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Senator Kerry delivers pre-Copenhagen messages at the World Bank

Kavita Watsa's picture

Photo ©Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank 
Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a noteworthy speech this afternoon at the World Bank in Washington DC. Introduced by World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick as a “strong internationalist,” Kerry called upon the institution to use its funds to support what he called “21st century priorities.” These, according to the senator, include adapting to and mitigating climate change, enhancing food security, and empowering women.

Just eighteen days before Copenhagen, climate change was, not surprisingly, the central theme of Kerry’s remarks. While Kerry is a relatively recent advocate of climate action, his commitment to pushing climate change legislation in the U.S. was very evident, as was his grasp of the complexities of global action on the climate front.

“America needs to signal to the world that it is serious,” he said, in step with one of the main messages of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, which calls upon rich countries to take the lead in reducing their carbon footprints and providing the funds for low-carbon technologies to be deployed in developing countries. Listing recent US achievements, he said that the country was committed to progress and that Copenhagen was vital. 

Kerry referred to “energy poverty”— the lack of access to electricity faced by millions in the developing world—as a challenge interlocked with climate change. “No citizen of the developing world should be held back by lack of access to electricity,” he said, acknowledging, however, that the world was hurtling toward what he described as catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

“Solving energy poverty using old paradigms is a short-term bargain and a dangerous one,” Kerry said, stressing the need to find solutions that address both goals. “With its funding and intellectual leadership, the Bank can play a profoundly important role in shifting the balance toward climate solutions,” he said, listing several actions as critical for the Bank. 

Development Marketplace: 100 Ideas to Save the Planet

Kseniya Lvovsky's picture

In Peru, innovative forest fire management prevents the risk of more fires with rising temperatures. In Kenya, communities share experiences with multi-pronged approaches to managing climate risk, combining indigenous knowledge with modern technologies. In India, women and youth use reality-show methods to tell of climate options. In the Philippines, a mangrove restoration initiative helps improve livelihoods during storms now, and protects against longer-term climate change impacts. 

These are just some of the examples of the “100 ideas to save the planet” that I encountered as a juror for this year’s Development Marketplace, which focused on innovative solutions for climate change. Development Marketplace is an annual competitive grant program that identifies and funds innovative, early-stage development projects that have high potential for replication and development impact.

Of these one hundred great ideas, 26 winners were announced today in three categories—Resilience of Indigenous Peoples Communities to Climate Risks; Climate Risk Management with Multiple Benefits; and Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management. Each winner receives a grant of up to $200,000 to implement their project over two years.

You can read more about the winners in these categories (and also about how this global competition works and who funds it) on the Development Marketplace website and follow the conversation on the Development Marketplace blog. For many of the winners, it was a long journey to Washington DC to compete for the grants. 

Environmental action and the action of others

Robert Cialdini's picture

The results of a large survey I conducted with my fellow environmental researcher, Wes Schultz, produced a pair of actionable results. First, people who thought their neighbors were conserving energy were more likely to conserve themselves. Second, at the same time, almost all of the nearly 3,000 survey respondents underestimated the conservation efforts of their neighbors. This suggests a simple way to increase conservation activity—by trumpeting the true levels of conservation that are going unrecognized.

To investigate this idea, we examined resource conservation choices in an entirely different setting—upscale hotel rooms, where guests often encounter a card asking them to reuse their towels. As anyone who travels frequently knows, although the wording of this card may vary somewhat, it always requests compliance for the sake of the environment. What the card never says, however, is that the great majority of guests do, in fact, reuse their towels when given the opportunity. We suspected that this omission was costing the hotels—and the environment—plenty.

One Minute to Save the World

Kavita Watsa's picture

A friend sent me the link to “One Minute to Save the World”, an interesting campaign that is inviting one-minute films from people across the world who care about climate change. The organizers are offering £1,000 as first prize for the best film, and there’s a nice line-up of films already. The panel of judges is a qualified one, and includes a number of well-known names, from Shekhar Kapur, Oscar-winning director, to Franny Armstrong of The Age of Stupid fame.

The World Bank and climate change: Six years down the road

Kseniya Lvovsky's picture

My foray into climate change in the World Bank Group started with the drought-affected regions in Andhra Pradesh, India in 2003. The WB had just started thinking about adaptation to climate change and was trying to begin a dialogue with developing countries dealing with overwhelming challenges of poverty. With my colleagues in India, we began looking at drought-proofing in Andhra Pradesh without labeling this a `climate change’ study. In many ways, this was probably the first attempt to integrate adaptation into a Bank rural poverty reduction project. Two years later, the study was well received and became the pilot for drought-adaptation, to be linked to India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Program.

