After a boom
in steel production from 1970 to 1989 the growth has slowed, averaging only 0.1% per year between 1990
and 1998 (IISI, 2000). At the same time, there has been a significant shift in production towards a number of nonOECD countries, such as China and India, resulting in rapid growth in steel production in these regions. Some
Central & Eastern European countries have also entered the global market. The share of OECD countries in world
steel production has declined from 54% in 1995 to 48% in 1998. The greatest relative increase in steel production
to 2020 in OECD regions is projected for Central & Eastern Europe (Figure 17.1). Because of their production
capacity, large markets, and high competitiveness, the largest steel producing countries (e.g. China, the US, Japan,
²Russia, Germany and Korea) are likely to maintain their leading positions. Production in OECD countries is projected to increase by around 64% to 2020, providing that sufficient investments are made in the coming years to
build-up the necessary capacity. Worldwide production of steel may more than double.
Trade in steel products
Increased steel consumption in the Asia-Pacific region, and the emergence of some Central & Eastern
European countries as important steel exporters, resulted in a sharp expansion of world steel trade during the 1990s.
This increase in trade has been accompanied by considerable trade flow volatility as a result of changes in steel
production and exports from the former Soviet Union and economic instability in some of the main steel producing
Asian economies. The growing share of crude steel production in non-OECD regions has been a direct result of
1. Iron scrap consists of products that have completed their useful life (e.g. cars, appliances) and by-products from the processing of metals.
© OECD 2001
Figure 17.1. Steel production, 1995-2020
Billion 1995 US$
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000
1 200
Source: Reference Scenario.
changes in some developing regions, especially in Asia and Latin America, where growing demand is tied to economic reforms and modernisation. Growth in steel consumption in these regions has been met primarily by rapid
expansion of domestic production, leading to significant export declines for producers in OECD regions.
These changes in world steel markets are likely to result in more OECD countries shifting to become net
importers of steel, a trend already seen in the US and likely in Western Europe (IISI, 2000; Plummer, 1999). In
OECD regions, the steel industry is likely to become more oriented towards internal markets and selective high
value-added production. In non-OECD regions, the expansion of production capacity and increasing competitiveness could foster a substantial increase in exports. It is expected that Asian economies may see a sharp increase in
their steel trade deficit, except China which may reach a trade surplus after 2015. Central & Eastern European and
former Soviet Union economies may exhibit large steel trade surpluses by 2020.
Institutional changes
In the last 20 years, the main factors shaping trends in the steel industry have been economic growth, industrial
concentration, privatisation, technological development, increasing international trade, and environmental concerns. Although previously considered a strategic sector for some national economies, in recent decades many governments have reduced their involvement in the steel industry through privatisation of state owned steel companies
and reductions in support to the industry. Impacts on employment in the steel sector have sometimes been severe.
At the same time, deregulation and privatisation of the industry have fostered structural changes, and international
trade has been increasingly liberalised through the lowering of tariff and non-tariff barriers, increased international
competition, and advancing globalisation. Increased privatisation and the opening of markets have provided new
trade and investment opportunities that the steel industry has met through further consolidation of companies.
Mergers and acquisitions, rapid integration of innovative techniques, and more flexible and environmentally
friendly production are likely to continue over the next two decades.
© OECD 2001
17.3. Environmental effects from the steel industry
Depending on the amount and types of releases that occur at steel plants, producing iron and steel can have considerable negative environmental and human health impacts. Producing steel requires the use of large quantities of
energy and minerals, as well as vast mining and waste disposal areas (IEA, 1995; UNEP/IISI, 1997). As a result, steel
production generates significant amounts of air pollutants, solid by-products and residues, as well as wastewater
sludge. The potential for harm can take several forms and impacts may be felt on a local, regional or global scale,
including through atmospheric pollution, loss of biodiversity, and soil and water contamination. The magnitude and
severity of these impacts are a function of the size and type of steel-making operations and technologies in use, the
sensitivity of the environment in the vicinity of operation, and the effectiveness of environmental measures implemented at the source of the pollution or waste generation.
The International Iron and Steel Institute projects that scrap-based electric arc furnaces may account for 40% of
steel production by the end of the next decade (IISI, 2000). While this implies some environmental improvements,
increasing scrap recycling may also lead to declining resource quality, with more tramp material entering the production cycle, contributing to greater generation of toxic substances (RIVM, 1999).
Air pollution and climate change
Air pollution from the steel sector is the result of emissions of particulate matter containing minerals (iron, iron
oxide), metals (cadmium, lead, chromium, nickel, zinc, copper and arsenic) and other pollutants (polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide). Steel plants with electric arc furnaces release dust containing
heavy metals and some organic compounds, including dioxins (UNEP/IISI, 1997). The steel industry is also a source
of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, contributing 3% of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in OECD countries in 1997 (IEA, 1999). CO2 is generated during iron and steel making operations, either as a result of the reaction
of carbon (coke) with iron oxide in the blast furnace, or from a power plant producing electricity used in the production of steel. Integrated plants can emit between 1.6 and 2.4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of steel produced, while electric
arc furnace plants, which only use iron scrap as raw material are responsible for the emission of about 0.7 tonnes of
CO2 per tonne of steel produced (IISI/UNEP, 1997; Carson, 1999). The introduction of efficient processes, pollution
control systems and practices has reduced emissions significantly in recent years. High proportions of many of the waste
or pollution releases from steel production are now collected and either recycled internally as feedstock, off-site as saleable materials, or shipped to waste treatment plants. At present, state-of-the-art techniques (e.g. fabric filters, scrubbers,
biological water treatment plants) may enable the collection of over 90% of some of the air pollutants (IISI, 2000).
The projected production growth in the steel sector
CO2 and SOx emissions from
to 2020 will have environmental implications. Greater matethe
steel industry are expected
rial and energy requirements are likely to lead to additional
to increase substantially
impacts on the environment, whether they result from
2020, but introduction
increased mining operations and energy use, or through
technologies could
greater pollution releases in the production process. The
this increase.
risks of environmental degradation are even higher when the
potential effects on climate change of increases in steel production are considered. In the next two decades, CO2 emissions are likely to increase as a result of rising production levels. However, the introduction of major new production
technologies will reduce CO2 emissions per unit of output, and if the spread of these technologies is accelerated, they
could lead to a stabilisation or even reduction of CO2 emissions. From 1995 to 2020, the Reference Scenario projects
that CO2 emissions related to the steel industry in OECD regions may grow by 63% (and by 141% worldwide), and
SOx emissions by 51% (and by 138% worldwide).
Water contamination
Water pollutants from the steel industry include releases of suspended solids and several toxic substances
(heavy metals, phenol, and cyanide). Integrated mills on average emit 3 m3 of wastewater containing 1.6 kg of
© OECD 2001
suspended solids, 150 g of oil, 110 g of amoniacal nitrogen and 8 g of phenol, meths and cyanides per tonne of
steel produced. Suspended solids, mainly made up of iron oxide, represent the largest portion of water pollutants,
and excessive discharges reduce the oxygen supply in water and are detrimental to aquatic life. Water emissions
from furnace, rolling, and coating steel operations can also contain trace elements of heavy metals and persistent
organic compounds. The steel industry is a major user of water but recycling facilities allow reuse of up to 97%
of water in some modern steel plants. The main options for preventing and controlling pollution of water by the
above mentioned substances include the use of collection and treatment facilities for metal-bearing wastes, as
well as substituting to less harmful products for toxic components of oil and grease used. The steel sector currently accounts for around 28% of total industrial water use worldwide. Under the Reference Scenario, this share
is expected to increase slightly, to 29% in 2020, as a result of an 87% net increase in the volume of water used
by the industry. Water use by the steel industry in OECD regions is expected to increase by 79% to 2020.
Steel making also gives rise to large amounts of solid by-products, waste and residues. Coal residues
amount to approximately 1 kg per tonne of coke produced (around 600 kg of coal and 1 500 kg of iron ore are
required to produce 1 tonne of crude steel in integrated plants). Integrated steel plants produce about 585 kg of solid byproducts and waste per tonne of crude steel, whereas electric arc furnace plants generate about 200 kg/tonne. However,
slag, which represents 70-80% of by-products and waste per tonne of crude steel produced, is almost completely recycled. It may be used in public works and road construction, or can be recycled back into the furnace. Over 90% of all solid waste and by-products are used either internally as material input or fuels, or sold
to other users. The steel industry has achieved significant reduction of by-products and solid waste, notably
at blast furnace operations, and from the 1950s to 1995 by-products from iron making have been reduced by
60% (UNEP/IISI, 1997).
Resource and energy efficiency
The steel industry is energy and resource intensive, with energy consumption ranging from 10-15% of
world industrial energy requirements (IISI, 2000). The amount of raw material required per tonne of crude steel
produced by integrated plants is approximately 2.24 tonnes, and in electric arc mills only 1.03 tonnes. (UNEP/
IISI, 1997). Since energy represents about 15% of total production costs, the industry has had an incentive to
implement more energy efficient processes over the past three decades. The use of alternative sources of energy
(e.g. slag and waste used as fuels) and more efficient processes have helped to increase combustion efficiency,
while reducing energy losses and overall energy demand (Carson, 1999). Energy input per unit of manufacturing
value-added declined by 1.9% per year on average for the steel industry in 10 OECD countries between 1971
and 1991, contributing to a reduction of nearly 20% in energy consumption in the steel sector since the 1970s,
and the gross energy recovery ratio improved consistently to nearly 30% of gross energy consumption
(OECD, 1999a).
The high recycling capacity of steel has played a
The steel industry has made
key role in improving the environmental performance of
progress in increasing its effithe sector with respect to both energy and material intenciency of resource and energy
sity. Increasing electric arc furnace production translates
use, but still uses large amounts
into a growing share of scrap in total material input
of energy, water, and iron ore.
which, in turn, contributes to a reduction in total energy
input. Steel produced from scrap requires 60% less primary energy than that produced from ore. Steel is totally recyclable, without downgrading the quality of the
metal, and approximately 350 Mt of steel scrap is recycled each year (UNEP/IISI, 1997). In terms of resource
productivity, the use of more efficient technologies and production practices, and the adoption of environmentally oriented equipment and better plant design, has continuously lowered material use over the past
25 years (Angulo, 1995).
© OECD 2001
Human health impacts
Occupational and public concerns over potential effects on human health of steel production include effects
relating to the emission of particulate matter, carcinogenic substances, and heavy metals. Between 60-90% of particulate matter emitted by iron and steel facilities are less than 10 micrometre (µm) in size, and are therefore particularly harmful to respiratory tracts. Short-term exposure to particulate matter can also lead to eye, nose, and
throat irritation and aggravate cardiovascular diseases. Long-term exposure may lead to permanent lung damage,
carcinogenesis, and premature death (UNEP/IISI, 1997).
In recent years, the steel industry has made improvements in the area of occupational health and safety
Steel production has negative
(IISI, 2000). Nonetheless, continuous exposure to heavy
impacts on human health, but
metals (e.g. lead, mercury, zinc, chromium, manganese)
these effects have been reduced
may lead to short-term and chronic effects on the health of
in recent years.
steelworkers. Depending on the level and rate of exposure,
impacts on human health may include damage to the central nervous system, the brain, kidneys and the reproductive system. Steelworkers may also suffer from higher
blood pressure, weakness in joints, memory loss and anaemia, as well as “metal fume fever”, characterised by
symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, breathing difficulties and extreme fatigue.
17.4. Policy options and their potential effects
Although OECD countries account for the majority of steel production and consumption, steel production has
been growing fastest in non-OECD countries in recent decades. Reference Scenario projections indicate that the
non-OECD regions overall will have a higher growth rate for the steel sector to 2020; with China projected to have
the highest absolute increases in steel production.
In recent decades, the steel industry in OECD countries has achieved important reductions in its environmental impacts. However, large challenges for the sector remain in terms of further reducing and controlling air emissions; improving solid waste management, recycling and wastewater treatment; reducing energy and resource
intensity; and developing cleaner technologies.
Technological development and diffusion
Technological change has been a key factor in environmental improvements in the steel sector. Policies that
provide incentives for technical innovations in steel production can lead to less energy use and material consumption, increased valorisation and recycling of steel by-products and iron scrap, quality control of iron scrap, and further reduction of air and water emissions. Available policy tools include regulations and economic instruments that
encourage research into and uptake of new steel production processes, plants, and equipment that help to minimise
environmental and health impacts of steel production. Technological benchmarking and some regulations can lead
to a wide diffusion of the best available technologies and practices to increase environmental performance in the
steel industry. Policies can also be employed that encourage the development of new steel materials and increase
the recycling of steel products.
Regulatory instruments
Regulatory options for reducing the environmental impacts of steel production include adopting an integrated
approach to operating steel plants, in particular with more attention paid to pollution prevention options, and taking
into account the latest environmental and technological standards as well as quality objectives (OECD, 1999a).
Likewise, strengthening the regulatory control over hazardous compounds, such as chlorinated oils and emulsions,
© OECD 2001
could help to reduce emissions in the long run. The regulatory framework has been effective in reducing environmental releases. However, better co-ordination and harmonisation of regulatory measures addressing the impacts
of the industry’s activities could lead to higher standards of environmental protection.
Economic instruments
The use of market-based instruments to conserve and improve the quality of the environment should be
extended in the steel sector. This includes the use of tradable emission permit schemes or taxes to reduce CO2 or
other air pollution emissions. The use of taxes and removal of implicit or explicit subsidies, for example concerning
energy use, would also help to decrease environmental impacts. For OECD countries, model simulations indicate
that eliminating all subsidies to the steel sector and introducing an ad valorem tax on steel use that increases by
2 percentage points per year would reduce CO2 and SOx emissions by the sector in OECD regions by 9% each
in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario, and water use by 13% (see Table 17.2).
Table 17.2.
Subsidy and tax policy simulations: effects on the steel industry in OECD regions
and its environmental impacts
(% change from Reference Scenario in 2020)
Policy simulations
Steel industry subsidy removal
and tax on all steel use
Gross steel production
CO2 emissions
SOx emissions
Water use
Energy subsidy removal
and tax on all energy use
Note: The energy subsidy and tax policy simulation was applied to all sectors, not just the steel industry. See Chapter 12 for more details.
Source: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
A simulation of the removal of all energy subsidies in OECD regions, combined with the application of a tax
on all energy use (see Chapter 12 for further details), was found to have less of an effect on OECD steel production
and water use, but more significant reductions in CO2 (35%) and SOx (54%) emissions from the sector.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary approaches are increasingly adopted by steel producing companies in OECD countries that are willing to improve their environmental performance. Voluntary commitments can be used to help reduce CO2 and air
pollution emissions from the steel industry, for example through setting voluntary industry targets for energy efficiency improvements of recycling programmes. Voluntary agreements are a flexible approach that will generally
be most successful in reducing the environmental impacts of steel production when they are combined in a policy
mix along with economic instruments and the adoption of environmental standards in steel plant management. Voluntary approaches could be used to allocate some of the actions needed to achieve internationally agreed targets on
reductions in emissions from the steel sector. They can also be used in the development of take-back programmes
for steel products, such as household appliances and computers, and the promotion of increased household participation in steel scrap collection.
Information and other instruments
Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of steel products should be conducted on a more regular basis, and the results
better disseminated. Product labelling based on standards derived from LCAs of steel products could contribute to
increased consumer awareness. Ensuring the collection of regular, comparable information on the efficiency of
© OECD 2001
resource and energy use, and the waste reduction, reuse, and recycling of individual steel producing firms could
help companies to upgrade their environmental performance. This would also contribute to integrating environmental management systems into the corporate structures, and involving the public and stakeholders in the policymaking process.
Angulo, F. (1995), “Implications of the Globalisation Process in the Metallurgical Industry”, First Global Consultation
on Environmental Management/Cleaner Technologies in the Metallurgical Industry, UNIDO, Vienna, 16-18 October.
Carson, C. G. (1999), “Steel Industry”, Industry Sector Reports, BIAC/OECD/IEA Workshop on Climate Change,
8 March: 34-37, OECD, Paris.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1995), World Energy Outlook, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (1999), CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IISI (International Iron and Steel Institute) (2000), Worldsteel, The global forum for the world steel industry and IISI/
ISSF, various statistics and information, www.worldsteel.org.
ILO (International Labour Organization) (1997), “Meeting at ILO Examines Future of Steel Industry Workforce”,
Press Release (ILO 97/24), 23 October 1997, www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/1997/24.htm.
OECD (1990), The Steel Market in 1989 and Outlook for 1990, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), “Environmental Requirements for Industrial Permitting: Vol. 2”, OECD Workshop on the Use of Best
Available Technologies and Environmental Quality Objectives, 9-11 May 1996, Paris.
OECD (1999b), Voluntary Approaches for Environmental Policy: An Assessment, OECD, Paris.
Plummer, C. (1999), “The Competitive Impact of Iron Ore and Steel Industry Consolidation”, Gorham Intertech
Consulting Conference – Iron Ore for Alternative Iron Units, Charlotte, NC, 26 October.
Rajotte, A. (2001), “Iron and Steel Industry”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD,
RIVM (Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment) (1999), “Long-Term Perspectives on World
Metal Use – A Model-Based Approach”, RIVM report 461502 021, RIVM, Bilthoven.
TRI (Toxic Releases Inventory) (1999), Toxic Releases Inventory Data for Primary Metals, Sic Code 33, Government Printing Office, Washington DC.
UNEP/IISI (United Nations Environment Programme/International Iron and Steel Institute) (1997) “Steel Industry
and the Environment – Technical and Management Issues”, Technical Report No. 38, UNEP/IISI, Brussels.
© OECD 2001
The Pulp and Paper Industry
• Global production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector is expected to increase by 77% from 1995 to 2020, with
production in OECD regions projected to increase by 60% and in non-OECD regions by 170%.
• The pulp and paper industry is highly intensive in its use of capital, energy and natural resources. It is estimated
that the growth in production by the sector to 2020 would require some 71% more water, 53% more energy, and
substantially more wood or recycled paper.
• Environmental impacts from this sector include contributions to deforestation, water contamination, soil and air
pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the sector are expected to increase by 62%
in OECD regions between 1995 and 2020, and sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions by 23%. Worldwide, CO2 and
SOx emissions from the sector are expected to roughly double.
• The most important policy options are the diffusion of best available technology, integrated regulatory approaches,
the use of taxes, and voluntary agreements.
18.1. Introduction
The pulp and paper industry1 produces a wide range of goods that are used for packaging, communications,
printing, and for sanitary and household purposes. Paper is made from wood and non-wood fibres, and requires huge
amounts of water and energy in its production. The sector is very capital intensive and the most rapidly growing
among the wood-based industries. Its development is highly cyclical, and strongly affected by economic instabilities
in the world market. While the downstream manufacturing of paper products is often still characterised by small units
and conventional technology, pulp and paper manufacturing is dominated by large and globalised companies.
Pulp and paper production is associated with increased deforestation, water contamination, air pollution, and
the release of greenhouse gases. As a result, the industry contributes to negative impacts on biodiversity, soil fertility and wildlife, and can have negative consequences for human health. In OECD countries, the industry has
introduced new technologies over the last decade which have resulted in lower environmental impacts and greater
efficiency in resource use. Nonetheless, the continuing expansion of paper and board consumption to 2020 is
expected to increase pressures on the environment from the sector. Growing demand for paper products is expected,
with increased requirements for wood pulp, non-wood fibres, and recovered paper.
18.2. Developments in the pulp and paper industry
Demand for pulp and paper products
Over the last 30 years, pulp and paper production increased threefold. Developments in industrial goods,
information technologies, household consumption and personal care have fed demand for all kinds of paper
1. The Reference Scenario and the modelling simulations cover publishing in addition to pulp and paper production, which is
the main focus of this chapter.
© OECD 2001
products. Between 1980 and the mid-1990s, total demand for paper products increased by 70% from 156 million
tonnes (Mt) annually, to 266 Mt. In this period, paper and board for packaging and other purposes generated the
highest demand, followed by printing and writing paper. Demand for newsprint paper increased only slightly over
the last decade. OECD countries account for around 76% of global paper consumption measured in tonnes, but the
demand in OECD countries is oriented towards strong, glossy and sophisticated paper products, so the value share
for OECD countries in total paper consumption is somewhat higher.
World demand for pulp and paper is projected to increase by 77% from 1995 to 2020 under the Reference Scenario, with an annual average growth rate of 2.3% (Table 18.1). Although the demand for products from the sector
is projected to grow particularly fast in the regions of China and South East Asia, OECD regions are expected to
maintain the dominant share of paper product consumption in the world market.
Table 18.1.
Key statistics and projections for the pulp, paper and publishing sector
Gross production
(1995 US$ billion)
Share of value-added (%)
Total paper consumption
(Million tonnes)
1 029
1 213
Total change
1 646
2 150
123 612
155 744
203 367
266 440
288 700
391 004
Sources: FAO (1999), GTAP database and Reference Scenario.
Pulp and paper production
One of the main drivers of production changes in the pulp and paper industry has been the increasing demand
for stronger, more versatile, and brighter paper products. This has had a major long-term influence on product
diversification and technological development. Since the 1960s, new product specifications have led to significant
growth in production of better quality, high-priced pulp, leading to higher operation costs and in, some cases, to
increased environmental impacts. On the other hand, increasing production costs have provided strong incentives
to develop more cost-efficient and less environmentally disruptive pulping and bleaching techniques.
Total production of paper and board was 294 Mt in 1998. Production of wood pulp reached 175 Mt (of which
11% was from recycled or non-wood fibres) and around 40% of all paper was manufactured from recycled paper
and board (FAO, 2000). OECD countries account for about 77% of world pulp and paper production. Among these,
the main producers – representing more than 80% of production – are the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, Finland,
Sweden, Italy, and Korea. Figure 18.1 shows how production in the pulp and paper industry is structured.
Figure 18.1. Production flow in the pulp and paper industries, 1998
Raw materials
Type of pulp
Paper by grade
• Wood (50%)
• Chemical wood pulp (65%)
• Paper & board (68%)
• Other fibre plants (11%)
• Mechanical wood pulp (20%)
• Printing & writing (23%)
• Recycled paper & board (39%)
• Semi-chemical pulp (4%)
• Newsprint (9%)
• Other fibre pulp (11%)
Source: FAO (1999).
© OECD 2001
The Reference Scenario projects a global increase in pulp and paper production, publishing included, of 77%
from 1995 to 2020. Figure 18.2 shows that for this period pulp and paper production may grow at higher rates in
non-OECD regions than in OECD regions, which will however maintain the largest share in production volume
(around 75% of world production). In OECD regions, the highest growing production rates are projected for the
regions of Central & Eastern Europe, Australia & New Zealand, and Canada, Mexico & the US.
Figure 18.2. Production in the pulp, paper and publishing sector, 1995-2020
Billion 1995 US$
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000 1 200 1 400 1 600 1 800
Source: Reference Scenario.
Production in this sector is mainly destined for domestic markets. World trade of pulp, paper and printing
accounts for about 30% of total production and is dominated by OECD countries (78% of import and 88% of export
volume in 1998). While developing countries currently account for around 12% of world export value, the Reference Scenario projects that this share will increase to 18% in 2020.
Institutional framework
The pulp and paper industry requires a large amount of capital investment in production plants. In response
to the high capital requirements, combined with the volatility in paper markets, the industry has extended the economies of scale, introduced more cost-effective technologies, and shut down inefficient mills. Pulp and paper companies have been part of a continued concentration process, particularly over the last two decades. By 1990, over
20% of the paper mills that existed in 1980 in the main OECD pulp and paper producing countries had closed. The
mills affected were generally small, with an average production capacity of 50 000 tonnes per year. Bigger and
more efficient papermaking facilities now often have an annual capacity of more than 450 000 tonnes, while the
largest production lines can produce 1 Mt per year, compared to the maximum of 100 000 tonnes in the 1960s. The
current industry profile shows a small number of global companies participating intensively in the development of
world markets.
The pulp and paper industry is becoming global and highly competitive, with an increasing share in world
markets and rapid growth of paper consumption in developing regions. Better investment policies and changes in
© OECD 2001
papermaking technologies that allow a greater use of short fibres have facilitated the entry of new competitors and
the expansion of paper consumption in developing markets. The need to expand production capacity to meet global
demand has provided incentives to acquire existing installations in developing countries as a lower cost option than
investing in new capacity, thereby fuelling consolidation trends.
18.3. Environmental effects of pulp and paper production and use
At different points in its lifecycle – from forest harvesting, to pulp and paper processing and waste generation –
the pulp and paper industry has significant environmental impacts. These impacts have been extended by increased
manufacturing of glossier and stronger paper products. The industry has to some extent offset effects and impacts by
using environmentally friendly technologies and more efficient processes with lower requirements of wood, water and
energy per unit of product.
However, despite these improvements, the continuing expansion of paper and board consumption up to 2020
is likely to increase negative impacts on the environment. There is likely to be a growing demand for greater production and consequently for more wood pulp, non-wood fibres, and recovered paper.
Air pollution and climate change
Pulp and paper facilities emit nitrogen oxides (NOx),
CO2 and SOx emissions from
carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fly ash.
pulp and paper sector are
Chlorine and chlorine dioxide may also be emitted.
to increase substanAlthough considered less troublesome than water distially
but introduction
charges, air contaminants released at the chemical pulping
stages, notably sulphur compounds, present a particular
problem, and some of the chemicals released to the air are
carcinogens (EPA, 1999). The pulp and paper industry is
the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries and contributed 1% of
CO2 emissions from fuel combustion is OECD countries in 1997 (EIA, 1999). In 1995, emissions from the pulp
and paper industry amounted to 175.4 Mt of CO2 and 0.6 Mt of SOx. Under the Reference Scenario CO2 emissions
from the industry in OECD countries are expected to increase by 62% to 2020, while SOx emissions rise by 23%.
Both CO 2 and SOx emissions from the industry worldwide are expected to increase by roughly 100% between 1995
and 2020. As with other industry sectors, the introduction of new production technologies and increased efforts
towards energy efficiency improvements could reduce the emission growth rates in OECD countries.
Freshwater use and water pollution
Pulp production requires large amounts of water and chemicals, giving rise to high volumes of polluted effluents.
In 1995, the pulp and paper sector was responsible for around 11% of the total volume of water used in industrial
activities in OECD countries. Reference Scenario projections indicate that worldwide water use by the sector is likely
to grow from 11 to 18 billion m3 between 1995 and 2020. Although OECD countries are using 97% of the water currently used for pulp and paper production, non-OECD countries are increasing their share, and may increase their
water use by 154% to 2020. The discharges resulting from pulp and paper manufacturing include chemical compounds formed during processing, and natural substances, such as wood fibre fragments and other wood components,
that are washed out during manufacturing. These effluents lower oxygen levels in water bodies, slowly disseminate
biodegradable residues, and introduce known and unknown compounds into surface and underground waters.2
2. The key variables for assessing the quality of mill effluents are:
– Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD): the oxygen required for oxydation of organic matter present in effluent;
– Total Suspended Solids (TSS): the fragments and particles of wood in the waste water from mills;
– Dioxins and Furans: a family of chemical compounds; and
– Absorbable Organic Halide (AOX): chlorinated compounds.
© OECD 2001
The most important and direct environmental impacts of pulp and paper production arise at the pulping and
bleaching stages.3 Mechanical pulping generates few pollutants, while chemical pulping and bleaching mills
account for the greatest environmental impacts. Severe eutrophication and oxygen depletion of water bodies result
from chemicals and residues in pulp mill effluents. Bleaching plants also produce chlorinated compounds, and only
half of these pollutants are readily biodegradable. Chemicals used in pulping and bleaching operations also
contribute to environmental acidification through sulphur releases and react with organic matter to produce
Since 1980, water pollution from the pulp and paper sector in most OECD paper producing countries has been
reduced significantly. The emission of chlorinated organic compounds has been reduced by around 90%, oxygen
consuming organic compounds by over 85%, and sulphur dioxide compounds by more than 90% (CEPI, 1998;
CPPA, 1999). Since 1988, the use of dioxins and furans has dropped by 99% in the Canadian and European pulp
and paper industries.
The use of recovered paper in papermaking is growing
worldwide, but landfilling is still the dominant disposal
The use of recovered paper
route for discarded paper products in most countries.
pulp and paper industry
In 1980, global generation of wastepaper amounted to
is increasing rapidly.
50 Mt. This increased by more than 120% to reach 112 Mt
by 1998. With the prospect of continued growth in the consumption of paper products, more wastepaper will have to
be recycled or diposed. When wastepaper is not recycled or incinerated, its decomposition contributes to the generation of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. Around 80% of wastepaper is generated in OECD countries
where technical development, coupled with social awareness, have encouraged significant increases in wastepaper
recycling. In OECD countries, the share of recycled paper, imports included, in fibres used for paper and board
production has thus increased from 33% in 1980 to 45% in 1998 (FAO, 2000).
Pulp and paper production contributes to world forest depletion via the use of virgin wood fibre, which makes
up around 45-54% of the raw materials used in the industry. While in OECD countries sustainable management
practices try to balance roundwood requirements with forest regeneration rates, this is not always the case in nonOECD countries. The pulp and paper industry utilises large amounts of virgin fibre from woodwaste and sawnwood
derived from other production processes that use wood (e.g. housing, furniture and packaging production). Despite
the growing use of recycled materials in paper production, the Reference Scenario projects an increase of around
73% in world demand for roundwood from 1995 to 2020 (see Chapter 10).
Resource efficiency
The pulp and paper industry has reduced its use of energy and water in the production process. Through the
use of new technologies, less water is required in the production process, and recycling systems have been introduced to close the loop and clean the water before it is discharged. As a result water use in the paper industry per
unit of output has dropped by 50-80% from 1975 to 1997, although total water use is still increasing (CEPI, 1998;
CPPA, 1999). Most of the pulp is already converted into paper products at the manufacturing site (integrated mills),
with only about 11% of the production being shipped as market pulp. In integrated mills, energy recovery from the
3. Pulp is bleached to increase the brightness of the final paper product and, for pulps produced through chemical pulping, to
help remove the lignin that binds cellulose fibres. The industry has been moving from using elemental chlorine (a gas that
produces the highly toxic dioxins) to elemental chlorine-free (ECF) and totally chlorine-free (TCF) technologies, which are
less environmentally damaging processes.
© OECD 2001
wood by-products and black liquor (spent cooking chemicals and wood-based organic matter) is enough to supply
the paper mill with an increasing amount of energy (MEB, 1993).
The use of recovered paper has also contributed to significant energy savings, since processing chemical pulp
from recovered paper requires about 1.3 MWh/tonne, compared to the 4.2 MWh/tonne required for chemical pulp
produced from wood and the 5 MWh/tonne needed for producing printing and writing paper from wood fibres
(UNIDO, 1993). Since 1990, total energy consumption per tonne of production in the Canadian and European pulp
and paper industries has decreased by 10.5%, and the average amount of recycling content in paper production has
increased by 22% from 1990 to 1998 (CPPA, 1999; CEPI, 1998). Moreover, most of the energy needed to make
pulp from virgin fibre is produced on site, primarily from biomass-based energy sources that do not contribute to
greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, the Reference Scenario projects that to 2020 production growth by the sector may require 53% more energy globally, and 38% more energy in the pulp and paper sector in OECD regions.
18.4. Policy options and their potential effects
Owing to a combination of new regulations and industrial innovations, the intensity of the negative environmental effects from the pulp and paper industry per unit of product has been decreasing in OECD countries,
although the pressure of net increases in future production may offset these positive results. Regulations now
strictly control emissions to different environmental media, and the new mill technologies used in pulping, bleaching and recycling limit much of the pollution. However, these trends could be accelerated through the further use
of policy instruments – such as economic instruments, voluntary agreements and information provision – to
improve the positive environmental effects. A general objective of the policy instruments used should be to provide
incentives for the adoption of best available techniques and practices, with a focus on pollution prevention and the
effective co-ordination of policies. From forestry use to paper manufacturing and waste generation, sustainable
practices will need to be reinforced and co-ordinated across the related sectors. Important objectives for more environmentally responsible pulp and paper manufacturing may include harvesting wood fibre from sustainably managed forests, improving resource and energy efficiency in the production process, and increasing the share of nonwood materials and recovered paper in production.
