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Climate Lessons from a Hotter Arab World

Rachel Kyte's picture

Photo credit: Curt Carnemark/World Bank

This week in Doha, the marble corridors of the Qatar National Convention Center resonate with voices from around the world. Over half way through the conference, as ministers arrive and the political stakes pick up, a sense of greater urgency in the formal negotiations is almost palpable. But in the corridors, negotiations are already leading to deals and dreams and action on the ground.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the discussions by saying we need optimism, because without optimism there are no results. He reminded us all that Superstorm Sandy was a tragic awakening. He reiterated the call for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement and 100 billion in climate finance by 2020.

Meanwhile our focus was firmly on the region ...

When we look at the Middle East and North Africa, the challenges of climate change are evident. Farmers have been planting in drylands and dealing with climate variability and water shortages since the beginning of agriculture. They understand adaptation here, but no one is prepared for what we could face if the world doesn’t act to stop human-induced climate change now.

We published a report last week examining the science of climate change, and the findings should be alarming to anyone. If governments don’t take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, globally we’re headed for a 4 degree Celsius increase. The rise will be even higher across the Arab world, and the effects on water, agriculture, and livelihoods will be far more pronounced than what people here already face. Climate models show that over the last 30 years, temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa have increased 50 percent faster than the global average.

Aggressive mitigation is needed to slow greenhouse gas emissions, but here and in much of the world, adaptation is now critical to survive the changes that are already underway.

In a new report released today, Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries, we draw on the knowledge and expertise of the Arab world in adapting to changing climates. The authors, the majority of whom are from the region, consulted with civil society, academia, and governments, and worked in partnership with the League of Arab States.

Living Landscapes: Solutions for a Sustainable World

Peter Dewees's picture

Photo: Mduduzi Duncan Dlamini, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Kingdom of Swaziland, providing the closing keynote for Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day.

The final rounds of Forests Day and Agriculture Day wrapped up at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha this week under a new shared banner: Living Landscapes Days.

Both Days have become annual events on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences, meant to bring together scientists and policy makers and, originally, to bring forests and farming onto the Conference of Parties (COP) agenda. Forests have largely achieved this objective with the the emergence of various agreements about REDD+.

Agriculture has slipped down the list of priority issues tackled by the COP, which has been struggling to figure out what to do about extending the Kyoto agreements and a range of other issues, but is certain to re-emerge. The agriculture discussions this week at Doha aimed to identify scalable solutions to specific mitigation and adaptation challenges which can benefit farmers; gaps where there are limited existing solutions or limited available knowledge; and potential trade-offs in implementing existing, known solutions.

This year, the two worked together to build on the themes of climate-smart agriculture, which became prominent in Durban in the last COP: farming which builds soil carbon, increasing food security, and enhancing resilience to climate shocks.

Growing Cities, Healthy Cities

Charles Feinstein's picture

Ten years ago, the first Better Air Quality (BAQ) conference brought policy makers, experts, and advocates to Hong Kong to review the status of air quality in Asia and to recommend how to improve it. Today we are here once again to kick off the seventh BAQ in ten years, organized by the Clean Air Asia (formerly Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities), Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.  The theme of BAQ 2012 is “Growing Cities, Healthy Cities,”

Since the first meeting, we can say with certainty that the average air quality in Asian cities have improved despite their economic growth. The yearly average PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns) concentration for cities in the about 20 Asian countries engaged in the Clean Air Initiative for Asia was above 80 µg/m3 (microgram per m3) in year 2000. Now it is around 50 µg/m3. Although there are huge differences in air quality between countries and cities within the Asia region, the overall trend over the last decade is that most of the countries and cities have shown progress. 

Most Asian countries have established, tightened and expanded ambient air quality standards (AAQS). A decade ago, only few Asian countries had standards, now there is regular air quality monitoring and air control programs.

Forging a new path forward on climate change

Vipul Bhagat's picture

As world leaders convene in Doha for this year’s UN Climate Change Conference  developing countries are looking for ways to maintain momentum for change to help them transition to climate-smart growth.

When it comes to delivering improved, cost-effective infrastructure and services – a precondition for green growth – public-private partnerships (PPPs) are one way forward. At a recent event co-sponsored with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Doha, we shared our unique perspective on public sector efforts to attract and leverage private sector climate finance through PPPs.

