£40 a month for junked food

In OECD Insights: Sustainable Development, chapter 5 on production and consumption mentions a report on food waste published by UK government advisory agency WRAP. The latest WRAP report also includes wasted liquids. It estimates that UK households generate 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink waste a year. That makes 330 kg (726 lbs) per year for each household on average, or just over 6 kg (13 lbs) per household per week. The figure would no doubt be much higher if food processing and catering were included.

5.3 million tonnes of this waste is avoidable. The rest is split equally between “unavoidable” and “possibly avoidable” waste.

Of the avoidable food and drink waste, 2.2 million tonnes is left over after cooking, preparing or serving, and 2.9 million tonnes is not used in time.

For the average household, the retail price of the avoidable food and drink waste is £40 ($65) per month. Given that the average household spends £260 ($424) a month on food and drink, avoidable waste accounts for around 15% of the shopping budget.

It’s not just the budget that suffers. The average household generates 210 kg of avoidable food and drink waste per year. This translates into roughly the equivalent of 0.8 tonnes of CO2. That doesn’t sound much compared with the 33 tonnes CO2 equivalent per household per year, but it is the equivalent of all members of a household taking an annual return flight from London to Vienna, or a quarter of the annual mileage driven by the members of that household. See the full report here

Energy … You’d think we’d be savin’ it up.

To change the world’s energy model is the most significant challenge facing humanity.
– Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

What does our energy use look like for now? How much energy does a Kenyan use compared to an Australian?   How much does it take to produce goods and services in China compared to India?  How much pollution is all this causing?

Point of view: OECD Analyst reports from Copenhagen


What images come to mind when we hear “Copenhagen”?  Ministers sitting around a table and protesters waving banners?  COP15 is also analysts, scientists, businesses and civil society representatives working together on climate-related initiatives…OECD Analyst Christa Clapp tells us what she is doing at COP15:

“While in Copenhagen, I will be speaking at an event sponsored by Eneco, a Dutch energy company. Eneco is supporting the Luz Verde programme to distribute 30 million compact fluorescent light bulbs in Mexico. This is one of the first “programmatic” Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects to be approved. It groups similar disbursed projects together to lower transaction costs to access the carbon market and earn carbon credits. Such projects are a first step towards scaling-up carbon market mechanisms. The OECD is working together with the International Energy Agency to support the Annex I Expert Group, which is a group of climate negotiators, on carbon market issues. Our recent papers focus on the strengths and weaknesses of project-based carbon market mechanisms and scaled-up sector-based approaches.

More than 30 countries are already trading in carbon markets, either at a national or sub-national level. Additional countries are discussing how to design new market instruments and potentially link emission trading systems. Decisions taken in Copenhagen may impact the reach of these carbon markets and how they function. At OECD we are actively exploring how carbon markets might evolve post-Copenhagen, building on our recent Economics of Climate Change Mitigation work, which analyzes how carbon market instruments can be used to build up a global carbon market.

To further explore how carbon markets are expanding and evolving, we are bringing together experts and policy-makers for an OECD Workshop on Carbon Markets in April 2010. This workshop will offer an early post-Copenhagen opportunity to investigate these key questions:

  • How can we build up a global carbon market, for example by increasing the number of countries participating, and through direct linking of emissions trading schemes?
  • How will decisions taken in Copenhagen impact incentives for developing country engagement in carbon markets, including the design of “offset” mechanisms?
  • Under what conditions can cities and sub-national actors access carbon market financing for local low-emission projects?
  • How might voluntary markets evolve as compliance markets grow?

Pay a little now or a lot later?

Climate change has stirred controversy since scientists first started debating it.  Cop15 seems to signal a new consensus  – or at least the beginnings of one.  But many big questions remain : How will climate change actually affect people’s daily lives?  What’s the best way to attack the problem ?  Who should pay the bill?

Agreeing that climate change is a world problem requiring world cooperation is only the first step, and many of us watching the summit wonder what real solutions will emerge.

As political leaders settle in to negotiate an agreement, we should be aware of a basic economic fact:  the costs of tackling climate change are moderate provided that we start lowering emissions now.   OECD calculations show that the longer we wait, the more expensive the bill.

Useful links:

OECD on COP15

Mad math

J.P. Morgan saved the financial system twice. In 1895, following the Panic of 1893, the Federal Treasury had almost no gold left, following a run on the gold supply. Morgan came to the rescue, heading a syndicate that loaned enough gold to finance a bond issue that restored the Treasury’s surplus. He saved the day once again in the Panic of 1907, persuading New York bankers to follow his example by pledging money to consolidate the banking system.

So it’s ironic that the bank he founded was in some ways at the root of the current crisis. That may sound surprising, given the usual suspects (Lehman’s, AIG, Bear Sterns…). Yet, as Gillian Tett of the Financial Times explains in Fool’s Gold,  a team from J.P. Morgan invented a product called Bistro (Broad Index Secured Trust offering) that helped to fuel the massive expansion of the credit derivatives market.

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Ten trillion well spent

The IEA has a message for all the negotiators in Copenhagen: keep on doing things the way we’re doing them now and catastrophe is just around the corner. That’s the stark conclusion from the latest World Energy Outlook, released in London on 10 November. “Continuation of current trends in energy use puts the world on track for a rise in temperature of up to 6°C and poses serious threats to global energy security” according to the IEA.
The reference scenario sees demand increasing by 40% between now and 2030, and pollution would worsen, with fossil fuels accounting for over three-quarters of the extra demand. The good news is that it would only take $10.5 trillion over the next 20 years to keep the temperature rise below 2°C.
If that sounds exorbitant even in these days of trillion dollar financial rescue packages, the IEA calculated that energy bills in transport, buildings and industry alone would be reduced by $8.6 trillion. And in addition to avoiding severe climate change, this cost would also be offset by other economic, health and energy-security benefits.

Where your money goes


Most OECD countries have seen huge rises in public debt during the crisis. That’s going to have to be repaid eventually, which is going to mean higher taxes or lower spending or – more likely – both. So, government spending priorities are set to be a hot topic over the next few years. To get a sense of current priorities, take a look at this interactive graphic on the OECD Factblog.