At the very moment when we need strong, co-ordinated and far-sighted action to safeguard our collective future, the willingness and ability to act for the common good is in very short supply. This deficiency hinders international efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, on which our current and future well-being depend. While there undoubtedly has been – sometimes impressive – progress in tackling greenhouse gas emissions, it is clearly insufficient. Moreover, powerful interests remain that continue to oppose stronger climate action.

With global warming currently at around 1°Celsius, we are witnessing many damaging extreme weather events. Worldwide, July 2019 was the hottest month ever on record, and 9 out of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The current projected pathways set out by national governments will take us to a world that will be around 3°Celsius warmer by 2100. This is a dangerous prospect, and people – particularly young people – around the world are increasingly voicing their frustration.

The climate goals agreed upon in 2015 in Paris, while challenging and ambitious, are also achievable and necessary. This report aims to provide both a changed perspective and the underpinning analysis to support an acceleration of climate mitigation action and to halt the increase in the global average temperature to well-below 2°C. In doing so, it takes an explicit political economy approach to the transitions needed across five economic sectors: electricity, heavy industry, the residential sector, surface transport and agriculture. They are responsible for more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This changed perspective is in line with the recent IPCC Special Report, Climate Change and Land, which shows the interlinkages across climate change mitigation, food security, and land degradation issues.

Limiting climate risks is fundamental to our collective well-being. The synergies between mitigation policy and other well-being goals can be leveraged around jobs, income, health, education and wider environmental quality. In many cases however, concerns about the affordability of energy and the impact of climate policies on jobs may limit policy action, either pre-emptively or through policy roll-back. There is also an increasing need to reverse a trend of growing economic and social inequalities, within and between countries, that influence many dimensions of well-being.

Reframing climate policies through a well-being lens is necessary in order to make these synergies and trade-offs systematically visible, thus enabling decision-makers to increase the former and anticipate, manage and minimise the latter. This requires us to rethink our societal goals in terms of well-being, reframe our measures of progress and refocus policy-making accordingly. Such a fresh perspective is essential if we are to make our climate goals a reality.


Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

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