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October 2010

Threats and opportunities unite us

Shamshad Akhtar's picture

As a show of solidarity in the lead up to Cancun, a Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative (MCCI) was launched in the coastal town of Vouliagmeni, near Athens this past week. Fifteen member countries signed a declaration that binds them to work together on climate change. To take this initiative forward, an expert group is to meet in Malta in the coming months─it will be followed by a second MCCI event in Turkey.

 

Such solidarity is important. While not among the worse polluters in the world, the Mediterranean countries face an increase of four degrees in average temperature, and a 70% drop in precipitation in the coming years.

 

I participated in this event and shared the World Bank’s position and perspective. I was struck by the high level of commitment and the cooperative spirit of the host of the meeting; Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, was joined by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Malta’s Premier Lawrence Gonzi, and other representatives of the Mediterranean countries.

 

This initiative , in some sense, is an historic event. Abandoning political differences, the Prime Ministerial commitments and the time devoted to provide national and regional perspectives, is commendable.

 

Delegates echoed the broad consensus regarding the magnitude and severity of the climate change problem and the cross border implications of the environmental degradation it will cause. A recent World Bank study has shown that warming in the Middle East region is about 50% higher than average global warming. Many of the largest cities in the region are located on the coast and are vulnerable to both sea-level rise and increases in extreme weather events─particularly Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Finding a voice for indigenous peoples at COP16

Fabio Pittaluga's picture

I was part of a ``historic’’ moment in Xcaret, on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico, earlier this month. Here representatives of indigenous organizations worldwide had gathered together with government representatives of various governments, including Bolivia, Panama, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bangladesh, and Peru to prepare a strategy for giving voice to the concerns of the indigenous groups in the COP-16 negotiations in Cancun in November.

 

This was the first time a country has supported indigenous peoples in preparing for a COP, normally dominated by policy wonks and government negotiators. Historically, relations between indigenous groups and states have been confrontational in nature; in Latin America in particular, there has been a history of violent events, including the long civil war in Chiapas. The process of inclusion, however, is fundamental in many Latin American countries, as indigenous peoples form a significant demographic group─15 million in Peru, 12 million in Mexico, and about 6 million in Bolivia and Guatemala.

 

Against this backdrop, it was heartening in Xcaret to see, indigenous leaders and government officials,  jointly preparing a strategy to voice their preoccupation and concerns over issues that will come with climate change and have the potential to affect all groups. In the meeting, indigenous peoples presented themselves as first and foremost “citizens” of those countries, even though different from the mainstream. This time, the governments were actually listening to their voices. It is becoming increasingly recognized that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Climate change is expected to exacerbate existing inequity faced by indigenous communities in the form of political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, and ultimately their distinct ways of life.

 

Lessons from the Montreal Protocol for Climate Finance

Alan Miller's picture

The recent talks in Tianjin, Washington DC and Addis Ababa show that there is serious thought being given to making good the promises on climate finance in Copenhagen (read related blog post by Andrew Steer).

 

I believe that the Montreal Protocol has some lessons to offer for tackling climate change: It is an international agreement that addresses stratospheric ozone depletion and is widely viewed as the most successful response to a global environmental problem to date. One common feature of the ozone and climate conventions is the provision of financial resources to help developing countries pay for the higher costs of measures with global environmental benefits. This topic is high on the agenda for the Cancun climate meeting in December, and is being specifically addressed by a high-level UN Advisory Group on Climate Finance that met last week in Addis Ababa.

 

Since the signing of the Copenhagen Accord last December, much attention has focused on the issue of resource mobilization and specifically how to generate the US$100 billion a year for climate finance promised by 2020. Numerous studies have also been published estimating total costs for developing country mitigation and adaptation requirements─they usually conclude that the needs are in the many billions of dollars.

Money matters: In Tianjin, Washington and Addis Ababa

Andrew Steer's picture

Less than two months to Cancun COP 16 and three money issues from last year’s Copenhagen Accord are in the spotlight.

