OECD Report Finds Well-being Focus Presents Opportunities for Accelerating Climate Action
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To generate a two-way alignment between climate and other well-being goals, the report proposes three specific actions: rethinking societal goals; refocusing measures of progress; and reframing climate policies through a well-being lens.

The report notes the interconnected nature of the climate agenda and the SDGs and the potential to achieve significant synergies through well-designed action.

The report finds that synergies between emissions reduction and well-being objectives can increase incentives for early mitigation action.

20 September 2019: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published highlights from a report that examines synergies and tradeoffs between climate change mitigation and other SDGs focused on health, education, jobs and the environment. The report calls for reframing climate policies using a well-being lens to make synergies and tradeoffs “systematically visible” and enable decision makers to increase and maximize synergies, and minimize and manage tradeoffs.

The report titled, ‘Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies Through a Well-being Lens,’ uses a political economy approach to analyze low-emissions transitions across five economic sectors that are responsible for 60% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: electricity; heavy industry; residential; surface transport; and agriculture. For each sector, the report describes the sector’s role in a low-emissions transition, and presents options for accelerating climate action. In the residential sector, for instance, the report states that buildings generated 28% of global GHG emissions in 2017 and the residential sector accounted for 60% of those emissions, primarily from space and water heating, cooling and cooking. The report argues that better capturing GHG mitigation, health and equity benefits makes a “stronger case for solutions that align climate and other goals,” including well-being benefits like safer streets and educational and leisure opportunities. The report further argues for developing new indicators focused on “good sustainable housing” that measure accessibility from housing to different opportunities and mainstreaming this perspective into decision making to promote increased equity and affordability and promote synergies between climate and equity goals.

The climate agenda and the SDGs cannot be pursued separately, either financially or substantively.

To generate a two-way alignment between climate and other well-being goals, the report proposes three specific actions: rethinking societal goals; refocusing measures of progress; and reframing climate policies through a well-being lens. To rethink societal goals, for example, the report recommends reassessing sector-specific policy priorities and considering how these priorities can guide the sector towards climate, well-being and sustainability goals. The report emphasizes that an effective climate response will require changes in financial systems and regulations, lifestyles and management of ecosystems, among other changes that will require rethinking the priorities guiding decisions and policies.

To reframe the measurement system, the report recommends a more comprehensive set of indicators to make synergies and tradeoffs systematically visible. As an illustration, the report states that measurement in the transport sector typically focuses on the number of passengers and tonne-kilometres, rather than access to opportunities and services provided by transport. Conserving well-being in such decisions, it argues, can help to capture broader well-being impacts. The report also discusses relevant SDG indicators and indicators included as part of the OECD Framework for Measuring Well-being and Progress.

The report argues that achieving the SDGs, particularly SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2, (zero hunger) SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land), depends on the world’s collective ability to limit climate risks. The report stresses that the climate agenda and the SDGs “cannot be pursued separately, either financially or substantively,” noting their interconnected nature and the potential to achieve significant synergies through well-designed action. The report finds that synergies between emissions reduction and well-being objectives, such as eliminating fossil fuel use and therefore reducing air pollution and improving health, can increase incentives for early mitigation action.

On tradeoffs, the report highlights challenges related to affordability of energy and economic and social inequalities within and between countries. The report recommends addressing potential tradeoffs early to minimize their impacts. For instance, governments concerned about impacts on transport affordability as a result of increased fuel prices can invest in public transport options or provide targeted compensatory measures.

OECD is releasing the report in two parts. The first part titled, ‘Rethinking Societal Goals, Refocusing Measures of Progress,’ is available. OECD plans to release the second part, ‘Reframing Climate Policies Through a Well-being Lens,’ in the first quarter of 2020. [Publication: Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies Through a Well-being Lens (Publication Highlights)] [Report Webpage]

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