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Energy

In the poorest countries, an acute climate risk

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A man walks through a flooded rice field. © Nonie Reyes/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governancegender equality, conflict and fragility, preventing and adapting to climate change, and, finally, creating jobs.

Seawater is rising in coastal Bangladesh. The soil contains more and more salt as the sea encroaches on the land. As a result, farmers see their crops declining. Communities are hollowing out, as working-age adults move to cities. Freshwater fish are disappearing, reducing the amount of protein in local diets. And in the dry season, mothers have to ration drinking water for their children – in some areas, to as little as two glasses a day.
 
Climate change is finally being taken seriously in the developed world, but it is generally seen as a future threat, to be managed over the coming years.  For poor people in poor countries, particularly those living along coastlines, in river deltas, or on islands, it is a clear and present danger – and increasingly, a dominant fact of life.

On the brink - let's act on climate change now

Sameh Mobarek's picture


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.

Doing more with less: evaluating our consumption and production.

Edie Purdie's picture

This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.  Chris Sall and Esther Naikal co-authored this blog.

A third of all energy is used to produce food but a third of food is lost or wasted. Saving a quarter of this lost food would be enough to feed 870 million people. “Doing more and better with less” means meeting the basic needs of people and promoting a better quality of life while also cutting harmful waste and pollution.   Using natural resources more efficiently is also a way to improve. Sustainable Development Goal 12 seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Managing natural resources efficiently

Adjusted net savings (ANS) is an indicator of efficient use of natural assets (target 12.2). It measures the difference between national production and consumption—the change in a country’s wealth. Adjusted net savings takes into account investment in human capital, depreciation of fixed capital, depletion of natural resources, and pollution damage. Positive savings form the basis for building wealth and future growth. Negative savings rates suggest declining wealth and unsustainable development. ANS is especially useful for gauging whether countries that depend heavily on natural resources are balancing the depletion of their natural resources by investing rents in other forms of productive capital, such as through education. Low- and lower middle-income countries with the highest level of resource dependence also tend to have the lowest savings rates.

How can we afford not to provide power when countries are fragile?

Charles Feinstein's picture

Earlier this year I was on a panel organized during the Fragility Forum 2016, where the question posed to a panel of five was, “what can we do on energy in fragile states?

But I found myself thinking, "how can we afford to do nothing?"

Modern energy is a cornerstone of sustaining and empowering people, as much as it is for economic growth. When I think about it, the first thought that comes to mind is that children in any country have the right to learn to read and write without being put in danger through kerosene lighting at night. It is precisely this new generation in fragile states that we cannot afford to lose if we do not want countries to become failed states.

Getting current: New tech giving more Africans access to electricity

Charles Feinstein's picture
Control room at a power station in Ghana. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst / World Bank)

Much work remains to be done to ensure reliable electricity access for Africa's citizens. A number of complications are making it difficult to achieve this UN Sustainable Development Goal. Yet access rates are expanding in many nations, and technology and design improvements offer opportunities to make rapid leaps forward. 

Of the 1.1 billion people on Earth without access to electricity, about half live in Africa. And while the World Bank’s Global Tracking Framework shows progress is being made to deliver electricity to those without, most of it is taking place in Asia. In Africa, it’s a different story.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

Ashok Sarkar's picture
What is this? Read on to find out.

Riddle us this. In what country are...
  • 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.

But India is turning this challenge into an opportunity by tapping into energy efficiency solutions, a relatively new area with already a few major successes. Considered globally as the “first fuel,” energy efficiency is rising to the forefront of India’s quest for innovative solutions to provide 24/7 reliable and affordable electricity for all.

A view from Myanmar: exploring system-scale hydropower planning

Jeff Opperman's picture
Aerial view of the Ayeyawardi river in Myanmar
Aerial view of the Ayeyawardi river in Myanmar
by Michael Foley/Flickr
under a Creative Commons license
Myanmar’s rivers provide a reliable source of water for navigation and irrigation, and support food production and livelihoods. In fact, Myanmar’s freshwater fisheries produce more than 1.3 million tons of fish per year and employ approximately 1.5 million people. While the Ayeyawardy and other rivers are critical to maintaining the way of life in Myanmar, harnessing those rivers for hydropower is also a big part of the country’s plans for development and reducing poverty.
 
This scenario is not unique. For many countries like Myanmar, where only one-third of the population has access to electricity, hydropower presents a compelling opportunity to increase energy supply at low costs and make important contributions to development objectives and water resources management.
Myanmar has ambitious future hydropower development plans that mirror the trends seen globally. Projections show that the world is poised to nearly double hydropower capacity by 2040, building as many hydropower dams in the next 25 years as were built in the previous century.
 
In a report funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), The Nature Conservancy worked with WWF and the University of Manchester to demonstrate a framework that could be applied in Myanmar and replicated worldwide to change the trajectory of water resource development towards a more sustainable path. By adopting system-scale planning and engaging diverse stakeholders, Myanmar has the opportunity to be a leader and global example.

Unlocking investment opportunities in fragile markets

Joaquim Levy's picture

Expansion of the Azito Thermal Power Plant in Côte d'Ivoire will improve access to electricity and help sustain the country's economic growth. © Cedric Favero/International Finance Corporation

An estimated 1.2 billion people — almost one in every five people in the world — are living in areas affected by conflict and fragility today. Some of these people are fleeing from war, while others have escaped natural disasters. Most are trying to earn a living in very challenging environments.

These are not abstract numbers — we are talking about real people, with real problems. Hence, we need to ask ourselves, in the public and private sectors, what strategies can help them.


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