GENEVA – Politicians who fail to act on climate change will pay the price electorally, the head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in a climate speech on Wednesday, criticizing some governments for going the wrong way.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria called out the United States, China, India, Canada, Mexico and Australia for worsening climate change, and called for “a big fat price on carbon” and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.
Young people were angry and demanding change, while governments were dragging their heels, which was doubly unacceptable because the technology was available and the cost was “falling like a stone,” he told a mainly student audience at Geneva’s Graduate Institute.
“It’s going to blow up in our faces,” he said, referring to the youth vote, citing evidence from the strong Green vote in May’s European parliamentary elections.
“The Greens … we have seen how important they are. They are not only demonstrating that they are showing a rising tide of awareness but they are also showing political muscle. And that is the price the politicians will pay if they do not heed the call.”
In 2015, 195 countries agreed the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions, but only 12 countries had so far submitted detailed plans, Gurria said, while U.S. President Donald Trump has announced his intention to withdraw.
Gurria said the world always knew the Paris deal was not enough to meet the original goal of keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees, and said it should be revamped.
“We are going to crash against a wall,” he said, adding that the science behind climate change was “brutally obvious.”
On Saturday the Group of 20 major economies failed to agree on fighting climate change, with Trump dissenting from a commitment to honor the Paris deal.
The G20 leaders’ declaration said the United States was “a world leader in reducing emissions,” but Gurria said U.S. officials had originally wanted the word “champion.”
Officials wrestling over the wording “looked like a rugby scrum,” he said, and handed over the negotiation to ministers, but if heads of government had not taken over there might have been no mention of climate at all.
The fact that the United States wanted to be included, and the great societal pressure for action, suggested the United States was not the biggest problem, he said.
However, a growing number of countries were using the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement to justify foot-dragging.
“That is perhaps the most worrying effect,” he said.