Health systems are still not prepared for an ageing population

The number of over-80s has doubled
The number of over 80s has doubled

Today’s post is by Francesca Colombo, Head of the OECD Health Division

That population is ageing across the world is well known. As fertility rates drop and life expectancy improves, a bigger share of the population is greying. At least one in four people will be aged over 65 by 2050 in about two-thirds of OECD countries. The share of those aged over 80 years will more than double, from 4% in 2010 to 10% in 2050. In Japan, Spain and Germany, this trend will be even more pronounced, with the proportion of the over-80s expected to triple, rising from 5% to 15% in Spain and Germany, and from 6% to 16% in Japan. The speed of ageing will be even more dramatic in some emerging economies. China, for example has taken only 40 years to increase life expectancy from 40 to 70 years, something that took Germany 80 years.

Such a demographic shift has an impact on societies and economies. The size of the workforce will shrink, putting pressure on governments to reform labour markets, pension entitlements and retirement age thresholds, so that older people can remain productive and employed longer. We’re already seen employment rates of older people improving over the past decade in many G20 countries. Rising education levels and skills will help more people work for longer periods of time, although differences in opportunities throughout individual life-course trajectories will affect their ability to remain fit for work as they grow older. The experience individuals gain through education and work will help to raise productivity and keep economies growing as populations age.

In the face of the speed of population ageing, though, our health systems are still too slow at reforming and remain ill-prepared for the consequences of greying societies.

The health care delivery model prevailing today has not kept pace with the changing epidemiology and health needs of the population. The focus often remains on building new hospitals, buying expensive new equipment and upgrading acute service delivery structures. The management of care processes remains to a large extent focussed around episodic care needs. However, population ageing requires a different approach, involving a shift from acute, episodic and hospital centric care to the management of chronic conditions, the delivery of continuity of care across different care settings and providers, and a strong role for primary care professionals such as general practitioners.

A main challenge will be the management of complex combinations on chronic conditions. In many OECD countries, more than half of individuals aged over 65 have more than one chronic condition, and from age 75, many people will have three or more. Health and social care systems are still grappling with how to manage the diversity and uniqueness of this complex combination of diseases and care needs in an effective way, in relation to how to organise care teams, how to identify the right measurement metrics, or how to equip health professionals with the skills they need to address changing population structures and epidemiological profiles.

A compelling example of how health systems struggle to respond adequately to the rising complexity of population ageing is dementia. Dementia affects a growing number of people worldwide – currently estimated at 47 million but expected to rise to 76 million by 2030. In the OECD, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden and Norway have the highest prevalence rate, with 6.3% to 6.5% of the population aged 60 years and over now estimated to live with dementia. For a person affected by dementia, the outlook is pretty grim. For a start, there is no cure as yet nor disease-modifying treatment. Several clinical trials have failed miserably in the past. There is hope that international processes – started with the G7 Summit in London in December 2013, continued with G7 Legacy Events during 2014 and ending with an international Health Ministerial Conference hosted by the WHO with the support of the UK government and the OECD in Geneva in March 2015, will bear some fruit.

But beyond changing incentives for public investment in research and encouraging private investment to finding a cure, the lives of people living with dementia remains poor in most countries. This must change through training doctors and caregivers, and equipping them with better tools to assess the needs of people with dementia; facilitating improved care co-ordination, particularly across health and social care services; and encouraging a better focus on measuring outcomes for people with dementia (such as quality of life, safety of services and medical products, effectiveness and responsiveness), as well as for the many families and friends who look after people with dementia. OECD work has shown 10 basic features that would make a differences, ranging from minimising the risk developing dementia to unleashing the potential of technology to support people with dementia, and helping people die with dignity.

Underpinning some of the difficulties of health systems in addressing population ageing is a failure to understand and monitor adequately the care processes through the data we have today. In an era of ‘big data’, health systems remain poor at using the massive amount of administrative, clinical, population-based, and biological data that are routinely generated from the millions of contacts individuals have with different parts of the health system. Most often, such contacts remain unrecorded; or records are paper -based, not standardised, nor shared across the care pathway. To improve care for old patients with complex care need, we need these data to be stored and linked so as to display a more granular picture of the quality of the care delivered to patients, especially those affected by chronic or multiple chronic conditions. Addressing weaknesses in the governance of this data infrastructure, including through generating better outcome measures to monitor care delivery and through enabling a privacy respectful use of personal health data, will be key priorities for the future.