Technological development and diffusion
Finding solutions for the environmental problems to which the pulp and paper industry contributes requires
the development of new environmentally friendly technologies and the better up-take of existing ones. The promotion of technological innovation in the pulp and paper sector should integrate explicit environmental objectives.
Policies should take into account – and provide incentives for – the development of cluster-oriented research and
clean technologies, involving foresters, equipment and chemical suppliers, research institutes, and pulp and paper
companies as key actors for promoting continuous innovation in environmentally sustainable techniques and systems.
New technologies can encourage innovations in energy and resource use to render them more efficient and
also enable the cost-effective substitution from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy (e.g. alcohol fuel, spent
liquor, bark, sawdust). Moreover, there are possibilities to further reduce environmental impacts associated with
pulping and bleaching operations, for example by introducing totally effluent-free mills and closed loop processes.
The growth of chlorine-free processes and the introduction of primary and secondary water treatment, as well as
other less polluting processes, can continue to reduce the total effluent load from the industry (AET, 1999).
Regulatory instruments
Regulations are used to control emissions to different environmental media. Water discharges are controlled,
limiting suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand, as well as the loading of organochlorines. Air emission
standards generally limit the output of gases and particles. Regulations in OECD countries continue to be tightened,
particularly with the implementation of the EPA Cluster Rule in the US to restrict toxic releases from pulp and
© OECD 2001
paper mills, and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive in the European Union. The relationship
between environmental controls and results will need to be assessed in order to ensure that environmental quality
is improving in pulp and paper production and measures are cost-efficient. The monitoring of environmental effects
should play an increasing role in shaping future regulatory requirements in the pulp and paper sector. The statutory
framework must take into account the need for integrated approaches in order to avoid dispersion in separated regulatory areas such as water, air, waste, toxic substances, occupational exposure, etc. Within the pulp and paper
industry, for example, mills with no effluent treatment systems should be targeted for regulatory action, so that the
load of conventional and toxic pollutants discharged into water bodies is reduced. Regulations to prevent polluting
discharges and dioxin releases to air by pulp and paper mills need to be extended.
The development of new legal instruments (e.g. Extended Producer Responsibility – EPR) could integrate the
producer responsibility concept as one of the main elements of waste paper management. The producer can be
given partial or full responsibility for the management of the product once its lifecycle has been completed, and
sharing responsibility can contribute to closing the fibre loop by increasing paper collection for recovery. Regulations aimed at imposing an industry-wide cap on CO2 and methane emissions, recycling paper quotas and takeback programmes should also be considered.
Economic instruments
The use of market-based incentives to address the environmental effects of the pulp and paper industry should
be further evaluated and extended, including the application of charges and levies on industrial emissions. This
could include applying green taxes at different stages of the paper cycle, such as a carbon tax to address fossil fuel
emissions, and a landfill tax to cover the environmental impacts of paper product waste disposal. Optimising both
market and policy signals can be a powerful strategy to foster investment and rapid changes in the industry that
will favour environmental protection, such as environmentally bleached and recycled products, and the sourcing
of wood fibres from sustainably managed forests. Incentives can be used to improve production yields and increase
the portion of recovered paper and non-wood raw material in pulp and paper manufacturing. Taxes can be used to
reduce emissions and increase energy and resource efficiency.
For OECD countries, model simulations project that eliminating all subsidies to the pulp, paper and publishing
industry and introducing an ad valorem tax on the use of products from the industry that increases by 2 percentage
points per year would reduce environmental impacts from the industry significantly (see Chapter 12 for further
details). CO2 emissions by the sector in OECD regions would be roughly 15% lower in 2020 than under the Reference Scenario, while SOx emissions would be 13% lower and water use 16% less (see Table 18.2). A policy simulation of the removal of all energy subsidies in OECD regions, combined with the application of a tax on all energy
use, was found to have an almost negligible effect on OECD pulp and paper production and on water use by the
sector, a comparable effect on CO 2 emissions (15% lower), but a more significant reduction in SOx emissions
(37% reduction).
Table 18.2.
Subsidy and tax policy simulations: effects on the pulp and paper industry in OECD regions
and its environmental impacts
(% change from Reference Scenario in 2020)
Policy simulations
Pulp, paper and publishing industry subsidy
removal and tax on all paper product use
Gross pulp, paper and publishing production
CO2 emissions
SOx emissions
Water use
Energy subsidy removal
and tax on all energy use
Note: The energy subsidy and tax policy simulation was applied to all sectors, not just the pulp and paper industry. See Chapter 12 for more details.
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
© OECD 2001
Voluntary agreements and information
In recent years the increasing use of voluntary programmes and stakeholder initiatives in the pulp and paper
industry has emerged as a complement to command and control regulations. Programmes that aim at total quality
management and environmental protection in productive processes, such as the ISO 14000 standard, Forest Stewardship Certification and Environmental Management Systems, have brought about a shift towards environmental
protection and sustainable practices. There have also been several initiatives across OECD countries, namely the
adoption of mandatory and voluntary recycling quotas in paper manufacturing, take-back and recycling programmes required by law and/or voluntary industry schemes, and more comprehensive municipal waste management. These approaches should be carefully designed, focusing on lifecycle impacts, taking into account the
economics of supply and demand of fibre, and respecting different environmental concerns, such as climate change
and energy recovery.
Voluntary agreements by the pulp and paper industry could contribute to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the sector. Such an approach could both reduce contributions to climate change and contribute to
increased energy efficiency by improving technologies, practices and management at every stage of the paper production cycle. Voluntary schemes can also be used to separate paper and paperboard at the waste source, e.g. in
households or businesses, for recycling. Green procurement policies by governments can also be used to favour the
use of more environmentally friendly paper products.
The pulp and paper industry should extend the use of ecolabels that are based on the lifecycle approach, certification of sustainable and non-polluting practices, and that cover the range of environmental requirements. Nongovernmental organisations, working with consumers, can encourage pulp and paper importers to reduce the sourcing of pulp and paper products from non-certified forests and from polluting mills, and upgrading and promoting
the use of the best available technologies and practices throughout the pulp and paper industry could bring many
environmental benefits, increasing production while reducing emissions and the use of energy and natural
AET (Alliance for Environment Technology) (1999), “Sending Ripples Around the World”, AET, November 1999,
CPPA (Canadian Pulp and Paper Association) (1999), Reference Tables, CPPA, Montreal.
CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries) (1998), Environmental Report 1998, CEPI, Brussels.
EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) (1999), Toxic Release Inventory: Release Inventory Data for Pulp and Paper (SIC
code 26), United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1999), Global Forest Products, Consumption, Production,
Trade and Prices: Global Forest Products Model Projections to 2020, FAO, Rome.
FAO (2000), “FAOSTAT November”, http://apps.fao.org/default.htm.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1999), CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IIED (International Institute on Environment and Development) (1996), The Sustainable Paper Cycle, IIED, London.
MEB (Management Institute for Environment and Business) (1993), Competitive Implications of Environmental Regulations
in the Pulp and Paper Industry (Draft), MEB, United States.
Rajotte, A. (2000), “Pulp and Paper Industry”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD,
UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) (1993), “Pulp and Paper: Case Study No. 1”, Conference on Ecologically Sustainable Industrial Development, Copenhagen, 14-18 October.
WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) (1996), A Changing Future for Paper, WBCSD,
Geneva, www.wbcsd.ch.
© OECD 2001
The Chemicals Industry
• In OECD countries the production, consumption and trade of chemicals and chemical products has grown steadily,
and is projected to continue to grow through 2020 roughly at the same rate as GDP (with faster growth in developing countries). However, production in OECD countries is expected to shift from high volume basic chemicals to
speciality chemicals and products derived from the life sciences.
• The chemicals industry in OECD countries has made significant progress in reducing the release of pollutants to
the environment during the manufacturing process.
• Major concerns exist about the possible impact on the environment and human health of substances produced by
the chemicals industry, which are found in virtually every man-made product. Many are being detected in the environment, where particular problems can be caused by persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals. Concern is
growing, for example, about chemicals which cause endocrine disruption and which persist in the environment.
• Priority should be given to filling the immense knowledge gap about chemicals on the market. A scientific, rulesbased approach requires information on the effects of chemicals and chemical exposure as the basis for risk management decisions. A variety of instruments – including economic incentives, voluntary approaches, and regulations – can be used to encourage the development of better chemicals information. Where such information is not
available, more and more countries will take a precautionary approach.
19.1. Introduction
Chemicals produced by the chemicals industry are used to make virtually every man-made product. The global chemicals industry today produces many thousands of substances. Chemical companies sell these to other
industries, companies or consumers. These substances can be mixed by the chemicals industry and sold as preparations – mixtures of two or more substances which do not react with each other – or be used by customers in the
chemicals industry to create preparations. It is estimated that there are between one and two million preparations
on the market today, as well as countless manufactured articles made from chemicals. The chemicals industry
makes up an important part of the world economy. With an estimated US$1 500 billion in sales in 1998 (CMA,
1999), the chemicals industry accounts for 9% of international trade (WEC, 1995).
Over the years, concerns have been raised about the
impact the chemicals industry has on the environment. This
There is a lack of adequate
industry, like other industries, releases pollutants to the
safety information about the
environment that can negatively impact on air, water and
great majority of chemicals on
soil quality. Due to the nature of the products used and prothe market.
duced by the industry, the potential risk of occupational
health hazards, or accidents involving hazardous substances, must be considered. In addition, because of their persistence, bioaccummulative properties and/or toxicological effects, certain chemicals can pose a risk to workers in other industries, consumers, the general population
and/or the environment. The primary problem today is the lack of knowledge about the properties, effects and even
exposure patterns of the great majority of chemicals (and, by extension, of preparations and consumer products
made with them) on the market today. Whereas known hazardous chemicals are being managed to a large extent,
there may be many unknown hazardous chemicals whose potential risks are neither being evaluated nor managed
because the necessary information is not available.
© OECD 2001
19.2. Developments in the chemicals industry
Table 19.1.
Key chemical industry statistics and projections
(or latest available year)
Total change
Gross production
(1995 US$ billion)
2 103
2 655
3 388
4 916
Share of value added in the economy
(1995 US$ billion)
1 062
Gross production figures are 1995 GTAP figures and include rubber and plastics manufacturing and can therefore differ from other statistics
on the chemicals industry.
Sources: GTAP database and Reference Scenario.
The chemicals industry is very diverse, comprising basic or commodity chemicals; speciality chemicals
derived from basic chemicals (adhesives and sealants, catalysts, coatings, chemicals for electronics, plastic additives, etc.), or from the life sciences (pharmaceuticals, pesticides and products of modern biotechnology); and consumer care products (soap, detergents, bleaches, hair and skin care products, fragrances, etc.). Given the
complexity of the processes used and the constant need for innovation, the chemicals industry is research intensive,
with companies allotting 4-6% of their annual sales to research and development (R&D), depending on the sector
(CMA, 1999). Some product sectors are undergoing major restructuring, such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals
and the food industry, where biotechnology is beginning to play an important role.
The chemicals industry is a major employer, with over 10 million people employed worldwide (CMA, 1999).
Yet, as the industry has become more productive and production processes have become highly automated, world
employment levels in the industry have fallen 7.5% over the last ten years.
Demand for and production of chemicals and chemical products
Today, the per capita consumption of chemicals in OECD countries is far greater than in non-OECD countries.
However, the Reference Scenario projects that over the next 20 years, as GDP will grow and the use of chemicals
will increase in developing countries, domestic demand in those countries is projected to rise more rapidly than in
industrialised regions. By 2020, the developing world may account for 33% of world chemical demand, compared
with 23% in 1995.
Almost every country has a chemicals industry, but the bulk of production is accounted for by a small number
of industrialised countries, with currently approximately 80% of the world’s total output being produced by only
16 countries (in decreasing order): US, Japan, Germany, China, France, UK, Italy, Korea, Brazil, Belgium/
Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Switzerland and Russia (CMA, 1999).
While the overall volume of the chemicals industry has been growing, the sub-sectors that make up this volume have grown at different rates. Production in all sectors is highest in OECD countries, where growth is now
fastest in the speciality chemicals and life science sectors. During the period 1980 to 1997, pharmaceuticals was
the major growth sub-sector in the chemicals industry in OECD regions. Basic chemicals production increased
most strongly in Japan. Data on sectoral contributions are not available for developing economies, but it can be
assumed that over the same period the basic chemicals sector was one of the growth leaders in China and other
countries of the Far East, and in the Middle East (CIA, 1999).
Although it is projected that OECD countries will still produce the majority of world chemicals in 2020, with
69% of total world production, this will represent a 10% decrease from their 1995 share (Figure 19.1).
© OECD 2001
Figure 19.1. Chemicals production, 1995-2020
Billion 1995 US$
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000
1 500
2 000
2 500
3 000
3 500
Note: These figures include manufacturing of plastics and rubber.
Source: Reference Scenario.
Changes in sectoral contributions are expected to follow a similar pattern up to 2010 as occurred
between 1980 and 1997: pharmaceuticals will be leading the growth, followed by speciality chemicals, agricultural
chemicals, textile fibres and basic chemicals. In the US it is expected that by the year 2010 the total sales in the life
sciences sector will approach those of basic chemicals, and, by the year 2020, easily exceed the annual basic chemicals revenues. By then, speciality chemicals revenues are expected to be close to those for basic chemicals, and
the production of high volume basic chemicals, which is a mature market today, is expected to shift to non-OECD
countries (Swift, 1999).
Trade and structure of the chemicals industry
Trade in chemicals is currently dominated by OECD countries, which register trade surpluses with virtually
all the other regions of the world. Compared with the mature markets of OECD regions, globalisation in recent
years has resulted in high growth rates in exports and imports by non-OECD countries.
It is anticipated that the growth of the global chemicals industry, together with continuing globalisation and
greater competitiveness, will intensify recent trends of companies forming alliances in order to achieve economies
of scale. To this will be added the impetus of steadily mounting costs. The cost of R&D, bringing new products to
market, managing the safe production and distribution and use of chemical products throughout their life-cycle and
meeting pressures of environmental health and safety requirements will most likely rise. The trend towards fewer
and larger multinational producers is expected to continue, with companies based in OECD regions becoming more
and more knowledge-based, concentrating on speciality chemicals and life sciences rather than asset-based basic
chemicals (CIA, 1999).
© OECD 2001
19.3. Environmental effects of the chemicals industry and its products
Throughout the entire life of a chemical product there is potential for negative impacts on the environment.
These can occur at any of the various stages of production, storage, transport, use and disposal of the product. In
response to regulatory requirements or on the initiative of industry (e.g. voluntary actions, environmental management systems), different technologies have been employed for reducing the release of chemical pollutants at each
of these stages. Current approaches range from using pollution control equipment (closed or floating roof storage
tanks, particle collection systems, thermal incinerators, waste treatment facilities, etc.) to designing processes that
minimise releases, and banning the production or marketing of a substance, or limiting some of its uses. Nevertheless, concerns persist. They are either over the management of chemicals whose effects (endocrine disruption, persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity) and concentrations in the environment are known, or over which management
approach to take for the many more chemicals about which little is known. Lack of knowledge of the characteristics, effects and even exposure patterns of these chemicals is a primary environmental challenge faced by the chemicals industry and its regulators today. This problem is compounded by speciality chemicals and products of
modern biotechnology that are taking over more and more of the market and may present special concerns related
to safety. They are often produced in low volumes and therefore do not fall within the classical programmes now
being used to assess and manage high production volume chemicals. Furthermore, introducing control measures
even for existing chemicals whose characteristics and effects are known can pose problems. For the most part, these
widely used substances have been on the market for many years, with considerable financial resources invested in
plants and equipment; this and their specific uses often make it difficult for suitable alternatives to be developed
and marketed in a short time frame.
Release of hazardous substances
Certain chemicals released to air, water or soil by the chemicals industry in its production processes or by its
products can have direct or indirect impacts on human health and the environment. Exposure to certain hazardous
substances – such as polychlorinated biphenyles (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), heavy metals,
and endocrine disruptors – can lead to a direct toxic effect on human health and/or the environment. Other substances – such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulphur oxides
(SOx) – are cause for concern especially after they react with other substances. For instance, CFCs are non-flammable
and non-toxic, but if they react with other substances in the stratosphere they can destroy some of the ozone layer
which, in turn, can lead to diminished protection from UV radiation and therefore to a greater incidence of skin cancer.
The same type of indirect effect applies to climate changing substances, such as CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and
to substances which promote the formation of smog (NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOC)).
While the chemicals industry is, to some degree, responsible for emissions of greenhouse gases, substances
that promote the formation of tropospheric ozone and CFCs, most attention has focused on its releases of hazardous
pollutants. Unlike climate changing substances, which have been largely identified, the nature and magnitude of
hazardous substances released during chemical production processes and use are far from known. Nonetheless,
using the data that are available, governments have developed lists of substances they consider to pose risks to
human health and/or the environment and that require national control. At present, a very limited number of hazardous substances are included in internationally agreed lists. A major concern persists regarding those substances
that may be hazardous, but which have not yet been characterised as such due to a lack of toxicity data, and are
therefore not listed anywhere.
Although there are no consolidated data on emissions
of known hazardous substances across OECD countries, it
is probable that, overall, such releases from the chemicals
industry in these countries are declining. For example,
releases by the US chemicals industry of the “core” hazardous chemicals listed on the 1988 Toxic Release Inventory
(TRI) were showing a steady downward trend by 1998,
The emission of some
pollutants to the environment
from the chemicals industry is
© OECD 2001
with reductions in releases to air and surface water accounting for the bulk of the improvements (US EPA, 2000).
US chemicals industry releases of substances covered by US Standard Industrial Classification codes 20-39 also
decreased relative to total releases reported from other manufacturing industries. In Japan, chemicals industry
emissions of 12 priority air pollutants decreased by 35% between 1995 and 1998. In the UK, chemicals industry
emissions of 27 substances, all of which are of particular concern if discharged to water or to sewers, were 96%
lower in 1998 than in 1990 (CIA, 2000). In Canada, releases of emissions of 15 priority substances were reduced
by 73% from 1992 to 1998 (Caswell, 2000). The situation on releases in non-OECD countries is unclear since no
past trends data are available. Nevertheless, it should always be kept in mind that the chemicals which are listed
and monitored represent only a limited percentage of those emitted by the chemicals and other industries.
Effects on air quality and climate change
Figure 19.2 shows that, compared to other industries, the chemicals industry in OECD countries is a major
emitter of CO2 (one-quarter of all emissions from fuel combustion from industry sectors). Chemicals industry
emissions nevertheless only make up 4% of the emissions from fuel combustion in all sectors. Data reported by the
European and US chemicals industries indicate that while production is rising, CO2 emissions have been stabilising
since 1985 (due to a greater use of oil in place of coal as an energy source) (OECD, 2001).1 The Reference Scenario
projects that CO2 emissions from the chemicals industry in OECD countries will increase by 66% from 1995
to 2020 (following total industry trends), while the increase in non-OECD countries will be 165% during the same
Figure 19.2. CO2 emissions from fuel combustion
in OECD countries, 1997
Non-industry sectors
Iron and steel
Food and tobacco
Chemical and petrochemical
Pulp, paper and publishing
Other industries
Note: The “chemical and petrochemical” category shows CO2 emissions from both
the chemicals manufacturing industry and the petrochemical industry.
Source: IEA (1999).
1. These data on CO2 emissions from the chemicals industry are from manufacturing. They therefore take no account of contributions to CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from the industry’s products. If a full picture of the chemicals industry
contribution from its products to GHG emissions over their complete life-cycle from “cradle to grave” were required, these
“downstream” emissions should be added to the reported manufacturing emissions. In addition, the discussion of the contributions of the chemicals industry to climate change is restricted to CO2 emissions since data on emissions of other GHGs
are not readily available.
© OECD 2001
period. However, if greater energy efficiency gains are achieved in the chemicals industry, CO2 emissions may
increase at slower rates or continue to stabilise in OECD countries.
Little global data are available on the total contribution by the chemicals industry to the release of substances
which promote the formation of tropospheric ozone (VOCs, NO x) and acid rain (SOx). However, indications suggest that these emissions from the chemicals industry are generally decreasing due to technological changes that
are influencing energy use and the operation of chemical plants. The following examples support this assumption.
The US Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data indicate that the US chemicals industry is a relatively small contributor
to total US emissions of these pollutants, and that they have generally been declining since 1970 (CMA, 1998). In
Japan, SOx emissions from the industry fell between 1980 and 1987, but have increased slightly since then, and
although NOx emissions rose slightly between 1990 and 1998, emissions per production unit have remained stable
(JRCC, 1999). And in the UK, VOC emissions from the chemicals industry have fallen by 46% (CIA, 2000).
Since the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987,
Tremendeus progress has been
tremendous progress has been made in phasing out the promade in OECD countries in
duction and consumption of chemicals that deplete the ozone
phasing out the production and
layer, as demonstrated by Figure 19.3. Production of most
consumption of ozone
other ozone depleting substances show a similar downward
depleting substances.
trend, although production of hydro-chlorofluorocarbons
(HCFCs) is rising. HCFCs may have only 2-5% of the
ozone depleting potential of CFCs, but they are likely to remain in the stratosphere for a long time since, under
current agreements, they will not be phased out for at least another 20 years.
Figure 19.3. Production of CFCs for selected countries
and regions, 1986-1997
Thousand tons
1 000
OECD total
Western Europe
Canada, Mexico & United States
Japan & Korea
Source: UNEP (1999).
Effects on water use and quality
Compared to all other manufacturing industries, the chemicals industry in OECD countries was the largest
consumer of water in 1995, using 43% of all the water consumed by industries and greatly surpassing the iron and
steel sector (26%) and the pulp and paper sector (11%). Worldwide, however, agriculture is by far the largest user
of water, followed by manufacturing industries (see Chapter 8). Although the figures for the chemicals industry’s
© OECD 2001
water consumption are not yet a cause for concern, government policies are nonetheless aiming at water conservation and increased efficiency in this area.
Natural resource and energy use
The chemicals industry also impacts on the environment by depleting non-renewable resources, or by putting
pressure on renewable resources, and by creating pollution during their use (combustion). The chemicals industry
uses a combination of natural gas, coal and coke, minerals, water, fuel oil, liquified petroleum gas and electricity
as sources of energy and raw materials. The chemicals industry is energy intensive and accounted for some 7% of
total world energy use in 1998. The share of energy use of the chemicals industry in non-OECD regions is increasing, where it grew from 20% of world chemicals industry energy use in 1971 to 43% in 1998, as compared to a
reduction from 80% in 1971 to 57% in 1998 for OECD countries (IEA, 2000).
Significant energy efficiency gains in the chemicals industry in OECD countries can be illustrated by the
example of the EU where, between 1985 and 1996, production grew 34% while energy consumption levelled off
(CEFIC, 1998). Similarly, in the US, energy consumption per unit of production declined by 43% between 1974
and 1998 (CMA, 1998 and 1999). Since the demand for chemicals is projected to increase to 2020, and energy use
by the chemicals industry is also expected to increase, special efforts will be needed to reach even greater energy
efficiency improvements.
The chemicals industry contributes to the generation of waste in several ways. First, hazardous substances
produced as a by-product of manufacturing may be disposed of on land, recycled or treated. Hazardous chemicals
produced by the chemicals industry and contained in products which work their way through the supply chain will
eventually be disposed of after final use of the product. In addition, the chemicals industry produces non-hazardous
Some countries, such as Finland and Ireland, distinguish total hazardous waste by industrial sectors. In
Finland, of the total hazardous waste generated by all of industry in 1992, the oil and chemicals industry accounted
for 46%. In Ireland, hazardous wastes from organic chemical processes amounted to 84% of total hazardous waste
in 1995, and the chemicals industry also generated 0.16% of non-hazardous waste (Ireland EPA, 1996). In Japan,
the volume of waste produced by the chemicals industry increased slightly between 1996 and 1998. However,
approximately 71% of waste is disposed of by on-site recycling and volume reduction, and the volume of final offsite disposal has been reduced from around 15% in the early 1990s to 9% in 1998 (JRCC, 1999).
19.4. Policy options and their potential effects
Overall, the chemicals industry in OECD countries has made significant progress in reducing releases of pollutants to the environment that result from manufacturing processes. Emissions of tropospheric ozone precursors
are falling, and the industry has made tremendous progress is phasing out the production of CFCs. Current information suggests that releases of other known hazardous substances from chemical production and processing are
probably also declining in OECD countries. Although the chemicals industry is a major energy user, important efficiency gains have been made, and CO2 emissions are stabilising while production is increasing. CO2 emissions
from the global chemicals industry will probably increase in the future, primarily because of increasing chemicals
production in non-OECD countries which use less energy efficient technology and are more reliant on coal as a
Progress in OECD countries has been due to government policies which gather and make information available (e.g. pollutant release inventories) or reduce emissions of pollutants through regulations, voluntary agreements with industry, and economic instruments like charges, tradable permits and taxes. The chemicals industry
© OECD 2001
spends a significant amount of resources on environmental protection as compared to other industries. Pressure
from the public, media and environmental NGOs continues to be important in focusing attention on the environmental, health and safety performance of the industry.
Nevertheless, significant concerns remain regarding the health and environmental impacts from products
made with chemicals (e.g. consumer products). The successes in managing the potential risks of these products
have been limited to specific groups of regulated chemicals (new industrial chemicals, pesticides) or uses of specific chemicals which have proven to be unsafe (asbestos, formaldehyde, PCBs, etc.). The lack of knowledge about
most chemicals on the market and, consequently, the uncertainty about whether the public and the environment are
being adequately protected, is the major challenge to policy makers. Policies will need to be developed involving
all stakeholders to quickly and efficiently determine, collect and make best use of the minimum necessary information on these chemicals so that appropriate management decisions can be made. Better ways need to be found
to evaluate and manage the risks resulting from the release of chemicals from products. As a complement to an
integrated product policy, life cycle management of chemicals (and products containing them) should be promoted,
as should management schemes with increased producer responsibility linked with public information policies to
ensure that products are developed, used and disposed of safely.
With increased trade in chemical products, and the growing recognition that pollutants travel across national
borders, the last decade has seen an increase in international efforts by governments to manage chemicals. In the
international context, inter-governmental organisations are facilitating co-operation among countries, reducing
duplication, and establishing conventions and other international agreements to take certain actions related to
chemicals of concern. As a follow-up to these conventions, attention should be paid to monitoring compliance and
taking necessary enforcement action. It will also be important to ensure that environmental problems, which have
been addressed to a certain extent in OECD countries, are not reproduced as the chemicals industry develops outside OECD regions, and that products imported from non-OECD countries can meet OECD safety standards.
Capacity building in non-OECD countries by governments, industry and NGOs is an important international priority.
The OECD Chemicals Committee plays a leading role in developing chemicals control policies which are harmonised across OECD countries. Not only is chemical safety promoted through these activities, but also non-tariff
trade barriers are minimised and duplicative testing efforts by the industry are avoided.
Technological development and diffusion
Companies must examine their entire production process to find more cost-effective ways to reduce the polluting substance that reaches the end of the pipe; and governments, working with industry, should develop policies
that aim to prevent – rather than control – pollution, and that promote source reduction, recycling, treatment and
disposal. Industry should consider both housekeeping changes, like process controls and in-process recycling, and
more far-reaching “sustainable chemistry” approaches. Sustainable chemistry covers the design, manufacture and
use of efficient and effective, more environmentally benign, chemical products and processes. It strives to conserve
energy and non-renewable resources, prevent pollution, minimise risk and waste at all stages of a product’s life
cycle and to develop products that are durable and can be re-used and recycled. Policies that foster research and
can assist companies to develop and market these new chemicals should be promoted.
As production shifts toward developing countries, policies need to be forged that encourage transferring to
non-OECD countries non-confidential technological approaches that are used in OECD countries to minimise
releases of pollutants. Further, chemical companies from OECD regions operating in developing countries should
help facilitate the diffusion of information on non-proprietary technology in those countries, particularly in the context of industry voluntary Responsible Care programmes.
Legal and regulatory instruments
A number of international conventions exist or are in the process of being finalised. The Montreal Protocol
on the phasing out of CFCs is well implemented. More efforts should be made to implement the ILO conventions
© OECD 2001
related to chemicals and major accidents. The implementation of new conventions concerning Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will require immediate attention.
All countries should be encouraged to establish pollutant release and transfer registers (i.e. inventories of pollutants released from sources) as they help drive reductions in hazardous substances released to air, water, soil and
waste, and can be used for target-setting and monitoring by governments as well as industry and the public.
The large number of existing industrial chemicals on the market – and the general lack of information on them
– poses basic policy questions related to priority-setting and interim management solutions. The chemicals industry
should be encouraged to provide information on the uses of its products, not only so that they can be managed better, but also to help set priorities for assessment. The chemical-by-chemical approach to testing, assessment and
management needs to be replaced, or at least supplemented, by a framework that makes the consideration of groups
of chemicals related by their structure, use or other parameters, possible.
Current programmes to fill the information gap on existing chemicals deal primarily with high production volume chemicals. Stronger policy instruments should be used to ensure that the necessary data are produced by industry and that the chemicals are assessed. Faced with the lack of data and the slowness of these programmes, an
increasing number of countries will use a precautionary approach as an alternative or complement to data-based
decision making for the management of chemicals. It might also be possible to subject existing chemicals, for
which sufficient data are not provided by a certain date, to procedures resembling those applied for introducing
new substances to the market. Furthermore, procedures could be developed to give industry greater responsibility
not only in generating necessary data on all chemicals on the market (and not just on high production volume chemicals), but also in preparing assessment reports and providing them to governments. Governments could provide
relevant guidance on data requirements and on methodologies for assessing data and preparing reports, as well as
conduct periodic audits to assure that companies are properly following their guidance. In parallel, information
should be provided to the public which remains an important stakeholder in this process.
In addition, integrated policies for product design and production processes should be promoted in the framework of existing and planned legislation, which needs to consider the impacts a product may have on human health
and the environment throughout its entire life cycle. Stakeholder involvement in policy development and clear designation of responsibility throughout the chain of production, use and disposal of chemicals are basic tenets of such
an approach, as is the need to include small and medium-sized enterprises.
Economic instruments
Economic incentives, such as tax deductions for research and development associated with sustainable chemistry, or reduced fees (as well as expedited regulatory reviews) for new chemicals that are “greener” than the substances they replace, could help promote the development of alternative chemicals which are more environmentally
friendly. Longer protection time for patent and proprietary rights for greener chemicals would also encourage the
chemicals industry’s research in this direction; although this might limit the diffusion of such technology.
Conversely, economic disincentives could be used to discourage industry from marketing chemicals with
unacceptable hazards. The taxation of chemicals considered by governments to be of concern would provide an
incentive for a company to decrease production of the taxed chemicals and shift to making alternatives that are not
taxed. The resulting difference in price would encourage consumers to select cheaper alternatives that are more
environmentally friendly. The example provided by the phase-out of leaded petrol is illustrative: in 20 OECD countries, a tax differential in favour of unleaded petrol was introduced at the same time as a series of other policy measures to encourage substitution of leaded with unleaded petrol (OECD, 1997). While ideally the chemical taxes
should be differentiated according to their environmental effects, a set tax or charge might also be levied on companies that produce chemicals for which sufficient data are not available in order to encourage further information
gathering and research into these effects.
A chemicals policy simulation was undertaken to indicate the effects that might be expected from continued
globalisation and trade liberalisation, and from attempts in OECD regions to internalise the social and environmen© OECD 2001
tal effects of toxic chemicals in the environment over the coming decades. To represent the effects of further trade
liberalisation, the simulation included the removal of all subsidies to the production and use of chemicals (including agrochemicals) in OECD regions, and the elimination of tariffs on imports of chemicals to OECD regions. Ideally, a tax or charge on the use of a limited number of toxic chemicals that reflects their social and environmental
costs would be levied. However, as the model used in the policy simulations does not distinguish between different
types of chemicals, a tax was applied across all chemicals instead. Thus, the simulation included the application of
an ad valorem tax which increases by 2 percentage points per annum (i.e. reaching 50% of the pre-tax price of
chemicals by 2020) on the use of all chemicals.
