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Rachel Kyte's blog

It takes all of us: Stretching the space for political agreement on climate action

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 Connect4Climate

The rising level of anticipation around the UN Secretary-General’s call for climate leadership has been palpable over the past few weeks, and especially so here in New York at the People's Climate March today, with Climate Week about to start and the UN Climate Leadership Summit just two days away. 

At the World Bank Group, we have been fielding calls from our clients – companies and countries – who are asking for support and wanting to know how they can engage on the different climate initiatives that are coming together across all sectors of the economy. 

Standing in my daughter’s school yard talking to other parents last week, we discovered that many of us would be joining the march. In our family’s religious community, buses were organized and rooms offered to those headed to New York to add their voices to the call for action. New York is just one location – the march organizers are talking about more than 150 other climate action events around the world.

Before stepping off, let me try to lay out how I believe this Summit can help spur action and achieve the speed and scale of action we need. 

Nowhere to Go

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"Tell Them"
Tell them who we are, says young Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Her video was shown during the Small Island Developing States Conference.


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. 

Big Challenges, Small States: Island Nations Come Together for Climate Action

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New community buildings in Samoa

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.

Building a More Resilient, Livable Community in the Mekong Delta

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Also available in: Tiếng Việt
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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 Aspen, Bringing Climate & Energy Policy Back from Partisanship

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 National Renewable Energy Laboratory engineer Tim Wendelin tests techniques for solar energy storage at a testing facility in Colorado. Dennis Schroeder / NREL
Photo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory engineer Tim Wendelin tests solar energy storage techniques at a facility in Colorado. Dennis Schroeder / NREL


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.

Risk & Resilience in the Wake of the Typhoon: Tacloban Rebuilds

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Risk & Resilience in Tacloban


Along the Philippine coast, where Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was so powerful it swept ships onto the land late last year, poor families have started to rebuild their homes, often in the same high-risk zones. Their experience has been a powerful symbol for the rest of the world. We can't eradicate poverty unless we find a way to manage climate change, says Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group's vice president and special envoy for climate change.

In this video blog, Kyte describes the recovery in Tacloban and the need to build resilience to all development planning. 

Sustainable Development Gains Require Greater Climate and Disaster Resilience

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 Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock

Average economic losses from natural disasters are rising, despite considerable efforts to better manage risk from natural hazards over the last few decades. Data from Munich Re shows a sharp rise, from $50 billion a year in the 1980s to just under $200 billion annually in the last decade. Population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change are compounding these losses. Securing prosperity in the midst of growing hazards is an enormous challenge that demands a new approach to development.

The international community is rising to meet this challenge head-on. Last week in Oslo, Norway, I had the privilege of participating in the 15th Consultative Group Meeting for the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), where 75 representatives from partner countries and international development organizations met to help scale up and better mainstream efforts to build climate and disaster resilience in some of the most vulnerable communities around the globe.

With the importance of this effort in mind, I co-authored an article with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende, in which the minister and I argue that sustainable development gains require a new approach towards mitigating risk from climate change and natural hazards. After the recent days spent with my colleagues in Norway, I’m encouraged by the shared enthusiasm of GFDRR and its partners for the task ahead. It’s time to get to work.

Treading Water While Sea Levels Rise

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Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

 UNFCCC/Flickr

At the UN climate talks that ended wearily on Saturday night in Warsaw, negotiators showed little appetite for making firm climate finance commitments or promising ambitious climate action. But they did succeed, again, in keeping hope alive for a 2015 agreement.

The final outcome was a broad framework agreement that outlines a system for pledging emissions cuts and a new mechanism to tackle loss and damage. There were new pledges and payments for reducing deforestation through REDD+ and for the Adaptation Fund, however the meeting did little more than avoid creating roadblocks on the road to a Paris agreement in 2015. In one of the few new financial commitments, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States together contributed $280 million to building sustainable landscapes through the BioCarbon Fund set up by the World Bank Group.

At the same time, COP19 was an increasingly emotional Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The overture to this round of climate drama was provided by Typhoon Haiyan. Haiyan added, sadly, more to the mounting evidence of the costs of failure in tackling climate change. The language is inexorably moving towards one of solidarity, of justice. But for the moment, this framing is insufficient to prevent emission reduction commitments from moving backwards.

And yet again, as was the case in the climate conferences in Cancun, Durban, Doha, and now Warsaw, outside the official negotiations, there is growing pragmatic climate action driven by climate leaders from every walk of life.

The sense of urgency and opportunity is building, it just fails to translate into textual agreement.

One Bloc Moving Climate Progress Forward at Warsaw

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 CCAC

In the climate negotiations under the United Nations framework, we are used to seeing geographical blocs and other blocs at loggerheads. The tension draws attention, but it isn’t the only story of blocs at the climate conference.

In Warsaw Thursday, members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition – 75 countries and international organizations working together – met and talked about their progress so far and work for the future to slow climate change.

What do these countries – among them, Nigeria, Sweden, the United States, Ghana, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Chile, Morocco, and Canada – have in common?

Answer: The firm belief that we can work together and substantially reduce black carbon, methane, and other short-lived climate pollutants.

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