  • Will the US$30 billion Fast Start promise be kept?  
  • How will the Secretary General’s Advisory Group on Finance address the long term US$100 billion annual figure?
  • Where next on design of the Green Fund?

How these questions will be answered matters a lot―as any delegate at last week’s negotiations in Tianjin would tell you.  The answers―especially to question 1―will either build or destroy trust, an essential, but so-far elusive, ingredient to a successful outcome.

 

Look at the World Resources Institute (WRI) web site and a moderately encouraging picture on Fast Start emerges. Adding the pledges of all individual annex 1 countries and about US$27 billion of the US$30 billion global pledge for 2010-2012 seems to be in the bag, according to WRI. But pledges are the stuff of speeches. In the cold light of day they need to be translated into signed commitments for programs and then actually disbursed. That’s why a new semi-official monitoring system has been created. Led by the Dutch and eight other parties, countries are invited to post their commitments and cash flows on a web site. So far only eight Annex 1 countries have uploaded their detailed commitments, adding to only a small fraction of the US$30 billion. So it’s really important that others quickly follow.  In Tianjin the Mexican COP presidency hosted a seminar for negotiators on Fast Start. We agreed that definitional issues are messy, that we will need to iterate toward an accurate picture, and that time is not on our side.  I presented the World Bank Group’s understanding, and described our work with finance ministers.

 

License to Save?

Pierce Brosnan's picture

My life has always been connected to nature -- from the banks of the River Boyne in southern Ireland where I grew up as a child, to the shorelines of California and Hawaii where I reside with my wife Keely and our sons. Between these two worlds and an ocean of time spent traveling the world as a working actor, I have seen the beauty of what man can achieve on this earth and also what can happen when he lets nature slip through his fingers.

 

Last evening I was at the World Bank where we saw excerpts from National Geographic’s soon-to-be aired global programming event, “Great Migrations”, that show just how fragile the lives of some of the great animals of our world are today. The majestic African elephant, or the fleet wildebeest, are confronted with obstacles in their daily existence that threatens their very continuation as a species. As we expand our human footprint across the planet, we have paved over their breeding grounds, plowed under their grazing areas, depleted their sources of water, and disrupted their historic migratory routes.

 

Climate change is adding to the immense dangers facing bio-diversity. In my native Ireland, at least eight species of birds, such as the gray partridge, face extinction, due to the loss of habitat, reduction in food supplies, poisonings from pesticides, and wide scale development. In my adopted home, here in the United States, the Grey Whales that migrate north and south just off our California coast have survived since the ice age. Yet, these whales face more threats today than ever before from ship strikes, loss of habitat, pollution, and other human activities. Climate change is destroying the food chain they need to survive.

Talking about climate change this weekend

Jamal Saghir's picture

In the first few hours of the IMF/World Bank annual meetings this week, the subject of climate change has come up again and again.

 

Our partners in Sub-Saharan Africa live in one of the most natural-resource dependent regions in the world: 70% of people depend on rainfed agriculture; fisheries employ an estimated 25 million people throughout the continent; and wood fuels account for more than 90% of household energy consumption in the region. If developed wisely, natural resources can and will drive Africa’s future growth.

 

But the challenge of sustainable development is made more difficult by climate change. As the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, has said: “Climate change is a development challenge. You cannot address one without addressing the other.”

 

Thankfully – there are experiences around the world – including from Africa – that show that climate-smart growth is possible. And we’ll be talking about those experiences this weekend during the IMF/World Bank annual meetings. Africa is ready to test and scale-up climate-resilient development strategies and leverage new financing to leapfrog some of the older technologies that contribute to climate change.

 

The World Bank is working with African partners on innovative responses to adaptation and mitigation – by building mass transit in Lagos, supporting cross-border water resource planning in the Niger Basin, and making buildings that can withstand cyclones in Madagascar.