OECD Regional Outlook 2021

Addressing COVID-19 and Moving to Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the close relationship between environmental risks and those to the foundations of human well-being – and the cascading effects on the economy and society. It has also highlighted the importance of anticipation and early action. These are also key to integrating climate policy into regional development, albeit on a larger scale. As with COVID-19, the climate challenge is global, but the response needs to build on regional and local actors, natural environments, geographies and infrastructures.

The 2021 edition of the OECD Regional Outlook shows that a place-based approach is vital for resilience in the face of both these challenges. It analyses the different territorial impacts of COVID-19 on health and economy, as well as policy responses. The report explores the different territorial implications of moving to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 whilst adapting to inevitable climate change, and provides fresh analysis of regional data. It provides insights for integrating the climate challenge into multi-level governance, urban and rural development so as to leave no region behind. It highlights the opportunity we have to draw lessons from COVID-19 for a place-based response to the climate challenge.


Executive summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the health of our societies and economies. It has highlighted that risks to human health can trigger a systemic crisis. Economic and social systems may only be as resilient as their weakest link. The interdependencies between resilience and inclusiveness have thus been laid bare. Anticipation has proven critical to mitigating systemic crises. However, while the crisis is global, there are significant differences across countries and the impacts also differ strongly within countries. Understanding the causes of these spatial differences and, in particular, dealing with their outcomes, especially for the most vulnerable and worst-hit communities, is critical for improving resilience and “building back better”. Resilience also requires that we address the global environmental challenges – including climate change – that make pandemics more likely. All of this reinforces the importance of multi-level governance and local actors in implementing and designing mitigation measures and in supporting an inclusive and resilient recovery.


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