Fossil fuel subsidies, Gurría writes, function as “negative carbon price signals” furthering the uptake of oil and gas at the very moment when their use needs to be curtailed. He could have urged the subsidies’ reduction; instead, he calls for their removal. He reminds us of their staggering global scale — about half a trillion dollars annually. He says they “disproportionately benefit” the well off. Criticizing these subsidies takes guts. It means targeting some of the world’s largest resource companies.
The only serious flaw is his unquestioning support for economic growth. He believes that can be “inclusive and climate-compatible” but his argument is not wholly convincing. In a recent open letter, some 15,000 scientists raised concerns about “the role of an economy rooted in growth.” At a minimum, Gurría should recognize the work of thinkers such as Canadian economist (and former David Suzuki Foundation board member) Peter Victor, who argue vital societal goals, such as full employment, can be achieved without growth.
The lesson is not that the OECD still embraces some tenets of traditional economics. That’s a given. The interesting thing is how far elite actors have come in acknowledging key drivers of the climate crisis, and the means to its solution. Sceptics take note: In Gurría we have one of the world’s most influential economists urging dramatic climate action, including a higher, and rising, price on carbon.
By David Suzuki with contributions from Climate Change Policy Analyst Gideon Forman.