The results of the policy simulation show significant effects, with chemicals production in OECD regions
estimated to be 20% lower in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario, and about 12% lower worldwide
(see Table 19.2). The environmental effects of the subsidy removal and tax implementation are even more substantial. Compared to the Reference Scenario, CO2 emissions from the chemicals sector would be 24% lower in OECD
regions in 2020. While in non-OECD countries they would increase by just over 6% due to a “leakage” of chemicals production to these regions, this would not offset the reductions in OECD regions. Thus, compared with the
Reference Scenario, the chemicals industry would experience an overall reduction in CO2 emissions of 6% worldwide in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario as a result of the policies examined. In addition, SOx emissions from the chemicals industry would be reduced by 24% in OECD regions in 2020 compared with the
Reference Scenario, while they would increase by 3% worldwide.2 Water use by the industry would also decrease
significantly in OECD regions. Finally, as discussed in Chapter 7, an ad valorem tax on chemical inputs would
impact on the use of fertilisers in OECD agricultural production, with significant reductions in nitrogen loading to
waterways from farm chemical run-off.
Another policy simulation that was undertaken (see Chapter 12) involved the elimination of all subsidies to
energy production and use in OECD countries, combined with an ad valorem tax on fossil fuel use which increases
each year by 2 percentage points, 1.6 percentage points and 1.2 percentage points for coal, crude oil and natural
gas respectively (i.e. by 2020 the tax rate is equal to 50%, 40% and 30% respectively.) It was found that while such
a policy would lead to only a very small decrease in chemicals production both in OECD regions and worldwide
to 2020, there would be a significant reduction in energy-related emissions from the chemicals industry in OECD
countries, particularly in SOx emissions (Table 19.2).
Table 19.2.
Effects of subsidy and tax policy shock runs on the chemicals industry
and its environmental impacts
(% change from Reference Scenario in 2020)
Policy simulations
Chemicals industry subsidy removal
and tax on all chemicals use
Gross production
CO2 emissions
SOx emissions
Water use
Energy subsidy removal
and tax on all energy use
Note: The energy subsidy and tax policy simulation was applied to all sectors, not just the chemicals sector. See Chapter 12 for more details.
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
2. This assumes that the increased transfer of chemicals production to non-OECD regions would not result in any additional
increases in process efficiency or increased uptake of emissions reduction technologies.
© OECD 2001
Voluntary agreements
The chemicals industry in OECD countries is continuing with voluntary initiatives to reduce pollution and
ensure the safety of its products. Notable examples are the current initiatives of the international chemicals industry
to fill data gaps and undertake initial hazard assessments on 1 000 high production volume chemicals by 2 004 (the
International Council of Chemical Associations Initiative). Another is the initiative by the US chemicals industry
to fill data gaps on 2 800 chemicals in the same time frame (HPV Challenge Programme). Public access to this data
and the resultant vigilance of NGOs, as well as government review of the results of these initiatives (e.g. through
the OECD HPV Chemicals Programme), are critical to their success.
Further efforts need to be made by the industry to increase the usefulness and credibility of programmes on
Responsible Care and Product Stewardship. The role of small and medium-sized enterprises in these programmes
is important. A key challenge to industry will be to develop performance measures – not only concerning general
concepts but also regarding specific actions – which can show stakeholders that progress is being made. To increase
credibility in this area, the chemicals industry could move more quickly toward the adoption of environmental
management systems such as ISO 14001, which create a framework for self-regulation, and certain provisions for
monitoring and enforcement could be added.
With the shift toward greater production of chemicals in non-OECD countries, the industry should be encouraged to implement effective Responsible Care programmes wherever they operate. If Responsible Care really
works, then the environmental performance of companies operating in non-OECD countries where effective chemicals regulations do not currently exist should improve. Industry compliance with OECD’s new Guidelines for
Multinational Enterprises will be a positive step forward. To show progress, companies should be encouraged to
develop corporate-wide environmental reporting documents.
Information and other instruments
Policies need to be established to ensure that whatever information is available on chemical hazards and risks
(e.g. on the Internet) is reliable and presented in a way that is useful to all potential users, including the general
public and non-OECD countries. This concerns not only how the information is presented (e.g. on the Web, in hardcopy publications), but also the context in which the hazard, exposure and risk information is presented.
Policies for solving the lack of information problem should encourage the development of computer models
that can predict the effects chemicals can have on human health or the environment if they are exposed. Such models could reduce the need for animal testing, and generate more data faster than is currently possible.
Each year, more and more chemical companies are producing reports that document emissions from all of
their plants worldwide. This information is being posted on Web sites which does allow for some rough comparisons to be made. However, agreed guidelines are necessary so that all companies apply the same standards, making
meaningful comparisons and effective management decisions possible.
© OECD 2001
Caswell, B. (2000) personal correspondance with Claudia Fenerol, OECD, 7 September.
CEFIC (European Chemical Industry Council) (1998), Facts and Figures 1998, CEFIC, www.cefic.be.
CIA (Chemical Industries Association) (1999), Main World Chemical Markets by Geographic Area, 1996-2010, UK, CIA,
CIA (2000), “Responsible Care: UK Indicators of Performance 1990-99”, July, www.cia.org.uk/industry/iop.htm.
CMA (Chemical Manufacturers Association) (1998), 1998 Statistical Handbook, CMA, Washington DC.
CMA (1999), 1999 Statistical Handbook, CMA, Washington DC.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (2000), “Energy Balances of OECD Countries and Energy Balances of non-OECD
Countries”, 1971-1998, on-live services and IEA Secretariat Estimates, IEA/OECD, Paris.
IEA (1999), CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion, IEA/OECD, Paris.
Ireland Environmental Protection Agency (1995), National Waste Database: Report 1995, Environmental Protection
Agency, Dublin.
JRCC (Japan Responsible Care Council) (1999), Responsible Care: 1998 Annual Report, JRCC, Tokyo.
OECD (1997), Evaluating Economic Instruments for Environmental Policy, OECD, Paris.
Sigman, R. (2001), “OECD Environmental Outlook for the Chemicals Industry”, background document for the
OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Statistics Finland (1992), “Teolissen Toiminnen jätteet 1992”, Statistics Finland, Helsinki, www.stat.fi/tk/yr/ye142.html
Swift, K. (1999), “Where is the Chemical Industry Going?”, Business Economics, October; XXXIV, Number 4: 32-41.
UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) (1999), Production and Consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances,
1986-1998, Ozone Secretariat, UNEP, Nairobi.
US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) (2000), “TRI 1998 Releases”, July, www.epa.gov/tri/tri98/index.htm.
WEC (World Energy Council) (1995), Efficient Use of Energy Utilizing High Technology; An Assessment of Energy Use in Industry and Buildings, WEC, London.
© OECD 2001
• The annual generation of municipal waste in OECD countries increased by around 40% between 1980 and 1997,
amounting to about 540 million tonnes in 1997. With continued economic growth, municipal waste generation is
expected to keep growing, reaching an estimated 770 million tonnes annually by 2020, which would represent a
further increase of some 43%.
• In 1997, approximately 64% of municipal waste was destined for landfill, 18% for incineration, and 18% for recycling in OECD countries. Further implementation of waste management policies, however, is expected to help to
reduce landfilling and increase recycling in the future. By 2020, about 50% of municipal waste is expected to be
landfilled, 17% incinerated, and 33% recycled.
• In the mid-1990s, total waste generated in OECD regions was estimated to be 4 billion tonnes. In the future, both
municipal and industrial waste are expected to show high growth rates, while waste generation from the agricultural
and mining sectors is expected to grow at a slower rate to 2020.
• Existing waste-related policies – such as regulatory and economic instruments, the dissemination of information,
and extended producer responsibility (EPR) – are contributing to more effective management of waste in OECD
countries. In order to reduce waste-related environmental problems in the future, not only better implementation of
existing policies, but also changes in production and consumption patterns, will be needed.
20.1. Introduction
Along with the increasing affluence associated with economic growth and changes in consumption patterns,
per capita waste generation has steadily increased during the last twenty years in OECD countries. While waste
recovery (e.g. recycling or reuse) has increased considerably, it has not been sufficient to reverse the trend of
increasing volumes of waste destined for final disposal. Many countries have experienced adverse environmental
and health effects resulting from improper management of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.
The environmental pressures from waste generation are diverse. First, waste represents a loss of both material
and energy resources. Second, the generated waste has to be collected, treated and then disposed of. These processes entail various environmental impacts, including land use, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing such impacts implies not only preventing waste from being generated, but also increasing waste
recovery and recycling, and disposing of any remaining waste in an environmentally safe manner.
20.2. Environmental pressures from waste
Waste generation
Municipal waste
Economic growth and changes in consumption patterns in OECD countries have been accompanied by a continuous increase in municipal waste generation.1 Since 1980, municipal waste generated in OECD countries has
1. The available data on waste generation and management are limited. The only area where data for analysing past trends and
developing an outlook for the future are available is municipal waste. Other waste streams, such as industrial waste, construction and demolition waste, and hazardous waste are discussed briefly within the limit of available information.
© OECD 2001
increased by around 40% in absolute terms, and by around 22% on a per capita basis. In 1997, OECD countries
produced 540 million tonnes of such waste annually, corresponding to about 500 kg per person. In recent years,
OECD countries have experienced a slight change in municipal waste generation trends. While total amounts have
continued to increase, the average annual growth rate slowed down: decreasing from about 3% in 1980 to about
1% in 1990, possibly reflecting the first results of waste minimisation policies put in place in many OECD countries (OECD, 1999a).2 These trends should be interpreted with caution, however, and may also reflect changes in
data quality and coverage. Waste data are generally difficult to compare or aggregate as definitions and surveying
methods vary considerably across countries and over time.
Figure 20.1. Municipal waste generation, GDP and population in OECD countries, 1980-2020
Index, 1980 = 100
Generation of municipal waste
Sources: OECD (1999a) and Reference Scenario.
Over the next 20 years, socio-demographic developments such as the trend towards smaller households, and
Municipal waste generation in
increasing affluence and consumption levels, are
OECD regions is projected
expected to lead to further increases in the quantity of
to grow by 43% from 1995
waste generated per person in OECD regions
to 2020.
(Figure 20.1). For OECD countries, municipal waste generation is projected to grow by about 43%, amounting to
770 million tonnes or 640 kg per capita per year in 2020. This growth rate is slightly lower than the projected
GDP growth rate to 2020. In non-OECD countries, municipal waste generation is expected to increase at roughly
the same rates as GDP. Thus, by 2020 municipal waste generation in non-OECD regions may more than double
compared to 1995 levels (Figure 20.2).
2. Estimate excludes eastern Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Korea, and Poland.
© OECD 2001
Figure 20.2. Municipal waste generation, 1995-2020
Million tonnes
Total % change, 1995-2020
Australia &
New Zealand
Australia &
New Zealand
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Canada, Mexico
& United States
Central &
Eastern Europe
Central &
Eastern Europe
Japan & Korea
Japan & Korea
Western Europe
Western Europe
1 000
1 200
1 400
Source: Reference Scenario.
Note: 1995 data for Australia and New Zealand are educated guesses.
Hazardous waste
Total hazardous waste generated in OECD countries in the mid-1990s amounted to approximately 110 million
tonnes per year. Of this, North America accounted for about 55 million tonnes and Europe for 43 million tonnes
(OECD, 1999a). Annual hazardous waste generation is estimated to be about 100 kg per capita in OECD regions.
Because of widely varying and constantly changing definitions of hazardous waste in OECD countries, no
clear trends can be provided. However, most OECD countries report increases in hazardous waste generation
between 1985 and 1997, with only a very few reporting decreases or stabilisation during this period (OECD, 1998a
and 1999a). The generation of hazardous waste in OECD countries is projected to increase roughly at the same rate
as economic growth over the next two decades.
Other wastes
The waste generated by manufacturing industries in OECD regions has been increasing in recent decades.
From 1980 to the mid-1990s, it is estimated that this waste increased by about 40%, amounting to around 1 billion
tonnes annually in the mid-1990s, approximately 25% of the total waste generated in OECD regions. The generation of industrial waste from manufacturing has increased roughly in proportion to overall industrial production,
increasing by about 15% between 1990 and 1997 (OECD, 1991 and 1999a), while industrial production levels
increased by about 15% and GDP by about 17%. In OECD regions, more than one-third of manufacturing waste
is produced in North America and nearly half in OECD Europe. The intensity of industrial waste generation per
unit of GDP varies widely between OECD countries, due mainly to differences in waste definitions and in the levels
of clean technology in use.
© OECD 2001
Waste from manufacturing industries is projected to increase in OECD countries over the next two decades as
a result of output growth. However, structural changes within industry, as well as the modernisation of plants and
equipment and the introduction of cleaner processes, could lead to a gradual reduction in the generation of waste
from manufacturing per unit of output. Some OECD countries already report considerable reductions in industrial
waste generation per production unit, reflecting reductions in resource use intensity (see Chapter 23). Future product policies in OECD countries may succeed in further reducing the amounts of industrial waste generated.
Construction and demolition waste has recently become an important concern in OECD countries because of
the large volumes generated and the potential for extensive recovery and recycling (US EPA, 1998; EC, 1999). In
the countries for which data are available, construction and demolition waste accounted for approximately
550 million tonnes annually in the mid-1990s, representing 14% of the total waste generated (Figure 20.3). Available statistics indicate that from the early- to the mid-1990s construction and demolition waste generation in OECD
countries increased by 35-40%, and this trend is expected to continue.
Figure 20.3. Composition of total waste
generated in the OECD region, mid-1990s
4 billion tonnes
Mining & quarrying
Municipal wastes
Water purification
& distribution
Agriculture, forestry
& demolition
Energy production
Source: OECD (1999a).
In the mid-1990s, about 800 million tonnes of waste (21% of total waste) were generated by the agricultural
and forestry sectors, and about 550 million tonnes were generated by the mining and quarrying sector (14% of total
waste). Although these two categories of waste represent 35% of total waste generated, such waste is usually managed in situ with, for example, agricultural waste often used for compost on farm.
In total, the waste generated in OECD countries in the mid-1990s was estimated to be about 4 billion tonnes
(Figure 20.3). With the structure of OECD economies expected to shift over the next couple of decades towards
services and high-technology manufacturing, and with a declining share of output from the primary sectors, the
composition of total waste is expected to change significantly. The generation of municipal waste and of waste
from manufacturing industries and construction and demolition, is expected to increase faster than the average
growth rate of total waste, while waste from the primary sectors, such as agriculture and forestry and mining and
quarrying, is expected to grow at a slower rate.
© OECD 2001
Waste prevention and management
Since the late 1980s, OECD countries have been paying increasing attention to waste problems and are shifting strategies from simple collection and disposal to a “waste hierarchy” approach, with the main emphasis on preventing waste generation, followed by reuse and recycling of waste, and then by energy recovery. More attention
is also being paid to life-cycle management of products, whereby the materials used are chosen in part for their
relative environmental effects and the available disposal options. Extended producer responsibility is gaining
ground in a number of OECD countries – under which producers accept some responsibility for the treatment or
disposal of their products after consumers have finished with them – and has helped to encourage the development
of products and material choices based on lifecycle approaches.
A 1996 survey in OECD countries on the status of waste minimisation3 showed that although all responding
countries prioritised waste prevention over any other waste minimisation method, and many countries had introduced targets for absolute reduction of municipal waste generation, only a very few reported an actual reduction in
this waste. In general terms, most performance improvements in waste management have been due to efficiency
gains (e.g. less waste per unit of GDP) and to increased recycling and recovery. Systematic frameworks for the
structured assessment of national of waste prevention programmes are lacking in most countries. Initial work to
address this has been undertaken by OECD (OECD, 2001a).
Box 20.1.
Environmental benefits of recycling
The recycling of many materials has significant environmental benefits. For example, every tonne of iron or aluminium recycled not only replaces a tonne that would have been mined, but also avoids several tonnes of “hidden”
material flows associated with the extraction and processing of these metals (Adriaanse et al., 1997). In addition,
recycling requires only a fraction of the energy needed to produce these metals from primary ore. The following
energy savings have been reported for products using recycled rather than virgin materials: aluminium 95%, copper
85%, lead 65%, zinc 60%, paper 64%, and plastics 80% (BIR, 1998).
Municipal waste
In the mid-1990s, 95% of the population in OECD countries had access to organised municipal waste management services. Approximately 64% of municipal waste was destined for landfill, 18% for incineration and 18%
for recycling, including composting (OECD, 1999a). Although landfill is still the most widely used method, recycling has increased considerably in most OECD countries. Recycling programmes have included separate collection and voluntary agreements. Recycling rates for paper/cardboard and glass have increased in most countries
(Figure 20.4). Some countries have introduced the concept of extended producer responsibility with regard to
waste collection and/or recycling of items such as used packaging, batteries and tyres. Composting biodegradable
waste has become a major option for reducing the total volume of waste sent to disposal. Incineration of waste is
also increasingly used, and energy recovery is gradually becoming an integral part of incineration. In the mid1990s, over 50% of municipal waste incinerators in OECD regions were equipped with energy recovery systems.
Standards for landfilling and incineration have been strengthened in a number of OECD countries.
3. According to the working definition of the OECD, waste minimisation encompasses the following three elements: 1) preventing and/or reducing the generation of waste at the source; 2) improving the quality of the waste generated, such as
through reducing the presence of hazardous materials; and 3) encouraging re-use, recycling and recovery (OECD, 1996).
© OECD 2001
Over the next 20 years, the municipal waste manageIn OECD countries, a smaller
ment situation is likely to change considerably. The Refershare of municipal waste is
ence Scenario projects a significant increase in the share of
expected to be landfilled in 2020,
waste that is diverted to recycling and a decrease in that
with a greater share diverted to
which is landfilled. In 2020, about 50% of municipal waste
recycling and to incineration.
is likely to be landfilled, 33% to be recycled and 17% incinerated in OECD regions – compared to 64% landfilled,
18% recycled and 18% incinerated in the mid-1990s. Non-OECD regions are also projected to show significant
changes in waste treatment methods, with landfill expected to decrease from about 80% in 1995 to about 70%
in 2020, and recycling to increase from about 10% in 1995 to about 20% in 2020 (Figure 20.5).
Figure 20.4. Recycling rates in selected OECD countries,
Note: Based on data from Austria, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain,
Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Source: OECD (1999a).
Hazardous waste
Management of hazardous waste has improved,
Hazardous waste generation is
although the level of progress differs widely among counprojected to increase in OECD
tries. Measures taken include better definition of hazardous
countries, but management of
waste, the introduction of reporting requirements for waste
this kind of waste is expected to
generation, systems for tracking waste transfers, permits
continue to improve.
for waste transport and disposal, and the construction of
specialised incinerators. Major steps have also been taken
to ensure proper control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste. With the stricter regulations that have
been introduced over the past two decades on the disposal of hazardous waste, it seems likely that better recovery
of the materials and more use of high-temperature incineration will take place in the future.
Hazardous waste contained in municipal waste has become a concern in most OECD countries, with some
countries introducing separate collection and management systems for this category of waste.
© OECD 2001
Figure 20.5. Municipal waste management, 1995-2020
Million tonnes
1 000
Source: Reference Scenario.
Other waste
Experience from OECD Environmental Performance Reviews shows that practices for managing waste from
manufacturing industries vary widely among countries. In some OECD countries, most of the waste generated from
manufacturing industries is recycled or recovered, with the remaining waste being incinerated or landfilled. Other
OECD countries landfill a major part of their industrial waste. In the EU in the mid-1990s, 30% of construction
and demolition waste was landfilled, 25% recycled and 45% treated otherwise (EC, 1999). Other OECD countries
were recycling as much as 90% of construction and demolition waste (US EPA, 1998).
20.3. Environmental impacts of waste
Air pollution and climate change
The main air pollutants released in waste processing and incineration are acidic gases, polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans, dust and heavy metals. In the EU, emissions from incinerators were reduced
after 1990 due to the closing of many small incinerators, the introduction of cleaning systems, and higher temperature incineration (which reduces the release of toxins, such as dioxins and furans) (EEA, 1999).
Waste-derived greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comprised 2% of total GHG emissions in OECD regions
in 1998. Waste generation and treatment accounted for 34% of methane emissions (mainly from landfills) in 1998.
The Reference Scenario projects that waste derived methane emissions in OECD regions will increase by 20%
from 1995 to 2020. In non-OECD countries, where waste generation is expected to double with landfilling the
main disposal method, waste-derived methane emissions are projected to increase by about 140% over the same
period. Waste-derived methane emissions can be mitigated either by avoiding landfilling of organic matter or by
collecting and utilising the gas at the landfill sites. Some OECD countries have already introduced, or plan to issue,
© OECD 2001
general bans on landfilling organic waste. Efforts have also been made to establish gas collection facilities at existing and new landfill sites for biodegradable waste.
Water pollution
Some landfills leach toxic substances and nutrients, and are often significant sources of pollution to surface
water and groundwater. The extent of these problems varies according to the type of waste, the construction, and
the hydro-geological conditions of the landfill sites. Because many groundwater resources are replenished only
very slowly, the pollution of groundwater will often persist for decades after the polluting source has been eliminated. Sorting and pre-treatment (e.g. incineration) of the waste can reduce the harmfulness of the leachate.
While ocean dumping of waste was banned by the London Convention of 1972, the Global Waste Survey carried out by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) shows clearly that while ocean dumping by OECD
countries is decreasing, it has not yet ceased. In 1991, six OECD countries provided 15 permits for disposal of
industrial waste into the sea, and five OECD countries provided 16 permits in 1992 (IMO, 1996). In 1996, no permits were granted for disposal of industrial waste into the sea, but four OECD countries nonetheless issued a total
of 35 permits for disposal of sewage sludge into the sea (IMO, 2000a). And in 1997, two countries granted 14 permits for sewage sludge disposal and one country granted 16 permits for incineration at sea (IMO, 2000b).
Soil contamination and land use
One of the major environmental and health problems related to waste is soil contamination, which often leads
to the pollution of groundwater and surface water. In OECD countries, 25-50% of contaminated areas are the result
of waste management activities.4 In 13 OECD countries, 475 000 potentially contaminated land areas have been
identified, and the costs of remediating these contaminated land sites have been estimated at about US$330 billion
(Harjula et al., 2001).
Land contamination is often not restricted to the land
area concerned, but also affects the future land use of the
Soil contamination at existing
surrounding areas, the quality of surrounding water bodies,
waste dumping sites is expected
and public health. Furthermore, the remediation of contamto continue, affecting land use
inated areas often takes decades and entails significant
and groundwater quality.
resources. In the coming years, most OECD countries will
need to establish clear liability frameworks and financing
mechanisms to address land contamination. Many governments today are implementing integrated policies for
contamination management based on precaution (Prokop et al., 2000).
20.4. Policy options
With growing attention being given to waste-related environmental problems, the OECD is encouraging a
shift in policy towards the minimisation of waste generation. This includes improving the ability of governments
to prevent or minimise pollution and hazards by taking into account the “cradle-to-grave” lifecycle management
of activities and substances. Reflecting this, the OECD has adopted several Council Recommendations for economically efficient and environmentally sound waste management, such as the Council Recommendation on the
“Comprehensive Waste Management Policy” (1976) and the Council Recommendation on “Integrated Pollution
Prevention and Control” (1991).
In order to reduce landfilling, governments in OECD countries will need to intensify efforts to reduce municipal waste generation and increase the recovery of materials. Waste minimisation activities and the implementation
4. Based on OECD Environmental Performance Reviews.
© OECD 2001
of product take-back programmes will divert increasing levels of waste material from final disposal. In addition,
more OECD countries are likely to introduce total or partial prohibitions against landfilling mixed municipal waste
and certain specified recoverable waste streams, such as tyres, paper, electronic scrap, etc. The goal is that only
inert, non-hazardous waste should be landfilled in the future, justified mainly by requirements to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases from landfills and the pollution of groundwater.
Technological developments and diffusion
Since technological changes influence production and consumption patterns, they also affect the volume and
composition of waste generated. The development of clean technologies can contribute to eco-efficient production
patterns that not only generate less waste, but also reduce the toxicity of waste. Technological change toward
smaller products with improved functions, which is currently typical for electronic equipment, will contribute to
generating less waste per unit of output.5 However, technological changes that shorten product life-cycles, resulting in more frequent product replacement, can result in increased waste generation.
The development of environmentally friendly products and service technologies can contribute to achieving
environmentally sustainable waste management. For example, biotechnology can be used to reduce pollutants from
waste processing. Micro-organisms can aid in soil remediation, and the use of biodegradable materials can help to
reduce waste. In the area of material recovery, sorting technologies make economically profitable reprocessing of
discarded products possible by substituting manual sorting which requires higher labour costs. Recently, considerable quantities of waste have been incinerated in cement kilns, steel ovens and industrial boilers with the development of new combustion technologies (EEA, 1999). Although the environmental impacts of such incineration need
to be examined more closely, these technologies suggest possibilities for more sustainable waste management.
Regulatory instruments
The installation and operation of waste disposal facilities are generally controlled by legal standards and
requirements to minimise the emission of pollutants. The regulations that are applied to landfill sites and incineration plants have been strengthened in a number of OECD countries. Emission standards and operating criteria
have been implemented for incinerators of municipal and hazardous waste. Measures to prevent the generation of
packaging waste, to limit the heavy metal contents in packaging and batteries, and to safely collect and dispose of
waste, have been strengthened in recent decades. Nevertheless, stricter monitoring of waste treatment installations
and methods is necessary to ensure that they comply with regulations.
In addition, serious efforts have been made to eliminate, or minimise, the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
For example, the European Community has adopted “a directive on the landfill of waste”, which introduces a
schedule to decrease landfilling of biodegradable material by 65% from the 1995 levels within 15 years
(EC, 1999). In some OECD countries, the sorting and/or pre-treatment of waste destined for landfill has gradually
become a part of waste treatment processes, reducing the quantities of waste – or eliminating hazardous waste –
that is destined for landfill.
Economic instruments
Economic instruments can play an important role in achieving the different objectives of a waste management
strategy, ranging from encouraging prevention efforts (e.g. waste collection charges) to discouraging the least
desirable disposal practices (e.g. landfill taxes). Furthermore, economic instruments can be used to change general
consumption patterns which affect waste production through encouraging consumer preferences away from products that are neither reusable nor recyclable (see Chapter 5).
5. However, the production of advanced materials generally requires more energy and other inputs, as well as creating more
waste in their manufacturing. Furthermore, many advanced materials, such as composites, are generally non-recyclable.
© OECD 2001
Box 20.2.
Effects of using economic instruments for waste management
Charges or taxes on municipal waste have been highly effective in reducing waste generation or landfilling in
many countries. In Denmark, a tax on non-hazardous waste has doubled the cost of waste dumping and increased the
cost of incineration by 70%. Between 1987 and 1993, the landfilling of household waste fell by 16%, construction
waste by 64% and “miscellaneous” waste by 22%. Recycling also increased considerably: 77% for paper and cardboard, 50% for glass (OECD, 1997). In the US, about 3 400 local communities in 37 states apply taxes on household
waste, which are calculated according to the volumes discharged. The result has been a significant reduction in the
volume of waste to be disposed of and a significant increase in recycling.
Almost all OECD countries use economic instruments for waste management. User charges for municipal
waste collection and treatment are the most widely applied instruments. Many OECD countries use deposit-refund
systems to promote the collection, reuse and recycling of beverage containers, batteries, cars, tyres, and home
appliances. Product charges on packaging, batteries, tyres, and home appliances are also used in many OECD countries, mainly to promote the collection and recovery of post-consumer waste.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements have gained increasing attention as an instrument for waste management. Most of the
EU countries include voluntary agreements in their waste management efforts for reducing waste generation and
increasing recycling. They can be used as safeguards against potential drawbacks of current regulations, or for testing new policy areas. Existing evidence shows that adding voluntary agreements to a policy mix of traditional command-and-control instruments can improve the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the policies, as well as reduce
administrative costs (OECD, 1999c).
Extended producer responsibility (EPR)
Faced with growing waste generation and a shortage of suitable sites for waste disposal, many OECD governments have reviewed available policy options and determined that the responsibility for the post-consumer phase
of certain goods should rest with those who produce and distribute these goods. Extended producer responsibility
(EPR) is an emerging policy approach under which producers accept significant responsibilities – financial and/or
physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. EPR programmes change the traditional balance of responsibilities among the manufacturers and distributors of consumer goods, consumers and governments,
particularly at the post-consumer stage (OECD, 2001b). Through such programmes, producers are encouraged to
re-evaluate decisions concerning materials (and chemicals) selection, production processes, product design, packaging, and marketing strategies in order to reduce the costs of takeback requirements.
While the idea of EPR began with a focus on packaging waste, today there is a wide range of EPR programmes
in operation for a variety of products. The current trend shows an expansion of EPR policy to more products, product groups and waste streams. EPR has an important role to play in increasing resource efficiency by harnessing
materials that would have gone to landfill, and at the same time influencing product designers to reduce raw material inputs and to select materials that are easily reused and recycled.
Information and other instruments
In waste-related policies, the active participation of business, environmental organisations and the general
public – in particular the consumer – is very important. Waste prevention can be achieved through encouraging
consumers to buy products that pollute less, come from recovered materials, or can be reused or recycled. Promot© OECD 2001
ing information provision and consumer education in this area can contribute to progressive changes in consumption patterns. Eco-audit schemes for economic activities can be used to increase awareness of the amount of waste
generated and the costs of its disposal, thereby constituting an incentive to develop waste prevention strategies.
Ecolabels and environmental procurement can also be used for this purpose.
Waste-related information based on reliable data is important for the formulation of realistic objectives and
for assessing performance. For these purposes, the regular collection of robust data on waste generation and disposal by all sectors and households is needed, and this will require a better harmonisation of coverage and definitions of the different waste streams.
Adriaanse, A., S. Bringezu, A. Hammond, Y. Moriguchi, E. Rodenburg, D. Rogich, and H. Schütz (1997), Resource
Flows: The Material Basis of Industrial Economics, WRI, Washington DC.
BIR (Bureau of International Recycling) (1998), personal correspondance with Henrik Harjula, OECD, Paris.
EC (European Commission) (1999), “Construction and Demolition Waste Management Practices and Their Economic Impacts: A Report to DG XI”, EC, Brussels.
EEA (European Environment Agency) (1999), Environment in the European Union at the Turn of the Century, EEA, Copenhagen.
Harjula, H., J. Stutz, and S. de Tilly (2001), “Waste Outlook”, background document for OECD Environmental Outlook,
OECD, Paris.
IMO (International Maritime Organisation) (1996), “Final Report on Permits Issued in 1991 and 1992” LC.2/Circ.366
and 367, IMO, London.
IMO (2000a), “Revised Final Report on Permits Issued in 1996”, LC.2/Circ.404, IMO, London.
IMO (2000b), “Final Report on Permits Issued in 1997”, LC.2/Circ.405, IMO, London.
OECD (1991), The State of the Environment, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1996), “Outcome of Session I: Definitions, Terms and Concepts Used in Waste Minimisation” in “Outcome
of the International Workshop; Building the Basis for a Common Understanding on Waste Minimisation, 16-18
Oct., Berlin”, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997), Evaluating Economic Instruments for Environmental Policy, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998a), Towards Sustainable Development – Environmental Indicators, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998b), Eco-Efficiency, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), OECD Environmental Data – Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), “OECD Joint Workshop on Extended Producer Responsibility and Waste Minimisation Policy in
Support of Environmental Sustainability, Waste Minimisation through Prevention”, ENV/EPOC/PPC(99)11/Final/
Part 2, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999c), Voluntary Approaches for Environmental Policy: An Assessment, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001a), “Strategic Waste Prevention: Core Messages from the OECD Reference Manual”, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001b), Extended Producer Responsibility: A Guidance Manual for Governments, OECD, Paris.
Prokop G., I. Edelgaard and M. Schamann (2000), “Management of Contaminated Sites in Western Europe”, topic
report No. 13/1ppp, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.
