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Sunita Narain on acting now for climate-smart development

Alexander Lotsch's picture

The World Bank's Sustainable Development Network held its annual forum over the past two weeks in Washington DC with World Development Report 2010’s theme of 'Act now, Act together, Act differently'. Hundreds of World Bank staff convened to discuss the way forward on climate action with colleagues, clients and climate experts. With the Copenhagen Accord leaving many important issues of international climate policy unresolved, development experts focused on the positive actions that can be taken to foster ‘climate-smart’ development. In a high-level plenary discussion, international experts discussed how green investments stimulate economic recovery and climate-smart growth, as in Korea and China, and the role of rich and poor countries in sharing the global atmospheric commons going forward. We asked Sunita Narain, one of the panelists—and Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi—about what actions she thinks need to be taken now at the global level, and about the role of international development institutions in putting climate-smart development into practice. 
 

Sunita Narain, Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi from World Bank on Vimeo.

Largest ever World Bank loan to Vietnam signals country's swift path to middle-income status

James I Davison's picture

Last month, Vietnam and the World Bank signed the credit agreement for a loan that is historic for the rapidly developing country.

To 'decarbonize' electricity supply, significant technological challenges remain

Michael Toman's picture

As WDR 2010 observes in the opening paragraphs of Chapter 7, "Technological innovation and its associated institutional adjustments are key to managing climate change at reasonable cost."  The development as well as diffusion of climate-smart technology was an important part of the debates leading up to Copenhagen.  A recent blog by Professor Geoffrey Heal  of Columbia University, whose work on climate change damages is referenced in the WDR, addresses this topical and controversial issue.  Writing at voxEU.org, a policy portal set up by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, Heal argues that

..."neither costs nor capital requirement will prevent us from decarbonising the electricity supply. The real obstacle to doing this largely with renewables is our current inability to store power, and as long as we cannot store power we will need to use non-renewable sources like nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage."

Heal's blog can be found at  http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4138.

Last Post from Copenhagen

Inger Andersen's picture

Friday morning, I braved the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures and hopped on the train around 7.30 a.m. to avoid what was billed as "extensive delays" as the 119 heads of state would be making their way to the Bella Center. 

The main questions on the train were "when does he touch down?", "has he arrived?", and "will he be able to help seal the deal?" And just after 9 a.m., Barack Obama's Air Force One touched down at Copenhagen Airport. 

Meanwhile, delegates had been hard at work for much of the night. We understood that 26 ministers met the night between Thursday and Friday, preparing the core document for the leaders.

On Friday we spent a lot of time waiting. First we waited for the Heads of State to take their seats.  Word in the corridors had it that they had agreed to 2 degrees, which would imply serious emission reductions, as well as to the provision of long term finance. The issue of whether any agreement on emissions reduction is "MRV-able", i.e. whether emission reductions are monitorable, reportable and verifiable, has been key when it comes to reductions from the economies in transition such as India, China, Brazil, and others. These countries can only accept MRV on the condition that the developed countries make an ambitious and legally binding target for emission reductions.  The developed countries, meanwhile, have put serious cash on the table, on the condition that the big emerging economies will commit to MRV. Further, the governance and financial architecture of the resources, should they be realized, remained unclear. The G-77 has pushed direct access to the financial mechanism, as well as for giving the COP the power to appoint the Board for the mechanism, while other countries have been more comfortable drawing on existing financial institutions and mechanisms.

International Migrants Day: Remittances Become Even More Important for Development

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

The International Migrants Day (December 18) comes close to the end of the year – perhaps a good time to pause and look back at how remittances sent by an estimated 214 million international migrants worldwide have become even more important for development during the last year. It is impossible to do justice to the range of issues, international attention and work across the globe on this topic during the course of 2009. We highlight a few that we have been following in our blog, briefs and other work: 

  • The current global economic crisis has made migration and remittances a huge issue now for many developing countries. We have been monitoring the crisis since last November when we made a fairly bold call that remittances might decline modestly but would be resilient compared to other capital flows (see story). Indeed, the data for 2009 show that remittance flows to developing countries have been remarkably resilient, while debt flows collapsed into negative territory and FDI declined by a third.* The recent debt crisis in Dubai has created additional risks, but migrants seem willing to wait it out as prospects at home are often even worse. Nonetheless, the prospect of a sharp reduction in foreign exchange flows after several years of rapid growth—and the possibility that some these workers might return—has brought remittances into the radar-screen of policy makers at the highest levels in virtually every developing country, ranging from Ethiopia to India to the Pacific Islands.
     

