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OECD Regional Outlook 2021

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

image of OECD Regional Outlook 2021

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.

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Reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions: The role for regions and cities

Climate change is a global challenge threatening the foundations of human wellbeing. To limit negative impacts, most OECD countries aim for net-zero domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Deep and broad transformations of economies will be needed. Impacts, local conditions and vulnerabilities vary across territories and by degree of rurality. For example, within-country variation in emissions is larger than between countries. Most OECD countries still have regions with coal-fired electricity generation far removed from short-term net-zero-consistent benchmarks. Poorer cities and rural regions are more car-dependent, making them more sensitive to the costs of decarbonising transport. Further, employment at risk is modest but regionally concentrated. Therefore, there is a need for place-based and regionally-balanced policies aligned with national and global objectives, to address climate change, mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, climate change mitigation brings well-being benefits, beyond the protection of the climate, that arise locally and in the near term. These can be major motivators for local action as they can more than offset mitigation costs. Delaying action raises costs. Vulnerable communities require support.

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