US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) (1998), Characterisation of Building-Related Construction and
Demolition Debris in the United States, June, US EPA, Washington DC.
© OECD 2001
Section VI
This section raises some important cross-cutting issues related to changes in the
state of the environment and to the use of natural resources. The chapters on
human health and the environment and on the social and environmental interface
examine the effects of environmental change on human health, and the
distribution of pollution and access to natural resources across different regions
and income groups in OECD countries. The chapter on the social and
environmental interface also examines issues relating to environmental
democracy (the availability of and access to environmental information, public
participation in environmental decision-making, and environmental education),
as well as the potential distributive effects of some environmental policies. The
chapter on resource use efficiency presents a broad perspective of natural
resource use across OECD economies, drawing together some of the overall
trends and projections discussed in the individual sectoral and environmental
issues chapters of the earlier sections of the Outlook.
Human Health and
the Environment
• Environmental degradation can have a significant impact on human health. Estimates of the share of environmentrelated human health loss are as high as 5% for high-income OECD countries, 8% for middle-income OECD countries and 13% for non-OECD countries.
• Air pollution and exposure to hazardous chemicals are important causes of the environment-related burden of disease in OECD countries. The transport and energy sectors are major contributors to air pollution, while important
sources of chemical pollution are agriculture, industry, and waste disposal and incineration.
• Opportunities for reducing environment-related health risks are considerable. The benefits of many environmental
policies in terms of reduced health care costs and increased productivity significantly exceed the costs of implementing these policies.
21.1. Introduction
Concern for health has traditionally underlain much of the political priority given to environmental issues in
OECD countries. The impact of environmental risk factors on health are extremely varied and complex in both
severity and clinical significance. For example, the effects of environmental degradation on human health can
range from death caused by cancer due to air pollution to psychological problems resulting from noise. This chapter
attempts to describe the major impacts on human health of environmental degradation and to estimate the associated amount of health loss. A better understanding of the economic costs of environment-related health loss can
help to inform environmental policy design.
21.2. Impacts of environmental degradation on human health
Many factors influence the health of a population, including diet, sanitation, socio-economic status, literacy, and
lifestyle. These factors have changed significantly during the economic transitions that have shaped present society
and resulted in a considerable increase of life expectancy in OECD regions (Ruwaard and Kramers, 1998). Recent
studies show that the major determinants affecting life expectancy in OECD regions from 1970 to 1992 were better
working conditions, and increased GDP and health expenditure per capita. However, they also indicate that during the
same period the negative impacts of air pollution on human health increased in OECD countries (Or, 2000).
In order to provide a complete picture of a population’s health status, the various aspects which affect it can
Environmental damage is
be combined in a measurement of the “burden of disease”,
responsible for 2-6% of the
as expressed for example in “disability adjusted life years”
total burden of disease in
(DALYs). They give an indication of how the duration of
OECD countries.
disease combined with the impact of disease can alter the
ability of people to live normal lives as compared to those
with no disease (Murray and Lopez, 1996). Figure 21.1 shows estimates for the average total burden of disease,
using the DALYs approach, for all OECD countries, for OECD countries grouped by income level, and for non-
© OECD 2001
Figure 21.1. Total burden of disease, with estimated environment-related share, mid-1990s
OECD average
OECD middle income
OECD high income
DALYs/1000 capita
Upper estimate of environmental share
Non-environmental share
Note: OECD middle income countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Poland and Turkey (World Bank, 1999).
Sources: de Hollander et al. (1999), Melse and de Hollander (2001), Smith et al. (1999), UNEP/RIVM (1999) and WHO (1999).
OECD countries (Melse and de Hollander, 2001). It clearly shows a significant difference between OECD countries and non-OECD countries (and the influence of income levels on the burden of disease within OECD countries) as regards both total burden of disease and the health conditions related to environmental degradation. The
environment-related share of the burden of disease is greatly dependent on income, with higher environmental
shares generally occurring in lower-income countries. In OECD countries, this share is estimated to be 2-6% of the
total burden of disease.1
Figure 21.2 indicates the different patterns of disease in OECD and non-OECD countries, as well as the environment-related share of the various health conditions (Melse and de Hollander, 2001). In non-OECD countries,
the majority of the burden of disease can be attributed to communicable disorders (e.g. infectious, maternal, prenatal), while in OECD countries health is lost primarily though the non-communicable (chronic, degenerative) diseases. In OECD countries conditions like heart disease and depression make up a major portion of the burden of
disease. In non-OECD countries, diseases in children under four years old account for 50% of the total burden of
disease, while in OECD countries the percentage for young children is significantly lower (7% of the total burden
of disease).
The large environmental share of health problems in non-OECD countries (diarrhea, TBC, etc.) is primarily
due to factors related to poverty, such as limited access to proper food, housing, health care and drinking water.
Environmental determinants of human health in OECD countries, on the other hand, are related more to the exposure to air pollutants (particularly in urban areas) and chemicals in the environment than to poor living conditions.
Although emissions of many air pollutants have declined in OECD countries in recent years, urban air quality problems related to some pollutants are on the increase, with serious repercussions for human health (see Chapter 15).
Sources of human exposure to chemicals are many and varied. Chemicals can reach the environment, for
example, through emissions from industries, anti-fouling paints on marine vessels, pesticides in agriculture, waste
incineration and leakage from waste disposal sites. While emissions of chemicals from industries and other point
1. Figure 21.1 only shows the upper estimate of the environment-related share of the burden of disease, with the range (due
to uncertainties in risk and the exposure to disease categories used as a basis for the calculations) estimated to be 2-5% for
high-income OECD countries, 4-8% for middle-income OECD countries, 2-6% averaged for all OECD countries, and
8-13% for non-OECD countries.
© OECD 2001
Figure 21.2. Patterns of disease burden with estimated environment-related shares, mid-1990s
Ischaemic heart disease
Cerebrovascular disease
Road traffic injuries
Chronic respiratory disease
Self-inflicted injuries
Perinatal conditions
Congenital anomalies
Acute respiratory infections
Injuries through violence
Childhood infectious diseases
Prenatal & maternal conditions
Upper estimate of environmental share
Non-environmental share
Source: based on Smith et al. (1999), UNEP/RIVM (1999), and WHO (1999).
sources of pollution have declined considerably in the past decade in OECD countries, their release to the environment is still significant (see Chapter 19). Uptake through food consumption is another important source of chemical exposure. Intensive agricultural production uses chemicals in pesticides and fertilisers, and in feed additives
and medication for livestock (see Chapter 7). Residues remain in fruit, grains, vegetables, meat and dairy products,
all of which can reach the consumer. Other sources of chemicals in food include bio-accumulative chemicals in the
environment, such as heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which can be found in fish, meat and
dairy products.
Other human health risks that have recently received considerable attention include unsafe livestock feeding
practices through which toxins reach the food chain unintentionally. Dioxins that have accidentally contaminated
poultry feed can move up the food chain to humans, and using feeds that contain diseased animal remains can cause
the so-called “mad cow disease” (BSE) in livestock which has been linked to a new form of Creuzfeldt-Jacobs disease in consumers.
The effects on health from exposure to chemicals and air pollutants vary from allergies to cancer. Although
the link between exposure and disease is often not clear, a direct causal relationship has been found for some cases.
Even at low exposure levels, urban air pollutants can cause asthma, allergies, respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases if the exposure is continuous or long term. Heavy metals have been shown to cause neurological
disorders and various cancers. POPs can also cause various cancers and are suspected of causing birth defects and
reproductive disorders (Colborn et al., 1996).
Environment-related threats to human health that do not result from direct exposure to chemicals or air pollutants are less common in OECD countries, but may still have significant impacts. A well-known example is the
effect on the ozone layer of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) used in cooling systems and spray cans. The depletion of the ozone layer has led to increased exposure to UV-radiation and a greater risk of skin cancer. Although
the production of ODS in OECD countries has substantially decreased in recent years (see Chapter 19), exposure
levels to UV-radiation are still above acceptable levels in many regions of the world.
© OECD 2001
In addition to physical diseases, environmental contamination can also cause psychological problems. Noise, one
of the determinants of the quality of urban life, can have an impact on human health, decreasing the quality of life and
potentially contributing to depression. As Figure 21.2 shows, depression is one of the major diseases in OECD countries.
The environment-related health issues that are likely
The effects on human health of
to be prominent in OECD countries in the future include
the widespread release of
both the expansion of existing threats and the possibility of
to the environment
new ones. The threat of continuing widespread release of
worsen in OECD
chemicals to the environment gives the greatest cause for
in the future.
concern. This is not only a question of the amount of chemicals that end up in the environment, but more a question of
their characteristics and effects. Unfortunately, the latter are often unknown, as the recent discovery of the endocrine disrupting effects of certain pesticide ingredients has shown.
The possible effects of climate change are a widely recognised future threat to human health, although their
exact impact is not yet well understood (see Chapter 13). Climate change might result in new infectious diseases,
as well as changing patterns of known diseases, and loss of life due to extreme weather conditions (McMichael,
1999; Newman et al., 2001).
21.3. The health-related costs of environmental degradation
The impacts on human health from degradation of the environment affect society not only in terms of loss of
quality of life, but also in terms of expenditure on health care, loss of productivity and loss of income. Since these
impacts are very different, different approaches are required for estimating their magnitude.
Direct expenditure on health care for environment-related diseases can be estimated using the environmentrelated shares of the burden of disease discussed in Section 21.2 and data on health care expenditures in OECD countries (OECD, 1999). These estimates are fairly rough, but are useful as proxy indicators for current environmentrelated expenditure on health care and the possible savings that may result from environmental policy interventions.
These indicators can therefore be helpful in estimating the economic benefits of environmental policy options.
Table 21.1 shows that direct health care expenditures due to environmental degradation are substantial. These
costs may add up to as much as US$130 billion per year for OECD countries, equalling 0.5% of GDP. Both the
share of GDP that is spent on health care and the environment-related share of the burden of disease differ from
country to country within OECD regions, with the largest differences being found between high-income and middle-income OECD countries. Although the economic benefits resulting from environmental measures seem to be
lower in middle-income OECD countries, they can still be significant. For example, the potential economic benefits in terms of health cost saving estimated for measures proposed in Turkey’s national environmental action plan
to reduce SOx and particulate emissions are US$125 million annually (OECD, 1999b).
Table 21.1.
Total health expenditure in OECD countries and the environment-related share
Burden of disease
Environment-related fraction (lower and upper estimate)
Total expenditure on health
Environment-related health costs
134 DALYs / 1 000 capita
US$22 467 billion (PPP)
9.9% of GDP
US$50-130 billion
Sources: OECD (1999a), and Melse and de Hollander (2001).
In order to estimate the indirect costs of environmental degradation in terms of loss of quality of life, a different approach is needed. The monetary values of these indirect costs can be derived through measuring people’s
willingness-to-pay (WTP) for good health. WTP approaches (Melse and de Hollander, 2001) reflect the value peo© OECD 2001
ple attach to health and can provide estimates for the fuller economic benefits that could result from implementing
certain environmental policies. Willingness-to-pay values are available for a number of high-income OECD countries where environment-related health costs in terms of WTP can be estimated to be approximately 3.2% of GDP
and US$750 per capita annually (calculated from Aunan et al., 1998; Melse and de Hollander, 2001).
An example of the magnitude of economic benefits which can be obtained through environmental interventions is presented in a recent study of environment-related health costs resulting from road transport particulate air
pollution in three high-income OECD countries (de Hollander et al., 1999). The monetary WTP-valued annual
health costs in these three countries for diseases resulting from total particulate matter emissions were estimated to
be US$765 per capita or 3.5% of GDP, while costs of diseases from road transport particulate air pollution
accounted for US$411 per capita or 1.9% of GDP.2 The study found that a 5% reduction in road transport particulate emissions could result in a benefit of US$1.5 billion (or US$21 per capita) by averting 1 000 premature deaths
and 1 250 cases of bronchitis.
Although data on environment-related health costs and cost-benefit ratios of environment policy interventions
will never be as precise as market values for other goods, the available evidence strongly suggests that measures
to improve the quality of the environment can prove to be very worthwhile investments. This is true not only
because of the intrinsic value of the environment and human health, but also when only the monetary costs and
benefits are compared.
21.4. Policy issues
Clearly, the loss of health due to environmental degradation is substantial and calls for interventions. These
environmental policy interventions can in turn save money in health care costs. The upper estimate of the current
environment-related share of the burden of disease is 6% for OECD countries combined and 13% for non-OECD
countries. The cost-benefit ratio for any given policy intervention will depend on the state of the environment and
the pattern of disease of the affected population. Since these factors can differ between OECD countries and even
within countries, there are only few recommendations that can be generally applied. However, certain priority
issues for intervention common to almost all OECD countries can be identified (summarised in Table 21.2).
Table 21.2. Priority environment-related diseases, issues and sectors in OECD countries
High-income OECD countries
Middle-income OECD countries
Cardiopulmonary diseases
Communicable diseases
Cardiopulmonary diseases
Air pollution
Air pollution
Public hygiene
Melse and de Hollander (2001).
The most urgent issues to be addressed in OECD countries in relation to limiting health loss from environmental degradation are air pollution and exposure to chemicals. The issue of air quality, and especially urban air
quality, emphasises the need for policies resulting in less volume, and cleaner means, of transport (see Chapter 14).
The problems related to exposure to chemicals call for policy interventions to limit industry, energy and transport
emissions, agricultural chemical use, and to promote food safety (see Chapter 19).
2. Relatively low WTP values and environment-related burdens of disease were used in this study.
© OECD 2001
A number of the environmental policy instruments discussed in the sectoral and environmental issues chapters
of this report – especially those related to decreasing air pollutants and chemicals in the environment – can contribute to reducing loss of health as well as avoiding other effects of environmental degradation (see Chapters 15
and 19). As policies are formulated to address these environmental issues, the health benefits associated with policy
interventions should be considered together with the environmental benefits.
Aunan, K., G. Pátzay, H. Asbjorn Aaheim and H. Martin Seip (1998), “Health and Environmental Benefits from Air
Pollution Reductions in Hungary”, Science of the Total Environment 212: 245-268.
Colburn, T., D. Dumanoski and J.P. Meyers (1996), Our Stolen Future, Little, Brown and Company, London.
de Hollander, A.E.M., J. M. Melse, E. Lebret and P.G.N. Kramers (1999), “An Aggregate Public Health Indicator to
Represent the Impact of Multiple Environmental Exposures”: Epidemiology: 606-617.
Melse, J.M. and A.E.M. de Hollander (2001), “Human Health and the Environment”, background document for the
OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
McMichael, A.J. (1999), “From Hazard to Habitat; Rethinking Environment and Health”, Epidemiology: 460-464.
Murray, C.J.L. and A.D. Lopez (eds) (1996), The Global Burden of Disease, Harvard School of Public Health (on behalf
of WHO and the World Bank), Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Newman, J., N. Beg, J. Corfee-Morlot and G. McGlynn (2001), “Energy and Climate Change: Trends, Drivers, Outlook and Policy Options”, Background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999a), “Health Data 99: A Comparative Analysis of 29 Countries”, CD-Rom, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999b), Environmental Performance Review: Turkey, OECD, Paris.
Or, Z. (2000), “Determinants of Health Outcomes in Industrialised Countries: A Pooled, Cross-country, Time-series
Analysis”, OECD Economic Studies 30: 53-77.
Ruwaard, D. and P.G.N. Kramers (1998), Public Health Status and Forecasts Report 1997, RIVM/Elsevier-de Tijdstroom,
UNEP/RIVM (United Nations Environment Programme; Dutch National Institute of Public Health and Environment) (1999), edited by Van Vuuren, D.P. and J.A. Bakkes, Alternative Policy Study: Environment and Energy in Europe
and Central Asia 1990-2010, UNEP/RIVM, Geneva/Bilthoven.
Smith, R.K., C.F. Corvalan and T. Kjellstrom (1999), “How Much Global Ill Health Is Attributable to Environmental
Factors?”, Epidemiology: 573-584.
WHO (World Health Organisation) (1999), World Health Report: Making a Difference, WHO, Geneva.
World Bank (1999), World Development Indicators, World Bank, Washington DC.
© OECD 2001
The Social and
Environmental Interface
• “Environmental democracy” – including the availability of, and access to, environmental information, opportunities for public participation and partnerships in environmental decision-making, and access to courts for environmental stakeholders – is essential for enhancing public awareness of environmental issues and the development and
implementation of widely supported environmental policies.
• A number of international agreements have recently been adopted to strengthen environmental democracy in
OECD countries, including the Aarhus Convention (1998) and the OECD Council Recommendations on Pollutant
Release and Transfer Registers (1996) and on Environmental Information (1998).
• Participatory decision-making for environmental policy design is on the rise in OECD countries, with more
transparent decision-making processes, increasing experience with multi-stakeholder dialogues, and the emerging
use of new information and communication technologies for enhanced public participation.
• The impacts of environmental degradation (e.g. air pollution) and access to environmental services (e.g. city parks)
are not evenly distributed across regions and income groups. Poorer households often have the highest levels of
exposure to pollutants and the lowest levels of access to publicly provided environmental services.
• Some environmental polices may be socially regressive (i.e. lower-income groups may spend a higher proportion
of their income on some environmental taxes than higher-income groups). Such effects should be considered in the
design of environmental policies, and a number of corrective measures can be used to avoid or alleviate them.
22.1. Introduction
Across OECD countries there are very diverse social conditions, traditions and perceptions, many of which
should be considered when assessing environmental pressures and changes, and the policies to address them. As
discussed in Section II of this Outlook, there are a number of social factors which drive environmental change, including demographic and labour force developments and changing consumption patterns. Conversely, as described in
Chapter 21, pollution and changes in environmental quality often have serious impacts on human health and quality
of life.
An important aspect of the social and environmental interface which has not been addressed in detail in previous chapters, is the question of “environmental democracy”. Access by the public to environmental information
and the involvement of stakeholders in the policy-making process is a prerequisite both for the development of
widely accepted policies and for the public to take responsibility as consumers and social actors. Another discussion
which has emerged from the debate on the social and environmental interface is about “environmental justice”, focusing on the spatial distribution of the effects of environmental degradation and access to environmental services. Thus,
the population in some local areas, specific social groups or households in OECD countries may be disproportionately
affected by environmental degradation, or may not have the same access to environmental services as others. Finally,
the effects of environmental policies on income and employment in OECD countries will be considered.
22.2. Environmental democracy
An important precondition for triggering and fostering integrated, pro-active approaches to environmental
management and sustainable development is “environmental democracy”, understood as encompassing the avail© OECD 2001
ability of, and access to, environmental information, opportunities for participation and partnerships of individuals,
firms and NGOs in environmental decision-making, and access to courts. The first cycle of the OECD Environmental Performance Reviews has shown that the level of development of environmental democracy varies significantly nationally and locally across OECD countries.
A number of international agreements have been adopted to strengthen environmental democracy in OECD
countries. These include: the 1998 Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in DecisionMaking, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe;
the OECD Council Recommendations on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (1996) and on Environmental
Information (1998); and the 1990 EU Directive on Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment. This
section looks briefly at three key themes in OECD country efforts to support environmental democracy: access and
assimilation of environmental information; public and stakeholder participation in environmental policy-making;
and environmental and sustainable development education.
Availability and access to environmental information
Improved access to quality information can enhance public awareness of environmental issues. Furthermore,
it is a prerequisite for the development and implementation of widely agreed and accepted environmental policies.
Improved access to information strengthens the potential of information as a vehicle for making the community an
active participant in the regulatory process and in reducing environmental pollution and degradation of natural
resources (Tietenberg and Wheeler, 1998). This is true not only in the context of public reaction to, or engagement
in the development of, environmental policies, including the distributive implications or issues of environmental
justice, but also in terms of empowering consumers to make better choices in favour of the environment.
In the context of environmental policy development,
significant progress was made in the 1990s across OECD
OECD countries have made
countries in providing environmental information to the
in providing environpublic.1 This progress has been driven by a desire to implemental information to
ment more responsive and cost-effective environmental
the public.
policies, improve public involvement in policy development, and increase the accountability of all stakeholders.
Provision of environmental data, indicators, state of the environment reports and electronic access to environmental information is now often routine. In the area of accident prevention and preparedness, public authorities and
enterprises are co-operating to better inform citizens of potential and existing risks and of measures to take in case
of an emergency. Enterprises more commonly provide environmental information on a voluntary basis or as part
of their obligations (e.g. Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers).
In the 1990s, most OECD countries officially recognised the right to environmental information as an enforceable right in national courts and, in some cases, even as a human right that can be enforced internationally. A number of international legal instruments have emerged that establish obligations for different stakeholders to provide
environmental information and give valuable reference points. Some practical difficulties remain, however. These
include clarifying the legal frameworks governing information provision, raising citizens awareness of their information rights and their ability to exercise them, better implementing these rights, and providing environmental
information relevant to citizens in their local context.
Within the marketplace, information is conveyed by labelling and advertising, as well as by retailers, distributors
and other “third party” sources (consumer organisations, environmental organisations, and industry associations). The
provision of information to consumers serves a number of purposes. It not only protects consumer interests by ensuring accurate information and supporting informed consumer choice by increasing consumer familiarity with different
products and their characteristics but it is also a response to the assumption that obstacles to environmentally conscious behaviour (including purchasing) are in part due to a lack of consumer knowledge or inertia through habit.
1. For a fuller discussion of public access to environmental information, see OECD (2000a).
© OECD 2001
Information is one means by which to fill these gaps, to help reconcile personal and social welfare choices, increase
the demand for environmentally sound products and stimulate a change in household consumption behaviour. Consumers also seek and receive a vast amount of information outside of the market via both the mass media and public
service information. The mass media – television, screen, radio, print, and increasingly the Internet – are major conduits for bringing images and messages into the home. Recent media coverage of the debate over genetically modified
organisms (GMO), for instance, has in some countries contributed to heightened public concern and the demand for
GMO food labelling. Public service information also influences consumer decision-making and environmental
awareness, sometimes directly (e.g. information campaigns of the late 1970s and early 1980s to increase energy conservation, or more recent initiatives to change water consumption patterns or to encourage better waste recycling).
Nearly every government, NGO, or private sector strategy for addressing current environmental problems
calls for a better-informed public. However, the effectiveness of information in stimulating action is hampered by
a number of opposing factors. Among the most important of these are people’s reactions to the growing volume
and complexity of information on the environment that is available both in the market and in the media, which
makes it difficult to interpret environmental information effectively and accurately. Public scepticism vis-à-vis the
credibility of most information sources is also increasing (see Chapters 5 and 16). Thus, despite reported high levels of public concern about environmental issues in OECD countries today, the number of consumers actively looking for environmental information to guide their day-to-day decision-making seems to be decreasing.
Governments, the private sector and NGOs should all find more effective ways of communicating environmental
information to citizens.
Information alone, of course, is not sufficient for guaranteeing that the public gives greater priority to environmental protection in their day-to-day decision-making. A number of other factors influence consumer choice,
including competing criteria, perceived personal and social costs and benefits (e.g. the free-rider dilemma), and the
presence or absence of a facilitating environment. A facilitating environment includes relative market prices that
internalise environmental externalities, access to alternative products or services in the market, well performing
technology and infrastructure (e.g. public transport) and a government policy framework that encourages environmentally sustainable behaviour (see Chapters 5 and 16). Turning information into action also requires certain decision-making skills, which underlines the importance of education and learning for achieving environmentally
sustainable development. Without this facilitating context, it will be difficult even for well informed and concerned
consumers to reduce their environmental impacts.
Public and stakeholder participation
A recurrent theme in the discussion of environmental problems and policy-making is the need to more fully
engage the public. At a minimum, engagement means a greater awareness by consumers of the environmental
impact of their purchases and behaviour. The primary means for promoting increased awareness is usually through
information dissemination. Increasingly, however, engagement is also taken to mean an active participation of the
consumer/citizen in public decision-making processes as one of several stakeholders or partners. Here the possibilities for promoting engagement are much more numerous, ranging from traditional public hearings and focus
groups to more intensive public “construction” of alternative strategies. Each of these mechanisms is premised on
a different set of assumptions and expectations concerning consumer/citizen involvement in the decision-making
process and the desired outcomes.
The rise in interest in participatory decision-making,
Many OECD countries are
including processes open to the average citizen and not just
their environmentto major civic representative groups, is part of a changing
climate for public policy development (see Chapter 24).
more open and
First of all, we are seeing an increasing trend across OECD
governments for more open and transparent decisionmaking processes – a trend that is compatible with the
movement towards greater decentralisation of government decision-making and the search for partners to work
with government to achieve environmental protection. Second, there is growing experience with multi-stakeholder
© OECD 2001
dialogues involving the private sector and some representatives of civil society (social and environmental NGOs)
who have gained a voice in environmental policy development in OECD countries. Third, international declarations and instruments have been developed in support of participatory approaches (e.g. Principle 10 of the Rio
Declaration, the 1998 Aarhus Convention). Finally, we are seeing a widening of the stakeholder circle to include
the public at large, the “silent” majority whose collective actions or local interests make it a central actor at the
negotiating table.
OECD countries have different levels and traditions of civic involvement, and enhancing the participation of
civil society is often a challenge (OECD, 2001a). Most OECD countries have initiated specific policies to improve
consultation, public participation, and citizens’ involvement, particularly in the areas of environment, health and
social policies. There is a substantial and growing literature and empirical base on multi-stakeholder decision-making
for the environmental regulation of industry (e.g. zoning laws, waste facility siting, public access to information,
workplace environmental health and safety). Moreover, the call for participatory decision-making is increasingly
targeting other areas, such as sustainable consumption or sustainable household initiatives (OECD, 2001b).
The emergence of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) has opened a number of possibilities for enhanced public participation in environmental policy-making. Some OECD countries have begun to
exploit these tools through, for example, e-mail submission of comments or electronic discussion groups on
government websites. However, while ICTs have great potential for engaging citizens, they also generate serious
policy concerns – for example the creation of a “digital divide” between citizens who have access to such technologies and opportunities and those who do not (OECD, 2001a).
Environmental and sustainable development education
In order for information dissemination strategies and participatory development mechanisms to be effective,
one of the most important medium- and long-term strategies for environmental protection in OECD countries will
be to strengthen environmental and sustainable development education. Education – through both formal schooling
and “informal” learning (e.g. professional training, adult education) – is a critical complement to social and economic policies. It is crucial for creating public and corporate understanding and for improving dissemination and
implementation of new ideas and practices.
Environmental education rests on a foundation of knowledge about social and ecological systems. Education
for sustainability includes and goes beyond this, and is concerned with the development of individual and collective
competencies for decision-making. Clearly both are essential and embrace respect for individual and social rights
and responsibilities, concern for natural and social well-being, critical thinking and skills for civic participation
(OECD, 1999).
Despite widespread acknowledgement of the importance of education for attaining environmental sustainability, major efforts are still needed to integrate environmental and sustainability education into standard school curricula. Instead of serving as an integrating discipline through which many different subjects could be better
understood, environmental and sustainability education too often remains on the periphery of most formal school
programmes and is treated on an ad hoc basis in informal settings. One major question is whether environmental
education or sustainability issues represent a separate educational agenda from the basic aims of nurturing active
learning and responsible citizenship – long-standing educational goals in many countries – or, instead, give these
goals new direction and urgency? Another challenging question is how far does education, as currently organised,
actually create impediments to sustainable development and environmental protection? Do some education systems, for instance, undermine sustainability either through inhibiting curiosity and critical thinking or through fostering potentially selfish values? The challenge then becomes one of reducing harmful effects as well as optimising
beneficial initiatives (OECD, 1999).
Strengthening environmental and sustainability education and learning through formal academic programmes, as well as through professional training and continuing education courses that are easily accessible also
to those who are no longer in school, will be key to involving all sectors of the population in environmental
decision-making in the future. Workplace and community-based education and learning initiatives are additional
© OECD 2001
areas that offer large potential. It will be increasingly important to tie environmental and sustainability education
to practical experience or specific decision-making contexts. Some empirical research has shown that many of
today’s adults who are active in environmental issues had earlier experiences with both “nature” and some kind of
social activism. This argues strongly for simultaneously reinforcing the three pillars of environmental democracy
– information, participation and education.
22.3. Social distribution of environmental quality
Neither the impacts of environmental degradation (e.g. air pollution) nor access to environmental services
(e.g. city parks) are uniform across different social groups and households – a situation which has given rise to
“environmental justice” discussions. The focus of such discussions is on the socio-economic, cultural and demographic characteristics of those households, income groups or geographical areas which are most exposed to pollution, or which have the least access to environment-related (public) services. The argument is that there is often
some “unfairness” in the spatial distribution of environmental pressures and services across income groups and
The first cycle of the OECD Environmental PerforLimited information is
mance Reviews provided examples of environmental probavailable on how environmental
lems that were closely related to disadvantaged
quality and access to environcommunities or less developed territories in OECD counmental resources is spread
tries, where implementation of effective and efficient poliacross different communities in
cies was hampered by these disparities.3 Several recent
OECD countries.
studies in OECD countries have examined the relationship
between the spatial distribution of toxic releases from
industrial plants and the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of surrounding neighbourhoods
(Johnstone, 2001). Work has also been done on the siting of hazardous waste facilities. In general, studies find that
the lowest income groups often have the highest degree of exposure and the highest income groups the lowest
degree of exposure. Similarly, poorer households often have the lowest levels of access to environment-related
public services, such as public parks and water supply.
These results are hardly surprising since the firms that generate local pollution will have an incentive to locate
where the financial costs of environmental damages are lowest. This tends to be in poorer neighbourhoods where
property rights (e.g. such as effective environmental liability regimes) and income-linked demand for environmental quality are less manifest. Even though rights to the environment are often not well defined, poorer household
will still live in more polluted areas and areas that are less well served by environment-related public services
because environmental quality affects other markets. For instance, housing close to city parks, and far from polluting plants, tends to be more expensive (Johnstone, 2001). The real estate market in OECD countries therefore
reflects an informal “sorting” process where households express their preferences for environmental quality (and
other neighbourhood attributes) through what they can afford to buy or rent.
Households can also express their demand for environmental quality through their role as voters and stakeholders in the political process. Implicit in many calls for improved participation is the assumption that increasing
the awareness and engagement of the public in decision-making processes for environmental protection will ultimately strengthen that protection and, potentially, also result in behavioural changes by consumers. One essential
objective is to ensure good representation of those who do not have easy access to the public debate or are underrepresented: minorities, indigenous populations, the unemployed, etc. These vulnerable categories are often those
who may suffer most from unsustainable policies while, at the same time, they usually do not have the capacity to
lobby for their priorities and concerns.
2. For a discussion of alternative views on what constitutes a “fair” distribution of environmental quality, see Johnstone (2001).
3. Examples discussed in the OECD Seminar on the Social-Environmental Interface (Paris, September 22-24, 1999) were presented by experts from the US, Mexico, Turkey, Australia, Belgium and the UK.
© OECD 2001
Local environmental policies tend to reflect the preferences of those who get involved because of the competition of political interest groups. The neighbourhoods where demand for environmental quality is greatest also
lobby hardest for their interests. There is good evidence to support the claim that waste management firms and
industrial facilities pay close attention to the likelihood of facing political opposition when choosing sites (Hamilton, 1993). Finally, there may be differences in the willingness and capacity of different groups to engage in collective action in order to ensure that their demands are met. Thus, even if individuals within groups have the same
underlying demand for environmental quality, there may be other factors preventing them from making this
demand effective as a group. In terms of public policy-making, this means that:
– First, all households should have access to information which allows them to make an “informed” decision.
However, the complexity of environmental problems is such that providing information alone is not always
sufficient this means that.
– Second, throughout the decision-making process, all stakeholders should be able to participate in an open and
transparent manner. If access is not equal, the political system may generate results that are biased toward those
who do have access. Thus open public hearings about waste siting decisions, for example, are important.