This experience served as a laboratory for us to learn lessons that have helped mould Bank’s engagement with climate change. It went on to shape the key features of the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) that was approved a year ago. Connecting with client countries and listening to their concerns became the cornerstone for the SFDCC. The Framework was formulated through an extensive global consultation with both World Bank Group staff and external stakeholders. It was the process itself that helped build ownership for climate change work inside the Bank Group and among client countries.

The Nobel Prize Committee pays attention to governance of the commons

Marianne Fay's picture


The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences is being shared this year by Elinor Ostrom, a political economist at Indiana University, and Oliver Williamson, an economist at UC Berkeley. The award could not be more appropriate in these times of rethinking what markets can and cannot do. 

The award to Ostrom, who has spent her professional life studying how societies manage common resources is particularly relevant as we draw closer to the Copenhagen summit and countries are busy defining what they are willing to do to protect the global atmospheric commons. 

In fact, Ostrom wrote a background paper for us earlier this year for the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change.  In it, she took exception to the notion that a solution to global change must be global. Such a solution would take too long, she argued. She also reminded us that a solution negotiated at the global level, if not backed up by a variety of efforts at the national, regional, and local levels, was not guaranteed to work well. This is because climate change is the result of many individual and local decisions.   

How can current and future early warning systems be used to enhance adaptive capacity to climate change?

Carlos A. Nobre's picture

Written with Paulo Nobre
Both authors are with the Center for Earth System Science, INPE, Brazil

At present, there are a number of early warning systems based on seasonal-to-interannual climate forecasts in several countries (for example, Ogalo et al., 2008). These systems are based on the use of available monitoring data and state-of-the art climate models. Both observations and model-based predictions are analyzed by climatologists to predict climate anomalies one or two seasons ahead.

  Photo © iStockphoto.com

Much of the success of such short-term climate predictions is based on the ability of current climate models to predict the evolution of the coupled tropical upper ocean-atmosphere state over seasons. The best example of this is the prediction of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) episodes.

Such climate predictions have been used in an array of applications, ranging from seasonal rainfall predictions guiding agriculture, fisheries, and water resources to natural hazards and health applications (Meza and Osgood, 2008; Abawi et al., 2008; Connor et al., 2008).

How Can We Untie the Climate-Development Gordian Knot?

Jean-Charles Hourcade's picture

   Photo © iStockphoto.com
The participation of developing countries is essential for effective climate policy. But this participation is hampered by the fact that many developing countries perceive environmental policies as a new form of Malthusianism. And unfortunately, despite repeated references to sustainable development in the climate negotiations, the debates about climate and development policies continue to occur in separate spheres. A new Gordian knot has been tied through a succession of misunderstandings.

Economists may have caused some of these misunderstandings by laying out simple principles that are useful as a introduction to the underlying economic parameters of climate policies: first, a unique carbon price (through carbon taxes or a cap & trade system) to foster carbon saving behaviours without distorting international competition; second, compensatory transfers to offset the adverse impact of higher energy prices for the most affected countries. But this has resulted in climate policies being considered a cost-minimization exercise conducted regardless of the nature of development issues.

Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges: New Data on 500 Cities

Susmita Dasgupta's picture

In April 2009, I blogged on a paper co-authored with David Wheeler (Center for Global Development) on the impact of sea-level rise and storm surges in developing countries. David has extended this work further to include the potential future impact of sea-level rise for more than 500 cities, given changes in population. The results are stunning, and show a huge potential impact concentration in a few hot-spot cities. 

In Defense of Diversity

Nicola Cenacchi's picture

Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo © Mari Tefre/Global Crop Diversity Trust

If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend taking a look at the TED website. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It organizes conferences where people from different fields and walks of life, scientists, engineers, and politicians, can present their ideas and projects.

The talks are filmed and made available for free on their website, which now contains a vast collection of brilliant presentations and speeches, always informative and at times downright jaw-dropping (in fact, “jaw dropping” is one of the categories you can use to scan through the presentations.)

The presentation that recently caught my attention is one by Cary Fowler, about the importance of genetic diversity in agriculture. Dr Fowler is Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, whose mission is to conserve Earth’s agricultural biodiversity. Jointly funded in 2004 by FAO and Biodiversity International the Trust worked with the Norwegian Government and the Nordic Gene bank to create the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, also dubbed by the media “the Doomsday vault,” which was officially opened on February 26, 2008.

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