OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050

The Consequences of Inaction

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Humanity has witnessed unprecedented growth and prosperity in the past decades, with the size of the world economy more than tripling and population increasing by over 3 billion people since 1970. This growth, however, has been accompanied by environmental pollution and natural resource depletion. The current growth model and the mismanagement of natural assets could ultimately undermine human development.

The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 asks “What will the next four decades bring?” Based on joint modelling by the OECD and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, it looks forward to the year 2050 to find out what demographic and economic trends might mean for the environment if the world does not adopt more ambitious green policies. It also looks at what policies could change that picture for the better. This Outlook focuses on four areas: climate change, biodiversity, freshwater and health impacts of pollution. These four key environmental challenges were identified by the previous Environmental Outlook to 2030 (OECD, 2008) as “Red Light” issues requiring urgent attention.

English Also available in: French, German


Biodiversity loss is a major environmental challenge facing humankind. Despite some local successes, biodiversity is on the decline globally and this loss is projected to continue. Continuing with business as usual may have far-reaching adverse implications for human well-being, security and economic growth. This chapter summarises the considerable benefits and often hidden values of biodiversity and the ecosystems of which it is a part. It then looks at trends in several indicators of biodiversity – species abundance (e.g. mean species abundance or MSA), threatened species, forest area (deforestation) and marine fish stocks – and the implications of business-as-usual trends continuing to the year 2050 under the OECD Environmental Outlook Baseline scenario. The chapter provides an overview of the different policy instruments available for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, ranging from regulations to market-driven approaches, such as payments for ecosystem services (PES). Some more ambitious policy scenarios are examined – such as the implications of meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Target under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to expand the global protected area network to at least 17% of terrestrial land by 2020. Possible synergies and trade-offs of meeting climate mitigation goals (through different bioenergy and land use scenarios, for example) and the impacts on biodiversity are also examined. The chapter concludes with a discussion of key needs for further policy action in the context of biodiversity and how this links to the broader green growth agenda.

English Also available in: French, German

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