– Third, failures in the associated markets (such as labour and housing), which may restrict the mobility of
affected households, should be eliminated. For instance, if markets for mortgages are systematically biased
against poorer households in a way that does not reflect actual market risks for the lender, then measures may
need to be taken to ensure that restrictions on the mobility of these households do not result in ill-health. However, it is risky for governments to assume that mortgage givers are behaving irrationally (e.g. overestimating
risk for poorer households), and as such interventions in the market should be undertaken with care.4
– Fourth, since protecting local environmental quality often necessitates collective action and the capacity to
engage in collective action may differ between groups, some households will not be able to ensure that their
demand for environmental quality is taken into consideration. In this case, governments can help communities
which are less able to engage in collective action – for example, by providing technical assistance with respect
to organisational issues. Some OECD governments are trying to overcome this problem by allowing non-governmental organisations and others to launch public interest actions on behalf of diverse groups of victims.
When there are high levels of absolute poverty and an unequal distribution of wealth, it may be deemed socially
abhorrent for poorer households to have to “trade off” some minimum level of environmental quality for other goods
and services. Such a view implies that governments should mandate minimum levels of access to environment-related
public services. In terms of pollution levels, this means that governments should continue to regulate maximum concentration levels consistent with what society views as fundamental to a “reasonable standard of living”. Even if environmental quality is considered a “basic need”, these levels may be higher than the levels households appear to be
willing to tolerate as they trade off environmental quality for other goods and services. Different societies will define
such “environmental basic needs” differently. Clearly, factors such as potential damage to children’s development are
more relevant to defining these conditions than factors such as convenient access to environmental amenities.
22.4. Distributive effects of environmental policies
Another aspect of the social and environmental interface is the distribution of the effects of environmental policies. Who pays the costs or, rather, who pays relatively more? The distribution of environmental protection costs
can be observed at two main levels: among firms and among households.
The fact that firms will be unequally hit by pollution abatement costs can be seen as a distributive and/or as a
competitiveness issue. Inevitably, polluting firms will have different marginal abatement costs. Firms may also be
subject to different requirements according to local conditions. In the case of tradable permits, whether they will
4. Restrictions on the siting of industrial or waste management facilities based explicitly upon the social characteristics of the
“receiving” community have also often been advocated. The positive distributional consequences of such measures are
likely to decrease in the longer run due to the links between local environmental quality and real estate markets
(Johnstone, 2001).
© OECD 2001
initially be “grandfathered” (free allocation) or auctioned will have marked distributive implications. The distribution of environmental costs between private entities and the general public might also be examined. Efforts to
address such effects should primarily be guided by concerns to maximise economic efficiency.
The main distributive issue related to environmental policies, however, concerns the distribution of environmental costs among households. There are two main aspects, one related to income and the other to price effects. First,
richer people are generally willing to pay more for environmental quality than lower-income groups. Since environmental quality is by and large a public good, this implies that poorer people should get more environmental protection
than they are willing and able to pay for. Second, if the cost of environmental protection were passed on to prices, the
impacts would often be bigger for the poorer segments of the population than the richer ones, in particular where
prices for necessities like food, water or energy are increased due to environmental protection measures.
The distributive effects of environmental policies need to be considered when choosing the instruments for promoting and implementing these policies, whether they be economic instruments (such as taxes, removal of subsidies
and tradable permits), regulatory instruments, or the flanking policies which may need to accompany them. Distributive effects are discussed below, using the case of environmental taxes, and focusing mainly on taxes related to energy.
Many of the problems, issues and solutions described here may also be relevant for other policy instruments.
Distributive effects of environmental taxes
The issue of distributive effects of environmental policies is particularly sensitive and subject to debate in the
case of environmental taxes. The distributive effects of environmental taxes, especially those related to energy, may
be observed in three ways (Smith, 1998). First of all, there is a direct distributive impact related to the structure of
household energy expenditure (heating and transport) for different income groups. The larger the proportion of
low-income household expenditure devoted to energy, the more regressive5 the impact of the tax will be. Second,
indirect distributive effects will originate from the taxation of production inputs. The more energy intensive the
processes, the higher the taxes on the goods produced will be. Finally, an energy tax may affect final consumers,
but it may also affect energy producers or production factors (e.g. through a fall in wages or lower return on capital). At the same time, part of the tax may be borne by energy consuming countries, and another part by energy
exporting countries, according to the elasticities of supply and demand.
In so far as many environmental taxes apply to mass consumption products and services, such as motor vehicles and energy, they may have a potentially higher relative effect on lower-income households. The level of the
tax also matters. Relatively low environmental taxes on products such as detergents, fertilisers, batteries and pesticides are likely to have a limited impact, while large-scale and fiscally heavier environmental taxes, such as those
on energy, can have more profound implications for lower-income households.
Evidence of the distributive effects of environmental
taxes remains scant. There is some evidence that energy
Analysis of the distributive
taxes tend to be income regressive, but the degree of
effects of environmental
income regressivity in many cases is weak (Barde, 1997
policies in OECD countries
and OECD, 1997a). A study of different energy taxes in
remains scant.
eleven EU countries found that the distributional impact of
energy/carbon taxes differed by energy use: taxation on
transport fuels was weakly progressive, while taxation on domestic energy was weakly regressive (Barker and
Köhler, 1998). Overall, an energy/carbon tax was found to be weakly regressive.
To avoid regressive distributive effects of environmental policies, in particular environmental taxes, three
types of corrective measures can be envisaged: compensation, mitigation, and tax shift. Compensation measures
are basically ex post and outside the realm of the taxes as such, i.e. they do not affect the tax rate or structure. These
are corrective measures, such as lump sum compensation calculated on the basis of average tax payments per
household. In this case, compensation will have a progressive effect on the assumption that the poorest households
5. With regressive taxes, low-income groups spend a larger proportion of their income on the tax than higher income groups.
© OECD 2001
on average pay less tax than the richest households. Tax refunds are a typical compensation measure. In several
OECD countries, energy taxes are partly repaid to households and/or businesses in the form of subsidies for energysaving investments/expenditures.
Mitigation is an ex ante measure to reduce the rates of specific environmental taxes to alleviate the tax burden
on specific segments of the population. This can take the form of reducing tax payments for low-income groups or
on specific mass consumption and indispensable commodities such as heating fuels or agricultural inputs. However, the outcome would weaken the desired environmental impact of the tax, and would significantly increase the
administrative complexities. Nevertheless, a large number of special tax provisions of this sort are applied in
OECD countries. The OECD-EC database on environmentally related taxes indicates hundreds of provisions such
as tax exemptions and reduced tax rates.6
Tax shifts, i.e. the reduction of other taxes, such as labour and income taxes (the case of the “double dividend”),
is a widespread form of compensation. It is assumed that the regressive impact of the new environmental tax will be
compensated by the reduction of other taxes. However, poorer households are often affected relatively more by environmental taxes while wealthy households will benefit most from lower income taxes. The net distributive implication
of this approach is not clear. This form of compensation may even prove to be strongly regressive (Smith, 1998).
22.5. Employment implications of environmental policies
In the early 1970s, with sustained economic growth in OECD countries and full employment, the impact of
environmental policies on employment was hardly considered a problem, but the oil crises of 1973-1974 and 1979
brought it centre stage. It was felt at the time that environmental spending was diverting resources from the “productive” sectors, which generated value-added and employment. When the recession started, forcing companies
out of business, the blame was sometimes laid on environmental constraints. Between 1990 and 1994, the number
of unemployed in OECD countries rose from 25 million to 34 million (8.5% of the workforce). While the unemployment rate has decreased since (it was 6.6% in 1999) it remains high in several countries (8.8% in the EU
in 1999). Although the purpose of environmental policies is not to create jobs, the need for a proper integration of
environmental and employment policies is widely recognised.
Three main approaches have been used by OECD countries to minimise or compensate for negative employment effects of environmental policies (OECD, 1997b). These include using environmental expenditures as a direct
tool of macro-economic policy; using environment-based job creation programmes to stimulate employment in
specific regions, sectors or occupational groups, and promoting environment-related “active” labour market policies; and combining green tax reform and employment creation.
Some countries have also used environmental expenditures as a demand-inducing, anti-recession, economic
policy in the past. However, since the mid-1980s – and for a variety of reasons – OECD governments have become
increasingly reluctant to address cyclical unemployment problems through increased spending policies.
Since the early 1980s, many governments have focused instead on job-creation programmes that can be targeted to specific labour markets where high levels of unemployment exist. Many of these projects have included
environmental activities, often of a public works nature. Despite their occasional environmental benefits, the primary objective of these programmes has been employment creation. Such programmes have often been criticised
because of their temporary nature, their low effectiveness in generating long-term employment, and their risk of
competing with other commercial activities. Spending public money on “environmental” job-creation programmes
is only one of several possible options.
Rather than emphasising direct short-term employment programmes, several OECD countries have increasingly turned their attention to a more complex set of measures aimed at improving the quality of the labour supply,
especially through vocational guidance and education programmes. Because the transition to cleaner industries,
products, services, and environmental habitats will ultimately require new skills and/or management techniques,
employment and environmental policies may also be integrated at this level.
6. Available on www.oecd.org/env/policies/taxes/index.htm.
© OECD 2001
With regard to combining green tax reform and employment creation, it is often argued that reducing the tax
wedge on labour – in particular the employer’s social security contributions – in order to lower labour costs would
reduce unemployment. Therefore, shifting the tax burden from labour to pollution, i.e. compensating additional
environmental taxation by a reduction of labour taxation, should provide a “double dividend”: reduced pollution
and increased employment. The likelihood of such a double dividend is subject to controversy in the economic
literature. However, a survey of simulation studies indicates four key conditions for the realisation of a double dividend (OECD, 2000b):
– The initial structure of the tax system should be sub-optimal so that a dividend from removing sub-optimal tax
provisions can emerge.
– The tax incidence is a crucial issue. If the burden of pollution taxes finally falls upon households through
higher prices of the taxed commodities (which is a reasonable assumption), the reduction of the tax wedge on
labour will be less effective and the employment effect reduced or cancelled. Since labour is a relatively immobile factor of production, this ultimate tax incidence on labour is likely to occur.
– The degree of substitutability between factors of production is important. If there is a possibility to use more
labour instead of energy and capital, increased employment is more likely to occur.
– The mobility of production factors are crucial. In the case of an energy tax, if labour is a better substitute for
energy than capital, there will be a shift to more labour-intensive production techniques. If capital is relatively
immobile internationally, the tax burden will be shifted to capital. If the capital is internationally mobile, it will
move abroad to avoid the tax. In this case a high degree of international co-ordination is required.
The more effective the environmental tax is in changing the behaviour of producers and consumers, the more
rapidly the tax base may erode. To maintain the same revenue flow, governments will have to increase other taxes
or increase existing environmental taxes with two possible consequences: a further incidence on labour and a possible reduction of pollution beyond the optimal level. In this case, environmental taxes exacerbate tax distortions.
What happens in reality? It has been shown that the
There is still uncertainty about the
results of many models converge to indicate that a carbonevidence of a double dividend
energy tax would yield some double dividend (Majocchi,
from environmental taxes. Ex post
1996). The employment effect, however, would be limited
evaluations are needed.
(a rise in employment to the order of 2%). Recent simulations show similar results: a real, but small potential for a
double dividend (OECD, 2000b). The main conclusions from existing studies on the double dividend are summarised in Box 22.1.
Box 22.1.
Main conclusions from existing studies on the double dividend
– For most European countries, larger employment effects can be expected if the cuts in social security contributions are targeted on the unskilled labour force.
– Positive effects on GDP can be expected if the revenues are used for a cut in capital taxes (thus favouring investment), and this is gradually implemented.
– Both GDP and employment effects depend on the size of the tax reform. Generally, the results of the simulations
show positive effects on GDP and employment when an energy tax is introduced stepwise and the energy price
increase does not exceed 4-5% per year. Higher tax rates lead to negative effects on employment and GDP.
– The structure of the labour market also matters. In case of wage rigidities, i.e. if the level of wages does not
decrease with unemployment, lower social security contributions will reduce real labour costs and increased
employment is likely to occur. In the case of a non-competitive market for goods, tax reductions will be captured
by increased profits.
Source: OECD (2000b).
© OECD 2001
Most countries which have implemented green tax reforms, or are considering doing so, are in one way or
another expecting the double dividend effect. How effective these mechanisms really are, however, still remains to
be seen, as no ex post evaluations have been carried out so far.
Barde, J-P. (1997), “Economic Instruments for Environmental Protection: Experience in OECD Countries”, in OECD,
Applying Market-Based Instruments to Environmental Policies in China and OECD Countries, OECD, Paris: 31-58.
Barker, T., and J. Kohler (1998), “Equity and Ecotax Reform in the EU: Achieving a 10 per cent Reduction in
CO2 Emissions Using Excise Duties”, in Fiscal Studies 19(4), November: 375-402.
Hamilton, J. T. (1993), “Politics and Social Costs: Estimating the Impact of Collective Action on Hazardous Waste
Facilities” in Rand Journal of Economics 24, 101-125
Johnstone, N. (2001), “The Distribution of Environmental Quality and Resources: Objectives, Evidence and Policy”, background paper for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Majocchi, A. (1996), “Green Fiscal Reform and Employment: A Survey”, Environmental and Resource Economics, December: 375-397.
OECD (1997a), Environmental Taxes and Green Tax Reform, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997b), Environmental Policies and Employment, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999), Education and Learning for Sustainable Consumption, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2000a), Proceedings: OECD Seminar on Public Access to Environmental Information, Athens, 5-7 October, OECD,
OECD (2000b), “Greening Tax Mixes in OECD countries: an Assessment”, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001a, forthcoming), OECD Analytical Report on Sustainable Development, OECD, Paris.
OECD (2001b), Trends and Issues in Participatory Decision Making for Sustainable Consumption, OECD, Paris.
Smith, S. (1998), “Distributional Incidence of Environmental Taxes on Energy and Carbon: a Review of Policy
Issues”, Réforme Fiscale Verte et Instruments Économiques pour une Coopération Internationale: le Contexte Post Kyoto, Ministère
de l’aménagement du territoire et de l’environnement, Paris.
Tietenberg, T. and D. Wheeler (1998), “Empowering the Community: Information Strategies for Pollution Control”,
Frontiers of Environmental Economics Conference, Airlie House, Virginia, October.
© OECD 2001
Resource Use Efficiency
• Economic activities are becoming more efficient in their use of natural resources, but the volume effects of total
increases in global output on resource use are outweighing these efficiency gains.
• Further improvements in resource efficiency are essential to reduce the environmental pressures of resource use to
sustainable levels. A “de-coupling” of environmental degradation and resource use from economic and population
growth is needed.
• The means by which resource efficiency can be improved include increased resource saving, resource re-use,
resource prolongation, and substitution of resources.
• Policies are needed to provide the appropriate incentives for improving resource efficiency, starting with the
removal of adverse incentives to use resources, and policies to ensure that the various environmental and social
costs of resource use are reflected in the prices paid by resource exploiters and users.
23.1. Introduction
One of the most widely-discussed environmental problems in the 1960s and 1970s was the perceived threat
of increasing resource scarcity, particularly for non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and metals. More
recently, however, the focus has shifted. First, it was found that the available and accessible stocks of a number of
key non-renewable resources are actually larger than first believed. In addition, it has been recognised that substitutes or recycling possibilities for many of these now exist, and will be brought into use more and more as the stock
of non-renewable resources depletes and the alternatives become more cost-effective. More of a concern for the future
will be the better management of renewable resources to ensure that they do not become in effect “non-renewable”.
The exploitation of capital stocks of renewable resources (e.g. wood, water, biodiversity and fish) needs to take place
at a rate that does not exceed their regenerative capacity. Indirect pressures on renewable resources, such as pollution
and habitat loss, also need to be reduced in order to ensure resource growth and regeneration.
It is clear that the unsustainable management of natural resources will negatively affect both economic activities and the regenerative and assimilative capacity of natural ecosystems. Hence, further improvements in in situ
resource management and the efficiency with which natural resources are used downstream (i.e. resource use efficiency1) will be essential to reduce total environmental pressures of resource use. Ensuring that market prices
reflect the scarcity of these resources is important for achieving appropriate rates of exploitation. Better management of the associated environmental impacts from the use of natural resources, such as the degradation of ecosystems, pollution emissions, and solid waste generation, will also be needed.
23.2. The effects of resource use on the environment
The environmental consequences of resource use depend on the nature of the resources and the way in which
they are used in the economy. In the first instance, they can be distinguished by resource type. Non-renewable
1. Resource use efficiency is usually understood to specifically concern the transformation and the use of resources as “downstream” economic goods and services, rather than management in situ.
© OECD 2001
resources include metallic and non-metallic mineral deposits, as well as fossil fuels. As they are non-living, nonrenewable resources have no regenerative capacity. Depending on their nature and use in the economy, however,
there can be significant potential for recoverability after initial use. Renewable resources include forests, freshwater, fish stocks, wildlife, etc. Most renewable resources are characterised as living “biological” resources, which
reproduce themselves. Thus, as long as the reproductive capacity is maintained properly, consumption today will
not affect their availability for potential consumption tomorrow. If consumption today affects the reproductive
patterns of the resources, however, it will affect tomorrow’s availability. A third class of resource type, nonexhaustible resources, includes resources – such as energy from the sun and tides – where consumption does not
increase scarcity.
Box 23.1.
Indicators of resource efficiency
A variety of research has been conducted on potential resource efficiency indicators, including the “Total Material
Requirement” (World Resources Institute), “Factor X” (the Wuppertal Institute), and “Eco Efficiency” (the World
Business Council on Sustainable Development).
Aggregated indicators of resource use, however, need to be interpreted with care. Adding the volumes of resources
used in a society and comparing them on a country-by-country basis can sometimes be misleading regarding the environmental impacts of resource use, since a tonne of iron ore is not equivalent to a tonne of mercury. Indicators of
resource use efficiency should reflect qualitative concerns (both in environmental and economic terms) and indirect
(general equilibrium) effects arising from factor and product substitution. Further work on linking resource flows to
potential environmental impacts is still needed.
The processing of resources downstream can result in significant pollutant generation. This can arise directly
from the dissipation or combustion of the resources themselves. For instance, the combustion of fossil fuels results
in a wide variety of local, regional and global air pollutants. However, this pollution can also be caused indirectly
as resources are transformed downstream by processing sectors. The generation of biochemical oxygen demand
(BOD) from wood pulping is an example (see Chapter 18). Material resource use also generates solid waste. This
can either arise at the point of resource exploitation (e.g. overburden from mining) and processing, or at the end of
the useful life of products which have been manufactured from resources (e.g. household solid waste). However,
depending on the degree of material deterioration and the cost of collection, sorting and reprocessing, there is
potential for significant recovery of such resources (see Chapter 20).
The management of resources is largely determined by their ownership regimes. At one extreme is the open
access ownership regime, in which there are no means of excluding others from resource exploitation. A notable
example is high-seas fisheries. Because there is no owner protecting his ownership, these types of resources tend
to be over-exploited (see Chapter 9). At the other extreme is private ownership, in which rights to the resource are
clearly defined. Common property regimes are in an intermediate position, and can take a variety of forms. Access
is restricted, but by means of conventions, norms and rules, and not through limits set by the owners per se.
The values associated with resources are diverse. Many resources are valued directly as inputs in the production of economic goods and services. However, market prices do not reflect the value of resources properly. Many
resources (particularly forests and surface waters) play an important role in supporting ecosystem functions like
carbon fixation, water catchments and temperature buffers. Such resources need to be valued not only for their
immediate usefulness as inputs, but also for their wider environmental benefits. Thus, unsustainable levels and patterns of resource use can undermine the integrity of broader ecosystems (see Chapters 7 to 11). In addition,
resources as components of ecosystems possess an “intrinsic” (or “existence”) value which cannot be attributed
directly to any of their present or potential future uses as resources for production.
© OECD 2001
23.3. Resource use efficiency: recent trends and outlook to 2020
Given the environmental impacts of resource exploitaDespite increases in resource
tion, processing and use, increasing the efficiency with which
use efficiency, total consumption
resources are used in the economy has the potential to generof resources is continuing
ate significant environmental benefits. Figure 23.1 indicates
to increase in OECD countries.
some examples of historical and projected future reductions
in resource and energy intensity for OECD economies. These
are compared with the net growth in total use of these resources and energy. The Figure reveals that the general
decrease in the resource intensity of production that occurred in recent decades is expected to continue to 2020.
In many sectors, the introduction and adoption of advanced technologies and economic restructuring in OECD
countries have contributed to significant improvement in resource use efficiency. Despite this, the total consumption of resources is projected to consistently rise to 2020, indicating that in most cases the volume effects of economic growth and increased total production and consumption outweigh the efficiency improvements. For
example, while OECD countries reduced the energy intensity of their economies by 31% between 1973 and 1996,
they increased total energy consumption by 23% over the same period. This trend is expected to continue, with
total energy use in OECD countries projected to grow by a further 35% to 2020 under the Reference Scenario,
while the intensity of energy use in the economy declines by almost 20% (see Chapter 12).
Similarly, waste generation, which can be considered to be an indirect indicator of how society uses raw materials, continues to increase, although the average annual growth rate has slowed down: from 3% between 1980
and 1990 to about 1% between 1991 and 1997. The Reference Scenario projects that the generation of municipal
waste in OECD regions will increase by a further 43% from 1997 to 2020, amounting to 770 million tonnes
in 2020. Despite a continuous emphasis on preventing waste generation and encouraging waste recycling, socio-
Figure 23.1. Resource and material intensity of OECD economies, total use and intensity
of use relative to GDP, 1980-2020
Index, 1980 = 100
Total use
Generation of municipal waste
Intensity of use per GDP
Energy use
Water abstractions
Generation of municipal waste
Energy use
Water abstractions
Sources: OECD (1999) and Reference Scenario.
© OECD 2001
demographic developments – such as the trend towards smaller households associated with increasing affluence and
consumption levels – are expected to result in continued increases in municipal waste generation (see Chapter 20).
In some cases, significant improvements in resource use efficiency have resulted in only modest increases in
the total amount of resources used and – in some countries – even in reductions in the total use of selected
resources. A reduction in per capita freshwater use of 11% since 1980 has meant that total water use by OECD
countries rose by only about 5% over that period, and almost one-third of OECD countries realised net reductions
in their total water use (see Chapter 8). In other cases, however, there are no signs at all of a de-coupling of environmentally damaging trends from GDP growth. This is true, for example, for transportation, with projections that
motor vehicle kilometres travelled in OECD regions will increase by a projected 40% to 2020, and passenger air
kilometres are expected to almost triple worldwide (see Chapter 14).
Many of the studies that have been conducted on resource use show similar results: in general, increased total
production and consumption have outweighed the efficiency improvements in resource use. For example, the
World Resources Institute recently analysed the material output flows for five OECD countries (Austria, Germany,
Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States) between 1975 and 1996 (Matthews, et al., 2000). The report shows
that the materials outflow intensity of all the studied countries has fallen since 1975. Resource inputs and waste
outputs rose relatively little on a per capita basis and fell dramatically when measured against units of economic
output. However, overall resource use and waste flows into the environment continued to grow. From 1975
to 1996, the total quantities of wastes, emissions, and discharges in all studied countries increased by between 16%
and 29%. For example, flows of fuel-related contaminants to the US environment increased by about 25%
between 1975 and 1996. The report projects that these trends will continue into the future. The global throughput
of material is likely to triple over the next 50 years, including a nearly 300% rise in global energy consumption and
manufacturing activity. Over the same period, the world’s population is projected to increase by 50% and global
economic activity is expected to increase roughly five-fold.
A scenario analysis of future trends in the use of various resources and materials undertaken by the United
Nations show comparable results. With assumed sectoral growth rates of between 1.7% and 2.7% per annum, significant improvements in “material efficiency” are projected even under the most pessimistic scenario (assuming
that existing technologies and current trends continue). Nonetheless, absolute consumption continues to rise for all
materials under the most optimistic scenario (assuming that technologies which are not currently commercially
available will gradually come on stream) (Worrell et al., 1997).
23.4. Determinants of changes in resource use efficiency
Resource prices and scarcity
For most firms, the motivation to improve resource use efficiency is primarily commercial: efforts will be made
to improve the efficiency of resource use as long as this will result in financial cost saving, regardless of whatever
regulations regarding resource use may exist. For instance, many firms have cited the commercial benefits of improving the efficiency with which they use energy, water and other natural resources. Although price per se is one of the
most important variables influencing commercial motivation, governments can influence the attitude of firms towards
resource use. Factors such as penalties for non-compliance, probability of enforcement, and loss of reputation can
affect the motivation of firms. For example, they may increase their recycling of natural resources and reduce their
emissions of toxics because they do not want to be perceived as “polluters” by their customers, their investors are concerned about potential future liability claims, or regulators are requiring improved environmental performance.
The relationship between resource prices and resource use is rather straightforward in theory: as resource scarcity increases, prices will rise and resource users and exploiters will have incentives to “save” on these resources.
Figure 23.2 shows recent trends in real resource prices for a number of resources and resource-based products.
Regardless of whether the prices are for non-renewable or renewable resources, they have shown a general downward trend.
© OECD 2001
Figure 23.2. Indices of real primary commodity prices, 1980-1998
Index, 1980 = 100
Natural gas
Iron ore
Source: IMF (1999).
Of the primary commodities shown here, only oil is likely to become economically scarce in the foreseeable
future. While oil reserve estimates are uncertain, it is expected that many non-OPEC oil fields will have passed
their periods of peak production before 2020 (OECD, 1997a). As world oil supply is likely to become even more
concentrated in the Middle East, the oil market could become more volatile, resulting in unstable oil prices. Declining real resource prices, such as those identified for the other commodities, are likely to generate incentives for a
greater substitution of these resources in place of other factor inputs,2 thus weakening incentives for greater
resource efficiency.
For renewables, the future flow of resources will depend on the size of the stock. There is a priori no reason
to expect that increased exploitation rates today will result in increased prices tomorrow. In forestry and fisheries,
“cultivation” technologies (plantation forests and aquaculture fisheries) are being applied that produce bigger harvests. The situation appears to be stabilising in terms of forest resource stocks in OECD countries, with total forest
coverage stable or increasing in part because of the growth in intensive plantation forests. However, a continuing
trend of net deforestation is occurring outside of OECD regions (see Chapter 10). In the fishery sector, 9 of 16 FAO
marine regions are over-fished according to FAO (FAO, 1999). Increases in the amount of fish harvested worldwide
are expected to 2020, but all or most of the increase is expected to come from new aquaculture developments.
Barriers to resource use efficiency
Attempts to improve resource use efficiency face several barriers: they can be economic, regulatory, or physical, or they can result from a lack of information. The most recognised of these are market and intervention failures
and inefficiencies. Equally important is the “locking-in” of resource use in existing technologies and practices,
because of high sunk investment costs and social inertia, that can inhibit change (OECD, 1998). The lack of access
to information throughout the economy on resource and energy use efficiency and technological alternatives also
represents a “barrier”.
2. Assuming the relative prices of the other factor inputs remain stable, decrease less than the natural resource prices, or even
© OECD 2001
Market failures, such as the non-internalisation of externalities or missing or poorly defined property rights, are
a primary barrier to resource use efficiency. If the price users pay for a resource does not reflect both the cost of its
exploitation and the associated environmental services, then consumption will be excessive. Under current market
arrangements, the value of environmental services is not properly reflected in the market price. Moreover, in many
cases, government interventions have made the situation even worse. Many government subsidies and other policies
intended to support or protect resource exploitation encourage greater use of related resources. For instance, many
governments subsidise resource exploitation directly (e.g. subsidies for coal mining) or indirectly (e.g. road construction in forested areas). These policies inhibit innovation and can lead to higher levels of pollution or resource intensity
than would occur in a more open market. The costs of energy and materials tend to be relatively small for most firms,
yet these are sometimes subsidised even though their production and use generate negative externalities. Subsidy
reform, green tax reform (e.g. shifting taxation from labour to pollution and resource use), and the creation of future markets in environmental goods would provide economy-wide dynamic incentives for improving resource use efficiency.
The phenomenon of technological, behavioural and institutional “locking-in” makes any change look costly,
even where changes would bring large economic benefits (Jaeger, 1997). Important changes do happen, but their
timing is unpredictable and they are hard to manage. A large organisational change has occurred in recent years in
newly deregulated industries, such as airlines and electricity companies. The gasoline engine, however, is an example of a technology that has so far survived all attempts to replace it. The massive infrastructure that has been installed
for manufacturing engines and supplying fuel, the low-cost and high performance resulting from “learning-by-doing”,
and the presence of scale economies makes it extremely hard for any radical technological changes to enter the market.
However, electric battery or fuel cell technology could compete with the gasoline engine in the near future, if produced in large enough volumes (see Chapter 14). In this area, no single firm or group of companies is ready to make
the massive investments needed for creating a new transportation infrastructure because it is still unclear which technology will prove to be best and what the financial results would be of such an investment. Government initiatives
can play a significant role in this field. Governments will need to continue to support investment in physical infrastructure, including transport and communication networks, and long-term research in basic science.
23.5. Policy issues
Table 23.1 shows the potential means by which improvements in resource efficiency can be achieved. These
include: resource saving, resource reusing, resource prolonging, and resource substituting (Johnstone, 2001).
Table 23.1.
Channels through which increases in resource efficiency can be achieved
Nature of change
Resource saving
Involves changes in products and production
technologies which allow for the use of less
inputs per unit of output.
– Increasing use of drip-irrigation systems in agriculture
(see Chapter 7).
– Downsizing of motor vehicles (see Chapter 14) and
electronic goods.
– The wider use of electric arc furnaces and continuous
casting technologies in steel production
(see Chapter 17).
Resource reusing
Involves the increased use of “secondary”
resources in production.
– Production of steel from scrap (see Chapter 17).
– Increasing use of recovered paper (see Chapter 18).
– Increasing energy recovery from waste incineration
(see Chapter 20).
Resource prolonging*
Involves the use of processes which allow for
relatively more product durability, slowing
down material turnover rates.
– The use of new longer-lasting composite materials.
– Product (or component) re-design, allowing for longer
Resource substituting
Involves the use of alternative resource inputs – The substitution of renewables or non-exhaustible
in manufacturing processes and in products.
energy sources in place of fossil fuels (see Chapter 12).
– The use of fibre optics in place of copper wiring.
A possible conflict exists between the environmental benefits of increased product durability and the benefits of more rapid development and
diffusion of new, cleaner technologies. Furthermore, some advanced materials like composites are high performing and can be very durable,
but they require more energy and other inputs to produce, create more waste in their manufacturing, and are practically non-recyclable.
© OECD 2001
The diverse nature and utility of natural resources require a comprehensive approach to policies for improving
resource use efficiency. The current and future technological changes are expected to have significant environmental spill-overs. The Polluter Pays Principle and the User Pays Principle should play an important role in providing
adequate incentives for resource use efficiency to resource users and exploiters. However, prices alone cannot provide sufficient incentives for sustainable resource use in the short run. Stronger pricing signals should be combined
with direct regulations, voluntary agreements, and information-based instruments in the relevant policy areas. In
many cases, the most important policies bearing on resource use efficiency may not be motivated by environmental
concerns but instead by other interests. Policy co-ordination with non-environmental government agencies and the
development of synergies with different policy areas are required.
Technological development
In many cases, improvements in resource use efficiency are associated with technological development. Considerable saving and substitution in energy consumption and the use of materials (e.g. a reduction in energy consumption or material input per unit of output), as well as a substantial reduction in emissions and waste generation,
can be achieved by optimising technological systems. Significant reductions in the input of scarce materials
(e.g. metals or groundwater) per unit of output can only be expected from improved industrial production systems
and technological change.
Several technology foresight studies have identified a
number of technologies that are emerging. Among these,
The net effects on resource use of
the development of information and communication
the rapid development of many
technology (ICT) and biotechnology is expected to have
new technologies – including
significant environmental spillovers (see Chapter 6). Bioinformation and communication
technology, including genetically modified organisms
technologies (ICTs) and modern
(GMOs), are being proposed as the solution to some of our
biotechnology – are unclear.
resource use problems: they have the potential to reduce
the amount of damaging inputs (e.g. pesticides, fertilisers,
antibiotics) used in natural resource sectors (e.g. agriculture, forestry, fisheries), and increase production levels to
meet human needs. However, they may also have potentially negative effects on human health and on global ecosystems, which should be clarified further. Similarly, progress in ICT can improve the way information is treated,
stored, and diffused, and also has the potential to bring about structural changes in other industrial sectors, through
better eco-efficiency and de-materialisation. However, they also have the potential for negative environmental
impacts, such as greater consumption of electricity and paper for ICT devices, and more waste generation from the
short lifecycle of computers (see Chapter 6).