Useful links

OECD work on health policies and data

Time is of the essence: can Indonesia phase out energy subsidies without hurting the poor?

Subsidies were not reaching the poorest
Subsidies were not reaching the poorest

Today’s post is by Maroussia Klep of the OECD Environment Directorate

Indonesia enacted a major reform recently. On 1 January, President Joko Widodo followed through with his electoral promise to cut decades-long subsidies for energy products. Many leaders had tried before him, but retreated in the face of fierce resistance from the people. Thanks in part to low oil prices, the newly-elected President got the reform through without much trouble. The true challenge will be how to support poor households when prices start rising again.

If the President holds strong on this reform, benefits can be great for Indonesia. Fossil-fuel subsidies introduced by the government in the 1970s recently hit nearly $20 billion a year. This amount, which represents 20% of the public budget, could be used for development and poverty alleviation if the reform succeeds. Removing the subsidies was even more justified as they were not reaching the poorest households who can neither afford electricity, nor consume products such as gasoline.

A new OECD publication supports these claims. The study highlights notable economic and environmental benefits of phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies in Indonesia. Interestingly, the study is based on the context that pertained until mid-2014, when international oil prices where high and before the recent phase-out of subsidies by the government. With a total removal of subsidies, it is estimated that up to 0.7% GDP growth and 1.6% welfare gains for consumers could be generated by 2020 through a more efficient allocation of resources.

The report also highlighted potential environmental benefits from such reforms, which would incentivise a decrease in energy consumption and thereby a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and local air pollution. Other uncertain environmental impacts may follow, which could be positive such as the development of new renewable solutions, or less desirable such as an increase in deforestation coming from substituting wood for kerosene.

But next to the overall impacts for the country as a whole, a sudden increase in energy prices due to the removal of subsidies may have significant effects on households. As highlighted by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria: “for this [the removal of fossil-fuel subsidies] to succeed, we need well-targeted, transparent and time-bound programmes to assist poor households and energy workers who might be adversely affected in the short-term.”

The new report aims to answer this key question: what redistribution scheme could be put in place in order to make sure that the reform favours low-income households? Three possible scenarios are explored.

Under a first scenario, the reform is compensated by unconditional cash payments paid by the government to every household. This type of programme is not easy to implement but could help reduce relative inequalities.

A second possibility for the government would be to provide payments to households in proportion to their labour income. However, in Indonesia, poor people often work in the informal sector and would therefore not be eligible for the transfers. Thus such a policy could mostly benefit the wealthy.

Finally, a third option would be to translate savings from the reform into new subsidies, for example for food products. This policy would primarily benefit the poor given their proportionally higher spending on food. However, at the economic level, this option appears less efficient.

As often in OECD reports, no single policy recommendation can be drawn. This is because several compensation policies should probably be combined together for achieving best results. Besides, while the three scenarios identified are common options, there are of course other ways to ensure a fair and efficient subsidy phase-out. The government may for example decide to use savings from the subsidy cuts for expanding public services and investments in education or health care.

Time is now of the essence for the President. When the government reflects on how to best reallocate resources, external events may well play a decisive role in the success of recent reforms. If a new surge arises in international oil prices, the shock will be much harder to bear for poor households in the absence of solid and sustainable compensation programmes. Today, Indonesia has the opportunity to demonstrate that economic welfare and environmental protection can also benefit the poor.

Useful links

OECD work on fossil fuel subsidies

The IEA’s interactive fossil fuel subsidy world map

The future of development is ageing

Ageing and Development reportToday’s post is by Ken Bluestone, Political and Policy Adviser for Age International, a charitable subsidiary of Age UK and a member of the HelpAge global network

Two themes that resonate strongly across the OECD are the need to achieve sustainable development and the growing significance of population ageing. It is rare, however, that these two agendas are brought together to consider the importance of ageing for developing countries.

