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July 2011

Nine hours with Al Gore

Judy Baker's picture

On Thursday I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation on issues of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty at a small summit organized by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in New York City. Vice President Gore is writing a book about drivers of global change that will cover a range of topics including population and demographics, which was the focus of the meeting. 

His team identified about 12 experts from a range of disciplines—a sociologist; demographer; geographer; researchers working on issues of family, aging, and gender; a writer; and an economist to explore patterns, trends, and current research. I was on a panel along with Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and David Owen of the New Yorker magazine. We all sat in a small room for 9 hours, presenting different perspectives on demographic change, each contributing from our own disciplines. 

More (and Targeted) Financing Needed to Expand Energy Access

Daniel Kammen's picture

Energy poverty cripples development prospects. Where people don’t have access to modern energy services, like reliable electricity, their ability to earn a livelihood is sabotaged. That’s why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called — admirably — for “a revolution that makes energy available and affordable for all” in 2012, designated the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.

This sense of urgency is needed, especially in Africa, as current International Energy Agency forecasts project that the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa without access to modern energy services will grow by almost 100 million between now and 2030 (see the figure below).

My encounter with gas flares in Iraq

Robert Lesnick's picture

Basrah, Iraq: June 2011

I learn on Friday that our small World Bank energy team has received permission and security clearance to visit a production site within Iraq’s giant Rumaila Oil field southwest of the city the next afternoon. I am very excited about the visit. Rumaila is considered to be the fourth largest oil field in the world and produces over 1 million barrels of oil daily from several production batteries.

That night in the UK compound on the Basrah COB (Contingency Operating Base), our planning for Saturday’s field trips is cut short by a siren announcing an incoming rocket attack. I scurry to my bomb-proof pod and have bolted the heavily reinforced door just as I hear the thud-thud of ordnance landing. The attack was not directed at our space and was very short-lived. Nonetheless, it motivates me to properly use the body armor that has been assigned to me for the next day.

As planned, on Saturday I attend a short mission security briefing which details our route and my responsibilities should an incident occur. That afternoon, our convoy of four specially equipped vehicles begins an hour–long trek to the production zone along what I believe to be Highway 6. This is the road to Kuwait made famous by operation Desert Storm in 1990. Skeletons of burned-out military vehicles still appear periodically along the edges of what otherwise is a flat and desolate 30 kilometers of divided highway.

New energy in South Sudan

Daniel Kammen's picture

This weekend marked the beginning of an important new chapter of nation-building, with the celebration and formal launch of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a host of dignitaries were on hand. The civil war with the north ended in 2005, and the World Bank has had an office there since just after that.

I spent several days there two weeks ago, pre-independence, but very much in a moment of great excitement about what the nation the size of the Iberian peninsula with a population of 8 to 9 million could accomplish.

South Sudan will begin life as both a tremendously poor and under-served nation in terms of the services for its people, and a fantastically rich one in terms of resources and potential. The country has less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of paved road. At present, conflict with the north’s Khartoum-based government continues over the key oil, gas, and mining provinces of the border region, where much of the international press is focused, as well as great deal of investment interest.

My focus was in the other direction, south of the sprawling capital of Juba, along the dramatic White Nile. With fantastic logistical support from the World Bank Juba office, from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s South Sudan conservation team, and from the director of the Nimule National Park.

Time to engage the private sector on climate finance

Alan Miller's picture

I was at the Climate Investment Funds meetings in Cape Town last week with several other representatives from development banks, NGOs and governments to discuss results, impacts and the future of this financial mechanism. One of many themes cutting across meetings in Cape Town was the importance and challenge of engaging the private sector in climate finance. The private sector is by far the largest source of investment, the dominant provider of technology, and often essential for implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures. However, based on the discussions this week, it’s apparent there is much to learn about what is actually expected or sought from the business community. Here are some of my observations from the meeting:

  1. In my experience references to “the” private sector are common but largely meaningless and often confusing in failing to distinguish between entities as different as major multinational manufacturers, international financiers, and locally- based entrepreneurs. Some speakers even used the term more broadly to encompass markets, including policies directed at consumers.
  2. There are some unavoidable tensions between emphasizing country plans and priorities and the promotion of markets for climate-friendly products and services. This is particularly true in smaller and poorer countries. Control of donor resources is fundamental for many governments but sometimes difficult to reconcile with the flexibility, consistency, and speed required by investors. Public-private partnerships (the focus of a Cape Town session) is one solution but not always appropriate or workable.   Finding models which can blend the two, as in the collaborative IFC/World Bank Lighting Africa project, will be increasingly important. The World Bank was able to build a relationship with energy ministries while IFC focused on helping businesses. Together, they have been able to address a wide range of issues from regulatory systems to that of supply chain development.