It is important to design and implement adequate environmental policies that provide long-term incentives for
developing and diffusing new environmentally friendly technologies, including those that can lead to a de-materialisation of the economy and a reduction in resource intensity. Environmental policies, however, are often insufficient to induce radical and continuous innovations for de-coupling environmental degradation from economic
development on their own. Effective co-ordination between environmental policy and technological/innovation
policy will be needed to realise more significant changes.
Effects of environmental policy on resource use
The intensity of resource use can be influenced by a variety of environmental policies. The traditional
approach of “end-of-pipe” pollution control regulations is often criticised because of its innovation-stifling effects
compared with the use of market-based instruments. The actual effect of regulatory instruments on resource efficiency depends on the way they are designed and implemented. Regulatory instruments that specify the use of certain inputs and processes may limit innovation and provide little incentive to change patterns of resources. In some
cases, however, regulations are needed to ensure sustainable use of resources, where market-based instruments
would not be able to achieve the same effects, or only at very high administrative costs. For example, imposing
© OECD 2001
constraints on the nature of resource exploitation – such as fishing gear restrictions or minimum fish sizes – are
often used to ensure the sustainable use of these resources.
Policies to promote resource use efficiency need to address both the supply and the demand side. Environmentally perverse subsidies should be removed to improve market functioning. Economic incentives to address
pollution emissions tend also to increase the profitability of reduced energy and materials use through internalising
the environmental externalities arising from this use. Charges and taxes on pollutants (e.g. SO x, NOx, CO2) have
been introduced in a number of OECD countries, and have in many cases proven to be more cost-effective in reducing pollution than regulatory standards. Natural resource management policies which increase the price of primary
resources, such as fishing licenses, timber concession fees, and mineral deposit rents, will result in a more efficient
use of resources downstream. In some cases, this can also be achieved by creating property rights – e.g. tradable
fishing quotas – for the resource.
Improved information about environmental impacts and greater consumer demand for green products are
likely to make it more profitable for firms to develop environmentally friendly technologies and business operations. In this regard, developing indicators of resource use is important. Assuming that manufacturers will respond
to consumer demand, efficiency standards combined with eco-labelling can promote the production of resource
efficient consumer durables (IEA, 1997; OECD, 1997b). Helping firms to recognise and act upon commercial
opportunities – for example improved environmental accounting procedures – can change resource use practices.
In the field of resource re-use and recycling, public information sharing plays an important role. The markets for
secondary materials and components are growing, but information about them is not sufficient. Government procurement policies and the provision of suitable information to the public through information sharing can also
improve the performance of secondary materials markets. Environmental education, focused on training in professions that have large and lasting influences on infrastructure development, institutions and lifestyles, can contribute
to improving resource use efficiency.
Policy integration
The most important policies determining resource use efficiency may not be environmental. For instance, the
fiscal treatment of capital investment can have a considerable effect on the turnover of the capital stock of a company. Depreciation allowances and tax preferences for new investment will affect the firm’s decision about when
to scrap capital equipment and undertake new investment. Sustainable resource management can be achieved when
policies encourage a longer-term view by decision-makers at all levels. This implies that sectoral ministries at the
national level should incorporate the environmentally sustainable management of natural resources in their respective areas.
Although transport, energy and industry ministries in many governments used to view environmental policy
as a problem rather than a set of shared objectives, some governments are now beginning to succeed in the integration of environmental, economic and sectoral policies (OECD, 1998). A number of governments have produced
joint policy documents on their strategies for sustainable development and climate change. More intensive interministerial efforts at all levels in the various ministries can be a major step towards achieving synergistic effects in
improving resource use efficiency.
© OECD 2001
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) (1999), Review of the State of World Fishery Resources,
FAO, Rome.
IMF (International Monetary Fund) (1999), Indices of Primary Commodity Prices, IMF, Washington, DC.
IEA (International Energy Agency) (1997), Indicators of Energy Use and Efficiency, IEA/OECD, Paris.
Jaeger, C. (1997), “Presentation to OECD Workshop on Fostering Eco-Efficiency: the Role of Government”, Paris,
3-4 September.
Matthews, E., C. Amann, S. Bringezu, M. Fischer-Kowalski, W. Hüttler, R. Kleijn, Y. Moriguchi, C. Ottke, E. Rodenburg, H. Schandl, H. Schútz, E.V.D. Voet, and H. Weisz (2000), The Weight of Nations: Material Outflows from Industrial
Economies, WRI, Washington, DC.
OECD (1997a), The World in 2020, Towards a New Global Age, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1997b), “CO2 Emissions from Road Vehicles”, OECD/GD(97)69, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1998), Eco-Efficiency, OECD, Paris.
OECD (1999), OECD Environmental Data: Compendium 1999, OECD, Paris.
Johnstone, N. (2001), “Resource Efficiency and the Environment”, background document for the OECD Environmental Outlook, OECD, Paris.
Worrell, E., M.D. Levine, L.K. Price, N.C. Martin, R. van de Broek and K. Blok (1997), “Potentials and Policy Implications of Energy and Material Efficiency Improvement”, UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
Development, New York.
© OECD 2001
Section VII
Traffic lights have been used in this report to signal key trends and projections to
2020 for environmental pressures, the state of the environment, and some of the
societal and political responses to these pressures that have been emerging. The
signals table provides a summary overview of some of the main areas of concern
for OECD countries. The chapter on institutional frameworks for the
environment examines the adequacy of both the international and national
institutional frameworks to support the policies needed to address the most
serious environmental problems facing OECD countries. The chapter on policy
packages to address the main environmental problems suggests packages of
policy instruments that could be used to tackle the “red lights” identified in the
report, with an analysis of some of their potential effects if they were to be
Signals of the OECD Environmental Outlook
• Industrial point
source pollution
ENVIRONMENT • Some air pollutants
(lead, CFCs, CO, SOx)
• Water use
• Toxic emissions from
• Hazardous waste
• Energy production
and use
STATE OF THE • Forest coverage in
OECD regions
• Surface water quality
• Biodiversity
• Forest quality in OECD • Tropical forest
• Ozone layer integrity
• Fish stocks
• Groundwater quality
• Urban air quality
• Climate change
• Chemicals in the
"Green” purchasing
"Green” agriculture
Protected areas
Resource efficiency
Energy efficiency
• Agricultural pollution
• Over-fishing
• Greenhouse gas
• Motor vehicle and
aviation air pollution
• Municipal waste
Forest plantations
Energy and transport
• Waste management
Note: The “green light” signals pressures that are decreasing or conditions in the state of the environment for which the
future outlook to 2020 looks positive. It is also used to signal societal responses that are helping alleviate the problems identified. The “yellow light” signals areas of uncertainty or potential problems. The “red light” signals
NSpressures on the environment or environmental issues for which recent trends have been negative and are
expected to continue to 2020, or for which recent trends have been more stable, but are expected to worsen.
© OECD 2001
Institutional Frameworks
for the Environment
• The environmental problems of the future are likely to be more complex and difficult to resolve than those of the
past. They will involve addressing diffuse sources of pollution, and enhancing globally shared resources and sinks.
The achievement of environmental objectives will sometimes involve difficult trade-offs with other policy objectives (e.g. economic, social); at other times, it will be possible for one set of policy objectives to contribute to
another (“win-win” situations).
• Environmental policy-making is likely to increasingly be developed under the guidance of environmental principles or approaches: for example, the Polluter and User Pays Principles, the precautionary approach, the principle
of full cost recovery and the complete internalisation of environmental externalities.
• New policy instruments will be required to complement regulations and economic instruments in tackling the new
environmental problems. These will include increasing use of information-based tools (e.g. eco-labels, civil society
consultations, and environmental education), demand-side management policies to influence consumption patterns, and co-operative and voluntary approaches for business and industry.
• Governments are likely to increasingly be seen as facilitators and catalysts of environmental policy development,
rather than as providers of environmental protection. Stakeholders will increasingly be considered partners in the
process of policy development and implementation.
• At the international level, the need for better integration among existing multilateral environmental agreements
(MEAs) and for better co-ordination between existing international environmental organisations and agreements is
likely to intensify. The focus will be on the ratification and implementation of existing agreements, and the development of appropriate systems for monitoring and enforcement. Multilateral economic and trade institutions will
increasingly be called upon to assess and address the environmental impacts of the activities they administer.
• OECD countries will need to strengthen their dialogues with developing countries and countries with economies
in transition, particularly regarding environmental problems of mutual concern.
24.1. Introduction
This chapter provides an outlook for the institutional frameworks which affect environmental policies in
OECD countries. A relatively broad understanding of “institutions” is used, extending beyond just “organisations”,
and including the roles played by specific actors in key decisions that influence environmental performance. It also
takes the view that it is not only environmental actors who are relevant – the roles of several non-environmental actors
are also discussed, where appropriate. The chapter examines both national and international institutional frameworks, and how stakeholders can contribute to successful policy development. This introduction starts with a discussion of the evolving context in which environmental institutions are developing.
In the early stages of the environmental movement, the main objective was to establish environmental concerns on the public policy agenda. A certain confrontational approach therefore developed, as the pollution control
agenda tended to compete with economic interests (transport, energy, industry, agriculture) in an effort to establish
adequate environmental controls and standards. Later, as the place of environmental issues at the policy table
became more assured, the problem switched to one of finding better ways of communicating environmental needs
to economic partners. At this point, the emphasis began to shift to “policy integration”.
Awareness also grew that environmental problems were very much part of a system, and should not generally
be perceived in isolation of that system. The ecological services provided by the environment therefore gradually
© OECD 2001
came to be more fully recognised, and reinforced the need for more integrative solutions. In recent years, the policy
emphasis has been shifting away from essentially an environment/economy focus, to also include social concerns.
The links between the environment, the economy, and social development have been emphasised by the concept
of sustainable development – an idea given substantial profile by the Brundtland Commission in the mid-1980s
(World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987), and reinforced by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) meeting in Rio de Janeiro.
Although many of the “old” environmental issues (generally pollution control) remain high on the environmental policy agenda, a range of “new” issues (e.g. nature/biodiversity protection, biotechnology, sustainable development, and strategic planning) are also receiving greater attention (Burke, 1998). For example, some
OECD countries have recently established a constitutional right to a clean environment, and a few have adopted
formal plans for the deeper integration of environmental and economic policies. For the future, it seems likely
that the focus on sustainable development will continue to grow, placing increasing emphasis on the interrelationships between the environment, the economy, and social objectives. This implies that environment-related
institutions will most likely have to operate in an increasingly complex context over the period covered by this
The early emphasis on point sources of pollution also led to a focus on the economic actors who could
make the quickest (and cheapest) contributions to reducing that pollution – the polluting enterprises themselves.
In turn, this caused environmental policy to focus mainly on the supply side of the economy. For example, with
the emergence of the Polluter Pays Principle in 1972, firms were told that they would have to bear the costs of
meeting environmental regulations imposed on them, and they were increasingly required to conduct environmental impact assessments related to their activities. Certain forms of environmental infrastructure were targeted for upgrading (e.g. water and sewage). Contingency plans were developed to help avoid such eventualities
as major oil spills. Enterprises were strongly encouraged to use the best available technologies in their production processes.2
As it became clear that not all environmental problems could be resolved (at least at reasonable cost) by focusing on the supply side alone, more attention began to be paid to potential contributions from consumers and other
parts of the demand system. The User Pays Principle emerged as a logical complement to the Polluter Pays Principle (Smets, 1999); eco-labelling, consumer boycotts, and more elaborate systems for recycling household waste
also began to appear. In the future, the demand aspects of environmental questions will become more important.
The idea of eco-efficiency at the level of the firm is already broadening out to encompass resource efficiency questions more generally. Life-cycle considerations and the concept of “integrated pollution prevention and control”
are gaining acceptance. Emphasis is also shifting toward more strategic environmental impact assessment.
The transboundary or global nature of many of the environmental issues that are of most concern to OECD
countries for the future will increase the possibility that these issues may be transformed into potential security
threats. Environmental security issues can arise when an environmental problem is considered to be so threatening
that extensive and immediate action needs to be taken, outside the domain of traditional environmental policy-making (see Box 24.1). In some cases these can lead to conflict. Examples of potential or actual environmental security
threats include water scarcity or pollution (particularly where the available water resources are shared by two or
more countries), the depletion of fish stocks in open seas fisheries, changing climate conditions resulting from global warming, and nuclear accidents or major chemical spills.
1. For example, the Amsterdam Treaty of the European Union “…emphasises the integration of environmental protection into
Community policies, in order to achieve sustainable development”. The 1998 Cardiff European Council then invited “… all
relevant formations of the Council to establish their own strategies for giving effect to environmental integration and sustainable development within their respective policy areas…”. The Transport, Energy and Agriculture Councils were invited
to start this process.
2. Recycling issues were a notable exception to this. Recycling – largely a demand-side question – has been part of the environmental agenda for some time. So has demand management in certain economic sectors, notably energy (especially since
the energy crises of the 1970s).
© OECD 2001
Box 24.1. Potential environmental security threats
An environmental problem becomes a security issue when it is “presented as an existential threat, requiring emergency measures and identifying actions outside the normal bounds of political procedures” (Buzan et al., 1998). This
Outlook shows that some environmental problems are likely to significantly worsen in the period to 2020 (the “red
light” issues). Some of these problems have the potential to lead to environmental security threats affecting OECD
countries. However, different regions and countries may face different environmental security threats depending on
regional factors, such as the scope of the underlying environmental problem as well as the political and administrative capacity to address the problem. Important factors determining the potential for an environmental problem to
develop into a security threat in a given region or country include economic vulnerability, technological capacity,
cultural and ethno-political factors, political culture and political stability, the assimilative capacity of the environment, and the rate of regeneration of the natural resources.
The linkages between environmental issues and security call for a co-operative and integrated approach towards
conflict prevention or resolution. Preventative action is preferred, as solutions can become very expensive and complex once an environmental problem has evolved into a security issue. Agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, the
Montreal Protocol, the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as numerous bilateral and multilateral water-sharing agreements, are examples of efforts to address potential environmental security threats in a co-operative manner.
It is likely that the future will also see increasing debate about the use of precaution in environmental policy,
both at the national and the international level. Given the uncertainty and lack of available data concerning many
of the most worrisome environmental issues, some countries have moved away from adopting only those environmental policies that are firmly backed up by a strong scientific basis. Following Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration
on Environment and Development, the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing
cost-effective measures to prevent environmental damage, where there is a threat of serious or irreversible damage.
The idea of “precaution” is now embodied in the national laws of several OECD countries, and has been part of
the multilateral environmental institutional framework since at least the 1987 Conference on the Protection of the
North Sea. It has found its way into the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention
on Biological Diversity and its Protocol on Biosafety. It has also been incorporated into the Treaty of the European
Union. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises also contain a recommendation to business concerning
the need for precaution in environmental matters. Current debates about such questions as the potential impacts of
genetically modified organisms and food safety make it likely that this approach will shape future policies in the
area of environment and health.
Given the changes that have been occurring in the nature, scope, and focus of environmental policies, it is not
surprising that the institutional framework erected to support environmental policies has also been undergoing considerable change. Table 24.1 summarises some of the changes that are taking place. The rows in this Table outline
three periods in the evolution of the institutional framework. The first period was from about 1965 to 1985; the
second ran from about 1985 to the present; and the third covers the Outlook period from now until 2020. These dates
are merely indicative, and are intended only to provide a sense of the evolution of institutional changes over time. The
columns reflect several important dimensions of the institutional framework as related to the environment.
24.2. National institutional frameworks
Early national environmental institutions were characterised by considerable rigidity and hierarchy. They also
tended to have mandates that were limited to single (and narrowly based) issues. Environment Departments, for
example, typically had the mandate to protect the environment. Environmental problems were based on “science”,
© OECD 2001
Evolving Policy Context
National environmental
• Environment vs.
• Supply focus
• Environment and • More flexible
structures, but
economy (e.g.
tradition still
sectoral integration)
• Demand focus
• Decentralisation
(pricing, UPP,
of activities to
local level
• Government as
• Environmental
increasingly need
economics skills
• Environment,
economy, and social
• Integrated supply
and demand
focus (IPCC, LCA,
SEIA, resource
• Precautionary
become more
• Rigid structures
• Government as
• Environmental
institutions are
dominated by
considerations and
Institutional framework – recent evolution and future outlook
• Institutional
• Economic growth
• Developmental
power lies mainly
goal dominates
stage (nichewith the OECD
• Environment is
viewed in negative
• Environment goals
(“increased cost”)
• Policy goals are
often expressed
in qualitative terms
• Economy is viewed
in negative
“source-of-theproblem”) terms
• Partial integration • Co-existence with
stage (links to
• Focus is on
dismantling rules
institutions expand)
that are seen to
• MEAs also expand
be protectionist
• Environment is
viewed in more
neutral terms
© OECD 2001
• Full integration
• Open/flexible
stage (MEAs are
more socially and
• Emphasis on
sensitive (e.g.
• Government as
“facilitator and
• Policy goals are
• Decentralisation
expressed in
continues, but
quantitative terms
emphasis is
increasingly on
• Need for
• Role of government
does not decline,
but it must evolve
• Environmental
institutions now
need integrated
analysis skills
Integrated action across all the future columns becomes more important
• Focus on
• Narrow-based,
single issue
• NGOs are often
from key policy
• Business objects
to environmental
rules (“defensive”
• Business
• More systematic
• Institutional power • Focus on
consultation and
of the developing
co-operates with
public participation
(networking, aided
• Increasing
in defining and
by the Internet)
emphasis on
• Capacity building,
• NGOs’ influence
technology transfer,
over routine policy
(access to
and recognition
decisions begins to
of “differentiated
increase (MAI, WTO,
all become more
• Concerns grow
about the NGO
• Developing
• Environment is
countries become
viewed in more
full partners in the
positive terms
search for
• Recognition that
new environmental
solutions to
rules may need
to be constructed
problems (and in
as part of
the work of related
economic systems
• Institutional
governance, mutual
commitments and
become more
• Business becomes
• Focus on dialogue • NGOs become
more pro-active in
“working partners”
• Accountability,
protecting the
in key policy
and ultimately
• Government
become vital for
in achieving
institutions need to
adapt to the
emerging NGO
• Role of business
• Environmental
in the global
education plays a • Increased
networking among
larger role
effort intensifies
• Increasing ability of
(both MNEs and
the general public
to shape
• Worldwide
operations are
policies/actions (e.g.
boycotts, company
subjected to “best
practices” criteria
• Privatisation
expands, but does
not dominate
Table 24.1.
so most staff in Environment Departments had scientific or engineering backgrounds, and there was little interface
with other policy communities – even though these other communities were often directly affected by environmental policies, as well as being important vectors for implementing them. One key result of the broadening nature,
focus, and scope of environmental problems was that environment ministries began to expand their internal capacities for economic analysis. Another result was that these ministries began to adopt more flexible (i.e. negotiated)
approaches to achieving their policy goals. Underlying science was still important (as were the regulations based
on that science), but policy trade-offs based on economic or social considerations could now also be taken into
account in some circumstances.
A similar shift was occurring within national economic institutions. Recognising the growing political importance of environmental questions, many sectoral economic ministries began to develop environmental units within
their organisational structures. Agriculture ministries in particular led this trend, but it was apparent within many
transport and energy ministries as well. One important result was that environmental issues came to be more routinely dealt with by these sectoral ministries, rather than having solutions imposed on them by the Environment
ministries. Another result was that the sectoral ministries developed many of their internal capacities for dealing
with environmental issues, and for explaining their views on these issues directly to the general public, without
having to rely on technical expertise from their environmental colleagues.
Several countries also created inter-ministerial working groups or Cabinet-level Committees, Commissions
of Enquiry, Task Forces, etc., to more fully examine the interface between the economy, the environment, and society at large. For example, Canada established National and Provincial Round Tables on the Environment and the
Economy, drawing together representatives from business, government, and the public to generate strategies for
environmentally-sustainable economic development. Canada has also created a Commissioner of the Environment
and Sustainable Development in the Office of the Auditor-General. Each government department is required to prepare a sustainable development strategy which, in turn, is evaluated by the Commissioner.
Responsibility for environmental decision-making has also been significantly decentralised in some countries, and in some sectors of the economy. Recent changes in the structure of the Netherlands’ Water Boards, for
example, will mean that a larger and more diverse portion of the population is now empowered to elect General
Councils. This reform is expected to allow a broader range of interests to be reflected in Council decisions (OECD,
1999). Several countries have also made efforts to consolidate their environmental legislation. For example, New
Zealand's Resource Management Act (1991) consolidates 75 former statutes into a single law. It also places a duty
on policy-makers to assess the costs and benefits of the most efficient and effective means for promoting sustainable land use, in addition to requiring integrated management of pollution and waste.
For the future, the trend toward more local responsibility in institutional structures and operating procedures
is likely to continue. This is in line with the principle of “subsidiarity”, a basic tenet of institutional behaviour in
many countries. However, this trend may be limited by concerns that excessive decentralisation could lead to unacceptable inefficiencies. It will also be limited by regional institutions that have been entrusted with particular
(supra-national) mandates by their participants, such as the European Union.
The growing complexity of the sustainable development issue will also make it increasingly difficult for traditional (vertical) institutional structures to deliver credible results. Consequently, there may be a greater reliance
on an institutional approach that has been used by the NGO community for some time with considerable success
– the idea of (horizontal) “networking” (Reinicke, 1999). This is based on the premise that individuals and groups
– not formal organisations – drive innovation. Networking is a bottom-up approach to building institutions, and its
use has been greatly facilitated in this global information age. It can help policy-makers deal with three key aspects
of modern environmental problems: i) managing knowledge flows; ii) focusing on particular market and intergovernmental failures; and iii) broadening participation in decisions. All of this will be part of a trend toward more
horizontal institutional structures – structures that are capable of quick reaction, multidisciplinary analysis, and a
significant degree of structural flexibility. It is also likely that business, NGOs, and governments (in both OECD
and non-OECD countries) will become more integrated into these networks.
Some observers argue that the role of national governments is set to become progressively weaker as economic globalisation intensifies. This is because the increasing mobility of economic resources in a globalised econ© OECD 2001
omy implies less ability to control these flows by (essentially static) governments. But it is also because economic
activity is likely to be more complex tomorrow than it is today, and governments are often assumed to not have the
internal flexibility to adjust quickly (and adequately) to this additional complexity. Others dispute this view, arguing that “...the state may no longer be able to impose outcomes on all dimensions of policy, but it will remain a key
institution in sustaining governance of the international economy... It will make international agreements stick,
upwards because it represents a territory, and downwards because it is a constitutionally legitimate power” (Hirst
and Thompson, 1995; see also Rosecrance, 1996 and Finger, 1999).
For a number of reasons, the latter view seems more likely to prevail, and certainly over the period covered
by the Outlook. First, controlling environmental externalities is essential for the provision of public goods. While
there is certainly now an expanding role for the private sector (see Box 24.2), the government still has a basic
responsibility to protect the public interest in environmental matters. Not only will national governments be necessary to set the operating rules through which economic transactions take place (contribution to sustainable
growth), they will also be needed to ensure that market failures do not lead to long-term environmental degradation
(contribution to sustainable development).
Second, although national governments will probably agree (for efficiency reasons) to devolve more responsibility for environmental policies to the local level, it will still be important (for equity reasons) to retain some
degree of control to ensure that key issues are being handled in a relatively consistent manner. Public opinion will
increasingly highlight any gap between environmental policies/laws and their actual implementation, and national
governments will become more and more accountable to the public for this “implementation gap”.
Third, national governments will probably need to enter into new multilateral arrangements aimed either at
resolving specific trans-boundary environmental problems, or at reducing the international competitiveness effects of
national environmental policies. In an era where environmental problems (and their economic implications) are
becoming increasingly international and there is an increased risk of regional or international environmental security
threats, the need for national governments to become more expert with environmental co-operation at the international
level is likely to intensify.
Box 24.2. Increasing privatisation of environmentally related services
Governments are often criticised for being inefficient economically or financially in their management of public utilities (e.g. electricity, urban water and waste management services). These inefficiencies are also often accused of inhibiting the very innovations that could help reduce environmental stresses over the long term. Greater use of private
markets can, in some circumstances, make an important contribution to both environmental and economic objectives.
However, privatisation is not always feasible. For example, the environmental service involved may be a natural
monopoly (e.g. water supplies), making it politically difficult to justify the transfer of such a vital resource into private
hands, even with the creation of a public regulatory body to supervise it. In this context, the provision of adequate supplies of public goods could be compromised. There are also technical limitations to privatisation. For example, where
the capital expenditures involved in developing environmental services are large in comparison with the marginal cost
of connecting an additional user to that service, it may be uneconomic to privatise only a portion of that investment.
These limitations notwithstanding, the government role in providing many environmental services has recently
been shifting in many countries, from that of being the primary provider of those services, to that of being the creator
and regulator of an operating environment which allows communities, the private sector, and non-governmental
organisations to become more active in providing these services themselves. For example, substantial privatisation
of some aspects of public water supply services has recently been taking place in OECD countries. Even where the
water system remains publicly-owned, service management is increasingly being delegated to private operators. This
approach seems particularly well-suited to decentralised systems, in which municipalities may see delegation as a
useful way of overcoming their own lack of technical expertise and/or financial resources. In the future, the processes
of economic globalisation and internal structural reform will probably create pressure for additional privatisation of
some activities related to environmental management. However, for the reasons mentioned above, it should not be
anticipated that the privatisation of environmental institutions will take place on a large scale during the period covered by the Outlook.
© OECD 2001
24.3. International institutional frameworks
Prior to 1980, some efforts had been made to develop international agreements or institutions aimed at protecting
the global commons. However, after the Brundtland report in 1987 public attention began to focus more intently on
these global problems. The number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and the scope and number of
regional and global environmental organisations dealing with global commons issues expanded. Many of the MEAs
established formal institutions with relatively specific mandates, and focused on specific environmental problems –
economic objectives were often not emphasized. Similarly, international economic agreements and the related institutions had previously ignored environmental needs, and the bodies charged with implementing these agreements
sometimes seemed to perceive environmental concerns both as a threat to the achievement of their own (economic)
objectives, and as the sole responsibility of the environmental community itself.
Both perceptions are now changing. It is increasingly understood that: i) poor environmental performance is not
a good basis for long-term economic growth and profitability; ii) environmental costs are often not a very significant
component of economic activity in any event; and iii) the key policy concern should be increased welfare, not only
increased economic output – with environmental quality being a legitimate component of the former. Economic globalisation is eroding the traditional view that international economic institutions can leave responsibility for environmental problems entirely to their environmental colleagues. Broadly, the public, particularly in OECD
countries, has become convinced that economic growth should be accompanied by appropriate policies at the
national level to protect the environment. Public pressure is therefore mounting on the international economic and
financial institutions (e.g. World Bank, Regional Development Banks, WTO, IMF, OECD) to demonstrate that
their activities can be reconciled with environmental needs. This broader, more integrative, context for policymaking is however generating a dilemma for international environmental and economic institutions alike. Environmental institutions are finding that scarce resources are having to be applied to the broader goal of sustainable development, and economic institutions are experiencing the same problem with respect to the environment. Changes are
likely to be appropriate on both fronts in the future.
Global and regional environmental institutions
A large number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) dealing with global commons issues currently exist, including those that address climate change, biodiversity loss, ozone protection, biosafety, hazardous
waste movements, marine pollution, etc. Many of the MEAs established formal institutions with a relatively specific mandate and focused on a single environmental problem. The United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP), established following the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment to play a catalytic role
in environmental issues in the United Nations system, initiated many of these international agreements. Several
other global institutions have also been established, including the United Nations Commission on Sustainable
Development (UNCSD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Five key functions have been identified for global environmental institutions, in particular for MEAs
(Waller-Hunter, 1999):
– Where possible, solid grounding in science as the basis for their authority. Without this underpinning, the
legitimacy of these institutions will ultimately be eroded.
– Use of quantitative environmental norms and standards in MEAs. MEAs that are confined to dealing with
procedural issues will increasingly be questioned on the basis of their actual contribution to improved environmental performance.
– Financial incentives and mechanisms for developing countries to participate actively in MEAs. This will
require greater consideration of competitiveness questions alongside environmental issues in the formulation of new MEAs.
– Involvement of the private sector and civil society in contributing to the goals of new MEAs.
– Providing compliance and monitoring systems and dispute settlement mechanisms.
© OECD 2001
Assessed against these functions, the current system of international environmental institutions can be characterised as somewhat incoherent and incomplete. The scientific function is in some cases under-performed, although
in many instances it is clear that full scientific understanding of environmental problems will be a long time in coming.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an
example of an institution developed specifically to provide a sound scientific basis for the further development of the
Convention. MEA-based institutions will also have to learn to accommodate efficiency and cost-effectiveness concerns in their activities. The Kyoto Protocol is a good example of this, inasmuch as it contains “flexibility mechanisms” aimed at increasing the (economic) efficiency of greenhouse gas emission abatement.
In general, MEAs lack effective compliance and dispute settlement mechanisms (see below), and substantive
synergies and efficiency gains in the implementation of MEAs are not brought forward as a result of unconnected
decision-making processes. This has led to an appeal for a more cohesive system of environmental institutions,
involving the major MEAs and organisations like UNEP, the CSD and other parts of the United Nations system
dealing with environmental issues (UNESCO, WMO, WHO, etc.). According to some, this could take the form of
a World Environment Organisation.
Box 24.3.
Compliance and enforcement mechanisms in MEAs
At present, there are few examples of MEAs that provide for successful enforcement procedures. Most international environmental agreements already contain provisions for dispute avoidance (conciliation, negotiation, mediation, etc.) and dispute settlement. However, because of difficulties in applying enforcement procedures at the
international level, the provisions for dispute settlement currently found in MEAs are generally designed in a way
that allows countries to be part of the MEA without submitting themselves to the dispute settlement mechanism. As
the obligations for parties under MEAs are becoming increasingly stringent, the need for stronger compliance and
enforcement mechanisms at the international level is growing. Already, a number of new or recent initiatives are paving the way for the development of more formalised enforcement mechanisms for international environmental agreements. In the future, compliance and enforcement procedures may be included at an earlier stage in the development
of international agreements, building confidence that the MEA will be both effective and fair.
Although there have been several recent high-profile global agreements dealing with environmental issues,
awareness is also growing that there are opportunities for more regional approaches to these problems (see
Kimball, 1992). The climate change debate (which emphasises that the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions
are produced by a relatively small number of countries), and the ozone depletion debate (where, again, the number
of producing countries is relatively small) have both reinforced this regional view.
The possibility of regional co-operation on environmental problems may be particularly important in the
future. For one thing, there can be significant transaction costs associated with negotiating and implementing global agreements – costs that may be considerably smaller among more homogenous and like-minded countries. For
another, more efficient targeting of the policy response to specific areas is often possible with a regional approach,
particularly for issues such as water scarcity, open seas fishing, or regional air pollution for which co-operative
regional agreements are already in place or developing in some areas.
Regional approaches can also help pave the way toward wider recognition of environmental goals at the global level. For example, broadening the basis of support for a given environmental standard from the national to the
regional level could help reduce concerns within trade/investment institutions about the discriminatory nature of
that standard, while still contributing to real progress in environmental performance within the regional grouping.
On the other hand, regional approaches may be interpreted in some contexts as attempts to exclude non-participants
from the benefits of the agreement. Appropriate care needs to be taken to reduce this concern.
© OECD 2001
International economic and financial institutions
The ways in which environmental considerations are dealt with by international economic and financial institutions also seems set to become more sophisticated in the future, especially if political momentum to further liberalise global trade and investment is to be maintained within OECD countries. It may not always be obvious how
to achieve this result. After all, international economic institutions have until now been largely concerned with dismantling rules which create barriers to trade and investment, whereas international environmental institutions have
tended to focus on constructing new rules which sometimes seem to go in precisely the opposite direction. Nor is
it obvious that economic institutions are always in the best position to develop efficient international responses to
environmental problems. It is still a basic principle of public policy that environmental policies are best enunciated
by environmental policy makers, and economic policies are best enunciated by economic ones.
