Mathias Cormann, Australia’s longest-serving finance minister, succeeds Angel Gurria of Mexico on Tuesday as the new secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), starting a five-year term ahead difficult. .
Cormann takes the reins of this influential 38-member body as the organization seeks to play a major role in supporting economic recovery from the pandemic, tackling accelerating climate change and helping to conclude a global digital tax agreement.
“There is a lot of work to be done to contribute to stronger, cleaner, fairer and more inclusive growth,” Cormann told reporters after being elected to the post.
“We need genuinely ambitious and effective action on climate change,” he said, designating climate change as a key objective. He said he would work on a global approach to help countries reduce their net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
Track record of blocking climate action
Cormann’s focus on a net zero emissions target is a major shift in the rhetoric of a man who once described such a target as “reckless and irresponsible” and carbon pricing a “very expensive hoax.” The conservative politician is used to blocking climate action. He abolished Australia’s carbon pricing system and continued to support the fossil fuel industry as a senior government minister.
Climate activists pointed out Cormann’s track record of running counter to the OECD’s climate goals by calling on countries to reject the Australian’s candidacy for the top post at one of the world’s leading economic organizations. They described his change in rhetoric as an attempt to airbrush his file.
Cormann caught the post, beating out former EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, a Swedish politician with strong climate credentials.
“It is imperative that Mr Cormann now backs up his rhetoric with action and proves that he is up to the task of leading the OECD in a way that prioritizes action on climate change at the level global, âsaid Martin Zavan, spokesperson for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. DW. “Now that Mr Cormann has the job, he has to leave his climate-blocking actions and rhetoric in the past where they belong.”
Cormann takes office just months before the crucial UN climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, where governments are expected to agree on a plan to tackle climate change.
âWe are in a climate emergency. The OECD should encourage and support member states to scale up and sharply scale up their responses to reducing emissions at a scale and at a speed compatible with the best science on what is needed to meet the long-term Paris climate goal. “Zavan said.
Global digital tax
Another of Cormann’s key priorities is to get governments to agree to a global deal on the taxation of multinationals that would reflect the realities of modern commerce and ensure that America’s tech giants pay their fair share of taxes.
The Paris-based OECD, which includes the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, has for years coordinated talks among nearly 140 countries to rewrite tax rules governing cross-border trade. . Hopes for a deal have faded in recent months after the Biden administration backed a global minimum corporate tax.
“It is in the interests of the companies concerned to be able to deal with a coherent set of international rules, rather than having to deal with the proliferation of different unilateral measures,” Cormann told the Financial Times in March. “I am quietly optimistic that in the end sense and sensitivity will prevail.”
Who is Mathias Cormann?
Born in Belgium, Cormann emigrated to Australia in 1996 when he was in his twenties.
He first worked as an assistant to a regional minister before taking over as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister of Western Australia. After a brief stint in the health insurance industry, Cormann was elected Liberal Party Senator for Western Australia, a province he represented until 2020. He served as Australia’s Finance Minister from 2013 to 2020.
A native German speaker, he also speaks English, French and Flemish, a multilingual background he flaunted during his campaign for the OECD post.