Water and sanitation linked to many development factors
Despite halving the number of people worldwide without access to an improved water source over the past 25 years, the poorest countries are struggling to provide safe water and adequate sanitation to all their citizens in a sustainable manner. Just over a quarter of people in low-income countries had access to an improved sanitation facility, compared with just over half in lower middle-income countries in 2015. Delivery of water supply and sanitation is no longer just a challenge of service provision, but it is intrinsically linked with climate change, water resources management, water scarcity and water quality.
Imagine for a moment that the most advanced spaceship visited Earth in full view of the planet’s inhabitants. From this spaceship, a humanoid life form named Klaatu emerges, followed shortly after by a menacingly large robot. Klaatu’s message to the people of Earth is revealed in one of the climactic exchanges of this story with the protagonist, Helen Benson, a young female scientist that was at the forefront of her field:
Helen Benson: I need to know what’s happening. Klaatu: This planet is dying. The human race is killing it. Helen Benson: So you’ve come here to help us. Klaatu: No, I didn’t. Helen Benson: You said you came to save us. Klaatu: I said I came to save the Earth. Helen Benson: You came to save the Earth… from us. You came to save the Earth from us. Klaatu: We can’t risk the survival of this planet for the sake of one species. Helen Benson: What are you saying? Klaatu: If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life… Helen Benson: You can’t do this. Klaatu: …this one can’t be allowed to perish. Helen Benson: We can change. We can still turn things around. Klaatu: We’ve watched, we’ve waited and hoped that you would change. Helen Benson: Please… Klaatu: It’s reached the tipping point. We have to act.
Venice may seem like an unlikely location for an international development conference. But even though the Italian city is best known for its touristic appeal, it also turned out to be the perfect setting for the Understanding Risk Forum 2016, where representatives from 125 countries exchanged knowledge on disaster risk management and explored ways of adapting global lessons to their own local context.
At merely 1 meter above sea level, Venice has had its fair share of natural disasters, especially floods. In 1966, the record-high 194-cm flood had severe consequences on the Old Venice, causing an estimated $6 million worth of damage (1966 US dollars). Given the city’s touristic and historical significance to Italy and the world, protection from flood is a top priority.
That's why the Government of Italy has invested over €5.5 billion on the MOSE Project, which involves constructing 4 mobile barriers at the mouth of the water basin to the sea in order to better control high tide and prevent it from flooding the Old Venice. Each barrier consists of several energy-efficient flap gates that can be deployed quickly when high tide occurs, maintaining the ideal water level in the basin while safeguarding the natural ecosystem in the laguna area. Once the project is completed in 2018, it should fully protect the city, and allow future generations to admire the beauty of its glory days.
Auctions are ubiquitous. On any given day, somewhere in the world, bidders compete for energy, wireless spectrum, used vehicles, agricultural products—the list goes on. Auctions can help resolve uncertainties in the market, convening buyers and sellers to help them achieve the best possible price for goods or services that are otherwise difficult to value.
Auctions can also resolve uncertainties in the development sector, identifying the projects most likely to succeed and determining the right level of funding. To test this hypothesis in the climate arena, the World Bank has been piloting an approach to incentivize green projects in developing countries. The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF) held its second online auction earlier this month, allocating $20 million in funding directly to the private sector for projects reducing methane emissions.
450 million ceiling fans already in use, 40 million new ones sold every year?
350 million fluorescent tube lights already in use, 10 million new sold every year?
30 million air conditioners already in use, three million new sold every year?
If you guessed India, you are right.
With a population of about 1.2 billion, India is one of the largest consumer markets in the world. So it’s no surprise that household appliances account for several gigawatts of electricity usage across the country. As India’s middle class grows and people move from villages to towns and cities, electricity usage is only increasing. In fact, hundreds of millions of electric appliances will be added over the next few decades. This poses a serious challenge for India’s energy security since there already are electricity supply shortages, which often lead to chronic outages and blackouts. The surge in household appliances is also a climate change challenge—India, the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter, is predicted to continue increasing its greenhouse gas emissions at least until 2030.
The historic agreement reached in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) last December sets out an ambitious plan for signatory countries to achieve specific targets for reduced greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. The Paris Agreement includes significant financial commitments and the establishment of structures and mechanisms by which countries will design and implement viable policies to meet agreed-upon goals.
COP21’s major message is one of collaboration: The Paris Agreement unites 177 nations in a single agreement to tackle climate change. Governments set the goal at COP21, but they will need action by the private sector to meet it. One cannot operate without the other.
Industries, which are responsible for 21 percent of direct GHGs worldwide, long resisted the idea of going green, fearing high costs. However, dramatic recent decreases in the cost of climate-friendly technologies, as well as the introduction of carbon pricing, has changed industry perspectives.
The Science Based Targets initiative is one illustration of industry’s commitment to playing its part in decarbonizing the global economy. The initiative is a partnership between Driving Sustainable Economies, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, helping companies determine how much they must cut emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. So far, 155 companies have signed up for the initiative: Thirteen of them have successfully developed science-based targets which, by themselves, are projected to reduce emissions by 874 million tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of the yearly emissions of 250 coal-fired power plants.
It is pretty easy to understand how and why land use patterns around public transit stations can influence the way we move around the city.
As more and more people live and work in a neighborhood with a limited land area, it becomes increasingly challenging to drive around without encountering congestion or to find a parking space easily. In this situation, public transit and non-motorized transport (NMT) become attractive alternatives for people who otherwise are reluctant to give up the comfort and flexibility of driving.
Conversely, as street blocks get bigger, people may find it takes too long to access public transit stations, which discourages the use of public transport facilities.
As straightforward as the logic may sound, the nature and magnitude of such influence are yet to be evaluated with solid empirical evidence. To take a closer look at the linkages between land use and travel behavior, I decided to study the case of Boston in the United States. I chose Boston because it boasts an effective public transit system, and was one of the first American cities to embrace transit-oriented development (TOD), an urban planning approach that promotes compact and mixed use development around public transit facilities.
We’re witnessing an unprecedented uptick in record-breaking storms. In October last year, Hurricane Patricia came ashore in Mexico with record breaking 200 miles per hour winds. A few months later on the other side of the world, Cyclone Winston broke records for Pacific basin wind speeds, destroying parts of mainland Fiji with 180 miles per hour winds. More recently, Cyclone Fantala became the most powerful storm in the Indian Ocean ever recorded.
Experts agree that its activities by people which are increasing the severity of storms like these. Climate change isn’t just projected to increase the intensity of hurricanes and cyclones, but a whole other range of other natural hazards, like droughts, floods, storms, and heat waves.
With the throttle at full tilt, the boat cut through the surf, spraying salt water into the air.
Around me, the unfolding scenery is breathtaking. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, swaying coconut palms – the textbook image of paradise in the South Pacific.
What more could one ask for in paradise?
Water, is what they will tell you. “They” are the people of Nanngu Village on the island of Santa Cruz in the far east of Solomon Islands.
Out here, water to drink, cook food with, wash and keep clean is hard to come by.
The last time they had proper running water was 20 years ago. That came to an end at the hands of a Category Three cyclone, Nina, which hit the islands in 1993.
As I write this, we’re on our way to Nanngu to see a new World Bank-supported project bringing water to the village.