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A Scientific and Technological Revolution for the Amazon

Carlos A. Nobre's picture

 
    Photo © Yosef Hadar/World Bank
Most tropical countries have not reached full-fledged social and economic development, but all of them are endowed with plenty of natural resources. Today’s unprecedented global climate threat offers tropical countries a unique opportunity  to become ‘environmental powers’ by utilizing their natural resource base wisely to aid development, while significantly reducing environmental damage.

The Amazon basin harbours the largest contiguous tropical forest on the planet, spread over eight countries. Over the past four decades the Amazon has been subjected to deforestation, forest degradation, global warming, and vegetation fires. However, the model for development of the Amazon—which is based on replacing forests with agriculture and cattle ranches—can be criticized on more than just environmental grounds. It can be faulted on economic grounds too. For example, the gross agricultural product of the Brazilian Amazon represents less than 0.5% of the Brazilian GDP. Sadly, fifty years of deforestation have brought neither wealth nor quality of life for most Amazônidas.

A global climate change venture capital fund would be useful but not a panacea

Jean-Louis Racine's picture

Proposals aiming to boost innovative climate change solutions often include some form of publicly-supported global venture capital (VC) fund.  The rationale for such a fund is that government funding is generally available for R&D and private financing is available for the commercialization of mature technologies; but funding is unavailable for entrepreneurial activities—such as proof-of-concept, piloting, firm-building, and marketing—that happen between these two stages. Given this situation, a global climate change VC fund could have a decidedly stimulating effect. Of course, it would also be important for governments not to put all their eggs in this basket, since the VC instrument could quickly reach its limits.

The financing gap is particularly severe for climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies for a number of reasons. Not only is the market for these technologies still at a very early stage of development but it is also driven by regulation. Both of these factors represent significant risks for investors. In addition, low carbon technologies tend to be more capital-intensive and require much more start-up financing than other typical VC investment sectors like information technology. The funding gap is particularly deep in the developing world, which presents a riskier business environment and a more fragmented market for investors.

Several VC-style climate-change funds have recently been launched. The Carbon Trust, established by the British government, already invests in clean-technology firms based in the UK.  In partnership with the Qatar Investment Authority, the Carbon Trust plans to set up a £250 million fund called the Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund, to be supported by both governments. The fund will primarily invest in the UK, but also to some extent in continental Europe and the Gulf Region. This will be the first major publicly-supported climate change VC fund of its size involving more than one country.

Deforestation: Disastrous consequences for the climate and for food security

Shiva Makki's picture

I grew up in a small village in South-Western India, which is known for evergreen forests, wildlife, and spectacular landscapes.  That was in the 1970s and 1980s.  My interests in forests began then, as I spent many hours wandering off into the woods on my way back from school.  When I was six years old, my father bought five acres of pristine forest land and converted them into a coffee plantation.  He wasn’t the only one.  In just three decades, much of the forest around where I grew up has been either converted to crop lands or cleared for logging.

This loss grieves me.  Although I have worked on a broad range of issues as a professional economist, my concerns for forests and the environment remain high.  In a recent note, I’ve tried to show the complex links between deforestation, climate change, and food security with a simple diagram.  The note can be easily downloaded and is meant for students.

Green solutions from Ghana

Kwasi Owusu Gyeabour's picture

The author, Kwasi Owusu Gyeabour, won third place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. He answered the question “How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.

There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” -James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) Nobody Knows My Name, "Faulkner and Desegregation

It is a privilege to be called on to share ideas on issues of our time, issues that can be solved through youthful action. In my essay, “Greening the Ghanaian Youth” I proposed several ideas that would help tackle climate change. Here is a sample of the ones I consider most practical.

Youth action at the community level is the most potent force in our fight against rapid climate change. So I proposed the establishment of a Green Sector Mutual Fund. This community-based fund will invest in firms that operate in the green/environmental sector. Now I consider this feasible because I have friends who have established mutual funds such as the University of Ghana Campus Mutual Fund which have turned out successful. The success of a fund mostly depends on factors such as advertising and the prestige and market reach of the fund managers. Most asset management firms these days would jump at the opportunity to manage something ethical just to create a sense of social responsibility and goodwill.

Climate Change and indigenous people: Local actions, global benefits

Guillermo Recio Guajardo's picture

The author, Guillermo Recio Guajardo, won second place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. He answered the question “How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.

The Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua, Mexico
   Photo by Guillermo Recio Guajardo

Over the years, several multinational companies and global groups have entered the ancestral territories of indigenous communities in Mexico, and the process of modernization has often damaged the environment.

For example, both legal and illegal logging are now common in the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico’s Chihuahua state. This territory is home to about 84,000 Rarámuris or Tarahumara Indians who depend on forest conservation for their livelihood and preservation of their culture. But deforestation and loss of biodiversity are a severe threat—with almost 90 percent of the wood for the forest industry in Chihuahua coming from the Sierra Tarahumara—and are increasing an irreversible ecological imbalance.

Illegal logging has also been causing upheaval in Mexico’s climate system. Without enough trees in our tropical and temperate forests, it is impossible to capture carbon dioxide. According to recent research, "Mexico has deforested more than one-third of its forests and jungles, thereby reducing its original woodland area of 52 percent of the country to 33 percent in the year 2000."1

Blueprint for Green Schools

Sophie Bathurst's picture

The author, Sophie Bathurst of Australia, won first place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. She answered the question "How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.

Tree protection zone in Bradleys Head, Sydney
   Photo © Sophie Bathurst

My vision for Australia is that of a nation where healthy people live in a healthy environment.  I believe that Australia's future social and economic prosperity as well as the livelihoods of our Pacific Island neighbours depend on our response to the climate challenge. An effective response demands the engagement of all sectors of society and involves both responsible adaptation to existing environmental problems as well as the mitigation of further climate change.

If we ignore the warnings, we will not only damage our precious ecosystems and lose our water resources but will also have to contend with disruption of services; decline in key industries such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries; and increased health problems for society’s most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and remote indigenous communities.

If we think long-term and embrace the challenge, however, climate change can present an opportunity for youth. It can contribute to the establishment of an energy sector based on renewable and clean fuels, the development of world-class research centres and the implementation of globally recognised education programs in sustainability.

Education lies at the core of an initiative that I proposed recently. I envision a series of new projects for primary schools that will be led by a 'Green Taskforce' composed mainly of unemployed youth. The projects are designed to build confidence and to equip young people with some of the skills required for permanent employment in environmental trades. At the same time, these projects will create a culture of ecological awareness and healthy living within primary schools and teach students to reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate dilemmas in Central Asia

Rasmus Heltberg's picture
    Photo © Rasmus Heltberg/World Bank

How should climate change be addressed in Tajikistan, the poorest and—according to a World Bank regional assessment, most climate-vulnerable—country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia?1  On a recent visit to this scenic nation to assess the poverty aspects of climate change, we struggled with this seemingly simple question. Answers remain elusive, given the country’s daunting climate dilemmas. So, while in Dushanbe, I attempted to write about the range of the challenge.

First, consider Tajikistan’s thousands of glaciers, many of which are receding. As they melt, farmers downstream enjoy plentiful water supply and see no need to take action. However, once the glaciers are gone, dry rivers and extreme water scarcity could mean the end of farming livelihoods in some areas.

Every silver lining has a cloud: the impacts of climate change in Europe and Central Asia

Rachel Ilana Block's picture
 Photo © Rachel Block/World Bank

Reading the newspapers last January when Russia suspended the supply of gas to the rest of Europe—with Eastern European countries hardest hit—I could not help but think that the region might be better off with fewer sub-zero days during winter.

On a trip to the Balkans last year, I partook of the colorful summer bounty of peppers and tomatoes enjoyed throughout southern Russia and Southeastern Europe. 

"Dear Diary: August 27th, 2008. Sarajevo.  Best tomato of my life. If this reckless bus driver careens off the mountainside, at least I’ll die satisfied."

What a contrast from the pickles and cabbage my great-great-grandparents subsisted on in Poland and Lithuania! Though I was raised “properly”—with a taste for pickled cauliflower and herring—I could see why the northern reaches of the region might appreciate a longer growing season and more sunny, tomato-ripening days.

Studying (and contributing to) projections of global food supply in the changing climate over the next century, I see precipitous drops in yields projected in already-poor swaths of Africa, and in densely populated and cultivated regions in South and East Asia.  But many have concluded that, globally, there will be enough food to go around—thanks to the expanding role of Europe and Central Asia as the breadbasket of the world—and assuming free and fair international trade in food.
 
A recent report by the World Bank, “Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia,” argues that these outcomes can by no means be taken for granted.

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