The literature on climate change and water is dominated by precipitation, glacier melt and groundwater. Because urban water is responsible for such a small share of overall water use worldwide, we often think that urban water services won't be affected. Yet the floods, droughts, and extreme rainfall expected as a result of the world’s changing climate will threaten the quality and availability of water resources, and damage water infrastructure, including storm water and wastewater facilities. These events may also affect the population and settlement patterns of cities and thus the basic layout of the water systems that serve the communities.
I first engaged with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in 1994 as part of the evaluation team for the GEF pilot phase― a US$1 billion pilot hosted by the World Bank that began in 1991, prior to the Rio Earth Summit. In May, along with a small group of World Bank colleagues, I found myself at the Fourth GEF Assembly in Punta del Este, Uruguay. In reflecting back over the intervening time period I find nuggets of success, but also much remains disturbingly unchanged.
The single overwhelming cause for celebration has been the announcement―dramatically achieved only a few weeks ago―of a GEF replenishment of more than 50% to US$4.2 billion (US$3.5 billion in new funding). Any increase is obviously welcomed in a period of fiscal austerity, and most government representatives understandably expressed congratulations. However, a few couldn’t help but note that the increase was disturbingly small if measured by the increase in the range of problems to be addressed. There is a much greater sense of urgency (especially with respect to climate change), and many more agencies involved in channeling funds (originally only the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and now there are more than 10).
I’m writing to you from what is probably the most exciting place to be in the carbon world this week―Carbon Expo in Cologne Germany―the global trade fair and knowledge-sharing platform on current and future carbon investments. There are thousands of people here from all over the world and the story in the corridors is...well...carbon. It is a meeting place for large and small companies operating in the CO2 market, as well as government representatives and climate experts interested in the latest CO2 projects and climate developments. Carbon Expo is proving to be a showcase for introducing projects to investors and carbon buyers, with sessions on everything from the ‘How-to” of Low Carbon Growth to matchmaking and deal facilitation.
The Carbon Market Outlook
On Wednesday, the World Bank released its annual State and Trends of the Carbon Market report here at Carbon Expo. It had a very interesting story to tell.
Lots of people, companies, cities, and nations have started to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since you can only change what you can measure. These measurements are starting to highlight some very interesting trends and show how complex the global results of our lifestyle are.
In Copenhagen, donor countries pledged to raise US$30 billion in “fast start funds” and an additional US$100 billion a year by 2020 to invest in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Though the commitments are clear, the delivery is uncertain. By the June UNFCCC meetings in Bonn, countries will need to start drafting a set of decisions on the financial architecture to manage and distribute these climate funds.
By embarking on several climate change initiatives, including an assessment of progress in implementing the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) and the revision of its Energy Strategy, the World Bank has positioned itself to play a role in the management of new climate funds. The Bank already hosts several climate related trust funds, including the Climate Investment Funds. It is the trustee of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and its largest implementing agency. The question is whether the Bank should be entrusted with an even larger role in the future of climate finance. If it is going to gain the political support necessary to make this happen, the World Bank must systematically address issues of environmental and social sustainability in its mainstream investments.
Access to energy services and energy efficiency are the two key messages of the report released in New York April 28 by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and his Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. “Energy for a Sustainable Future” calls on countries—rich, poor and middle-income—to transform their national energy systems to ensure universal access to modern energy services, and reduce global energy intensity by 2030.
These are ambitious goals, the report says. It notes that access, in particular, “requires overcoming complex challenges in some of the poorest and most remote locations on the globe.” Although ambitious, the goals are certainly attainable. Achieving both of them will require political will, money, ingenuity and cooperation, not only among governments, but must also include the private sector and civil society.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the `Transformational Priorities for Africa in a Changing Climate’ as part of the World Bank Group Spring meetings in Washington DC. In my remarks, I spoke on how Africa is often perceived as a place which offers only adaptation opportunities. I argued that the continent offers mitigation opportunities too – especially in the area of deforestation.
We all know that deforestation and forest degradation cause 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By using Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanisms to save half of this, we could reduce global emissions by at least 10%. This translates into a huge potential for Africa.
Iconic species – the panda, the tiger, the bald eagle, and even the small but spectacular corroboree frog – have been the vehicle for spreading the environment message. That message can change and become more subtle.
|Photo © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank|
Mr Zoellick’s message at the launch of the Tiger Initiative in 2008 focused on integrating “environmental concerns ... into the mainstream of development and operational plans”. His statement in relation to the National Geographic’s “Vanishing Icons” photo exhibit (in the World Bank headquarter's atrium in DC) advanced the discussion to the tiger’s “largely untapped potential to spur balanced development”. The conditions and actions needed to improve the habitat of the tiger are closely related to those needed to improve the livelihoods of local communities and vice versa.
Some plant communities are emerging as iconic ecosystems. The mangroves are the best example. Their role as a habitat and breeding ground for so many species, as a resource for local people and in coastal protection are listed again and again. They feature in the recent WRI publication “Banking on Nature’s Assets” which forcefully makes the case that Multilateral Development Banks can strengthen development by using ecosystem services and describes some of the case studies and tools we have to help do this.
But we are also seeing the emergence of “iconic case studies” and this is a concern to me.
The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland could mean some good news for those of us concerned with understanding the science of climate change.
As volcanoes go, this is small stuff. The last volcano to have a substantial effect on global climate was Mount Pinatubo which erupted in the Philippines in 1991. Volcanoes affect global climate largely because the sulfur gases that they emit oxidize in the atmosphere to form sulfate aerosols (fine particulate matter), which stay around in the stratosphere for at least 12 months, and act as a strong cooling agent. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Mt. Pinatubo caused global temperatures to dip by about 0.5 degrees Centigrade for a year. The ash, which has been of concern to airline passengers in Europe and many others across the globe recently, generally has only a small and local effect on climate –it tends to fall to earth in a matter of weeks.
For economists interested in climate change, some news. The long awaited regional version of Bill Nordhaus' DICE model is now out. (Actually it’s been out since February, but I just got to it...) It’s called RICE with the ‘R’ standing for Regional. A quick overview of some of the key results can be downloaded here.
Nordhaus is one of the earliest and most prominent climate modelers in the economics profession. He and Nicholas Stern are often set up as the two book ends of the climate change economists’ spectrum. I believe their differences are not that great.