March 24, 2023

The writer is a former French Minister of Labor and ex-Ambassador to the OECD

Drying rivers, burning forests, record temperatures – this summer has brought back multiple reminders of the enormity of the planetary climate crisis. People are suffering and calling for action.

Unfortunately, most governments around the world have tried to address this global warming catastrophe with short-term measures. But treating the symptoms is not enough. The long-term approach must change as this crisis deepens.

This is not an unexpected emergency. As early as 1972, the Club of Rome’s first report showed that, according to the current model, economic growth would lead to a sharp decline in the world’s population by 2100 due to pollution, scarcity of energy resources and the impoverishment of agricultural lands. A warning that came 50 years ago! The trends predicted at the time are now having an impact.

For more than 30 years, the annual reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have warned us of the acceleration of global warming and the dramatic environmental, social and economic threats it poses, including the destruction of biodiversity and the degradation of oceans. The risk of global warming is exponential. However, we can still take action to mitigate and adapt.

The 2015 Paris Agreement and subsequent UN climate conferences prompted states to make strong commitments. But are a warning system and political commitment enough?

Obviously not – because we fail to measure the effectiveness of government policy in this area, which limits its impact and improvement. We must act more efficiently.

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The response to global warming poses a challenge to governments of unprecedented magnitude and difficulty, as well as to the global economy. Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, called it the “tragedy of horizon.” In other words, how can ecological, economic, social and political time horizons that differ greatly from each other be reconciled?

There are many questions to answer. How can we bridge the gap between the short-term interests of finance and the long-term interests of the environment? How and at what rate can we transfer an energy model that has built up the wealth of developed countries, without reducing quality and living standards?

How to deal with this transformation without the poorest paying the highest price, when access to energy (for transport, housing, heating, travel) becomes more expensive? How to anticipate the challenge of skills and mobility when hundreds of millions of jobs will change in nature or location? How can oil or coal workers be retrained and retrained to become nuclear or renewable energy maintenance technicians?

In May 2021, at the proposal of the French government, the OECD established a program to measure and benchmark the effectiveness of public policies in the fight against global warming. The International Climate Action Programme (IPAC) is designed to support countries’ efforts to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Based on a “wealth of international climate-related data,” the IPAC assesses national and international policies aimed at achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, makes recommendations and shares best practices.

As France’s Permanent Representative to the OECD, I had the opportunity to support this project and negotiate with the 37 other Member States. We have urged that economic and social indicators be integrated into the IPAC, as the interaction between the different factors will determine whether the policies pursued will succeed or fail.

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The main objective of the IPAC is to publish a first global report by 2023, based on an annual scoreboard with a small number of structural indicators to assess climate action and make recommendations that will contribute to the public debate and the decisions of key implementers. to inform.

The current energy crisis makes the implementation of this robust measurement system even more critical. In the short term, many countries are lowering their ambitions to reduce fossil fuel use to protect their populations and industries.

This debate is particularly acute within the OECD, where some countries argue that the transparency afforded by the IPAC is no longer appropriate, at least in the short term.

I do not agree. It is essential to build a solid foundation to manage this current difficult phase as effectively as possible and to accelerate the fight against global warming in the longer term. We will not make progress unless we are able to measure the effectiveness of the policies we adopt – now and in the future.