It is all the more surprising given that population ageing is a global phenomenon acutely affecting developing countries. The numbers speak for themselves: in 2014, there were 868 million people over the age of 60 in the world – 12 per cent of the total population. By 2030, this will increase to 1.2 billion or 16 per cent of the population; and looking ahead to 2050, current estimates suggest there will be 2.03 billion older people worldwide – 21 per cent of the population. By 2047, there will be more adults over the age of 60 than children 16 and under for the first time in human history.

This is a reality for developing countries today. 62 per cent of people aged 60 and over live in developing countries and this is expected to increase to 80 per cent by 2050. What is more important is the pace of the change taking place in lower and middle-income countries. The demographic landscape is changing radically in many parts of Asia and Latin America, offering little time for governments in these countries to adapt. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, given the trends of increased longevity and economic development, it should be fully expected that the ‘youth bulge’ will become an ‘older person bulge’ within a few short generations.

So what does this mean for efforts to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change? At its simplest, we need to be asking ourselves the question: does our understanding of development include older people? Not taking older people into account means excluding up to 20 per cent of the world’s population. In this regard, the post-2015 sustainable development goal (SDG) agenda marks a turning point in recognising ageing and older people as part of the development process. The SDG negotiations have already made it clear that addressing the rights and needs of older people is integral to the ambition of “leave no one behind”.

At a deeper level, it forces us to reconsider basic assumptions of what it means to be productive in society and what the role of older people is. All too often policy makers, planners and development practitioners assume that life takes place in three stages: childhood (dependency); adulthood (productivity); later life (dependency). This simplistic understanding could not be further from the truth and masks a huge diversity of economic activity and social interactions at all stages of life.

Hidden from view is the contribution grandparents who have pensions make to improving children’s education and nutrition. There is no calculation that captures the economic value of an older nurse that provides healthcare services on a voluntary basis in her community, having already been identified as ‘retired’ and ‘non-productive’. There are no figures that adequately value care and support by and for people of all ages in lower and middle-income countries.

In the context of achieving the soon to be agreed SDG framework, the promise of a ‘data revolution’ and the commitments to disaggregating data by age offer some hope that this situation can change. But any analysis must capture data at all stages of a person’s life. Without a better understanding of ageing and development, we risk investing in development and building programmes that do not know where poverty and inequality lie. Disaggregating data by age, gender and disability is not an expensive add-on to the SDG framework, but is the very bedrock upon which effective decisions can be made and must be invested in.

Another critical lesson that the ‘leave no-one behind’ agenda provides is that the essential building blocks for building sustainable, peaceful and equitable societies are the very individuals within those communities. Without a better understanding of ageing and development, we fail to capture adequately the potential of individuals of all ages and abilities within society. Living in better health longer allows older people to contribute more to building resilience in disaster-prone areas. Having access to finance can mean better income and nutrition for older farmers and their families. Getting appropriate healthcare for grandparents can mean children spending more time in education.

Ageing is a development fact. There should be no value judgement attached to this statement or to a person’s chronological age, whether they are young or old. Older people are carers, teachers, farmers, athletes, market traders, labourers, professionals, and Nobel laureates. Older people can also be frail and living with chronic illness, dementia or disability. The important thing is that we do not keep ageing hidden from view. We also need to have the courage to challenge our preconceptions of what getting older means to enable policies to emerge that are fit for purpose for our rapidly ageing societies.

Useful Links:

This article is based on a collection of essays called Facing the facts: the truth about ageing and development produced by Age International.

The Disaster Risk and Age Index from HelpAge ranks 190 countries based on the disaster risk faced by older people.

OECD work on inclusive societies and development

Rethinking due diligence practices in the apparel supply chain

Human Rights Watch spoke to Rana Plaza survivors
Human Rights Watch spoke to Rana Plaza survivors

In the run-up to the Third Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct in June, today’s post is by Jennifer Schappert of the OECD’s Responsible Business Conduct Unit (@J_Schappert).

