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Climate Change

Securing land rights for all is key to building disaster-resilient communities

Sameh Wahba's picture

October 13 is the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

From East Asia, South Asia, and Africa to Latin America, disaster events such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes are on the rise, destroying homes and claiming lives.

Climate change is making it worse. Extreme weather is hitting us harder and more frequently as the planet warms, causing greater losses.

Engineering our way out of disasters – the promise of resilient infrastructure

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Hurricane Irma moves through the Caribbean in this satellite image from September 5th, 2017.
Image credit: NOAA
The last few weeks have been a stark reminder of how natural disasters can undermine precious development progress in an instant. Images of incredible devastation in the Caribbean wrought by a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, collapsing buildings in Mexico during a violent series of earthquakes, and massive monsoon flooding in South Asia that claimed hundreds of lives have resulted in an outpouring of support from the international community.
 
Unfortunately, scenes like these are becoming more routine. The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly visible, and rapid urbanization is concentrating risk in vulnerable regions of the world.
 
Just consider the following statistics:

The localization of the Sustainable Development Goals: Implementing the SDGs in Colombia, Indonesia, and Kenya

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
Medellin, Colombia. (Photo: World Bank Group)

We are approaching the end of year two of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In September 2015, global leaders from 193 countries set a 15-year deadline – by the year 2030 – to reach the SDGs, a roadmap to end poverty, promote equality, protect people and the planet, while leaving no one behind.
 
What have countries accomplished in these past two years at the local level – where people receive vital goods and services to live and thrive – in areas such as health, education, water, job training, infrastructure? (The results are mixed) Have we raised enough financing? (Likely not). Do we have adequate data to measure progress? (Not in all countries). Some global development leaders have expressed concern that we may not be on track to reach critical SDGs in areas such as health and poverty.
 
To achieve the SDGs, we have to focus on building capacity of development actors at the local level to finance and deliver services that change the lives of people in their communities. This view is well-supported by a joint United Nations Development Program (UNDP)-World Bank Group (WBG) report, which shows that gaps in local delivery capacity are a major factor in determining the success – or failure – of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the predecessor of the SDGs.
 
The lynchpin for successful local implementation of the SDGs is SDG 11, which focuses on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. It is vitally important to manage the process of urbanization to achieve all of the SDGs, not least because the world population is likely to grow by a billion people – to 8.6 billion – by 2030, with most of this growth to be absorbed by urban areas in developing countries.
 
Tackling the challenges facing cities, such as infrastructure gaps, growing poverty, and concentrations of informal housing requires a multi-faceted approach that includes coordinated regional planning with strong rural-urban linkages, effective land use, innovative financing mechanisms, improved and resilient service delivery models, sustained capacity building, and the adoption of appropriate smart and green growth strategies.
 

The WBG is working with our many partners, including countries, the United Nations, the private sector, and civil society to provide more effective, coordinated, and accelerated support to countries for implementing the SDGs at the national and local levels. We have provided below examples from three countries, from diverse regions and situations, which have begun this work in earnest.
 
Following the end of a 50-year conflict in 2016, Colombia has a chance to consolidate peace after the signing of a peace agreement. The National Development Plan of 2014-2018 includes an ambitious reform program focusing on three pillars: peace, equity, and education. Through strong collaboration with all stakeholders – local governments, communities, civil society, businesses, and youth, among others – Colombia is focusing on improving institutional capacity and financing for local and regional governments, enhancing basic services in both rural and urban areas.
 
Medellin city, which in the 1990s had the highest murder rate in the world, has emerged as a confident leader, implementing an integrated and multi-sector approach that has included a combination of violence prevention programs, and the transformation into a prosperous, inclusive, and livable city. Their efforts, with support from the WBG and other partners, have the strong support of local business leaders who recognize that improving poor people’s lives can help reduce the core inequities that fueled conflict in the past. The Government of Colombia is also implementing a program to enhance the capacity at the municipal level in public finance, planning, and management, to help build infrastructure and improve service delivery.

Beyond Mopane worms: Zimbabwe's prospects for economic growth under climate variability

Pablo Benitez's picture
Zimbabwe’s fields and forests are becoming drier. Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank


Dried, mopane worms are traditionally offered to foreigners visiting Zimbabwe as a welcoming snack. Not really worms at all, they are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina), hand-picked from mopane trees in the wild, their names “madora” in Shona and “amacimbi” in Ndebele a testament to their local popularity.

Canada and the World Bank: Empowering women and girls is the best way to build a better world for all

Marie-Claude Bibeau's picture
A woman tends to plants in a nursery in Sri Lanka. © Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank
A woman tends to plants in a nursery in Sri Lanka. © Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

We face global challenges on an unprecedented scale: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.

The Neighborhood Battery System: Conserving Energy and Reducing Emissions in the Netherlands

Qiyang Xu's picture
Electric cars are so popular in the Netherlands that it would not be uncommon, say, for a Tesla to roll up as a taxi outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. And it is not tough to find charging stations for these cars in neighborhoods, parking lots, or even along the streets.

