Over the past decade, Africa has been experiencing tremendous economic dynamism and growth: seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries are in Africa; the continent’s economic output has more than tripled; and average economic growth is expected to be 4.8 percent in 2013.
On the eve of Earth Hour, taking place this Saturday 23 March, WWF this week announced the City of Vancouver in Canada as its Global Earth Hour City Challenge Capital 2013 at an award ceremony in Malmö, Sweden. The Earth Hour City Challenge is an initiative that takes Earth Hour beyond the symbolic gesture of switching off lights for one hour, encouraging concrete action on the ground to combat climate change.
The City Challenge is designed to identify and reward cities that are prepared to become leaders in the global transformation towards a climate-friendly, one planet economy. Working in collaboration with the leading association of cities and local governments dedicated to sustainable development, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, WWF worked across six countries (Canada, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden and USA), from which a total of 76 cities registered for the City Challenge.
KANPUR, India -- I traveled to the banks of the Ganges River today to look at an Indian government initiative, supported by the World Bank Group, to clean up the sacred river. We're working with the government on this long-term effort -- an extraordinarily complex one in part because of the multiple sources of pollution that enter the river. It's part of our vitally important work in one of India's states, Uttar Pradesh, which is home to 200 million people. This state alone has 8% of the world's population living in extreme poverty. Watch the video for more.
As the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, much thought is being devoted to what should succeed that framework for measuring global progress against hunger, disease, and poverty. Any successor framework must reflect global aspirations and arise from a rich consultative process. I believe that the new framework must embrace a broader understanding of development — one that is relevant for all countries, rich as well as poor.
The world today looks very different from a few years ago. Many countries have high levels of debt that could make it difficult to undertake spending initiatives for many years. Financial sector incentives and regulation may have to be rethought, existing growth models refined to deliver sufficient new employment opportunities, and the functioning of the international monetary system revisited.
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012
Originally published on May 1, 2012
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have produced a magisterial book: ‘Why Nations Fail’. If you are interested in governance, nay, if you are interested in development, you should read it. I picked it up the week it was published and I could not put it down until it was done. That is how powerful and well-written it is. Yet it is over 500 pages long. In what follows, I am going to focus on what I liked about it and the thoughts it provoked in me as I read it.
First, I admire the simplicity and power of the thesis: what the historical evidence suggests is that nations with inclusive political and economic institutions are capable of sustained growth. Nations with extractive political and economic institutions are not. End of story. Even when an authoritarian state/regime appears to engineer economic growth for a while, it will hit a limit soon enough. Why? Human creativity, human inventiveness and necessary creative destruction of old ways of doing things cannot happen in authoritarian environments. Vested interests are able all too easily to block threatening entrants to the economy; property rights are not secure and so on. Those who control political institutions use their power to extract surpluses in often brutal ways. Key quote:
What would blogs be good for if it were not for their intent on steering a bit of controversy?
So here it is… I do not believe that behavior change interventions can effect lasting change in people’s travel patterns unless real choices are available to them within the local context.
Almost two weeks ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States, the importance of sustainable transport--which is the field I work in--really came home to me. I was in New York for a UN Working Group meeting on transport’s contribution to sustainable development—one of the priorities for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second term.
On a grassy coastal plain near Sendai, Japan, stands a symbol of survival.
The four-story school house was the tallest building in the neighborhood of 980 homes, where children once played and went to school but now mostly consists of the remnants of concrete housing foundations. In Japan’s March 11, 2011 disaster, more than 300 people made it onto the roof of Arahama Elementary and survived the massive tsunami that hit Japan’s shores. School and community evacuation drills and preparedness saved lives that day, Principal Takao Kawamura said.
The school’s experience resonated at the Sendai Dialogue on October 10—where leaders, disaster and development experts debated how to better prepare for disasters in an increasingly risky world, where disasters have doubled in 30 years.
Caution – this blog is almost as long as the soon-to-be commissioned Niagara Tunnel.
Often I can hide it – posing maybe as an economist, risk manager, a finance-guy, public-policy wonk; I’ve even once been complimented as an urban planner. But every now and then I revert to form and it slips out that I’m an engineer. This week was a classic – a ‘boy and his toys,’ my wife warned.
I went to Niagara Falls not to see the falls, or visit the casino, but to tour Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Niagara Tunnel and Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Station! Well worth a ‘!’ as getting to visit these two big civil engineering works was a bit like Christmas coming early; and they provide important lessons.
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.
Wedged between the Congo, the south of Sudan, and the West Nile River, the 1.5 million people in Uganda’s West Nile region live in relative isolation from the rest of the country.
Nowhere in Uganda is oil and gasoline more expensive than in the West Nile. The national power grid does not reach into the northwest of Uganda, and power from generators is available only for a lucky few and only for a few hours a day.
Some entrepreneurs have started mills and small workshops, outfitting them with old diesel generators that are inefficient and very expensive to operate. Some institutions, such as hospitals, and some of the richer households have their own diesel generators that help them escape the scarce and unreliable public power service. The growth in individual generators is indicative of a general upswing in economic activity in the region, but life without reliable electric power has remained a challenge.
That is now beginning to change, and carbon credits are playing an important role.
‘Despite the presence of scores of heads of state, Rio+20, as the summit is known, was expected to produce the weakest imaginable commitment to greening the global economy’ - The Economist June 2012
Not the most optimistic of starts to the third global summit on sustainable development…
Why the doom and gloom? As followers of the sustainable development agenda will know, skepticism and fatigue have plagued these international negotiation processes for many years. Whilst progress has been demonstrated on many fronts since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the meetings themselves can be reduced to endless semantic debate on terminology and tit-for-tat fidgeting - producing weak final documents.
Rio+20 was no exception.
The final Outcome document emerging from the last world summit (the 2002 World Summit of Sustainable Development) outlined five, rather weak commitments specifically for the tourism sector. Ten years on – has there been any progress?
Sustainable development always seems to come in shades of grey; excuses, obfuscation, conflicting demands, entrenched interests, and inertia can overshadow clarity on what needs to be done ‘on Monday morning’. But for some reason, like Rio de Janeiro’s iconic black slate and white marble sidewalks, sustainable development seemed to be a lot more black and white at last week’s big UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
Maybe it was the more than 20 hours that I spent stuck in traffic that helped bring clarity; or being one of the 50,000 visitors, each spending an average of $10,000 to travel, and emitting about 3.5 tonnes of CO2e (coincidentally what the global average annual per capita emissions needs to stay below, if we want to remain within a warming of 2° C). Flight delays getting there and back were more than 50 hours; leave alone the 24 hours in-the-plane. Was the Rio journey worth it?
We came to Rio+20 determined that one outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development must be a plan for what ministers of finance, development and environment and ourselves need to do differently Monday morning, June 25th – if we are to achieve sustainable development for all.
We have our plan.
We came to Rio+20 knowing that inclusive green growth is the pathway to sustainable development, and the evidence here is that this international community agrees.
The analysis behind the World Bank’s report Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development framed many of the conference debates and helped facilitate a new focus on natural capital accounting – a fundamental component of inclusive green growth.
According to the 59 countries, 86 companies, and 17 civil society organizations that supported the World Bank Group-facilitated 50:50 campaign – as well as many others – natural capital accounting is an idea whose time has come.
In fact, natural capital accounting events filled the Rio Convention Center, and government and civil society groups alike highlighted the importance of moving beyond GDP.
This new energy and emphasis around this issue may be the most important outcome of Rio+ 20.
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Urban Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Social Development
- Science and Technology Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Macroeconomics and Economic Growth
- Financial Sector
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Sustainable Development
- Natural Capital Accounting