Carbon border adjustment: a powerful tool if paired with a just energy transition

By Randolph Bell, Director, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center; Richard Morningstar Chair for Global Energy Security and Elena Benaim, Intern, Atlantic Council Global Energy Centre  

Carbon border adjustment (CBA) policies are gaining momentum on both sides of the Atlantic. They were proposed as a key element in the European Green Deal and as part of US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s climate plan. But how do they work? Carbon border adjustment mechanisms tax imported goods based on their carbon footprint with the aim of limiting emissions leakage and levelling the playing field for domestic industries that produce goods with lower greenhouse gas emission footprints than imports that may be cheaper but have higher greenhouse gas footprints.

There are a number of technical challenges to overcome in implementing a carbon border adjustment policy, including whether to peg it to a domestic price on carbon, which sectors to apply the tax, and how to ensure accurate and transparent data on embodied carbon. But one major concern is that the policy could have negative consequences for the economies of developing countries by cutting their export revenue and/or impeding the development of new export-oriented industries. Developing countries might argue that the policy runs counter to the Paris Agreement’s bottom-up, nationally determined contributions, and could push them to cut emissions more than what they pledged. Carbon border adjustment could also run afoul of the Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle that developing countries do not share the same responsibility as developed countries in addressing climate and environmental issues.

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How can island states reimagine tourism for green recovery?

Riad Meddeb, Senior Principal Advisor for Small Island Developing States, UNDP


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide. This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, Molinere Beauséjour Marine. Credit: Grenada Tourism Authority

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have experienced great success in expanding their tourism industries, particularly over the past 10 years. The industry is an economic lifeline and driver of development for many SIDS. Their rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems attracted around 44 million visitors in 2019. However, global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated SIDS’ economies. Compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), export revenues from tourism represent about 9% of SIDS economies. In countries like St. Lucia and Palau, tourism revenues make up 98 and 88 percent of total exports respectively. It is a vital source of revenue for community livelihoods, disaster recovery, biodiversity and cultural heritage preservation.

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Bridging the green investment gap in Latin America: what role for national development finance institutions?

By Maria Netto, Lead Capital Markets and Financial Institutions Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank, and Naeeda Crishna Morgado, Policy Analyst – Green Growth and Investment, OECD              

Green-investmentThe developing world urgently needs more and better infrastructure. Affordable and accessible water supply systems, electricity grids, power plants and transport networks are critical to reducing poverty and ensuring economic growth. The way new infrastructure is built over the next 10 years will determine if we meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement objectives. Considering the long lifespan of most infrastructure projects, the decisions developing countries make about how they build infrastructure are critical: we can either lock-in carbon intensive and polluting forms of infrastructure, or ‘leap frog’ towards more sustainable pathways.

Many countries in Latin America are making this shift: thirty-two of them have committed to cut their emissions and improve the climate resilience of their economies, in infrastructure and other sectors, through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The cost is estimated at a staggering USD 80 billion per year over the next decade, roughly three times what these countries currently spend on climate-related activities. What is more, this is in addition to a wide investment gap for delivering development projects and infrastructure overall – the World Bank estimates that  countries in Latin America spend the least on infrastructure among developing regions in the world.
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Green Industrialisation and Entrepreneurship in Africa

By Milan Brahmbhatt, Senior Fellow, New Climate Economy (NCE) and World Resources Institute1


Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details


Solar salesman in Gulu Uganda Photo credit James Anderson
Solar salesman in Gulu, Uganda. Photo credit: James Anderson

Policy makers across Africa have embraced industrialisation and economic transformation as keys to accelerate inclusive growth. They also increasingly see the need for economic transformation to deliver green growth – growth that does not endanger Africa’s natural environment in ways that reduce the welfare of present and future generations. Economic transformation and green growth depend on doing new things: making risky investments in new, unfamiliar sectors or products or adopting new, unfamiliar methods, processes, technologies, inputs or business models. All this depends crucially on the activity of entrepreneurs, who drive change through their innovation and risk-taking. Fostering entrepreneurship, including green entrepreneurship, is thus a key policy aim for African countries.

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Bringing the Blue Skies Back to Beijing: How the Private Sector Can Green Growth in China

‌‌By Kate Eklin and Myriam Gregoire-Zawilski of the OECD Development Centre’s Emerging Markets Network (EMnet)

Last week, officials in Beijing declared an air pollution “red alert” for the first time since the monitoring system was implemented in 2013.[1] Pollution levels put life in the city on hold: factories shuttered, schools closed, traffic was restricted, fireworks were banned.

Between this latest “airpoclypse” and the just-concluded COP 21, everyone is talking about China and its part in the climate agenda. Why? China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter. While China is certainly part of the climate change problem, it is a big part of the solution. Indeed, China is also the world’s largest investor in renewable energy. And public and private investment will be critical for China to transition to a greener and cleaner economy. Continue reading “Bringing the Blue Skies Back to Beijing: How the Private Sector Can Green Growth in China”

How to continue the shifting wealth momentum

By Carl Dahlman, Head of the Thematic Division and Head of Global Development Research at the OECD Development Centre and Martin Wermelinger, Economist at the OECD Development Centre Strong growth over much of the past decade has substantially boosted developing countries’ share of the global economy and accelerated per capita income convergence with richer countries. We call this process “shifting wealth.” However, productivity is still lagging … Continue reading How to continue the shifting wealth momentum