Two years ago today, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka collapsed, killing over 1,100 people and injuring another 2,500. The dead and injured were garment workers, ordered to go back to work even though shops and a bank in the same building had closed immediately the day before when cracks appeared. The garment factories were indirectly supplying international retailers, highlighting the debate on whether multinational enterprises (MNEs) can make the apparel supply chain safe and healthy. Ensuing recommendations to MNEs have often focused on MNEs strengthening existing compliance mechanisms with individual suppliers. However, to transform the sector, we need to question whether the current approach to supply chain due diligence is the right one to begin with.

In the absence of strong regulatory frameworks in many producing countries, the traditional approach to compliance is for enterprises themselves to take on the role of monitoring and assessing each supplier against international standards, developing corrective action plans, and then using their leverage (for example through the incentive of future contracts) to influence suppliers to mitigate risks. It sounds fine in theory, but in practice the system breaks down.

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises advocate an approach where the nature and the extent of due diligence correspond to risk. However, the short-term nature of contracts between MNEs and their suppliers and the sheer size and complexity of apparel supply chains means that MNEs often struggle to know where to prioritise risk assessment and mitigation. Within this context an enterprise’s compliance system becomes reduced to ongoing assessments of (almost) all suppliers across all risk areas. This leaves few resources for tailoring risk assessments, identifying root causes of risks, and effectively managing risks when adverse impacts are identified.

Effective monitoring of individual suppliers is further complicated by the well-documented shortcomings of social audits, such as factory visits announced well in advance; fraud; inconsistent quality across audits and auditors; lack of alignment with international standards; audit duplication and resulting fatigue; and the limited scope of social audits which seek to identify adverse impacts but rarely root causes. Efforts to improve the system, for example through long-term contracts and close collaboration with suppliers have led to better results in certain cases and should be encouraged. However, this alone will not transform the sector because improvements are isolated to a few strategic suppliers and may fail to adequately address risks which cannot be tackled at the individual supplier level.

A multi-stakeholder project underway at the OECD is questioning current due diligence practices in the apparel supply chain on matters covered by the OECD Guidelines (human rights, employment and industrial relations, environment and bribery) and, among other questions, asking whether trade unions and other representative worker organisations could play a role in helping MNEs take a risk-based approach to due diligence.

Historically, unions and other worker organisations have helped government regulators direct inspections towards high-risk workplaces. For example, in the United States, trade unions helped regulators direct occupational safety and health inspections towards high-risk workplaces by requesting inspections as risks arose. This enabled limited government resources to appropriately target the most risky workplaces. By contributing to inspections, trade unions also ensured that inspections targeted the most salient risks at each individual workplace.

Within the apparel supply chain, workers’ representatives could act as an on-the-ground monitoring mechanism to trigger third-party inspections by multi-stakeholder initiatives. Such a process would potentially reduce the duplication of broad social audits and facilitate the targeting of technical assessments to specific risks. By contributing to the assessments, workers would likewise help to improve the quality and conformity of assessments and provide important context in identifying root causes of adverse impacts and corresponding solutions. Furthermore, unions and worker organisations have a role to play in promoting the long-term sustainability of solutions by increasing worker awareness of their rights, offering assistance in the actual exercise of individual rights, and protecting the rights of individual workers through collective bargaining.

The focus of an enterprise’s due diligence would then shift from the seemingly impossible task of monitoring suppliers for all risks to focusing on targeted assessments and risk remediation. The primary role of the MNE would be: to actively promote freedom of association amongst suppliers; create or participate in a system by which workers can request inspections; support timely and targeted technical assessments at the site level when requested or when operating in high-risk contexts (e.g. building integrity); and contribute to the mitigation of risks by addressing root causes (where feasible) in collaboration with suppliers, trade unions, and other buyers.

Freedom of association therefore becomes the enabler of risk-based due diligence across an entire supply chain. In countries where legal or political constraints prohibit or limit this fundamental right, the sector should use its leverage broadly, in collaboration with trade unions, government and international organisations, to influence government to reform the regulatory framework and its implementation in producing countries.

This broader approach to due diligence applies to other salient risks in the sector, low wages for example, that cannot be effectively addressed at the individual supplier level. The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety are demonstrating how a paradigm shift is feasible.

