Deltas are often described as cradles of civilization. They are the testing grounds for early agriculture and the birthplace of hydraulic engineering as we attempted to shape the landscape to suit our needs.
Deltas are the unique result of the interaction of rivers and tidal processes resulting in the largest sedimentary deposits in the world. Although comprising only 5% of the land area, deltas have up to 10 times higher than average population—a number, which is increasing rapidly, especially for deltas in Asia.
Low lying, deltas are widely recognized as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly sea-level rise and changes in runoff, as well as being subject to stresses imposed by human modification of catchment and delta plain land use.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark spoke at the World Bank Group about the effectiveness of her Canadian province's carbon tax and the role of subnational governments in setting policies that can address climate change.
"We’ve had a pure carbon tax for seven years in BC. It covers 72 percent of emissions in the province, so it is very broad. It is now at about 30 dollars a tonne. So we have seen it operating for a long time.
I don't know if we are unique in the world, but we are proud of the fact that we have taken 100 percent of the revenues that we have collected through the carbon tax, which is over 6 billion dollars, and we have invested that plus some in tax cuts.
The Canadian Province of Ontario announced last month that it would join California and Quebec in linking their cap-and-trade programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The move was met with approval by carbon market watchers, as local governments showed how they could avoid the lengthy political battles sometimes faced by national governments preparing submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At a time when governments are looking for ambition, could this sort of local government action be the start of something much bigger?
Last week, I attended the Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) event in Los Angeles to explore whether the momentum we are seeing to price carbon is evident on the ground. I found a lot of local government leadership on climate change.
It is Day Ten since the earthquake struck Nepal and the scale of the devastation is only just becoming evident. The official death toll has now crossed 7,000, of which 5,000 have been confirmed in remote rural areas. As many as 15,000 people are injured, many critically. Aftershocks continue to rattle central Nepal and most people are still too jittery to come to terms with what has happened.
When you think about clean technology, images of wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars most likely come to mind. You probably don’t connect it with things like mobile applications, Big Data, remote sensing and cloud computing. Yet, at a very low cost, these web and mobile functions are driving ground-breaking solutions that help us make more efficient use of resources and, as a result, lower our collective carbon footprint.
In the technology world, this green growth model is called Cleanweb.
Cleanweb solutions have been spurred by pioneering business models and recent advances in information and communications technologies (ICTs). A new paper by the World Bank explains how these solutions are already disrupting high-cost Cleantech financial models and enabling smarter, more efficient use of resources in everything from our homes and cars, to factories and farms.
One of the best and most well-known examples of Cleanweb is Airbnb. The lodging website challenges the traditional hotel business model by giving homeowners the opportunity to share their accommodation with travelers at a low cost. According to their own studies, home sharing not only cuts costs but also promotes more efficient use of resources. For example, when compared to hotel stays in the European Union, Airbnb properties consume 78 percent less energy, 48 percent less water and produce 89 percent less Green House Gases (GHG) per guest night.
Europe and North America have been early adopters and developers of Cleanweb applications, but their potential benefit for emerging and developing markets is immense. Thanks to low startup costs and small risk to investors, Cleanweb can offer even bigger benefits in terms of private sector development and job creation, where capital and investor appetite may be low. New forms of capital formation such as crowdfunding are also helping catalyze existing efforts to create entrepreneurial cultures and ecosystems in developing markets, as outlined by an infoDev report last year called “Crowdfunding’s Potential for the Developing World”.
Emiko Kashiwagi / Flickr
Industries account for nearly one-third of direct and indirect global greenhouse-gas emissions, and they will be playing an increasingly important role in achieving the global targets expected to be set at the international climate summit in Paris in December. For example, the cement (5 percent), chemicals (7 percent) and iron and steel (7 percent) sectors account for nearly one-fifth of all global greenhouse-gas emissions, and those sectors have significant potential to reduce those emissions.
Tackling climate change by focusing on industries has long been a contentious issue. Some industries claim that regulation will impede economic growth by imposing additional burdens on competitive sectors. In some cases, they have an argument; but, if it is designed well and adapted to the context, a smart and timely intervention can influence a socially and economically positive systemic change.