Some key takeways from the event include:

  • PPPs help tap new money for infrastructure:  Since the 2008 financial crisis, governments have limited financial resources to devote to capital expenditures and expanded public services. Involving the private sector offers a solution.
  • PPPs boost efficiency through cost savings and shorten delivery periods. They also spur innovation by bringing in private sector know-how.
  • PPPs facilitate projects under one umbrella: When it comes to climate initiatives, PPPs can efficiently organize and consolidate the numerous and complex arrangements that make a renewable energy (or any other climate-related) project work.
  • PPPs allow for appropriate allocation of supply and risk demand to the private sector, reducing taxpayer costs.
  • Since 1989, IFC has been the only multilateral institution providing advice to national and municipal governments on designing and implementing PPP transactions to improve infrastructure and access to basic services such as water, power, agribusiness, transport, health and education.

A Wake Up Call

Rachel Kyte's picture

Photo courtesy IISD

This week, negotiators from nearly 200 countries have gathered at the UN Climate Conference in Doha to try to hammer out an agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Once again, the gathering of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change highlights the lack of action on climate change, and the subsequent threat to the prosperity of millions. Climate change may roll back decades of development.

Several reports in the last month have reached the same conclusion. First, the science is unequivocal: humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes can be observed today. Second, time for action is running out – if we don’t act, we could experience a 4°C warmer world this century, with catastrophic consequences.

The World Bank commissioned the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics to better understand the potential impact of a 4°C warmer world on developing countries. Turn Down the Heat provides a stark picture of the state of the planet in a 4°C warmer world and the disruptive impacts on agriculture, water resources, ecosystems and human health. It also gives a snapshot of changes already observed. 

Global mean temperatures are about 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels. Current greenhouse gas emission pledges place the world on a trajectory for warming of well over 3°C, even if the pledges are fully met. 

A tribute to John Hoffman, an unsung champion of the global environment

Alan Miller's picture

The accomplishments of mid-level bureaucrats, particularly in this time of anti-government sentiment, are rarely celebrated. It was therefore striking to see major newspapers devote significant space to obituaries for John Hoffman, a long-time friend and former colleague who did as much as any one individual I know to design and implement measures to protect the global environment.

I first met John as a young lawyer in the late 1970s, while working on the then new issue of ozone depletion – he for US EPA, me for an environmental advocacy group. We quickly became close confidants working to leverage a unilateral US phase-out of CFCs to achieve an effective international agreement, the Montreal Protocol (recently celebrated at events hosted by the World Bank).

Before almost anyone, he saw the linkages between ozone depletion and climate change, and used his office to produce the first major government report on climate policy – “Can We Delay a Greenhouse Warming?” – in 1983. He was equally adept at highly technical matters such as the creation of a single metric for comparing the impact of ozone depleting substances and policy issues such as the design of environmental regulations. 

Climate for change in Istanbul

Joumana Asso's picture

A view of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. - Photo: Shutterstock 

As the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and its stakeholders from the private sector, government,  the multilateral development banks, civil society and indigenous peoples’ groups gathered in Istanbul to participate in the first CIF Private Sector Forum, their attention is increasingly focused on synergies between the private and public in addressing climate change.  There is a growing understanding among both governments and private sector players - from investors to small project developers to large utility companies - that gains are much larger if common strategies are developed and new partnerships are forged.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, opened the day with an energetic keynote address, provocative and positive, setting up the stage for the day by announcing the scope of challenge and opportunities for dynamic, and pragmatic climate investment strategies. Sessions on private sector adaptation, and business attitudes towards climate risk followed. The `Matching Expectations' panel brought together indispensable partners, the triangle of project developers-investors-policy makers, into discussion of regulations, fund raising challenges and investors' expectations and requirements. 

The day also showcased five CIF projects, beginning with the highlight of the Morocco Ouarzazate CSP project, a unique PPP model, presented by Paddy Padmanathan, the CEO of the project's developer ACWA Power. 

Consensus emerged that the private sector will deliver much of the innovation and finance required for investments in low carbon technologies and climate resilience in rich and poor communities alike. With scientists warning that we are not on a path to limit global warming to 2° or less, there is growing urgency to identify effective ways in which the public and private sectors can best work together to tackle and adapt to climate change.  The CIF provide a platform for learning by doing to develop such models for effective collaboration and share experiences among the network of CIF recipient and contributor countries.

