It has been nearly three months since 195 nations reached a historic agreement at COP21 in Paris to combat climate change and set the world on a path to a low carbon and more resilient future.
And in a little over a month, heads of state and governments will gather in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. Countries will then have one year to ratify the agreement, which will enter into force after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
As we approach the signing of the agreement, it's time for countries and companies to seize the momentum from Paris and move from celebration of a landmark deal to action.
So what needs to happen?
It has been a fascinating time to be in the United States and watch as the media and American public were transfixed by Catholic Pope Francis’ whirlwind three city sojourn to Washington DC, New York City and finally Philadelphia.
It was a trip of firsts. Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of the US Congress and then a day later marking another first in addressing the UN General Assembly just before member states unanimously adopted Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It was fitting and profound to have the Pope frame the global goals’ agenda with his remarks, since in many ways his recently released encyclical, Laudato Si, embodies the integrated and indivisible nature of the sustainable development agenda.
It puts both environmental protection and social inclusion as part and parcel to ending poverty and extending dignity instead of being an add-on or at worst an afterthought.
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.
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.
A tiny green oasis stands out amidst acres of dry arid land. As many as 12 different crops—including a wide variety of pulses, fruits, vegetables, and flowers—as well as a farm pond constructed through the Employment Guarantee Scheme and a vermicomposting pit are all seen on this one acre farm in the drought-ridden village from Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. Suhasini, a young Dalit woman who decided to experiment with the only acre (0.4 hectares) of land she owned, asserts confidently “Next year, most of this surrounding land would be green as well—the other farmers will definitely follow me.”
Suhasini is one among over 1.2 million farmers across 9000 villages that are practicing a cheaper and more sustainable method of agriculture across 1.2 million hectares in the state, even as more farmers are becoming part of what is termed a farmers’ movement for sustainable agriculture in Andhra Pradesh. The program named Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) is essentially an alternative to the conventional-input intensive-agriculture model. It promotes the use of locally available, organic external inputs—including cow dung, chickpea flour, and palm sap—and the use of traditional organic farming methods such as polycropping and systems of rice intensification (SRI).
Increasing food and oil prices are making life miserable for millions of people. According to our World Bank estimates, the food price hike since last July has already pushed another 44 million people around the globe into extreme poverty –those living on less than US$1.25 a day. But beyond these latest shocks, the truth is that poverty reduction overall had continued in most countries, even after the financial, food, and fuel crises of 2008-2009.
In 1981, for instance, the percentage of the world population living below $1.25 a day was 52 percent. By 2005, that rate had more than halved to 25 percent. However, a growing concern is that climate change could slow or possibly even reverse progress in poverty reduction. Why? Because most developing countries are highly dependent on agriculture and natural resources. And also because poor countries lack sufficient financial and technical capacities to manage climate change.
For example, climate change may have a negative effect on agricultural productivity, particularly in tropical regions, and also affect poor people’s livelihood through its effects on health, access to water and natural resources, homes, and infrastructure.
So as long as we are unable to measure the poverty impact of climate change better, we run the risk of either overestimating or underestimating the resources that will be needed to face it. So that’s why at the World Bank we are exploring new approaches to measure how current climate variability affects poverty, as my colleagues do in this week’s Economic Premise. According to The Poverty Impacts of Climate Change, different estimates project the poverty increase between 9 and 10 million people by 2055, as the result of climate change.
These numbers might not seem like much, considering the catastrophic scenarios that have been portrayed by some. But climate change will indeed slow the pace of global poverty reduction. And much of the poverty expected to occur will be concentrated in Africa and South Asia. In addition, the “modest” numbers of the poverty increases mentioned above correspond to baseline scenarios –they could be much higher if more extreme climate change damage occurs. So in light of all of this, more efforts have to go into measuring the poverty impacts of climate change better. Otherwise, we will certainly pay the consequences.
(This was originally posted on the World Bank Institute's Growth and Crisis blog)
Here in New York this week, world leaders have their plates full. Five years to go, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is mixed. Accelerated action is needed urgently. So with this full agenda, why are there so many meetings this week on climate change? Because climate change is about poverty reduction. Developing countries will bear three-quarters of the negative impact of changing weather patterns, water shortages, and rising sea levels, and they are the least equipped to deal with them. Hard won gains in poverty reduction are at serious risk. This is no longer just tomorrow's problem. Impacts are being felt today.
There is an old-fashioned view that rich countries can afford to think about climate change but developing countries have more urgent short-term needs. This is well and truly debunked by the evidence of where developing countries are putting their money. Four out of five countries we work with, list climate change among the top priorities for their anti-poverty plans. In the past twelve months, nearly 90% of Country Assistance Strategies requested by developing countries, and approved by the World Bank’s Board, listed climate change as one of the major pillars for World Bank support.
The World Bank Group advocates the integration of development issues into the next global climate agreement, without taking sides based on the negotiating positions of individual parties to the UNFCCC. One of the purposes of the upcoming World Development Report (WDR) 2010: Development and Climate Change—as well as a number of other country-level studies at various stages of completion—is to actively share economic analysis and practical knowledge intended to help policymakers in various countries take informed decisions on poverty reduction and sustainable development in “a changing climate”.
With Maria Blair, Associate Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation
|Photo: © Jonas Bendiksen,
courtesy of the Rockefeller Foundation
We read Nicholas Stern’s blog post, “Low-Carbon Growth: The Only Sustainable Way to Overcome World Poverty,” with appreciation and enthusiasm. It is an insightful and important essay, illuminating the bedrock recognition on which effective 21st century development efforts must build: global climate change and poverty are inextricably interconnected. The best way to break one is to bend the other.