To date, supply chain due diligence in the apparel sector has predominantly focused on direct suppliers. However, according to the OECD Guidelines, it should be applied across the full length of the supply chain. Effective due diligence of risks linked to upstream production should build on the lessons of the last 20 years: an individual and bilateral approach to due diligence will not transform the sector. Due diligence is the responsibility of all enterprises in the sector. It should therefore be carried out by enterprises operating at each segment of the supply chain and be mutually reinforcing.

Based on the findings of the multi-stakeholder project, the OECD will develop a practical guidance to support the development of a common understanding of risk-based due diligence in the apparel and footwear sector supply chain. We welcome you to join us on 18-19 June 2015 as we carry this debate forward at the Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct.

Useful links

Remembering Rana Plaza Institute for Human Rights and Business

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

Global forum on Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible supply chains in the textile and garment sector

Corporate leaders: Your supply chain is your responsibility Roel Nieuwenkamp (@nieuwenkamp_csr) Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, in the OECD Observer

Can we predict happiness?

BLI InitiativeToday’s post is by Robb Rutledge, Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research

What makes us happy? Well-being researchers have identified many variables related to happiness, but we still don’t know exactly how the events of our daily lives combine to influence how we feel from moment to moment. People should get happier when good things happen, but clearly this is not the whole story.

We designed a study to investigate the relationship between rewards and happiness. We brought people into the lab and asked them repeatedly about their happiness as they chose between safe and risky monetary options. Risky choices were gambles with equal probabilities (like a coin toss) of a better or worse outcome. If they chose to gamble on a given trial, they then found out whether they won or lost. Based on the data, we developed a mathematical equation to predict how self-reported happiness depends on past events. We found that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected.

Happiness equation

Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation. The neurotransmitter dopamine is thought to represent these signals which might explain how people learn about rewards (if you get more than you expected, next time you should expect more).

How do our findings translate to real life? As soon as you make a plan to meet a friend for dinner, your happiness should increase in anticipation. If you manage to get a last-minute reservation at a popular new restaurant, your happiness might increase even more. If the meal is good, but not quite as good as expected, your happiness should actually decrease. Our equation predicts exactly how much happiness will go up and down, and our results reveal just how important expectations are.

Happiness is a difficult thing to measure, and one concern is that something about being in the lab is important for our findings. Working with a team of researchers at University College London, we developed a smartphone app called the Great Brain Experiment. The app is free and available in the Apple and Android app stores. We invite everyone to download the app and to play the different games. By playing the games, you contribute to ongoing research on important questions in psychology and neuroscience. In the game ‘What makes me happy?’ players choose between safe and risky options to win as many points as they can.

Using our mathematical equation, we could predict the happiness of over 18 000 people worldwide playing our game. Our results demonstrate that something as complicated as happiness can be studied using smartphones. As more people play the game, we can start to look for differences between groups, like players of different ages and cultures.

To better understand the link between rewards and happiness, we also had people play our game while having their brains scanned. We found that neural activity in an area of the brain called the striatum was closely related to reported happiness. When activity was high, we could predict that happiness would increase. Because this area has many connections to dopamine neurons, one interesting possibility is that dopamine levels help determine happiness. Our equation provides predictions that we can use to study the neural circuits involved in happiness. We can ask questions like whether factors that matter for happiness in young people differ in an important way from happiness in adults. The equation also gives us a tool for identifying differences between people that may help us better understand mood disorders like major depression.

As a researcher studying happiness, people often ask me how they can be happier. Our equation might make it seem like low expectations are the secret to happiness, but that’s not the case. Low expectations do make it more likely that an outcome will exceed expectations and positively impact happiness, but expectations also affect happiness before we find out how a decision turned out. We often don’t know the outcome of major life decisions for a long time, whether taking a new job or getting married, but our results suggest that positive expectations about those decisions will increase happiness. In general, accurate expectations may be best. Our expectations help us decide where to go for dinner and tell us whether a new restaurant is as good as everyone says it is. Although we all want to be happy, being happy all of the time is probably not a good idea. If you were ecstatic after every meal, you would never be able to decide which restaurant to go to. Our happiness tells us whether things are going better or worse than expected, and that may be a very useful signal for helping us make decisions.