Costa Rica scripts a new chapter in forest carbon finance

Benoît Bosquet's picture

Thick cloudy skies subdued the sunlight on an autumnal day in Paris. That did not stop the group of representatives from the public and private sector attending the 5th Carbon Fund Meeting of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) from making a decision that is a major milestone. Costa Rica is set to become the first country to access performance-based payments through the FCPF. This is the first time a national program is being supported by carbon funds in this global initiative of 54 countries and organizations, heralding a new phase in forest carbon finance.

This decision is a strong vote of support for Costa Rica’s ambitious plan to become the first “carbon neutral” country by 2021. Conserving forests and planting trees that capture carbon dioxide plays a large role in the national endeavor.

An interesting feature of Costa Rica’s proposal to the Carbon Fund is the quasi-national scope of the program that would be implemented in a mosaic approach on additional 341,000 ha of mainly privately owned land. Two-thirds of the targeted area is degraded land that the country aims to restore with reforestation, secondary growth and agroforestry, and one-third is old growth forest that will be protected from deforestation. The resulting emission reductions are estimated at 29.5 million tons of CO2. Close to half of these emission reductions (12.6 million tons of CO2) would be offered to the Carbon Fund, and would require an estimated financing of $63 million (assuming a price of $5 per ton of CO2).

How a small grant turned Humbo green

Edward Felix Dwumfour's picture

A comparative picture of the Humbo region in February 2002 and March 2010.

A number of years ago, I started a journey with seven poor communities located about 380 kilometres southwest of Addis Ababa, by a mountain called Humbo. The idea was to allow a degraded mountain to regenerate, and the communities would earn carbon credits for their efforts.

I still hear this phrase echoing in my ears: “With the meager amount of resources they have, this is an impossible agenda”. But the communities were stubborn and dedicated, and last week, the project was issued 73,339 carbon credits (temporary Certified Emission Reductions, tCERs) for their efforts. Similar payments will add up to $700,000 over the next 10 years from the BioCarbon Fund.

The Humbo communities wanted to see a transformation because they knew that their lands had been stripped as a result of unregulated cattle grazing and massive clearance of vegetation to meet their excessive demand for timber, firewood and charcoal. Soil erosion and flooding had intensified as a result. They could see their farmlands increasingly covered with silt, cobbles and boulders. Above all, they could attest that their farmlands were losing fertility, becoming unproductive and yields were down.

New Bank Climate Department off and running

Mary Barton-Dock's picture

At a meeting of the Asia Society in New York last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, estimated that a 1 degree increase in the planet’s temperature (we are already at .8 degrees) would cost her country 3-4% of its GDP growth annually. At the same time, DARA, a European-based NGO, and the Climate Vulnerability Forum released the second Climate Vulnerability Monitor, which estimates that climate change is already costing the world 1.6% of GDP growth globally, and contributing to over 400,000 deaths. The report, written by over 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, also estimates that by 2030 climate change and air pollution combined could cost the world 3.2% of growth globally, and up to 11% in the world’s least developed countries. 

I spent  nine of the last 20 years living in Africa, watching the continent struggle terribly with negative growth in the 90’s, fight its way to positive growth and eventually celebrate a 5-8% growth rate that allowed many African countries to put a serious dent in poverty. But clearly, those hard won gains in poverty reduction and development are at risk, and sooner than we thought. The most important message of DARA’s report is that climate change is not just a problem for future generations.

But as former President José María Figueres of Costa Rica reminded a United Nations General Assembly audience last week, climate change also presents an enormous economic opportunity. Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance reported that over $1 trillion was invested in clean energy last year. And the feeling is that this figure could be much higher if we could just figure out the policies and financial instruments to unleash capital in the direction of green growth. So which path will we seize for our changing climate? The one which builds on the growth and development of past decades or the one which leads to the grim prospect of losing hard fought gains against poverty? The race to choose is on, and for those of us whose dream is a world free of poverty, for those of us who couldn’t bear to see Africa return to the economic and social struggles of the 90’s, we’d better get sprinting.

So today ─ against this very compelling background ─ we launch our new Climate Policy and Finance Department (CPF) at the World Bank. This department brings together the Climate Change team, the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) Admin Unit, the Carbon Finance program, the GEF and Montreal Protocol teams around this essential question: what can the World Bank Group do to help countries take climate action at a faster speed and larger scale, and turn climate change into an engine for growth?

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