Achieving a common understanding between the economic and environmental communities may ultimately
involve the dismantling of some existing rules, but will probably also involve the creation of new ones. Where new
rules are appropriate, the challenge will be to create ones that are as efficient as possible (e.g. not used as vehicles
for disguised protectionism), but that also incorporate criteria to adequately protect key environmental interests.
Both communities will therefore increasingly need to view environmental policies as opportunities for economic
policy, rather than constraints. “Clean technology” falls into this category, but so do less obvious elements, such as
“green consumer markets”. There will still be situations where environmental needs imply additional costs for
some economic actors, but even here, it is increasingly recognised that there may be ways of minimising these
costs, or of spreading them out in a way that allows the underlying environmental improvement to proceed.
Some progress is already occurring toward the kind of integration that is needed. The World Bank has for
some time been active in trying to reconcile the simultaneous need for economic growth, environmental protection
and, more recently, social development. The WTO established its Trade and Environment Committee in 1994, and
the OECD has had a similar Group since 1991. NAFTA contains an environmental sub-agreement. The OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises also contain a chapter on the environment. International financial institutions broadly include: i) the international investment and commercial banks; and ii) the multilateral development
banks. Both groups have already made considerable progress toward the incorporation of environmental goals into
their operating procedures, and they represent an increasingly important point of leverage over the environmental
behaviour of both investors and investees.
Commercial and investment banks play a key role in conveying new securities to international markets. They
also engage in “due diligence” procedures to determine company or project risks. In the US, Superfund liability
laws have (since 1990) forced commercial banks to evaluate environmental risks when real estate is used as collateral for loans. This approach (at least for loans backed by real estate) is gradually working its way into lending
practices in Europe and other industrialised regions. Investment banks are taking the lead in underwriting government bonds issued by developing country central banks, which accounted for almost half of the US$95 billion in
all bond issues from developing countries in 1997 (World Bank, 1998). Outside pressure from multilateral lenders
with strong environmental guidelines can sometimes cause these investors to hesitate to invest in projects that may
have unacceptable environmental consequences.
Most of the attention being devoted to date by investment and commercial banks to environmental matters
has been driven by liability and regulatory compliance issues, and is therefore focused on the “downside” of environmental performance. However, there is some evidence that this may now be changing, especially within the
commercial banking sector. For example, as of 1997, NatWest Group in the UK has offered below-market-rate
loans to firms with “best of class” environmental management practices. Sumitomo Bank of Japan also provides
low-priced loans for investments in Japanese firms that improve the efficiencies of raw material and energy use.
Like the commercial banks, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) have little direct influence in shaping portfolio flows from a financing angle. Still, as the world’s most important lenders to developing countries, the
standards they set for extending their own credit can have a significant influence via other financing institutions
whose own resources are often leveraged by multilateral development bank involvement. For example, the World
Bank’s environmental guidelines, which became official in late 1997, have been widely adopted by other public
institutions. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) also recently updated its Environmental Appraisal
© OECD 2001
Checklist. These standards, as well as similar ones from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
and the Asia Development Bank, are commonly referenced by both public and private financiers, especially in
developing “due diligence” protocols.
Private sector finance is also increasingly affected by multilateral development bank policies, via the expanding role of the latter in providing insurance and guarantees. The World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee
Agency, for example, lends relatively little money directly, but leverages considerable private investment by insuring against political and currency risks. The IFC operates in a similar manner. In addition to its own direct investment activities, the IFC has launched several environment-specific funds aimed at increasing environmental
investments in developing countries. In the first instance, this helps to leverage money from the World Bank/
UNDP/UNEP Global Environment Facility for biodiversity preservation, climate change mitigation, protection of
the ozone layer, and water pollution control. In turn, this contributes to leveraging private capital into new projects.
In cases where these projects would not move forward without IFC’s involvement, its influence on environmental
content is crucial, since the IFC will not invest its own funds if a project does not meet its environmental guidelines.
On the other hand, multilateral development banks may have less environmental leverage than they used to, given
that the relative importance of private capital flows has increased substantially in recent years. Among the least
developed countries, however, multilateral development bank involvement and overseas development aid lending
remain the most significant sources of foreign capital, so any environmental rules imposed on these flows are still
likely to be important.
Investment institutions probably hold important keys to environmental protection in the future. Consistent
oversight of investment activities is therefore critical, as are transparent regulatory frameworks to govern the
finance-environment linkage. Governments in both source and host countries need to work together to engage
investors and investees in ensuring that investment contributes to real economic growth as well as appropriate levels of environmental protection.
Co-operation with developing countries
The globalisation of both environmental problems and economic activity has increased the need to take the
views of developing countries into account within the international institutional framework. This implies that
OECD countries need to strengthen their dialogue with developing countries about environmental problems that are
becoming more and more a mutual concern. It also implies some effort to reconcile often fundamentally different perceptions about environmental problems, as well as fundamentally different capacities to do something about them.
One important institutional innovation in this area has been the development of the notion of “common but
differentiated responsibility”. Under this concept, developing and developed countries agree to work toward the
resolution of common environmental problems, but the developed countries acknowledge their special responsibilities in contributing to their resolution. The Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol
provide practical applications of this concept. The former applies the principle to the climate change debate; the
latter establishes quantitative abatement targets for developed countries, but not for developing ones.
The idea of “capacity-building” has also become an important reference point for relations between developed and developing countries. This idea is based on the premise that nations should co-operate to strengthen
endogenous capacities for sustainable development by exchanging scientific information, including the development and transfer of innovative technologies. UNCED recognised in 1992 that, although Agenda 21 provided guidance on the changes needed for sustainable development, most developing countries lacked the capacity to actually
put these changes into effect. Capacity 21 was therefore created as one way of overcoming this deficiency. The
Capacity Development for the Environment Programme of the OECD Development Assistance Committee is
another initiative with similar objectives. The development of capacity for addressing environmental problems is
an increasing focus of both bilateral and multilateral aid.
In the future, the role of developing countries in contributing to the resolution of trans-border environmental
problems (or their trans-border economic implications) is likely to grow. This will probably increase the bargaining
power of developing countries in negotiations toward possible solutions – a situation that may ultimately benefit
© OECD 2001
both developing and developed countries. The developed/developing country relationship seems set to intensify
over the period to 2020 along at least three key axes.
First, trade and investment liberalisation can be a positive force for environmental protection, provided that
environmental governance systems are in place and adequate when liberalisation occurs. The risks of poor governance would seem, at first glance, to be higher in the developing countries than in the developed ones (although
“poor governance” should not be confused with low environmental standards that reflect high assimilative capacities, or low values for environmental externalities). This suggests that it may well be in the interests of OECD
countries to contribute to improved environmental governance capacities in developing countries, as a way of
maintaining political momentum toward economic liberalisation. Such an approach would increase the likelihood
that developing countries would benefit from trade and investment liberalisation, thereby increasing their support
for that liberalisation in the first place.
Second, developing countries will clearly have a major role to play in reducing environmental pressures at
the global level. More innovative ways will have to be found to actively involve developing countries in this effort.
The Clean Development Mechanism, Permit Trading, and Joint Implementation under the Kyoto Protocol are
examples of steps in this direction. Biodiversity protection is another area in which the co-operation of developing
countries is likely to become more important in the future.
The third area in which closer co-operation between developed and developing countries seems set to increase
over the next two decades is that of technology transfer. It is clearly inappropriate from an environmental perspective for developing countries to have to go through the same stages of technology experimentation that developed
countries have undergone over the past half century. If a technology exists that would reduce international environmental pressures, it makes sense for that technology to be applied wherever it may be able to benefit the environment, including the environment of developing countries. Issues related to the definition of intellectual property
rights (and the conditions under which these rights can be transferred) therefore seem likely to grow in importance
over the period to 2020.
24.4. Stakeholder involvement
General public
Much discussion of modern environmental problems concerns the need to engage the public more directly in
solving those problems. Partly, this is due to a recognition that better environmental policies are more likely when
public preferences are taken into account; partly, it is due to the fact that engaging the public in an open and transparent manner is a useful insurance policy against poor implementation of environmental policies. Promises made
in public are open to later questions about why those promises have not been kept. Transparency and public
involvement in decisions are therefore basic elements of environmental democracy (see also Chapter 22).
The growing interest in participatory environmental decision-making reflects the following developments,
among others:
– Decentralisation of government decision-making processes, and the resulting need to seek out partners with
whom to work on environmental issues. Globalisation is probably enhancing these trends.
– Growing experience with multi-stakeholder dialogues involving the private sector, NGOs and other components of civil society.3
– More use of negotiated arrangements as a tool for environmental policy. These agreements sometimes
directly involve civil society as a co-operating partner. They can play a useful role in building consensus.
3. UNCED defined “civil society” in terms of the “major groups” highlighted in Chapters 24-32 of Agenda 21. These included:
Women; Children and Youth; Indigenous Peoples; Non-governmental Organisations; Local Authorities; Workers and Trade
Unions; Business and Industry; the Scientific and Technological Community; and Farmers (UN, 1992).
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– Many OECD countries have made progress in integrating environmental issues into their public education
processes, and many have active information campaigns on a variety of topics, including: energy efficiency/
conservation, environmentally friendly driving habits, and environmental education programmes for farmers.
– Development of several international declarations and instruments which in themselves support participatory approaches. Three examples are: Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration; the Aarhus Convention on Access
to Information, Public Participation, in Decision-making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters;
and the OECD Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) (established in the context of “Community
Right-to-Know” programmes).
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
NGO inputs to policy discussions on the environment were originally provided by a fairly narrow base of
special interest groups. These groups were often very successful in achieving their individual goals, but the process
was relatively ad hoc and sporadic. It was also fundamentally confrontational. The result was that many NGOs
tended to be single-issue-oriented. Later, in many countries NGOs became more and more involved in policy
development and implementation, and in environmental education and monitoring.
Greater use of the Internet, coupled with the growing globalisation of economic activity, are now facilitating
a more systematic, and more powerful, voice on the part of civil society. Public consultation processes for environmental issues have the potential to expand significantly as a result, with some OECD governments already opening
electronic discussion groups on their Web sites. NGOs are also making use of new information and communication
technologies to spread their messages and influence further. As indicated in Chapter 10 (Box 24.3), the World
Resources Institute now uses an Internet-based forest management monitoring system, Global Forest Watch, to
place environmental compliance and monitoring systems more directly in the public sphere.
NGOs are also focusing more on a wider range of environmental problems. The result is improved integration
of civil society views into the mainstream of environmental policy-making. NGOs play an important role in alerting public authorities about irregularities or infringements of environmental obligations by individuals, firms, or
even public authorities. In fact, provisions encouraging NGO participation in monitoring compliance with environmental objectives can be found in some national legislations or regional agreements. For example, the North American Agreement on Environmental Co-operation (the environmental side agreement to NAFTA) provides for a
procedure under which any non-governmental organisation or person can alert that a Party to the Agreement is failing to effectively enforce its environmental law.
Some NGOs adhere to a strategy of confrontation with governments and industry, while others have opted to
channel their activism in more collaborative directions with governments and with business. Both approaches can
generate benefits. When co-operation is the objective, the NGOs usually bring a fresh perspective on environmental problems to the table. Where confrontation remains the standard, NGOs can often exert pressure on public opinion, resulting in more effective incorporation of environmental concerns into government and business decisions.
The result of both approaches is that contacts among government, business and NGOs on environmental topics are
more frequent and more fruitful today than ever before. In years ahead, the deeper participation of civil society in
environmental discussions will probably place increased pressure on the resource capacities of individual NGOs.
It will also place additional pressure on governments to find new ways of assuring a productive dialogue with these
NGOs. In particular, questions concerning the “democratic deficiencies” of some individual NGOs will probably
become more important.
Despite the expanding role of NGOs, the institutional links between governments and NGOs are still fairly
rudimentary. In the future, it may be appropriate to seek new ways of strengthening this linkage, for example
through such measures as expanded use of the Green G8 process (a consortium of green NGOs from the G8 countries), formal access for NGOs to key meetings and/or policy discussions, and/or a standing committee of “eminent”
environmental institutes. Furthermore, arrangements for financing their contribution to meeting governments’ policy needs remain to be worked out.
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The business community
In the early days of environmental policy, environmental externalities were relatively easily attributable to
individual business activities (e.g. “point source” pollution), and business generally was seen as profiting excessively from policies which failed to internalise these costs into their profit and loss statements. One result was that
business came to react quite defensively to suggestions for new environmental policy initiatives by governments.
Often, this also involved active opposition by firms to these initiatives.
In later years, recognition grew that active opposition to environmental policies was not a very good business
strategy. Instead of overtly opposing environmental policies, firms therefore began to emphasise the need for more
flexibility in how environmental objectives were actually going to be met (Carrod, 1997). Regulations came to be
seen as cost-ineffective ways of meeting environmental goals, suggesting a preference for voluntary approaches.
For the same reason, business tended to argue against eco-taxes, and in favour of tradable permit approaches. Firms
also began to emphasise the possibility that they might relocate their activities to countries where the environmental costs of doing business were not so high.
For the future, it is anticipated that the business community will recognise more and more that a minimalist
approach to environmental behaviour is not likely to be very productive over the longer-term, especially in the face
of an increasingly sophisticated marketplace. Many firms are now moving toward more proactive approaches –
approaches which involve the private sector operating more in partnership with government, customers, NGOs,
and other interested parties.
Market pressure is increasingly being used as a vehicle to change corporate environmental practices. The public is now more capable of launching effective information campaigns aimed at firms that do not conduct their environmental affairs in a manner deemed to be environmentally (and socially) acceptable. Several recent high-profile
cases involving large multinationals have resulted in a damaged public image, in boycotts of their products, and
ultimately in a reduction in their profits and share values. Consequently, business is taking these problems more
seriously, and is actively working to reduce them. One important manifestation of that effort has been the recent
development of voluntary codes of conduct for enterprises, and the growing adherence to environmental management systems related to such international standards as ISO and EMAS.
One of the criticisms often levied against these codes of conduct is that they are little more than public relations exercises on the part of the companies involved. While this criticism may be valid in some circumstances,
there is growing evidence that firms are using these instruments as a way of diffusing an ethic of continuous
improvement in environmental performance throughout their operations. For example, recent OECD work finds
that firms are focusing on the implementation phase of their codes – including their integration into internal management and control systems, the build-up of institutional capacity to pool the costs of developing such systems,
and certification/verification systems.
Multinational firms are also more likely to consider using standardised environmental practices in all plants
of their operations (i.e. regardless of location) as one way of improving overall corporate environmental performance. Another result has been the tendency for a growing number of firms of all sizes and origins to engage
actively and transparently in consultations with civil society. These trends are likely to continue.
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Burke, T. (1998), "Globalisation, the State and the Environment", in OECD, Globalisation and the Environment: Perspectives from OECD and Dynamic Non-member Countries, OECD, Paris.
Buzan, B., J. de Wilde, and O. Waever (1998), Security: A New Framework for Analysis, Lynne Rienner, Boulder and London.
Carrod, B. (1997), "Business Strategies, Globalisation and the Environment", in OECD, Globalisation and Environment:
Preliminary Perspectives, OECD, Paris.
Hirst, P. and G. Thompson (1995), “Globalisation and the Future of the Nation State”, in Economy and Society,
24(3): 408-442.
Kimball, L. (1992), Forging International Agreement: Strengthening Inter-governmental Institutions for Environment and Development, World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.
OECD (1999), The Price of Water: Trends in OECD Countries, OECD, Paris.
Reinicke, W. H. (1999), “The Other World Wide Web: Global Public Policy Networks”, in Foreign Policy, Winter
Rosecrance, R. (1996), “The Rise of the Virtual State”, in Foreign Affairs 75(4): 45-61, July/August.
Finger, M. (1999), “Globalisation and Governance”, in Policy Matters 6, December.
Smets, H. (1999), personal communication.
UN (United Nations) (1992), AGENDA 21: Programme of Action for Sustainable Development, United Nations, New York.
Waller-Hunter, J. (1999), “Appropriate Institutions for the 21st Century”, in IUCN, Imagine Tomorrow’s World: 50th Anniversary Symposium Proceedings, Gland, Switzerland.
World Bank (1998), Global Development Finance 1998, The World Bank, Washington DC.
World Commission on Environment and Development (1987), Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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Policy Packages to Address the
Main Environmental Problems
25.1. Introduction
Comprehensive packages of policy instruments will need to be adopted in OECD countries to successfully
address the “red lights” identified throughout this report – i.e. the environmental pressures and conditions that most
urgently need attention by OECD countries. Because of the complexity of many of the most urgent pressures on
the environment, their often inter-connected nature, and the limited understanding of some of their causes and
effects, single policy instruments will seldom be sufficient to effectively resolve these problems. Instead, combinations of policy instruments will be required which target the range of actors affecting the environment, draw on
synergies for realising the different environmental policy objectives and avoid policy conflicts, and which address
any social or competitiveness concerns about the policy instruments.
The appropriate policy packages will need to be carefully designed in order to achieve the desired environmental objectives in the most cost-effective manner. Policies will be needed which deal with intervention failures,
such as inefficient subsidies or poorly designed regulations, and with market failures that stem from the non-internalisation of the environmental costs in the market or the lack of markets for particular resources or environmental
services, such as biological resources. The policy packages required to address the identified “red light” problems
will in general include a combination of:
– economic instruments – taxes, charges and fees, the reform of environmentally damaging subsidies, transferable permits;
– regulatory instruments – standards, licenses, permits, regulations, restrictions, etc.;
– voluntary approaches – negotiated agreements, unilateral commitments, public voluntary commitments;
– incentives for technological development and diffusion – appropriate pricing signals, regulations, support
for research and development, etc.;
– information-based instruments – data collection and dissemination, indicators, information provision, valuation, education and training, eco-labelling, etc; and
– other policies – zoning and land-use planning, infrastructure provision, etc.
Where it is possible to apply them, economic instruments will often be the preferred policy instruments as
they can be both efficient (i.e. least-cost) and effective (i.e. achieve the desired environmental objective) in the
right circumstances. However, in some cases the administrative costs associated with their use may be excessive
or political barriers to their use may exist, such as concerns that these instruments may be socially regressive or
may affect the competitiveness of particular sectors. In addition, their apparent advantages depend upon the precise
nature of the environmental problem. One of the main advantages of economic instruments – ensuring the efficient
distribution of abatement efforts – generally does not apply for site-specific environmental impacts. Furthermore,
it is often not possible to directly target a particular environmental problem due to high monitoring costs, as is the
case with monitoring the diffuse run-off of agrochemicals from farms. In some cases an indirect economic instrument – such as a tax on chemical fertiliser or pesticide purchases – may be a reasonable proxy for addressing the
environmental problem. However, there will certainly be a continued role for some regulations and restrictions,
and perhaps an increased role for “newer” instruments (e.g. information-based instruments and voluntary
approaches), to complement economic instruments.
Direct regulations will continue to be needed, in particular to deal with issues for which environmental
impacts are potentially non-reversible or which exceed the carrying or assimilative capacity of the environment. In
such cases, direct regulations or restrictions can be used to set absolute limits on the production or use of certain
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substances, or the type and level of use of environmental resources, thus assuring the desired environmental outcome
as directly as possible. Regulations are also often useful where impacts are very site-specific or for which monitoring
costs are high (e.g. regulating emissions of air pollutants from motor vehicles). However, in many cases, direct regulations will not be the most cost-effective instruments available because, among other things, it is generally difficult
to ensure that the marginal costs of environmental improvements are equalised across the regulated actors.
Voluntary agreements may have an important role to play as well, particularly when political considerations
prevent the use of other instruments. They may also provide the conditions for a relationship in which valuable
information about abatement costs and technological opportunities are shared between firms and the regulatory
authorities. While voluntary agreements are generally not considered to be effective as a stand-alone instrument,
in combination with and as a supplement to other policy measures they may contribute to improvements beyond
the minimum requirements of regulations. They can work well if they are carefully designed and implemented with
clear objectives, and with targets and timeframes for achieving them.
Information-based instruments are usually most appropriate for overcoming information barriers related to the
environmental characteristics of products (e.g. eco-labels for CFC-free refrigerators) or processes (e.g. certification
schemes for sustainable forestry management) about which consumers feel strongly. In such cases, they can be used
to inform the public and enable consumers to choose (and pay for) products or processes with the environmental
qualities they desire. Information-based instruments are most successful when there are close links between the
“private” (e.g. financial, health) and the “public” (e.g. environmental impacts) attributes of the products or processes – allowing consumers to choose products or processes which benefit both themselves personally and the
public good. Fuel-efficient cars and organic agriculture are two such examples. Strengthened environmental data
collection and appropriate indicator development and use will also be essential for the shaping of public opinion
concerning environmental issues, the development of environmental policies, and monitoring the progress of these
policies in reaching the environmental objectives and targets that have been set.
While all the policy instruments discussed above can be used to drive technological developments and diffusion in environmentally friendly directions, they can also hamper beneficial technological innovation if they are
poorly designed. Thus, regulations specifying the use of particular technologies or processes, or subsidies that are
directly tied to certain inputs or processes, can lock-in the use of the technologies, processes or inputs that are supported or required, hindering the potential development of new and improved technologies. Direct support to technological development can be appropriate when there are “positive” spillovers associated with the development of
environmentally preferable technologies. In such cases, the market prices may not provide strong enough incentives for innovation to address the environmental problem successfully or quickly enough. The support can be
designed as an internalisation of the positive public good aspect of the technological innovation.
The key is to find the right mix of environmental policy instruments, and not to superimpose instruments
which send conflicting (or redundant) signals. Some examples of complementary policy packages for addressing
environmental problems include the use of:
– information-based measures to increase the speed and magnitude with which firms and households respond
to taxes and charges;
– a voluntary agreement as the basis upon which to “grandfather” permits under a tradable permit system; or
– direct regulations applied as a “safety-net” in cases when particular environmental conditions are exceeded
under other instruments (e.g. to limit car use in urban areas).
This chapter examines some environmental policy packages that could be adopted to effectively address the
“red light” issues identified in the report. These packages are not limited only to those policy instruments that are
available to environment ministries. Many of the instruments discussed here would need to be implemented either
by, or in co-operation with, authorities outside environment ministries. The co-operation of finance authorities is
needed to implement environmental taxes, and the co-operation of sectoral authorities is needed to implement
policies which affect particular sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, energy, transport, and selected industries. This chapter presents the results of model-based simulations of some of the economic policy instruments
included in the packages, indicating the potential economic, sectoral and environmental impacts, accompanied by a
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more qualitative discussion of other instruments with which they could be combined. Further analysis of the full
benefits and trade-offs of these proposed policy packages is of course needed. Because implementation is often the
weak link in the environmental policy cycle, some policy implementation issues and potential solutions are also
discussed here.
25.2. A policy package for the primary sectors and selected natural resources
The pressures on the environment arising from primary sectors, and the possible changes in the state of the
environment to 2020 for selected renewable natural resources, were described in Section III of this report. For a
number of these pressures and issues, OECD countries have already implemented, or are starting to implement,
policies that can successfully address the problems. Such policies have so far resulted in increased forest area and
volume in OECD regions and reductions in per capita water use, although the latter are not yet sufficient to reduce
total water use. Some of the policies and societal responses that are helping to address environmental pressures
from primary sectors include the expansion of environmentally sound management practices in agriculture,
increased development of plantation forests and aquaculture fisheries, and the growth in the number and total area
of protected lands.
Despite these advances, significant threats to ecosystems remain. Over-fishing of marine fisheries is an
increasing problem worldwide, with the majority of the world’s capture fisheries already exploited to their full
extent, over-fished, or recovering from over-fishing. Projections indicate that fish catch from world capture fisheries is unlikely to increase and may even decline in the period to 2020, as stocks are depleted. While the growth of
environmentally sound agricultural practices (e.g. organic farming, integrated pest management) is a positive sign
in OECD countries, their use is still very limited. Groundwater pollution is expected to continue to worsen in
OECD countries to 2020, with the main source remaining the high levels of agricultural pollution through run-off
of farm chemicals and nutrients. Furthermore, while efforts of OECD countries to improve conditions at home –
for example through aforestation programmes and the expansion of protected areas – are steps in the right direction,
they are generally insufficient to change the overall global trends. Global deforestation and biodiversity loss are
thus continuing at an alarming rate.
This section presents a package of policies OECD countries can adopt to help address these pressing issues
relating to primary sectors and natural resource use – in particular, agricultural pollution, the contamination of
groundwater resources, over-fishing of the world’s capture fish stocks, tropical deforestation, and global biodiversity loss.
Economic instruments
Subsidy removal or reform
Subsidies to natural resource use – particularly to fishing, agricultural production, forest logging and irrigation
water usage – remain high in both OECD and non-OECD countries. Many of these subsidies contribute to overexploitation of the resource base, ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss. As such, an important first step in
tackling the “red light” issues identified for the primary sectors and natural resources is the removal of subsidies
that encourage environmentally damaging activities.
A simulation has been undertaken with the Outlook modelling framework to indicate the potential effects of
removing subsidies to primary sectors and the use of natural resources in OECD countries. All the subsidies to the
agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and water supply sectors, or to the use of products from these sectors, were removed
in the simulation.1 A total of US$81.5 billion in subsidies to these sectors is specified in the GTAP database for
1. These correspond to subsidies listed in national accounts, as summarised in the GTAP database (Version 4) used in the JOBS
model (see Annex 2). Because of a lack of disaggregation of the subsidies in the database, it was not possible to simulate the
results of removing environmentally damaging subsidies alone. Instead, all the subsidies listed were removed for the exercise.
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1995, amounting to almost 7% of the gross value of output from the sectors. The vast majority of the identified
subsidies (US$81 billion) were given to the agriculture sector (Table 25.1). Despite the large levels of support that
are listed as going to agriculture, the database still does not reflect all the support to the sector, in particular it does
not reflect market price support.2 An additional exercise was therefore undertaken to approximate the effects of
removing market price support to agricultural production, in addition to removing the agricultural subsidies listed
in the database. The levels of support to the forestry, fisheries, and water sectors identified in the database are likely
to be underestimates of the support to these sectors as well. The indirect nature of most forestry subsidies makes
their quantification difficult, but estimates are available of direct government support (i.e. not including market
price support) to fisheries in OECD countries. These indicate that OECD governments transferred US$6.3 billion
to their fisheries industries in 1997, while under US$20 million in subsidies are listed in the database for 1995
(Table 25.1). Given the underestimation of total subsidy levels in the model, the results of the policy simulation
should be considered only as an indication of the direction, and rough minimum level, of the effects that might be
obtained from subsidy removal in the sectors concerned.
Table 25.1. Subsidies to primary sectors and natural resource use in OECD countries according to actual
estimates and as reflected in the Reference Scenario, 1995 or most recent year, US$ billion
Water use
OECD estimates
de Moor and Calamai estimates
Reflected in the Reference Scenario
In addition to simulating the removal of the US$81 billion in subsidies to agriculture listed in the GTAP database for 1995, a further exercise was
undertaken to simulate the removal of market price support to the sector in OECD countries. In essence, this simulation applied a tax on agricultural production with a tax rate equal to estimates of the market price support in the OECD regions in 1997. For practical reasons, this tax was
phased-in over a 5-year period. When fully phased-in, it generated around US$312 billion in “extra” tax revenue. This “tax” was combined with a
“subsidy” to the household consumption of agricultural products (meat and other food) of an equivalent amount.
Sources: OECD (1999a and 2000), de Moor and Calamai (1998), and Reference Scenario.
While variations in the environmental effects that might result from removing subsidies to primary sectors
would be expected to occur between and within regions, the effects of the subsidy removal are estimated to be
positive for the environment in OECD regions overall (Figure 25.1). Thus, total irrigation water use in OECD
countries is expected to be about 11% lower in volume terms in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario
projections, while nitrogen loading of waterways from agriculture (through fertiliser use and livestock waste)
would be about 6% lower. Methane emissions (both from rice and livestock production) are also estimated to be
lower in 2020 than projected under the Reference Scenario, but only marginally. Finally, the subsidy removal
simulation indicates that some “leakage” could be expected in terms of environmental effects, with global
demand for agricultural products increasing as a consequence of removing market price support measures in
OECD regions and some shifting in production to non-OECD countries. As a result, global methane emissions
and nitrogen loading to waterways from agriculture are estimated to increase marginally in the subsidy removal
simulation in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario. These results highlight the need for both co-operation
with non-OECD countries in the reduction of support measures and ensuring that the correct framework conditions (and any necessary accompanying policies) are in place to guarantee that the potential positive environmental effects of these policies are realised.
Where removal of the subsidies is difficult for political or social reasons, it may be possible instead to reform
them so that they are no longer tied to environmentally damaging activities – a process that is already occurring in
some OECD countries for agricultural and fishery subsidies. Many countries have started to replace agricultural
subsidies tied to production levels (e.g. market price support) or input use (e.g. irrigation water, agrochemicals)
with agri-environmental measures that provide payments for activities such as land set-aside schemes, tree planting
2. Market price support measures guarantee a minimum price level for the producer above the market price and provide
accompanying measures to ensure guaranteed sales of a certain level of production in excess of demand.
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for wind breaks, soil protection and conservation schemes. Similarly, efforts are underway in many OECD countries to reform environmentally distorting subsidies to the fishery sector, particularly subsidies that encourage
excess fleet capacity.
Figure 25.1.
Effects in 2020 of removing subsidies to primary sectors and applying a tax
to agrochemicals in OECD regions
Index, 1995 = 100
Irigation water use
Livestock BOD loading
2020 Reference Scenario
Total nitrogen water pollution
2020 Subsidy removal
Total methane emissions
2020 Subsidy removal + agrochemical tax
Source: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
Introducing or modifying environmental taxes and charges
In addition to removing subsidies which encourage the over-use of natural resources, OECD countries also
have significant scope for increasing the use of economic instruments (e.g. taxes, charges, fees, tradable permits)
for natural resource management. Many OECD countries already levy charges for water use or abstraction, stumpage charges for timber harvesting, hunting licenses or fees, individual transferable quotas for fishing, or park
entrance fees (OECD, 1999b). However, these are often set at very low levels which do not fully reflect the external
costs of using these resources, and thus do not comply with the User Pays Principle. A more limited number of
countries have implemented taxes on pesticide and fertiliser use, and forest clearing. Effective use of such instruments can help ensure that the full environmental costs of using natural resources are internalised in the decisionmaking process of natural resource users – thus creating incentives for the optimal level of use. In addition to providing incentives for reduced or more sustainable use of resources, these instruments can help generate government
revenues, allowing the possibility for reducing other taxes in a revenue neutral tax reform.
Another model simulation was made reflecting the introduction of a tax on chemical inputs used by agriculture
(e.g. fertilisers, pesticides), in addition to the subsidy removal described above. The tax was set as an ad valorem
tax on chemical inputs to agriculture in OECD regions that increases by 2 percentage points each year, such that it
would be equal to a 50% tax on these inputs by 2020. This simulation led to particularly strong effects in the emissions of nitrogen from crop production in OECD regions, indicating that such a tax might lead to decreases in nitrogen-loading of waterways from agricultural run-off and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (a greenhouse gas) from
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agricultural soils compared to 1995 (Figure 25.1). Although not quantified in the modelling framework, one can
assume that such a tax would also lead to reductions in pesticide use. The estimated effect on real GDP in OECD
regions of removing the primary sector subsidies as described above and adding this tax was negligible. A very
small negative impact on the value added of the agricultural sectors in OECD economies was found, amounting to
a reduction of less than 0.1% of value added of these sectors in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario.
Economic instruments also have an important role to play in ensuring the conservation or sustainable use of
biological diversity and its components. Greater use of park fees or charges, resource extraction charges, hunting
and fishing fees, subsidies for conservation efforts, and taxes on unsustainable activities could help to ensure the
more sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem integrity in OECD countries. Furthermore, the use of
transferable development rights applied to certain aspects of protected lands could enable the conservation of some
essential elements of the ecosystem while allowing the sustainable use of other components, thus generating
incomes. Tradable permit schemes can also help to meet water scarcity or water quality concerns within a river
basin management approach.