To reduce carbon emissions, national and local governments are taking various approaches—and, thus, electric cars, solar home systems, and energy-efficient solutions for buildings are booming in Europe. Cities like Amsterdam are front and center of this transformation. Netherlands, for instance,  has an ambitious goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80–95 percent by 2050 compared with 1990, making it an ideal venue for a Smart Cities Tour earlier this year, where  a group of 26 representatives, including national and municipal officials and World Bank project teams, to learn from the Netherlands’ successful experience in energy sector transformation.

For instance, during a site visit to energy network company Alliander, we saw the pilot of a neighborhood battery system (NBS) in Rijsenhout, a town in the Western Netherlands near Amsterdam. The NBS is a local, community-level energy storage system that employs one large battery to stabilize neighborhood power distribution grids, particularly during peak hours. With a significant and increasing number of electric vehicle charging stations and solar panels installed in communities, electric networks are under increasing pressure to handle the variation between solar power during the day and concentrated peak electricity demand in the evenings and nights. Maintaining stable power supply and enhancing the resilience of the electricity grid to spikes in demand are fast becoming real challenges for these communities. While overhauling the power grids to prepare for these challenges could be costly and time-consuming, these small-scale NBS provide a low-cost, smart alternative solution.
 
Housing of the pilot neighborhood battery system in Rijsenhout, Netherlands.  Credit: Alliander

Resilience in urban transport: what have we learned from Super Storm Sandy and the New York City Subway?

Ramiro Alberto Ríos's picture
Photo: Stefan Georgi/Flickr
Back in 2012, a storm surge triggered by Super Storm Sandy caused extensive damage across the New York City (NYC)-New Jersey (NJ) Metropolitan Area, and wreaked havoc on the city’s urban rail system.

As reported by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the subway suffered at least $5 billion worth of damage to stations, tunnels and electrical/signaling systems. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson network (PATH) connecting NYC to NJ was also severely affected, with losses valued at approximately $871 million, including 85 rail cars damaged.

In the face of adversity, various public institutions in charge of urban rail operations are leading the way to repair damaged infrastructure (“fix”), protect assets from future similar disasters (“fortify”), restore services to millions of commuters and rethink the standards for future investments.

NYC and NJ believe that disasters will only become more frequent and intense. Their experience provides some valuable lessons for cities around the world on how to respond to disasters and prepare urban rail systems to cope with a changing climate.

Adapting to Climate Change: Disaster Risk Mitigation

Joaquim Levy's picture
A family whose home floods every year, creating hazardous living conditions in Colombia. © Scott Wallace/World Bank
A family in Colombia whose home floods every year, creating hazardous living conditions. © Scott Wallace/World Bank


Climate shocks have profound implications for the development prospects of the World Bank’s client countries. For many emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs), the adverse impact is already a reality, with natural disasters becoming more frequent and severe. Unfortunately, many countries still lack the capacity to cushion these blows, and this can spur political fragility, food insecurity, water scarcity, and, in extreme cases, conflict and migration. Even in milder manifestations, these impacts can derail development and set back gains from years of investment

Campaign Art: Become a citizen of the Trash Isles

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Many of us have seen the iconic photograph of a seahorse latched onto a cotton swab. It’s just one example of how prevalent plastic debris is in the ocean.

Every year, hundreds of tons of plastic trash enters the ocean, splintering into smaller and smaller pieces that are often eaten by marine animals and birds. The plastic trash is everywhere It’s in sediments at the bottom of the ocean, it floats at the surface, is washed up on remote islands, and is even frozen inside Arctic iceSome estimates say that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea.

Now, there’s a gigantic mass of plastic waste the size of France floating in the Pacific Ocean. To call attention to it, the environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation paired up with news and entertainment publication LADBible and TV presenter Ross Kemp to campaign to have the giant mass of trash officially recognized by the UN as a country with its own citizens, currency, flag, passport and stamps.

LADBible has called this emerging nation The Trash Isles.

Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, is now the nation's first honorary citizen, and the Isles submitted an application to the United Nations to be recognized as the world’s 196th country.

The campaign also has a call to action, issued as The Trash Isles Manifesto:
  • Develop biodegradable materials
  • Introduce the carbon tax
  • Create laws to increase recycling

You can join the more than 100,000 people who have already signed the petition to be granted citizenship become a Trash Isles citizen.

Ideas Box: the library that promotes literacy and builds disaster resilience—a Q&A

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture


Over the last two weeks, we’ve witnessed three hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as well as a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, killing people and destroying homes. They serve as a reminder that natural hazards pose a greater threat to our lives and livelihoods than we may think.

Dealing with rising disaster risks requires greater efforts with smarter approaches—ones that can help vulnerable people and communities better prepare for, and recover from, disasters. Libraries Without Borders (BSF), an international organization that expands access to information, education, and cultural resources to vulnerable people around the world, knows that very well.

In 2010, BSF was building libraries in Haiti when the well-known earthquake struck. At the time, local partners asked BSF to help them create information and cultural access points in refugee camps. This experience led to the development of the “Ideas Box," an innovative tool that provides vulnerable communities in disaster-prone areas with access to information, education, and cultural resources.

Last week, on the International Literacy Day, I talked to BSF’s Director of Communications and Advocacy, Katherine Trujillo, about the Ideas Box, as well as how their innovative ideas and actions have helped promote literacy and build resilience in disaster-hit communities.


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