COP President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah gavels through the decision text. Photo courtesy IISD
The UN climate conference in Doha this past week kept the fight to combat global warming alive – 194 countries agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol and to put in place a new agreement by 2015. The extension avoids a major setback in climate negotiations, but it does not fully reflect the urgency of the problems facing the warming planet.
To understand the true scale of those problems, read the new report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided. Its review of the latest climate science provides a powerful snapshot of what the future could be and warns that the world is on path to a 4°C (7.2°F) warmer world by century’s end if we don’t take action.
The report was referenced repeatedly during COP 18 and is one of several reports helping to put science at the center of policy making.
As is often the case in large international conferences these days, the greatest signs of momentum in Qatar were not inside the negotiating rooms but in the meeting halls where the informal process was underway. The World Bank played a key role in several agreements that will form a part of our ongoing commitment to step up to the climate challenge.
Increasingly like-minded coalitions are forming, across dividing lines of developed and developing countries, public, private sectors and civil society, in order to get on with the business of emissions reductions. One highlight of the conference was the meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a remarkable group of countries united to reduce SLCPs, short-lived climate pollutants - methane, HFCs, black carbon.
This coalition is moving fast, driven by multiple pressing needs, including concern about the impact of black carbon on the melting of Arctic sea ice, and fast-growing countries’ need to reduce methane emissions from landfills.
A serious reduction in SLCPs could help avert a 4-degree world.
At the Bank, we want to expand the SLCP-relevant part of our IDA/IBRD portfolio from 12 percent in 2012 to 15 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020, and will work on payment for results for methane reduction. We also plan to increase impact on SLCPs through our GEF, Carbon Finance, Global Gas Flaring, and Montreal Protocol portfolios.
In the struggle for action, the CCAC has emerged, in the words of Lena Ek, the Swedish Minister of the Environment, as the “coalition of the working.”
Keeping Track of the Numbers
In a welcome step in emissions monitoring, five of the six Multilateral Development Banks announced a harmonized approach to measurement and reporting of their project-level greenhouse gas emissions, while all of them have harmonized the tracking of their financial commitments that contribute to adaptation and mitigation. This is an essential building block as the Green Climate Fund will need ways to track and measure the impact of its investments when it opens its doors for business and the work of the MDBs can be borrowed, built on or improved in time.
The World Bank will begin conducting greenhouse gas emission accounting for energy and forestry in the next few months and in transport projects by 2014.
Reducing Gas Flaring
Reducing gas flaring from oil fields – and their emissions – also gained traction at Doha. Qatar extended its membership in the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, which has helped cut gas flaring by 20 percent in the past decade, preventing some 274 million tons of CO2 emissions, roughly equivalent to taking 52 million cars off the road.
The World Bank, a founding member of the partnership, recently challenged oil producing countries to reduce flaring by 30 percent by 2017. We would welcome countries and companies from under represented oil rich regions of the world, as well as more of Qatar's neighbors into the partnership
The Bigger Picture
So while in Doha we were able to make small collective steps forward, the sweeping global agreements that would set the scene for necessary speed and scale continue to be beyond reach. As a development finance organization, we believe that the challenge of climate change requires a response that puts the world on a new path of inclusive green growth and resilient development so that we can arrive at shared prosperity. Our enthusiasm that this is possible is based on our work on how economies can become more resource efficient, but also on the rising demand for assistance from our client countries and their private sector.
At their request, the Bank is helping 130 countries take action: from replacing 45 million inefficient light bulbs in Mexico, to providing solar energy for 1.4 million homes in Bangladesh, to supporting 7.8 million people affected by droughts in Ethiopia through safety nets. Last year, all Bank Country Assistance/Partnership Strategies addressed climate resilience.
To act effectively on climate change, providing financing is a priority. The World Bank doubled lending for adaptation from US$2.3 billion in 2011 to US$4.6 billion in 2012, and 40 percent of lending in 2012 is expected to contribute to mitigation, adaptation, or both – nearly twice 2011 estimates. In addition,the Climate Investment Funds have US$7.2 billion pledged for 48 countries, leveraging US$43 billion in investment from other sources.
We work with countries to assess and manage risks, such as pilot studies on flood risks in Vietnam and also provide analytical guidance and share information
We continue to support renewable energy, whenever it is an affordable option for countries, and work hard to set the investment climate and regulatory conditions necessary for renewable energy to spread. Our clear shift towards renewables has doubled our renewable portfolio in the last five years.
We also are working with countries to resolve difficult trade-offs – the need to meet energy access needs that are fundamental to growth, and ensuring that countries are able to grow green and avoid locking in a carbon intensive future.
Let’s put one of those difficult trade-offs into perspective: providing power to poor countries that have no realistic options outside fossil fuels in the short term. Bringing power to the1.3 billion poorest people without access today using conventional sources would increase carbon emission by only 1 percent and improve lives. To aggressively tackle climate change, we should be focusing on the larger consumers of coal that can afford other options, not closing down energy options for the world’s poorest people.
We have been working for the last few years to bring the issues of climate change to the attention of finance ministers and development. It is on their desks that the decisions of the here and now and of the future often meet, if not clash. Framing policy choices for them is a key role we can and will play. For example, worldwide, more than US$1 trillion is spent annually on fossil fuel and other consumption subsidies. We can put that US$1 trillion to better use for the jobs of the future.
Our infrastructure must be built to be resilient to more frequent and intense extreme weather events. The transport systems of our towns and cities should be designed to minimize carbon emissions, our buildings too.
And finally, the way we manage our forests and agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The World Bank’s work on climate smart agriculture focuses on a triple-win: carbon sequestration, food security and climate resilient livelihoods in the same landscape.
In Doha we spent much time discussing from where climate finance would be mobilized and how the GCF and other channels would funnel that money to those that need it, and especially how it would leverage private sector investment. The good news was that the meetings were less focused on the amount, but on the elements that are missing in the financial supply chain; the need for project preparation and clear priorities in developing countries; the need for regulatory reform to make renewable sectors more investable; the need to find ways to align risk appetites of potential investors, how to help donors, under excruciating pressure from their publics, to take the risk needed to see transformation take place.
At the World Bank we have years of experience of deploying finance into developing countries using both the public and private sectors. We are happy to talk about what has worked and just as importantly, what hasn’t. We have no time to reinvent the wheel.
The good news is that we don't need rocket science; finance and solutions exist. Deploying them sooner rather than later is the challenge