Low expectations may not be the secret to happiness, but being able to predict happiness based on past rewards and expectations bring us one step closer to understanding happiness. By studying how happiness depends on the interaction between our brains and our environment, we hope to yield insights that contribute to the important goal of improving human well-being.

Useful links

These findings were reported in R. B. Rutledge, N. Skandali, P. Dayan & R. J. Dolan (2014) “A computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS). Vol. 111, No. 33, pp. 12252-12257.

Life satisfaction on the OECD Better Life Index

The Earth Statement: for an ambitious, science-based, equitable outcome to COP21 in Paris

Earth LeagueToday’s post, for Earth Day 2015, is from Johan Rockström, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, Jeffrey Sachs, Leena Srivastava and John Schellnhuber on behalf of the Earth League, a network of 17 leading climate scientists and economists who, supported by the Global Challenges Foundation, have just published the Earth Statement this article is based on.

2015 is a critical year for humanity. Our civilization has never faced such existential risks as those associated with global warming, biodiversity erosion and resource depletion. Our societies have never had such an opportunity to advance prosperity and eradicate poverty. We have the choice to either finally embark on the journey towards sustainability or to stick to our current destructive “business-as-usual” pathway.

Three times this year, world leaders will meet to set the course for decades to come. In July 2015, heads of state meet in Addis Ababa to discuss Financing for Development. In September 2015 in New York, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be adopted. In December 2015, nations negotiate a new Global Climate Agreement in Paris.

Decisions made in this single year will be the legacy of our generation. In particular, if we do not succeed in tackling climate change, the sustainable development goals, livelihoods in many parts of the world and the wellbeing of our close and distant kin will be threatened.

In 2015, a good climate future is still within reach. If we act boldly, we can safeguard human development. It is a moral obligation, and in our self-interest, to achieve deep decarbonization of the global economy via equitable effort sharing. This requires reaching a zero-carbon society by mid-century or shortly thereafter, thereby limiting global warming to below 2°C as agreed by all nations in 2010. This trajectory is not one of economic pain, but of economic opportunity, progress and inclusiveness. It is a chance too good to be missed. We have just embarked upon a journey of innovation, which can create a new generation of jobs and industries, whilst enhancing the resilience of communities and people around the world.

Avoiding Earth Tipping Points

We can still avert dangerous climate change. However, we are currently on a warming trajectory that will leave our world irrevocably changed, far exceeding the 2°C mark. This gamble could propel us into completely uncharted waters, with unmanageable sea-level rise and a vastly different climate, including devastating heat waves, persistent droughts and unprecedented floods. The foundations of our societies, including food security, infrastructure, ecosystem integrity and human health, would be in jeopardy, impacting most immediately the poor and vulnerable.

The latest science indicates that there are critical thresholds in the Earth system. Transgressing them may lead to dramatic and irreversible environmental changes. We are probably edging very close to such thresholds and may already have crossed one with regards to melting of parts of Antarctica. Sea-level rise of more than one meter due to this event alone may be inevitable. Tipping points can also lead to feedbacks and self-amplified climate change, pushing warming far beyond current estimates. No dollar price tag could ever measure the resulting human suffering and loss of countries, cultures and ecosystems.

Crossing Civilization Tipping Points

A new global citizens’ movement is heeding the scientific evidence, demanding immediate climate action. Societies across the world have given political leaders a mandate and a responsibility to act for a safe climate future now. Informed by scientific knowledge, inspired by economic assessments and guided by the moral imperative, we call on world leaders to work towards the following eight essential elements of a Paris Agreement and associated set of actions and plans that would represent a global turning point in December 2015:

Eight Essential Elements of Climate Action in Paris

  1. Governments must put into practice their commitment to limit global warming to below 2°C. We should aim to stay as far below it as possible, since even 2°C warming will cause significant damage and disruption. However, we are currently on a path to around 4°C warming by 2100, which would create unmanageable environmental challenges. If we do not act now, there is even a 1 in 10 risk of going beyond 6°C by 2100. We would surely not accept such a high risk of disaster in other realms of society. As a comparison, such a 1 in 10 probability is the equivalent of tolerating about 10,000 airplane crashes every day worldwide!
  2. The remaining global carbon budget – the limit of what we can still emit in the future – must be well below 1000 Gt CO2 to have a reasonable chance to hold the 2°C line. Humankind has already emitted around 2000 Gt CO2 since the beginning of industrialization. Respecting the global carbon budget means leaving at least three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. With current emissions trends, the remaining 1000 Gt CO2 would be used up within the next 25 years.
  3. We need to fundamentally transform the economy and adopt a global goal to phase out greenhouse gases completely by mid-century. Deep decarbonization, starting immediately and leading to a zero-carbon society by 2050 or shortly thereafter, is key to future prosperity. This long-term goal, paired with strong national commitments, including a price on carbon, and a possibility to ramp up ambition via regular reviews, are essential elements of the Paris agreement. Fossil fuel subsidies should be removed urgently, and investment should be redirected to spark a global renewable energy revolution, warranting energy access for all and particularly for those most in need.
  4. Equity is critical for a successful global agreement in Paris. Every country must formulate an emissions pathway consistent with deep decarbonization. For the sake of fairness, rich countries and progressive industries can and should take the lead and decarbonize well before mid-century. Developing countries should formulate plans far beyond what they can be expected to pursue on their own, reaping benefits from leapfrogging into a sustainable economy, well supported by international climate finance and technology access. Safeguarding the right to development of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is fundamental.
  5. We must unleash a wave of climate innovation for the global good, and enable universal access to the solutions we already have. The unprecedented challenge of climate change requires unprecedented technological advances. We need targeted research, development, demonstration and diffusion (RDD&D) of low-carbon energy systems and sustainable land use, and capacity building to enhance access for those most in need. International cooperation, stringent laws and standards, public and private investments and clear economic incentives are all crucial steps in the global transition.
  6. We need a global strategy to reduce vulnerability, build resilience and deal with loss and damage of communities from climate impacts, including collective action and scaled-up support. With 1°C of warming already having taken place, many societies are challenged by water scarcity, shifting rain patterns and other impacts. This poses a threat to human development in all countries, particularly among the poorest and most vulnerable. A 2°C or more warming of the planet would impose huge social and economic burdens that need to be shouldered through international solidarity.
  7. We must safeguard carbon sinks and vital ecosystems, which is as important for climate protection as the reduction of emissions. Cutting down forests and degrading grasslands and aquatic systems is like killing our best allies in the fight against climate change. A precondition for sustainability is the strengthening, not the weakening of the resilience of natural and managed ecosystems and food production systems.
  8. We must urgently realize new scales and sources of climate finance for developing countries to enable our rapid transition to zero-carbon, climate-resilient societies. This includes additional public funding for mitigation and adaptation at a level at least comparable to current global ODA (around 135 billion USD p.a.). Innovative schemes such as globally funded renewable energy feed-in tariffs are required. The private sector must be encouraged to mobilize substantially larger sums. Governments should engage with banks and pension funds, enabling a shift to climate-friendly investments. Global and national climate funding must be effective, transparent and accountable.

Useful links

Stockholm Resilience Centre

OECD work on climate change

The road to better data

Paris21 road mapToday’s post is by Johannes Jütting, Manager of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21), which promotes the better use and production of statistics in developing countries. PARIS21’s new report, A Road Map for a Country-led Data Revolution, sets out a detailed programme to ensure developing countries can monitor the Sustainable Development Goals and benefit from technological and other innovations in data collection and dissemination.

Tradition tells us that more than 3,000 years ago, Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and came back down with 10 commandments. When the world’s presidents and prime ministers go to the top of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mountain in New York late this summer they will come down with not 10 commandments but 169. Too many?

Some people certainly think so. “Stupid development goals,” The Economist said recently. It argued that the 17 SDGs and roughly 169 targets should “honour Moses and be pruned to ten goals”. Others disagree. In a report for the Overseas Development Institute, May Miller-Dawkins, warned of the dangers of letting practicality “blunt ambition”. She backed SDGs with “high ambition”.

