Hot on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Bopha lashed the shores of the Philippines earlier this month, leaving 900 dead and 80,000 homeless. Extreme weather is becoming the norm. The World Bank-commissioned report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided” found that scientists are unanimously predicting warming of 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The social, economic, and environmental consequences will be devastating. Over the past 20 years, over half of South Asians – more than 750 million people – have been affected by natural disasters, with the loss of life estimated at more than 60,000, and damages above $45 billion.
Looking at communities across our planet, there is a brutal lack of resilience in our modern lives. Cities have expanded without careful planning into flood- and storm-prone areas, destroying natural storm barriers and often leaving the poor to find shelter in the most vulnerable spots. Droughts, made more frequent by climate change, have taken a toll on crops, creating food shortages.
In the past 30 years, disasters have killed over 2.3 million people, about the population of Houston or all of Namibia.
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Urban Development
- Science and Technology Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Inclusive Green Growth
- green growth
- disaster risk management
- Climate Change
I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.
In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible. Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive.
The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.
For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?
In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.
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Costa Rica has become the crown jewel of Latin America in terms of environmental protection and its respect for biodiversity. After more than 10 years of putting “green” policies in to practice to protect its forests – which cover 51% of its land mass- the Central American country aims to be fully carbon neutral by 2021, the first to reach this global milestone.
“In the 1970s, we destroyed much of the forest and now I want to reverse the damage we’ve done to humanity,” says Virgilio, owner of a 196-hectare lot in Puriscal and participant in an innovative program that provides money to small and mid-sized property owners to encourage them to take care of their land. So far, the program has managed to protect 12% of the country’s forests.
During my visit to Costa Rica to film this video on the country’s environmental advances, I also spoke with Sandra María, a woman who manages a small inn many would pay a fortune for the opportunity to visit. “Here we don’t cut trees down 3because trees give life,” she says with the confidence of one who knows she is doing the right thing.
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"Water" and Latin America are inextricably linked. The region's vast expanses lose their meaning without their clear blue lakes, the roar of their waterfalls or the deep depth of their rivers. Despite these natural riches, the region faces various challenges to manage water in a way which is accessible to everyone and also contributes to improved sanitation for the population.
To find solutions to these challenges, water experts from around the world are gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, for World Water Week, the biggest annual meeting on world water issues. For us, water and sanitation folks, this event is an important opportunity to look at how the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is doing towards meeting the water and sanitation needs of its population within the context of green and inclusive growth.
As food prices creep up again for the third time in five years, concerns about global food security are also on the rise. Right off the bat, three questions come to mind: Why this is happening? How does this affect Latin America and the Caribbean? What should we do about it?
Andrew Steer in Indonesia
Today is my final day at the World Bank.
When I first entered the doors of 1818 H Street three decades and seven Presidents ago, the big buzz in the cafeteria was Cost Benefit Analysis and Basic Needs. President McNamara had demanded that every project document identify in detail how many of the poorest 25% it would directly and indirectly benefit, and how. The secret to rapid career progress was expertise in shadow pricing (which was appropriate in light of the massive distortions in goods, labor, currency and capital markets in most of our client countries).
But those shadow prices certainly didn’t include the value of environmental externalities. The entire cadre of environmental specialists for the whole institution consisted of one person. (It wasn’t me.)
Last week at the Rio+20 Conference I met up with an old friend, Emil Salim, who for many years was the longest serving Environment Minister in the World, and is still, well into his eighties, chief environmental advisor to President Yudhoyono of Indonesia. We reminisced about a meeting he and I were at in 1982, when he asked the President of the World Bank for help in dealing with the acute environmental problems associated with Indonesia’s rapid growth. The polite reply he received was “The World Bank is a development agency, not an environment organization. We don’t do this kind of work.”
We’re changing planes in Panama on our way to the Rio+20 Earth Summit. As we taxi out to take off the pilot tells us that we’ll need to wait for 15 minutes while we burn off 300 pounds of fuel, since the plane may be too heavy to take off.
My 11 year-old daughter, who is sitting next to me, says “Isn’t this very silly? It’s wasteful and bad for the climate. Why do they do it?”
We’ve brought Charlotte, together with her 10 year old brother, Ben, on this trip so they can see how country leaders struggle with the big issues, and also because they ask the right questions, and help keep us grounded. I explained to her that the fuel on international flights is totally untaxed by international agreement, and that subsidies on fossil fuels amount to over $400 billion each year, including over $70 billion in rich countries. And that governments spend more than 20 times more paying people to consume more fossil fuels than they spend on research to develop renewable energy.
“That’s stupid”, says Ben, who is not as polite as his sister. It’s like telling your kids not to smoke, and then paying them each time you see them smoking.
They’re right, of course. And one of the rare bright spots in Rio was the airtime given to fossil subsidies by civil society and the private sector. The B20 (the business shadow of the G20) Working Group on Green Growth, of which I am a member, urged G20 leaders to publish subsidy levels each year, and set a time-bound schedule for their elimination. Not so easy for political leaders to grasp this nettle, of course, having seen several countries, most recently Nigeria, find their efforts to raise energy prices hit with violent opposition. I discussed with Charlotte how smart politicians, such as in Indonesia and Iran, have found ways to use a share of the revenues saved to provide cash compensation to the poor. “Makes sense”, she said.
Much of the attraction of ‘green’ growth to politicians and policy-makers is the apparent promise of job creation. Many developing countries face the prospect of rapidly growing labor forces, so measures that stimulate labor demand look attractive. But is the promise justified? That depends on how labor markets work and how ‘green’ growth policies are implemented.