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OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030

Other type | 05-03-2008
Photo of the cover of the OECD report

International environmental policy has a chance of succeeding, only if Brazil, Russia, India and China participate, and if swift action is taken; only then will it be affordable and feasible. The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 projects that world GDP will almost double by 2030. Policy simulation shows that it would cost just over 1% of that growth to implement policies that can cut key air pollutants by about a third. In the Outlook, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) has assessed a package of policy measures in the area of free trade, climate, water and air.

International Environmental Policy stands no chance without Brazil, Russia, India and China

Climate and global co-operation

The OECD points to the risk of inaction where climate change is concerned. It presents a package of technical and economical measures, which will create possibilities to limit temperature increases to 2o Celsius. However, this requires actions to be taken in the short-term, whereby emissions could decrease by 40% in 2050, compared to 2000. The OECD states that international agreements on the burden sharing of climate policy are crucial. It pleads for agreements, whereby the cost of climate policy will be fairly distributed over rich and poor countries. The co-operation by countries outside the OECD is essential to the success of climate policy and other issues. The OECD gives two examples of climate policy. In one only OECD countries take measures, and in the other the whole world gets involved. In the first scenario global emissions continue to increase by 35% compared to 2000, despite a decrease of over 40% in OECD countries themselves. The second scenario shows, that if this policy would be applied immediately, in all countries, it would lead to a decrease in global emissions of 21%.

Air pollution

Damage to global health will increase, even if air quality remains unchanged; we all grow older and, therefore, ultimately, we are more vulnerable to air pollution.

For the OECD Environmental Outlook, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency analysed future air pollution in over 3000 cities. This analysis shows, that health problems due to particulate matter will increase in de coming decades, in particular in China, India, Indonesia and the Middle East. Although air pollution within the 30 rich countries that form the OECD, has decreased strongly over the past years, polluted air is expected to blow over from China, via Japan to the US West Coast, and from there on to Europe.

Land and biodiversity

Although agriculture will become more and more efficient in the coming decades, it will not be able to keep up with the growing demand for food, due to the expanding world population, and the connected extra spatial pressures. For this reason, biodiversity will continue to decline at a relentless pace. It is unclear how to protect the vulnerable ecosystems, such as the Amazon forest in Brazil, from the expanding agriculture. The OECD points to the use of market instruments, the integration of environmental concerns in other policy areas, and to measures which will make sure that globalisation leads to a more efficient use of resources. This is part of a global policy package, which also includes other climate agreements.

Water pollution

Paradoxically, the installation of sewerage in Third World countries causes an increase in the risks to health and the environment. This is due to pollution of the surface waters. Therefore, the OECD pleads for investments in sewage treatment installations, together with the installation of sewerage. Furthermore, the expanding agriculture is also causing water shortages and nitrogen surplus in several places around the world. The OECD recommends that certain measures are taken, such as a realistic pricing of water used for irrigation.

OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030: Policy packages with participation by OECD, BRIC and the rest of the world


The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030 presents comparative policy analysis: what difference can policies make over the next decades, relative to a no new policies Baseline? Most importantly, it revisits the case for collaboration between OECD countries and non OECD-countries. The analysis has been set up in such a way that it highlights the role that newly emerging players – on particular Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) - play among the other world regions.

This is reflected in the three comprehensive policy packages which were analysed, namely more ambitious policies in OECD countries only; in OECD countries+BRIC or in OECD countries+BRIC+Rest of the World. These simulations focus on the impact that OECD countries and other countries joining forces, have on environmental policies and related issues. Logically, the benefits of co-ordinated global policies would show in a comparison of these three packages against the Baseline. Equally, trade-offs would show, too.

In a nutshell, these policy packages address a specific set of issues, namely:

  • agricultural liberalisation
  • climate change policies
  • air pollution
  • sewage treatment

Obviously, the issues above are only a selection of the issues reported in the main report. For example, biodiversity protection or water use are not addressed, although the Outlook finds that in these areas urgent action would be required.

Publication date05-03-2008