sustainability, namely, regeneration, substitutability, assimilation, and avoiding irreversibility.2
The OECD also publishes reports on various topics related to sustainability and fosters dialogue and discussion on sustainable development among member countries, thus providing an opportunity for sharing and learning. For example, the OECD has prepared reports on institutionalizing sustainable development (OECD 2007), good practices in the National Sustainable Development Strategies of OECD countries (OECD 2006), and guidance on preparing sustainability assessments (OECD 2010). The Organization has been working on a “green growth” strategy for consideration of OECD ministers; the strategy would maximize synergies between ensuring environmental integrity and improving economic efficiency. In 1998, the OECD also established a roundtable on sustainable development, where environment and development ministers engage in informal dialogue on the international policy agenda of sustainable development.3 The OECD also publishes regular environmental performance reviews of member countries.
The OECD prepares a variety of reports on global sustainability conditions. In its 2008 report, the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030, the OECD made clear that many of the conditions that led to Earth Summit in 1992 still pose serious threats (OECD 2008). The report projected environmental and economic trends from the present to 2030 and recognized progress in addressing air quality, water quality, forestry, and waste management in developed countries. It also described “climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and health impacts of pollution and hazardous chemicals” as especially serious problems. Without new policy actions on these issues, the OECD said that “within the next few decades we risk irreversibly altering the environmental basis for sustained economic prosperity.” The report also identified a suite of “achievable and affordable” policies for addressing these issues.
2 OECD (2001) defined these terms as follows:
Regeneration: “Renewable resources shall be used efficiently and their use shall not be permitted to exceed their long-term rates of natural regeneration.”
Substitutability: “Non-renewable resources shall be used efficiently and their use limited to levels which can be offset by substitution by renewable resources or other forms of capital.”
Assimilation: “Releases of hazardous or polluting substances to the environment shall not exceed its assimilative capacity; concentrations shall be kept below established critical levels necessary for the protection of human health and the environment.”
Avoiding Irreversibility: “Irreversible adverse effects of human activities on ecosystems and on biogeochemical and hydrological cycles shall be avoided.”
3 For more details, see http://www.oecd.org/pages/0,3417,en_39315735_39312980_1_1_1_1_1,00.html.