The debate over the “right” number of goals and targets is interesting, important even. But it misses a key point: No matter how many goals and targets are finally agreed, if we can’t measure their real impact on people’s lives, on our societies and on the environment, then they risk becoming irrelevant.

Unfortunately, we already know that many developing countries have problems compiling even basic social and economic statistics, never mind the complex web of data that will be needed to monitor the SDGs. A few examples: In 2013, about 35% of all live births were not officially registered worldwide, rising to two-thirds in developing countries. In Africa, just seven countries have data on their total number of landholders and women landholders, and none have data from before 2004. Last but not least, fast-changing economies and associated measurement challenges mean we are not sure today if we have worldwide a billion people living in extreme poverty, half a billion or more than a billion.

Why does this matter? Without adequate data, we cannot identify the problems that planning and policymaking need to address. We also cannot judge if governments and others are meeting their commitments. As a report from the Centre for Global Development notes, “Data […] serve as a ‘currency’ for accountability among and within governments, citizens, and civil society at large, and they can be used to hold development agencies accountable.”

So data matters. Despite this, blank spaces persist in the statistics of many developing countries. And they persist even at a time when the world is experiencing a “data revolution” – a rising deluge of data matched by ever-increasing demand for data.

Despite the challenges, we are optimistic that all countries, including the poorer ones, can make quick, dramatic progress in meeting their data challenges. Firstly, there is not only a growing awareness of the problems countries are facing but also a growing willingness to do something about it. Statistical offices in almost 40 developing countries have signed up to our Data Declaration, in which they state that “the time is now to bring the data revolution to everyone, everywhere”.

Second, new technologies are already helping to revolutionise the world of data. PARIS21’s Innovations Inventory has compiled hundreds of ways in which technology is making it easier and less costly to collect data and providing new sources of data, like “big data”. Examples abound, from NGO to private sector initiatives. As part of its Data for Development (D4D) challenge, Orange Senegal opened up its mobile-phone call-log data for researchers to generate insights into health, transportation, demographics, income inequality, and more. Another truly “Big Idea” comes from Restless Development, a youth-led development agency that equips young people with knowledge, skills, and platforms necessary to effectively interpret data in order to mobilise citizens to take action.

Third, we are optimistic because we want to build on what is already there – existing national statistical systems. Clearly, many are far from ready to join the data revolution; a colleague recalls visiting one national statistical office that couldn’t pay its power bill and had to negotiate with a neighbour to string an extension cord from his home to the office. That may be an extreme example, but other challenges – including technology gaps, shortages of trained staff, weak data dissemination and poor relations with users – are all too common. Nevertheless, national statistical agencies are the only entities with the expertise and legal frameworks to play the lead role in collecting, processing and disseminating data. It is on them that the data revolution for development for sustainable development must be built.

Of course, our Road Map for a Country-led Data Revolution is only a start. Much else needs to happen. This includes designing pilot projects, finding better ways to integrate new sources of data in existing national systems and – unsurprisingly – finding extra funding. But here again we are optimistic. We don’t accept that the cost of monitoring the SDGs will be “crippling”. With our colleagues in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, we have calculated that additional donor funding of $200 million a year, matched by a similar rise in domestic funding, would enable the 77 IDA countries (“The World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest”) to successfully monitor their progress the SDGs – yes, even the proposed 17 goals and 169 targets!

We don’t yet know if that will turn out to be the final number of SDG “commandments”. But here’s something we do know – developed and developing countries are on the cusp of a huge and dramatic change in how they collect and disseminate. True, unlike Moses, we don’t live in a time of miracles. But with the aid of a clear road map, strong political will and “miraculous” technologies, we really are much closer to the promised land of better data than we realise.

Useful links

Informing a Data Revolution – PARIS21

Watch the launch of A Road Map for a Country-led Data Revolution at the Cartagena Data Festival on Monday 20 April from 1700 hours UTC (noon in Cartagena, 1pm in New York, 6pm in London, 7pm in Paris, 2am in Tokyo).