OECD Rural development and rural well-being

Realising opportunities in rural regions in the transition to net-zero


Rural Agenda for Climate Action: Addressing climate change and transitioning rural regions to net-zero economies




Rural regions have an essential role to play in the transition to net-zero emissions economies and to build resilience against climate change - yet rural development policies do not always reflect this.

Rural regions cover roughly 80% of the territory in OECD counties and contain natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services needed to sustain our lives. They produce food and energy, clean air, detoxify waste, clear water, sequester carbon, and provide recreational opportunities. Simultaneously, there is an urgent need to transform emission-intensive activities in rural regions into environmentally friendly and net-zero alternatives. GHG emissions per capita in rural regions are particularly high, also because rural firms and households lack sustainable alternatives. Increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events threaten their resource-dependent livelihoods (mining, forestry, fisheries, energy and tourism). Rural communities can also struggle to adapt and prepare for transformational challenges required to face climate change pressures. Population ageing, limited economic diversity, dependence on external markets and missing (digital) infrastructure all exacerbate their vulnerability.



Rural policies need to become climate-proof and actively take advantage of new development opportunities.

A collaborative and place-based approach reflecting local interests, circumstances, and geographic location can often accelerate challenges and opportunities related to climate change for rural communities. Policymakers need to think about integrated policy approaches at the local level to reinforce the impact of different actions and address trade-offs.


The OECD calls for a stronger role for rural policies in reaching climate change goals and will work with countries to develop rural development opportunities and support the net-zero emission transition in rural regions.

The OECD has identified net-zero opportunities for rural regions in six policy areas. The first two are considered to be horizontal as they are enabling conditions fort the other more thematic, vertical policy areas. 





  • The OECD co-hosted two events at COP26 to call for a stronger role for rural policies in reaching climate change goals.

Event recording: Rural policies & climate change: why are rural areas crucial to the green transition?

 Event recording: Realising the net-zero opportunity 

Read the proceedings


 Rural Agenda for Climate Action

  • The Agenda draws attention to the role rural regions play in accelerating much-needed reforms to reach net-zero emissions and calls for a stronger role of rural policies in achieving climate change goals.
  • It collects best practices on different policy areas and encourages partnerships with multiple stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.

Read full Agenda for Climate Action (EN)

Lire le programme d’action rural en faveur du climat (FR)

Highlights Brochure Rural Agenda for Climate Action

Express your support for the Rural Agenda for Climate Action

Rural well-being icon 

Rural Well-being

  • The report presents the latest iteration of the OECD rural policy framework. The new approach recognises the diversity of rural places, putting citizen well-being at the forefront.
  • The framework also looks to future and unfolding megatrends such as globalisation, digitalisation, climate change and demographic change.

More about the report


 OECD Regional Outlook 

  • This report includes a section on rural regions and is focused on: 
  • The COVID-19 crisis with forward-looking policy responses
  • Applying the learnings from the COVID-19 crisis specifically to the transition to net-zero emissions 

The section on rural regions highlights the need for rural regions to contribute to the net-zero emission transition

More about the report




For more information contact Lisanne Raderschall


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