Africa and climate change: enhancing resilience, seizing opportunities

Raffaello Cervigni's picture

A new page on the World Bank’s web site emphasizes that addressing climate change is first and foremost a development priority for Africa. Even if emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases stopped today, there is wide agreement among scientists that global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century. If no action is taken to adapt to climate change, it threatens to dissipate the gains made by many African countries in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction over the past ten years.

  Photo © World Bank 
A major reason is that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severityof droughts and floods. This will have serious consequences for vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, which now contributes some 30percent of GDP and employs 70 percent of the population in Africa. Climate change is also likely to spread malaria (already the biggest killer in the region) to areas currently less affected by it, particularly those at higher elevations. 

Life and Death in South Asia

Eliana Cardoso's picture

In the film, Venus, an old and frail Peter O’Toole discovers the Greek goddess in the guise of his best friend’s niece. The ironic and good humored story explores the theme of the games played in a mutual seduction between the older man with experience, money and a nostalgic yearning for carnal desire and the young woman who soon finds out the power she wields and negotiates three kisses in return for a pair of earrings. In the final scene, wearing only one of his boots on a cold beach, O’Toole feels the caress of the sea’s salty foam with the sole of his foot and smiles. His face expresses the happiness of someone who knows the joys of being alive.

It is impossible to weigh up Peter O’Toole’s smile, measuring the degree of his happiness or comparing it to what you would feel if walking barefoot in the sand. But, the idea that his feelings can be measured as a metric has become fashionable, ever since the King of Bhutan decided that GDP fails to portray the well-being of his subjects and summoned a team to create the Gross National Happiness index.

Thoughts on Senator Kerry’s Speech

Kseniya Lvovsky's picture

Senator John Kerry’s recent speech to World Bank staff, which a colleague reported on earlier, was clear and powerful. He said that the development challenges of the 21st century cannot be delivered by international financial institutions with 20th century structures and priorities. He could have not have started his speech better that he did—with a call for the governance of these institutions to reflect today’s transformed global economic landscape and a merit-based staff selection system from bottom to top.  

In our work and experience at the World Bank, we see significant links between the three main challenges that Kerry outlined (empowering women, enhancing food security, and addressing climate change). Even as my agriculture colleagues focus on the nexus between climate change and food security, there is mounting evidence of a disproportionate burden on women from climate-related risks. 

Senator Kerry delivers pre-Copenhagen messages at the World Bank

Kavita Watsa's picture

Photo ©Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank 
Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a noteworthy speech this afternoon at the World Bank in Washington DC. Introduced by World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick as a “strong internationalist,” Kerry called upon the institution to use its funds to support what he called “21st century priorities.” These, according to the senator, include adapting to and mitigating climate change, enhancing food security, and empowering women.

Just eighteen days before Copenhagen, climate change was, not surprisingly, the central theme of Kerry’s remarks. While Kerry is a relatively recent advocate of climate action, his commitment to pushing climate change legislation in the U.S. was very evident, as was his grasp of the complexities of global action on the climate front.

“America needs to signal to the world that it is serious,” he said, in step with one of the main messages of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, which calls upon rich countries to take the lead in reducing their carbon footprints and providing the funds for low-carbon technologies to be deployed in developing countries. Listing recent US achievements, he said that the country was committed to progress and that Copenhagen was vital. 

Kerry referred to “energy poverty”— the lack of access to electricity faced by millions in the developing world—as a challenge interlocked with climate change. “No citizen of the developing world should be held back by lack of access to electricity,” he said, acknowledging, however, that the world was hurtling toward what he described as catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

“Solving energy poverty using old paradigms is a short-term bargain and a dangerous one,” Kerry said, stressing the need to find solutions that address both goals. “With its funding and intellectual leadership, the Bank can play a profoundly important role in shifting the balance toward climate solutions,” he said, listing several actions as critical for the Bank. 

How close to the edge?

Nicola Cenacchi's picture
How close to the edge?
   Photo © iStockphoto.com

In September, a diverse group of scientists—among them the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen—presented in the journal Nature a new framework to analyze sustainable development at a global scale. This framework recognizes that humans have now become the main driver of global environmental change, and that our impact on the planet is growing stronger.

We are affecting every one of the major natural processes which are important for our own welfare, wrecking the ability of earth systems to regulate themselves, and buffer disturbances. In fact, our actions may be shifting earth processes to a completely new state that is a far cry from the extraordinarily stable conditions (in the entire history of planet earth) that allowed the development of human civilization since 10,000 BC. In the words of Paul Crutzen and colleagues, we have entered a new geologic era, the “Anthropocene”.

Our pressure on the planet appears more and more troubling as our understanding of earth processes improves. There is increasing evidence that many earth systems and biophysical phenomena do not change in a linear fashion, but rather experience abrupt changes when thresholds are crossed.


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