Many businesses themselves, by pursuing cost-effective, long-term, environmentally sustainable production, long ago realized that “going green” can be highly advantageous, and they have been taking a pro-active approach toward addressing the issue precisely because it makes business sense. One group of global business leaders – including Unilever, Holcim, Virgin Group and others – have taken their commitment further by encouraging governments to lend their support for net-zero emissions strategies by 2050.
Even in developing countries, companies like Intel are investing millions of dollars in energy efficiency to save on current and future energy costs. The company has already saved $111 million since 2008 as a result of $59 million worth of sustainability investments in 1,500 projects worldwide.
Source: New Climate Economy 2014; World Bank World Development Indicators
The sentiment that climate action by both the private sector and the public sector is urgent was also an important theme highlighted by World Bank Group President Jim Kim during January's World Economic Forum conference in Davos. Mitigation measures, such as energy-efficiency policies, have long been seen as a way to improve profits and manage risks. The logic for energy efficiency, a key set of abatement actions by the manufacturing sector, is there.
The recent New Climate Economy initiative, produced by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, estimates that at least 50 percent – and, with broad and ambitious implementation, potentially up to 90 percent – of the actions needed to get onto a pathway that keeps warming from exceeding 2°C could be compatible with the goal of ensuring the competitiveness of industries.
If you think that climate change is a distant and future threat, you are in for a rude awakening. I just returned from Zambia, where I witnessed how communities in the Barotse basin located in the western province are coping with varying weather conditions. On the one hand, high temperatures and drought led to the loss of their maize crops while delayed and fluctuating rainfall patterns challenged rice planting in the wetter plains, devastating the livelihoods of communities in the region.
Such changing weather patterns and the impacts of rising temperatures, already evident at a global mean temperature increase of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, are not likely to relent anytime soon. In fact, according to the recent World Bank report Turn Down the Heat – Confronting a New Climate Normal, things are going to get worst. The report suggests that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we may be locked into warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century. Unfortunately, while everyone will be affected by a changing climate, it is the poor and the most vulnerable and those least able to adapt who are hardest hit. Clearly, we cannot ignore the increasing climate risks and continue on a business-as-usual approach to development.
With this in mind, the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, has recognized climate change as one of the major issues to be addressed in order to maximize and safeguard development impact. In response, the World Bank has developed and launched a set of online Climate and Disaster Risk Screening Tools. These tools provide a systematic and consistent way of considering short and long-term climate and disaster risks at an early-stage of project and national/sector planning processes. Screening is a first but essential step to make sure that these risks are assessed and managed in development planning.
- Climate Change
Water security is a major challenge for many countries, especially developing ones. The numbers tell a story of water resources under stress while competition for their use is increasing – by 2025, about 1.8 billion people will be living in regions or countries with absolute water scarcity. Clean water and adequate sanitation is still far from reach for many of the world’s poorest. At the same time, more water is needed to produce food and energy to satisfy the rising needs of the earth’s growing population.
When my colleague and friend Pabsy Pabalan informed me that she was going to cover the 2015 World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings, I thought she meant producing blogs or writing articles. But her plan was a little more unusual and fresh. Pabsy was on a mission to explore the other side of the meetings, interview participants, and educate a younger audience by producing short daily videos. As someone who is toward the younger side (or would like to think so), I was looking forward to watching videos with a different approach on World Bank Group events. I soon became a huge fan of #PabsyLive.
Musicians, politicians, and non-profit leaders joined thousands of people to emphasize a message that relates both to poverty and environmental concerns:
Pollution kills and it hits the poor the hardest. To protect our lives and our planet, we must act now to end pollution.
The World Bank talked to people at the event to see what types of pollution they see around them and what actions, however small, they take to reduce pollution on a daily basis.
Get inspired by their words and actions:
“I see pollution more in the air and water—in the creeks and in the sea. Pollution brings damage to nature and animals’ habitats.
“I walk a lot. A lot of people may drive, but I am used to walking on campus. Subconsciously, it makes me feel I’m contributing [to the cause of ending pollution].”
– Patrick Quackenbush, a student at the University of Maryland