By Yoichi Masuzoe, Governor of Tokyo
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report firmly centered on the reality of human-driven climate change. If we don’t take immediate and tangible steps to reduce the consequences of these actions, we will face an environmental crisis that will have a major impact on mankind’s existence. Here in Tokyo, we are extremely concerned about this danger, as it poses a huge threat to our goal of becoming a sustainable and environmentally-friendly city.
In the year 2030, it is estimated that the number of people living in urban areas will exceed 60 percent of the world’s population, and measures at the city level are now crucial. The effects of climate change are already becoming apparent in a range of forms, and Tokyo is no exception. Tokyo has undertaken several measures to mitigate these effects, including launching the world’s first urban cap-and-trade program. In addition, Tokyo is implementing a number of pioneering initiatives, such as measures to counteract storm surges and floods, as well as major earthquakes, and advancing urban planning to realize a more resilient city.
A dangerously warming planet is not just an environmental challenge – it is a fundamental threat to efforts to end poverty, and it threatens to put prosperity out of the reach of millions of people. Read the recent Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if you need further evidence.
If we agree it is an economic problem, what do we do about it? There is general agreement among economists that a robust price on carbon is a key part of effective strategies to avert dangerous climate change. A strong price signal directs finance away from fossil fuels and toward a suite of cleaner, more efficient alternatives.
This logic is not lost on governments and companies. Momentum is building around the globe to put a price on carbon. Consider these facts:
In the weeks running up to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States, out of frustration and a sense that they must look after themselves, a new alliance was born: the Coalition of Atoll Nations on Climate Change. Or, as President Tong of Kiribati called it, the "alliance of the sinking". The coalition comprising Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Cook Islands, and Tokelau, with Micronesia associated as part of their territory, is atoll territory.
These nations have tried everything to bring their situations to the climate negotiators' and development organizations' attention and have their special situation recognized. With just 15 months until the Paris climate negotiations, they seek in a group to be able to support each other and to make themselves heard.
Running from event to event to partnership dialogue here in the beautiful island of Upolu, Samoa, while listening to delegates to the 3rd annual Small Island Developing States Conference, two things ring loud and true: Small islands need ocean-based economic growth to diversify their economies, attract investment, grow their GDP, increase jobs, and end pockets of extreme poverty. And strong ocean-based economies need healthy oceans.
Great ocean states know this. They know that they cannot afford the boom and bust cycle that emerges as natural capital is liquidated and the ocean emptied and trashed. But small islands cannot forsake growth in the name of conserving natural resources either. We can fish the oceans empty; but we mustn’t. The future of growth, jobs, resilience all depend on the sustainable management of the resources of the ocean. For small islands, blue growth is critical; done smartly, blue collapse is avoidable.
On Sunday in Apia, the capital of Samoa, I saw the results of the World Bank Group’s work with coastal communities that were devastated by the 2009 tsunami and by Cyclone Evan in 2012. Working with the Samoan government and partners, we built coastal roads and a new system of access roads that leads into the hills away from the seashore. Many families rebuilt their homes in the hills, and the new road system helps bind those new households together as well as providing safe escape routes should a tsunami or major storm hit the coast again.
The hard infrastructure construction is interesting; the community conversations about next steps for protecting the coastlines are even more so. The government is launching a series of community consultations that will bring together village mayors, women leaders, government agencies, and NGOs to decide how best to climate-proof their coastlines. The communities are set to decide if sea walls or mangrove plantations will best protect their land and livelihood.
I’m in Apia with a team from across the IFC and the World Bank to represent the World Bank Group at the 3rd UN Conference for Small Island Developing States and took the opportunity to learn more about climate and disaster risk management at the community level.
For island nations, the small size of their land and their economies comes with a set of unique vulnerabilities that makes climate change a major determinant of their ability to thrive and in some cases even survive.
Climate change presents serious and growing risks to the global economic system, with a number of recent studies showing the impact that climate change is already having on livelihoods and business models. For example, extreme weather, which can be exacerbated by climate change, caused economic losses of US$2.6 trillion from 1980 to 2012.
Addressing these risks is an economic and societal imperative. At the same time, it presents opportunities. Climate-smart investments in efficient, clean infrastructure, clean energy, resilient agriculture, and water resources offer stable, attractive returns for investors and communities when the conditions are right.
This week, I was in Lima at the Peruvian government’s Climate Finance Week and found many reasons to be optimistic that we can turn the climate challenge into an economic opportunity. This blog post shares some key themes that I took away from the event.
The World Health Organization kicked off its global high-level conference on Health and Climate Change this week in Geneva. What makes this conference particularly significant is the fact that while the WHO has been working on this agenda for the past 20 years, this is the first time it has led a conference with so many decision-makers involved.
The compelling state of scientific evidence – as documented in a separate chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment report – has lent a certain urgency to the climate change agenda in the health community. The audience for this conference included around 300 senior level participants from various WHO member countries, mostly from the health sector, including a number of ministers.
I am standing on the shore of Bến Tre Province in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. One of the first questions is, would I be able to stand here in a few months’ time?
If you look just a few hundred meters out to sea, that was cultivable land up to three years ago. In the last three years this village has lost half of its land. Sea incursion is just one of the complex challenges that the authorities and the people who live in the Mekong Delta have to juggle at the same time. So the Mekong Delta, the decisions that are made here are affected by the upstream decisions of hydroelectric planning, irrigation, and other freshwater use. By the time the water gets here, some of that freshwater which is needed is no longer available.
In the rarified atmosphere of Aspen, Colorado, last week, I attended the 11th American Renewable Energy Day Summit. Over the years, the event has grown into a fascinating brainstorming and networking event bringing U.S. domestic and international figures in the renewable energy business together – financiers, technology entrepreneurs, government officials, activists, and scientists from across the energy challenges and opportunities.
We talked about international climate negotiations and renewable energy progress in China and India, but the strongest focus was on the challenges and great potential for U.S. innovation and how to bring climate change and energy policy back from partisanship.