Regulatory instruments
Economic instruments have a strong role to play in tackling the “red lights” identified for primary sectors and
natural resources, but to successfully address these problems they will often need to be complemented by regulatory measures and other policies. In particular, countries may wish to enact regulations regarding the allowable toxicity of chemicals used in agricultural, aquaculture and forestry production, and their effects on the environment
and human health, as well as address concerns about food safety, control particular site-specific activities (e.g. limit
intensive livestock production), and ensure that water quality standards are met.
A number of regulatory instruments are already being used in OECD countries, for example to restrict fishing
activities to sustainable levels and practices. Regulations are set to limit fish catch (through setting Total Allowable
Catch levels), govern the methods used to catch fish and the allowed catch characteristics (e.g. age, size), and limit
by-catch discard and the degradation of marine ecosystems. In many fisheries, however, these regulations are not
sufficient to address the problems of over-fishing, and instead lead to a race-to-fish or to shifting the problem to
unregulated fisheries. Furthermore, a lack of adequate systems for monitoring compliance with regulations and
other policy instruments has resulted in poor enforcement of fisheries policies in many cases.
The use of regulations and access restrictions to protect biodiversity or biological resources is also fairly widespread in OECD countries. They usually take the form of the creation of natural parks and conservation zones or
the enactment of prohibitions on the use or hunting of wildlife species. Because the implementation and enforcement of access or use restrictions tend to be expensive both to government administrations and local communities,
they are often accompanied by positive incentives for sustainable use of the resources, or economic instruments
that help raise government revenues or apply charges to cover the costs of conserving the resources.
While maintaining forest coverage and meeting demand for forest products is not likely to be a problem for
OECD countries in the coming years, policies will be needed to ensure that the right balance is struck between the
protection of the remaining old growth forests, the intensification of managed forests, and the development of plantation forests. Appropriate regulations will need to be developed to limit any negative environmental pressures
associated with the intensive production of plantation forests.
Technological development and diffusion
Considerable scope exists in the agriculture sector for the adoption of new technologies and management
practices beneficial to the environment. The diffusion of drip-irrigation systems and precision application systems,
which allow the accurate matching of agrochemical inputs to local conditions and needs, have significant potential
to increase input efficiency, while alleviating the pressures on water resources exerted by the agriculture sector.
More significant increases in input efficiency and productivity may also be realised through the development of
biotechnologies (e.g. GMOs) that require less chemical inputs or water, increase crop growth, and are resistant to
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adverse environmental conditions. However, some of the new biotechnologies under development may lead to negative impacts on the environment as well. The extent of the future use of GMOs is likely to depend on the analysis
of their potential health and environmental effects, and on consumer acceptability.
Similarly, the development of aquaculture fisheries and plantation forests allow for rapid increases in output
– removing some of the pressures on the natural resource bases in the wild – but can also have harmful effects on
the local environment because of the intensive nature of their operations. Policies will need to be designed to
address the negative environmental effects of these practices, while still encouraging the development of technologies and practices which can ensure more efficient production.
Fishing technology developments are generally geared towards improving the efficiency and profitability of
fishing activities or fish processing, and consequently often contribute to over-fishing of fish stocks. New technologies can, however, also be adapted to support sustainable fishing practices by the use, for example, of satellitebased vessel monitoring systems to increase compliance by vessel operators with fisheries management rules and
to collect data on catch and fishing, or by the use of turtle excluder devices on fishing nets.
Many environmentally benign technologies are already on the market, and generally the most effective
encouragement for their adoption will be economic incentives. For example, drip irrigation techniques can significantly reduce the amount of water used by farmers, but the costs of installing such a system are relatively high.
Given the relatively low savings that could be earned in water costs with current water prices, the use of such systems is limited. However, reducing the substantial subsidies to irrigation water use in OECD countries would make
the use of drip irrigation techniques more profitable for farmers. In cases where subsidy removal or tax increases
is either politically not possible or would not provide sufficient incentives for the uptake of existing or new environmental technologies, governments that wish to further their use can do so through other measures. In particular,
they may choose to directly support research and development of the technologies, engage in farmer education and
training programmes, or introduce fiscal incentives to make up the cost difference between the use of traditional
techniques and the less environmentally damaging alternatives.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements in the field of agriculture can complement other policy instruments by involving farmers and farmer associations in the implementation of more environmentally friendly practices. By doing so, voluntary agreements may enhance co-operation between authorities and community groups, and raise farmer awareness
of the environmental issues at hand. To ensure that the best use is made of such initiatives, however, governments
will need a strong regulatory and economic framework to support them. Voluntary approaches have already been
developed in a number of OECD countries in response to various natural resource management concerns. These
include voluntary agreements to encourage water users (especially industry and agriculture) to take proactive steps
towards reducing water abstractions and emissions to waterways, and to encourage sustainable forest management
or fishing practices.
In general, such approaches will be most effective when they are combined with the removal of conflicting
policies (e.g. subsidies to unsustainable resource use), or with the availability of some project funding to support
group initiatives, and the provision of training regarding the available solutions to the environmental problem
(OECD, 1998a). Close co-ordination with other stakeholders (e.g. local residents and recreational land users for
voluntary agreements in the agriculture sector) will be needed to strengthen support for, and the accountability of,
voluntary approaches.
Information and other instruments
In response to growing concerns by consumers, agricultural producer associations are developing eco-labels
based on environmental and health criteria (e.g. organic produce) and animal welfare criteria (e.g. eggs from freerange chickens). Eco-labelling schemes are also developing in the fisheries sector, certifying that fish and fishery
products have been harvested and processed in an environmentally responsible manner. Certification of forests as
© OECD 2001
meeting sustainable management standards has been gaining importance in recent years as well, and some of the
largest furniture producing and wood purchasing companies worldwide have decided to only source wood that is
certified as coming from sustainably managed forests.
With proper monitoring and independent certification, eco-labelling schemes can allow consumers to directly
influence the extent of sustainable activities in place. As a result, such schemes for forests, fisheries and agricultural
products or processes can help foster the conservation or sustainable use of biological resources. For many of these
activities, a number of national or international eco-certification schemes are being developed or applied, often
covering different species or regions, but sometimes overlapping. Where possible, overlapping schemes should be
harmonised or combined, with transparent and rigorous monitoring and certification procedures agreed, in order to
build trust in the schemes and ensure that they are comprehensible to consumers. Care must also be taken that such
schemes do not develop into trade barriers.
For many of the renewable natural resources examined, there is inadequate information on the state of the
resources. In some cases this is the result of poor scientific understanding of the resources and their interactions,
while in others this may be due to the cost of gathering and processing the relevant data. The collection, processing
and dissemination of physical and economic information regarding biodiversity values is of paramount importance
for designing appropriate policies, in particular because the complex nature of biodiversity and ecosystem functions means that a wide range of economic activities have an impact on them.
25.3. A policy package for climate change, air pollution, and the energy and
transport sectors
Under current policies, OECD countries are likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions by approximately
33% to 2020, far from the overall Kyoto Protocol target of achieving by 2008-2012 a 5% reduction in emissions
across the larger group of Annex I countries from 1990 levels. Similarly, urban air quality is expected to continue
to worsen in OECD countries, although reductions in a number of pollutants (such as sulphur dioxide and carbon
monoxide) are expected in most countries. The main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and declining air
quality are transport and other fossil fuel-based energy use. Pressures from transport and energy use trends will
continue to increase to 2020. Motor vehicle kilometres travelled in OECD countries are expected to increase by
over 40% from 1997 to 2020, and passenger air kilometres are expected to triple. Similarly, OECD energy use is
expected to increase by roughly 35% to 2020. As a result, both motor vehicle and aviation air emissions fall under
the “red light” categories, as do urban air quality and the emission of greenhouse gases.
Moving these sectors and issues out of the “red lights” will require a comprehensive policy package. Such a
package should include a combination of economic instruments (subsidy and tax reform, introduction of new taxes
or charges, and wider use of tradable permits systems), a strong regulatory framework (particularly for setting air
quality targets or standards), the promotion of voluntary or negotiated agreements, and the use of informationbased policy tools to encourage more sustainable energy consumption and production patterns. Targeted measures
to stimulate the development and uptake of cleaner energy and transport technologies – such as research and development funding and support for demonstration projects – can help to accelerate the use of new technologies. In
many cases, international co-ordination may be necessary to ensure support for and successful implementation of
these policies, for example to overcome resistance to subsidy reform or to the introduction of carbon taxes. Careful
monitoring of policies and their effects is also needed to strengthen and refine policies over time. Opportunities
exist to combine policies in these sectors, and optimise across what are often seen as separate policy objectives.
Air quality, climate change, and protection of the ozone layer, for example, can often be considered simultaneously
in the design of policy instruments. This should lead to outcomes that deliver greater social and environmental benefits for a given cost. While the policies discussed here focus on national actions, policies to address climate change
will of course continue to be formulated in the context of evolving international commitments, such as the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the Montreal Protocol on the
protection of the ozone layer.
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Economic instruments
Subsidy removal or reform
Subsidies are widespread in the energy and transport sectors, although they are often less explicit than in the
primary sectors. Governments influence energy and fuel prices through measures that include preferential tax rates,
government ownership of energy production or distribution systems, subsidised loans for capital, obligatory purchase commitments for certain fuels, direct and indirect budgetary transfers, trade barriers, and set prices
(i.e. market price support). Governments also often subsidise public transport infrastructure and operating costs,
road building and maintenance, and provide preferential low tax rates for aviation and ship fuels. Furthermore, the
full external costs of transportation and fuel use (e.g. the environmental and social costs, such as human deaths and
illness associated with air pollution) are rarely reflected in the prices users pay for these services.
Partly because of the broad range of measures in place that distort energy and fuel markets, it is particularly
difficult to estimate the total level of subsidies that benefit these sectors. The GTAP database used in the modelling
framework includes subsidies to fuel production and use, and to electricity and oil refining in OECD countries, that
amount to US$4.7 billion. Within the OECD, the only energy-related subsidies that are systematically estimated
are the subsidies to coal producers in selected countries. As indicated in Table 25.2, 1997 estimates for coal producer subsidies in five OECD countries amounted to almost US$8 billion, substantially more than the estimated
total energy-related subsidies in the GTAP database, yet still an order of magnitude smaller than external estimates
of total energy subsidies in OECD countries.
Table 25.2.
Subsidies to energy and fuel production and use in OECD countries according to actual estimates
and as reflected in the modelling exercise, 1998 or nearest year, US$ billion
Coal production
Total energy subsidies in OECD countries
OECD estimates
de Moor and Calamai
Reflected in the Reference
* Estimate for five OECD countries (Germany, Japan, Spain, Turkey, UK) only.
Sources: IEA (1999), de Moor and Calamai (1998), and Reference Scenario.
Because of the limited estimates of energy and transport subsidies reflected in the model, the effects of a policy simulation to remove these subsidies are understandably also small. However, previous OECD analysis has
shown that a targeted reform of energy and transport subsidies in OECD countries could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions without increasing overall economic and social costs (OECD, 1998b). OECD case studies
indicate that energy subsidy reform could reduce CO2 emissions in the range of 1-8% of energy-related emissions
at the national level, while also improving economic performance (OECD, 1997). The studies indicated that transport subsidy reform could reduce emissions from that sector by 10-15%.
At a minimum, subsidies that support the use of fossil fuels over other, less environmentally damaging, fuels
should be reformed to “level the playing field”. As the share of nuclear fuel in the fuel mix of OECD countries is
expected to decrease over the coming decades, actions will need to be taken to ensure that this is replaced with
environmentally sound alternatives. The removal of obligatory purchase commitments for fossil fuels by electricity
generators will help achieve a less environmentally harmful fuel mix, as will continued research and development
efforts to bring costs down for renewable and other environmentally benign alternatives. A gradual removal of the
restrictions on prices that electricity users pay would also contribute to limiting total energy demand.
Regulatory reform is accompanying, and even preceding, subsidy reform in a number of OECD countries.
Regulatory reform of OECD energy and transportation sectors can help to establish competitive markets in these
sectors, laying the foundation for increased economic efficiency. However, the effect of regulatory reform on the
environment in general, and on greenhouse gas emissions in particular, is unclear. As a result, other policies to protect the environment will need to accompany market or regulatory reforms in these sectors.
© OECD 2001
Introducing or modifying environmental taxes and charges
As was demonstrated during the oil crises of the 1970s, fuel and electricity price increases have a significant
influence on producer and consumer behaviour. Higher prices will help to shift patterns towards less wasteful ways
of consuming energy and considerably reduce the energy intensity of the economy. Currently the vast majority of
environmentally related tax revenues in OECD countries are linked to vehicles and vehicle fuels, while taxation of
other fossil fuels (e.g. coal) and other energy consumption is very low.3 Taxes could be restructured so that prices
better reflect relative carbon content of fuels or products. While a few OECD countries have introduced carbon or
energy taxes in recent years, the tax rates are in many cases quite low, and often exemptions are granted to energyintensive industries for competitiveness reasons. As a result, the environmental benefits of the taxes are severely
limited. In many instances, the exemptions and low tax rates reflect political difficulties of raising energy and fuel
prices, as was demonstrated by protests in a number of OECD countries against the oil price increases during 2000.
A model simulation was undertaken reflecting the removal of the subsidies to energy and transport listed in the
GTAP database, combined with the application of a yearly increasing ad valorem tax on fuel use in OECD countries
whose increase is linked to the carbon content of the fuels. The tax was thus set to increase by 2, 1.6 and 1.2 percentage
points per annum for coal, crude oil and natural gas respectively. The tax rate thus reached the level of 50%, 40% and
30% of pre-tax prices respectively in 2020.4 According to this simulation, implementing the combined subsidy
removal and fuel tax policy package in OECD countries would reduce CO2 and SOx emissions in OECD regions in
2020 by as much as 25% each compared with the Reference Scenario. The simulation indicated only a small leakage
effect of emissions to non-OECD countries, such that worldwide there would be a net decrease of 11% in CO2 emissions
and of 9% in SOx emissions in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario. From 1995 to 2020 (see Figure 25.2), this
Figure 25.2. Effects in 2020 of removing energy subsidies
and applying a fuel tax in OECD regions
Index, 1995 = 100
Energy demand
Demand for coal
for crude oil
2020 Reference Scenario
for natural gas
CO2 emissions
SOx emissions
2020 Subsidy removal + fuel tax
Source: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
3. See the OECD Environmentally Related Tax Database at www.oecd.org/env/policies/taxes/index.htm.
4. For technical reasons, the policy simulation is related to the pre-tax prices of the fuels, and not directly to the carbon content
of each fuel, and so does not, strictly speaking, reflect a “carbon tax”.
© OECD 2001
combination of policies is estimated to result in a net decrease in CO2 and SOx emissions in OECD countries, driven
primarily by the large decreases in coal use.
The subsidy removal and energy tax policy package was found to result in slightly reduced economic growth
in OECD regions. Thus, real GDP for OECD regions might be roughly 0.1% lower in 2020 under this policy simulation than the level projected in the Reference Scenario. While the CO2 reductions achieved under this simulation
would not be sufficient to achieve Kyoto targets agreed by OECD countries, another OECD study recently indicated that the achievement of such targets by 2008-2010 might cost 0.2% of GDP, with expected costs dropping by
a third if mitigation occurs not only for sources of CO2, but also of CH 4 and N2O (Burniaux, 2000). Costs were
found to be reduced even further to 0.1% of GDP if efficient markets for emission trading among Annex I countries
were to be combined with multi-gas mitigation.5
A removal of energy subsidies and introduction of new energy taxes would affect certain economic sectors
more than others. Under the policy simulation discussed above, value added from the coal sector in OECD countries decreased by almost 33% in 2020 compared with the Reference Scenario. Where subsidy removal or environmental tax use negatively impacts on the competitiveness of particular economic sectors (e.g. the coal industry,
commercial transportation sector), or raises energy of fuel prices to households, opposition to the reforms will be
likely. In such cases, there is a risk that – without complementary measures to address any equity issues which
might arise – the reforms might either be blocked or that large exemptions would be granted to the affected sectors,
thereby reducing the effectiveness of the policy. In such cases, measures are available which can accompany the
environmental policy and address many of these concerns (see Section 25.6). For example, international cooperation for the harmonisation of energy taxes can help to reduce the need for tax exemptions for internationally
competitive industries.
Restructuring existing fiscal measures in a more environmentally friendly way could complement this policy
package. For example, in the transport sector, the structure of taxation of motor vehicle use based on vehicle ownership could be altered to reflect the pollution potential of different vehicles, or changed to taxation linked directly
to fuel use. Other demand-side management tools, such as road pricing charges, can also contribute to providing
the right incentives for achieving multiple objectives simultaneously, for example reducing local air pollution,
traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, international discussions on the taxation of fuels
used in air transport should continue with an aim to adopting tax levels that reflect the external costs of aviation
fuel use.
The use of tradable permit schemes
With a few exceptions, use of tradable permits for addressing air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions by
OECD countries is limited. However, there is considerable scope for their introduction. Tradable permit schemes
can lead to substantial efficiency gains in the achievement of pollution reduction targets compared to regulatory
standards, provided that the transactions costs of implementing the schemes are kept low. Success also depends
upon clear rules for ownership rights and obligations, together with effective monitoring, reporting and legal
enforcement of private entity limits. Limited experience in OECD countries already exists, with some countries
using transferable permit schemes to address CO 2, SO2, NOx, VOC emissions, and ozone depleting substances
(OECD, 2001b). For instance, the acid rain programme in the US has contributed to significant reductions in SO2
emissions at much lower costs than originally estimated. Averaging schemes6 for fuel efficiency objectives in
motor vehicle production are another promising example. Such schemes are particularly cost-effective where they
cover a large number of emitters with widely varying marginal costs of pollution reduction, and when the environmental benefits do not vary with the location of the emission reduction.
Tradable permit schemes are also being discussed at the international level, most notably in the context of
reducing global greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. The introduction of the three Kyoto mecha5. However, these simulations disregard any short- to medium-term adjustment costs associated with the policy changes.
6. Averaging schemes involve the competent authority setting average limit values for emissions from motor vehicle engines,
which vehicle manufacturers have the option of exceeding for some of the products they sell on the market provided that
these overshoots are offset by lower average levels with regard to other products.
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nisms (international emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation) would
enable emissions to be cut at least cost. As mentioned above, an OECD study found that making use of these mechanisms would have the potential to reduce the costs of achieving Kyoto targets considerably (Burniaux, 2000).
Regulatory instruments
While economic instruments such as charges, taxes and tradable permits tend to be the most economically efficient policies for achieving reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, they often need to be complemented by other types of policies. In some cases, their use may simply not be viable. For example, for some air
pollutants, the level of tax or charge that would be needed to achieve the agreed emission reduction target may be
too high to be acceptable in a political context, or there may not be a suitable base for levying the tax or charge.
Regulations may also be the best instrument when the emissions to be controlled are toxic. Thus, regulatory measures are used in OECD countries to restrict the use of highly polluting fuels (e.g. heavy fuel oil, residual fuels) or
to limit the content of certain elements (e.g. sulphur, heavy metals, toxics) in fuels. Clearly defining air quality targets based on acceptable concentrations of pollutants according to their effects on human health and ecosystems is
often an essential step towards developing appropriate policy instruments to achieve these targets. Emission standards for motor vehicles are in place in most OECD countries, although further emission reductions – especially
for diesel vehicles and motorcycles with respect to CO, NOx, VOC and particulate emissions which are harmful to
human health – will generally be needed to achieve agreed air quality targets.
Regulations may be increasingly used in the future to meet the challenge of reducing total energy demand and
greenhouses gas emissions. They can be employed to direct energy production towards a more environmentally
friendly fuel mix and conversion efficiency through requiring a greater share of renewables in the fuel mix and the
use of high efficiency applications, including electricity co-generation and low emission motor vehicles. Some
countries are also adopting policies that can reduce the environmental impacts of energy and transport use by
requiring that a certain percentage of new power generation or new motor vehicles be fuelled by renewable or nonfossil fuel energy sources. While regulations can accelerate development and the uptake of new, clean technologies,
OECD analysis indicates that they may be relatively costly policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when
compared to economic instruments (OECD, 2001a).
Technological development and diffusion
Programmes supporting the development and diffusion of “clean” technologies through research and development (R&D) policies are a traditional focus of energy and transport policy in OECD countries, and they are
becoming an increasing component of domestic climate change policies. Historically, OECD government R&D
expenditures relating to energy have been heavily weighted to coal and nuclear technologies (IEA, 1999). Although
the share of R&D expenditures devoted to renewables and energy efficient technologies has been increasing in
recent years, it is still a relatively small proportion of overall energy R&D expenditures. Governments should take
a careful look at the balance of funding for these competing technologies, given the environmental objectives of
the future.
Government partnerships with industry can facilitate development, demonstration and more rapid diffusion
of clean transport and energy technology. While existing technologies can help to reduce many air pollutant and
greenhouse gas emissions, their adoption is often not profitable. In the field of transport, there are combinations of
advanced emission control and fuel efficiency technologies which could reduce the environmental impacts of
motor vehicles significantly, but diffusion is very slow. Governments can facilitate their adoption through increased
fuel prices, the gradual tightening of performance standards, or through sector target-setting. Meanwhile, natural
gas and bio-diesel could be further promoted, in particular for urban buses and corporate vehicle fleets. The use of
hybrid and electric vehicles are beginning to spread slowly in OECD countries, and research is ongoing into fuel
cell vehicles which can reduce the use of fossil fuels and many of the environmental impacts of transportation.
Government support for demonstration projects may be critical in the near term to give a boost to new technologies
and to familiarise the public with them.
© OECD 2001
In addition to direct government expenditures on environmental R&D and demonstration projects for the
energy and transport sectors, governments can also foster industry research and development investment through
a variety of other policies. As already mentioned, these can include fiscal measures, such as fuel charges or taxes
which encourage greater fuel-efficiency, and – where they are linked to fuel carbon content – substitution towards
lower carbon fuels. They can also assist in the development of niche markets for environmentally friendly alternatives through the removal of barriers to market entry (e.g. off-grid power), or the development of eco-labels or other
information schemes which enable consumers to make informed choices regarding their energy or fuel use.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary approaches or agreements as a stand-alone instrument to address greenhouse gas emissions and air
pollution can be subject to a number of drawbacks. If they are not properly designed, implemented and monitored,
their effectiveness in reducing energy use by the industrial and power sectors is questionable. However, in combination with other policy measures, they can be useful to encourage industry to make improvements beyond the minimum requirements specified in regulations. In the transport sector, long-term agreements on fuel efficiency
improvement have been made between governments and vehicle and aircraft manufacturers, airlines and rail operators in OECD countries. Similar forms of agreements exist in many OECD countries for energy-intensive industries. Voluntary agreements may further be useful in exploring mitigation action in areas where more knowledge
about technical mitigation options and costs is essential, such as with industrial process emissions of the other
greenhouse gases (SF6, HFC and PFC).
Information and other instruments
Education and public awareness policies are also an essential component of a policy package that aims to
reduce urban air pollution and respond to climate change. Information transmitted to the consumer through labels
– such as energy efficiency labels for appliances and equipment, or fuel efficiency labels for motor vehicles – can
help consumers to identify and choose more environmentally friendly products. Although experience with labelling of fuel consumption has shown that simple consumer information has limited effects on purchasing decisions,
higher fuel and energy prices can increase the effectiveness of these instruments. Some power supply systems are
also now offering customers the option to choose (and pay for) the power source they wish to supply their electricity (e.g. renewables, nuclear).
In terms of reducing the negative environmental effects of transportation activities, land use and transport
planning are essential instruments for modifying demand for travel in the long term. Experience has generally
shown that increasing the supply of public transport alone is not sufficient to attract more users and reduce private
transport. Instead, the promotion of public transport needs to be complemented by more direct incentives to not use
private vehicles, for instance appropriate taxation of private vehicle use, reducing the capacity of main urban thoroughfares, and by prohibiting traffic at certain times. Furthermore, policies designed to restrain private car use may
be ineffective if at the same time incentives are offered for dispersed housing development.
Finally, understanding of the full environmental or health effects of various air pollutants, as well as the longterm impacts of climate change, should be improved. Further research in these fields, as well as the development
of appropriate indicators for measuring progress and the collection of comparable data, will require greater efforts
in OECD countries in the future.
25.4. A policy package for households, selected industries, and waste
Many of the pressures and issues examined under Section V in this report have been placed under “green” or
“yellow lights”. The three industries examined in the section – the pulp and paper, steel and chemicals industries
– have all increased resource and energy efficiency in recent years, and reduced the waste and pollution emitted
per unit of product. For example, in the steel sector, the greater use of alternative sources of energy (e.g. slag and
© OECD 2001
waste used as fuels) and the development of more efficient processes, such as electric arc furnaces, have contributed to a decrease in energy use by the sector of almost 20% since 1970. Similarly, pulp and paper mills have
reduced water use per tonne of production significantly, from 80 m3 in 1970 to 10-15 m3 today. Increased use of
recovered paper has also led to significant energy and resource savings, while the development of new technologies
(e.g. improved washing of pulp and oxygen prebleaching) has reduced the emission of toxic organochlorines from
the pulp and paper sector. Technological changes in the chemicals industry continue to contribute to a decline in
energy use and in emissions of substances which promote the formation of tropospheric ozone, acid rain and chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. The significant progress made in phasing out production of ozone-depleting
chemicals has resulted from the successful adoption and implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
However, two overall “red light” pressures remain from these issues and sectors in particular – municipal
waste generation and the widespread release of persistent and toxic chemicals to the environment. Municipal waste
generation has continued to grow in recent decades, closely following economic growth in most OECD regions,
increasing by about 40% since 1980, and it is expected to increase by a further 43% to 2020. Although waste treatment systems have improved significantly, and more municipal waste is being diverted to recycling, increasing
municipal waste generation per capita remains a problem in most OECD countries. De-coupling waste generation
from economic growth will be a major challenge. To a large extent, addressing this problem will require policies
that address both production processes (particularly packaging practices), and consumer behaviour.
Similarly, while the release of chemicals from industry has been reduced significantly in recent years because
of more effective regulations and enforcement, the release of chemicals through downstream use (e.g. agriculture,
households) continues to increase the level of persistent and toxic chemicals present in the environment, degrading
ecosystems and harming human health. Again, tackling this problem will require a comprehensive package of policies that provides the right incentives for the various downstream actors to reduce their release of chemicals.
Economic instruments
Economic instruments, such as user charges on municipal solid waste collection and treatment, are already
widely used in OECD countries but their rates are, in general, too low to influence consumer behaviour. Furthermore, for municipal waste, the rates that are charged are rarely based on the amount of waste produced, and thus
provide no economic incentive for households to reduce waste generation. Unit pricing (“pay as you throw”) policies using price structures that penalise higher levels of waste generation are starting to be introduced in a few
communities in OECD countries. These policies often need to be accompanied by stronger incentives against waste
dumping in the environment. Product charges on packaging, batteries, tyres and home appliances are also being
introduced in some countries, helping to promote the collection and recovery of post-consumer waste. Such measures can be complemented by positive economic incentives for waste reduction or recycling, such as depositrefund schemes, payments for goods delivered for recovery, or recycling credits.
Economic instruments for addressing problems of toxic and persistent chemicals in the environment are less
widely used in OECD countries, and their potential applications are more limited. Some OECD countries levy
charges on fertiliser purchase as a proxy for the run-off of agro-chemicals through fertiliser and pesticide use. As
indicated in Section 25.2 above, a model simulation of applying a tax on chemical inputs to the agriculture sector
shows that significant reductions in farm nitrogen run-off, and probably also in pesticides use, could be achieved
through such an instrument. Economic instruments can also complement the implementation of regulations aimed
at phasing-out the use of toxic substances, such as lead in petrol (through tradable permit averaging schemes or
differentiated taxes on leaded and unleaded petrol), the production of CFCs (through a tax) or for the recovery of
toxic products through deposit-refund schemes (e.g. lead batteries or cadmium cells).
The widespread existence of toxic and persistent chemicals in the environment is a serious problem in OECD
countries, mostly arising from downstream use and the disposal of chemicals. A wider application of taxes or
charges on the use of particularly toxic or persistent chemicals could help to encourage manufacturers to substitute
these pollutants with cleaner and safer substances. While it was not possible in the modelling framework to apply
a tax to the use of toxic or persistent chemicals only, a simulation was undertaken to examine the effects of a tax
applied across all chemicals use, combined with subsidy removal for all the manufacturing sectors. While the direct
© OECD 2001
effects of the diffusion of toxic and persistent chemicals in the environment could not be estimated in the model,
estimates of the effects on some other key environmental variables could be made (Table 25.3). The environmental
benefits of the combined policies are most noticeable in the chemicals industry, but they would affect the other
manufacturing industries as well. Water use by the steel and the pulp and paper industries are estimated to decline
by 3% (compared with a decline in gross production in the sector of only 2%), while CO2 and SOx emissions are
estimated to be 4-5% lower in 2020 as compared with the Reference Scenario for both the steel and pulp and paper
industries in OECD countries. A more significant 22-24% reduction is expected for the chemicals industry for the
pressures under the policy simulation.
Table 25.3. Effects of applying an ad valorem tax that increases by 2 percentage points each year on all
chemicals use in OECD countries and removing all subsidies to manufacturing industries, difference
in 2020 from Reference Scenario
Steel industry
Pulp and paper industry
Chemicals industry
Energy use
CO2 emissions
SOx emissions
Water use
Sources: Reference Scenario and Policy Simulations.
Regulatory instruments
Regulations, such as bans or restrictions on the use of certain substances, appear to be the most appropriate
instruments for addressing problems of hazardous substances or toxic chemicals in the environment, as they can
directly prohibit or limit the use of these chemicals in particular. However, gathering – and making effective use
of – the indispensable information on the characteristics and exposure of all chemicals and chemical products, and
on their effects on the environment and human health, remains a formidable challenge. Yet for designing such policies, this information is essential.
Regulations are also needed to specify the required treatment and handling of hazardous waste materials. In
addition, regulations can be used to specify targets for the recovery or recycling of a given proportion of municipal
or industrial waste, with the targets based on cost-benefit analyses or other decision-making principles.
Voluntary agreements
Voluntary agreements are already commonly used in waste management in OECD countries, primarily in the
form of agreements with producers on the recycling of packaging wastes. Partly in response to threats of stronger regulations, voluntary initiatives have been taken by industry to reduce pollution and ensure product safety. However, in
the absence of adequate provisions for monitoring and enforcement of these agreements, further efforts need to be
made to increase the usefulness and credibility of programmes, such as Responsible Care and Product Stewardship.
Information and other instruments
Achieving waste prevention targets can be supported through information and labelling programmes that
encourage consumers to buy products which pollute less, or come from recovered materials, or which can be reused
or recycled. Promoting consumer information through education and campaigns can stimulate household awareness and has been shown to increase participation in recycling initiatives in OECD countries. Another waste management policy instrument that is being used more and more in OECD countries is extended producer
responsibility (EPR), under which producers are made responsible (financially and/or physically) for the treatment
or disposal of post-consumer products. Through extending their responsibilities, producers can be encouraged to
re-evaluate decisions concerning materials selection, production processes, design, packaging and marketing strategies in order to minimise their costs. EPR can play a role in increasing resource efficiency by encouraging the
© OECD 2001
recovery of materials that would otherwise have gone to landfill or been incinerated, and by influencing product
designers to select materials that can easily be reused or recycled.
As indicated above, gathering and disseminating information on persistent and toxic chemicals in a meaningful way is a major challenge for governments and industry. Information generated by industry and government on
the characteristics of the chemicals, their potential risks, and any reasons why their use should be restricted, needs
to be conveyed to various stakeholders and the general public in a way that can be understood by all. As such, there
is a need to make greater use of pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs), which can help to monitor and
assure reductions in the release of hazardous substances to air, water, soil and waste. As inventories of toxic
releases can only capture a small proportion of th