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Biofuels: A second chance

As biofuel production grew fourfold from 2000 to 2008, criticism of the industry seemed to increase nearly as dramatically. Production of these transport fuels, which are based on food crops such as grains, sugar cane and vegetable oils, competes with food crops and drives up food prices, experts argue. Also, from land-clearance needed for cultivation, production and use, these biofuels may actually increase, rather than reduce, greenhouse gas emissions.

Biofuels: Great green hope?

Once hailed as the imminent successor to fossil fuels, biofuels are hitting some rough patches. Is it time to apply the brakes? 

Market power: Can Clean Development Mechanisms work?

Market-based credits can help control emissions alongside other instruments, though the system needs more work. And time. 

Energising change

Energy has moved to the top of our policy agendas, and with good reason. First, there is the price of oil, which though easing a little in recent months, remains historically high. This has pushed up costs for producers and consumers alike.

In Bali

Secretary-General Angel Gurría led a high-level mission of OECD economists and environmental experts at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December. In this extract from one of his interventions at the conference, Mr Gurría explains some of the reasons why economics and markets must be at the heart of any effective and equitable strategy to tackle climate change.

Nurturing our water empire

Water holds huge potential for economic, social and individual betterment. There are challenges to confront, but also opportunities. With the right approach, water could be a harbinger of progress. 

Carbon dating

Can the Kyoto protocol, which came into force on 16 February 2005, work? Although natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions, ocean currents, the likes of El Niño or even changes in the earth’s tilt might all be contributing factors, carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by human activity–whether running homes and factories or driving cars and lawnmowers–is cited as a major culprit in the rise of global temperatures.

A big year for development

This will be “the mother of all years for summits on international development,” says Kevin Watkins*, Executive Director of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI). He’s not wrong.

Small businesses flourish, but not their revenue

Since 2009 the French government launched a new “auto-entrepreneurs’’ status to help small, often one-person, businesses below a certain earnings threshold to bypass many formalities of registration, in an effort to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and jobs. By mid-2014, the number of auto-entrepreneurs reached nearly 1 million, according to a French business creation agency, APCE. However, according to the national statistics office, INSEE, most of these businesses have made little if any money at all. The crisis has hardly helped, but is there a recipe for success?

Over 1.1 billion tourists traveled abroad in 2014

In a time of economic turmoil, global tourism is still faring well: over 1.1 billion tourists traveled abroad in 2014, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This is almost 5% more than in 2013, the organisation said in a press release.

Thomas Piketty: "Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

Star economist Thomas Piketty presented the English version of his global bestseller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century", at the OECD on 3 July 2014 as part of The Coffees of the Secretary-General series. Read the complete transcript of Mr Piketty's presentation below.

Mapping global risks in 2015

What are the main threats to the world’s stability in the 10 coming years? Geopolitical risks as well as a water crisis have become a bigger threat than an economic breakdown, according to the World Economic Forum.

Costa Rica signs investment declaration

Costa Rica became the 45th country to adhere to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, an OECD instrument designed to help the country attract more and better foreign investment and promote responsible business conduct.

Colombia, Latvia start accession process

On 19 September the OECD set out a clear path for Colombia’s accession to the organisation, reinforcing its commitment to further extend its global membership to include more emerging economies. On 16 October the OECD issued an accession roadmap for Latvia too.

Don’t forget the coastal waters!

Most public debate about water concerns freshwater. Yet coastal zones are coming under increasing pressure, too. Time for renewed action. 

Creative minds

Classrooms need to be places for teaching creativity, as well as basic competence. Can it be done? 

Class progress

How do our young students perform at school compared with their peers in other countries? Are they ready and equipped to take on the world of tomorrow? The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys competence among 15 year olds around the world, gives ground for encouragement. 

Banking reform: A New Year’s resolution

When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.

Lessons from PISA outcomes

In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer improvement by national standards alone, but the best performing school systems internationally. Latest results from the PISA assessment, the world’s metric for evaluating learning outcomes at school, issued 3 December, show striking changes in the world’s talent. 

The automotive sector: Steering beyond the crisis

The car industry has taken a dent since the recession started to bite in 2008, but even before then, new patterns were emerging that would reshape the sector for a long time to come. 

Towards new global development goals

The vision of a world without extreme poverty is not a utopia, but a reachable goal. Yet realising the vision demands that we meet urgent challenges, and that includes overhauling our development goals.

Dignity and People

Dignity is all about people. Dignity is intrinsic–we’re all born with it. But dignity is also relational and is created among, and between people. Many of us don’t think about this, or notice it in our daily lives. But that’s only because we, our families and friends are fortunate enough to live relatively privileged lives. And because it can be difficult to establish the number of people living in difficult conditions–and their voices are less often heard.

Fragile aid

Developing countries are a broad group. At the top of the pile are emerging powerhouses such as Brazil and China. At the bottom are a poor group called fragile states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Development aid and finance: A defining moment

Development aid fell by 4% in real terms in 2012, following a 2% fall in 2011. Though this decline must be reversed, it is not the only issue to address. Also being questioned is how that aid is measured in the first place. As Jon Lomoy explains, while it is high time to revisit the concept of official development assistance, the outcome of the discussion will influence the effectiveness of development policy over the next decade or more.

Fixing finance

There are good reasons why the public has lost confidence in banking and finance. Two issues in particular must be addressed before it can be restored– moral hazard and conflict of interest. Reforms should ensure that banks and bankers–not taxpayers–pay the price of failure and are held fully accountable for their actions.

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Give youth a chance

Young people are being excluded from economic life by a combination of joblessness and barriers to the creation of start-ups. Unleashing the energy, entrepreneurial spirit and technological genius of the young is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity.

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Action for youth

The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.

It’s all about people

Ultimately the economic crisis is about people, says Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs. That is why respecting human rights and adherence to democratic principles are fundamental when addressing the current economic crisis. We are in this together, so we need multilateral solutions more than ever.

Transport potential

Transport is not only a fundamental driver of economic activity, it is a major sector in its own right. But while transport has suffered from the economic crisis, as echoed in downturns in trade and activity generally, it could be a source of recovery too. We asked José Viegas, head of International Transport Forum, to explain. 

Education for all

Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. That risks exposing them to a lifetime of reduced earnings and undermines the foundations of wider economic growth. What can be done? Economically disadvantaged students benefit from a mix of grants and loans in third-level education, but they also need better support from the earliest years of their school careers.

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